Kikuyu is widely adaptable and performs well in most parts of Southern Africa. It originates from the East African Highlands and requires high light intensities to survive. It is an aggressive grass with a rhizomatous growth habit, therefore establishes easily. This also means that it can be an invasive grass and requires a lot of edge trimming to keep it in check.
Kikuyu is suitable for use as a domestic lawn, a fairway grass, on sportsfields and for general landscaping. It is a warm season grass that goes brown (dormant) when exposed to frost. It has a fairly high water and fertiliser requirement. It can be maintained at very low cutting heights, as is the case on fairways which are often mown to 10 mm. This requires intensive management and mowing of at least three times a week (or what ever it takes to ensure that no more than 1/3 of the leaf length is removed at a time). A domestic lawn on the other hand is not usually mown more than once a week and should therefore be cut at about 30 mm. Mowing very short only once a week, results in the white scalped look and weakens the lawn.
Kikuyu is an attractive bright green colour, recovers from damage relatively easily and is very versatile. However, because of its high light requirement, it does not grow in the shade. Shade-Over was developed to blend in with kikuyu from colour and textural aspects.
Establishment
When?
Spring and summer in frosty areas. In frost free areas, all year round, other than the coldest times of the year.
Remove existing grass
If the area is in full sun and other grasses were growing there before, it is important to get rid of them properly before establishing a new lawn. The underground runners of creeping grasses can be very persistent so you can’t simply dig it out. This is less of a problem with kikuyu because it is so aggressive and can generally dominate other grasses (provided that water and fertiliser are not limiting factors).
It is best to spray the existing grass with a non-selective weed killer.
Soil preparation
If the soil is dry, water the area thoroughly a day or two before you begin soil preparation.
  • Spread Super Phosphate at a rate of 50g* per m² over the entire area (50g is approximately one medium sized handful). *This is a general recommendation made in the absence of a soil test.
  • Dig the area over incorporating the Super Phosphate to a depth of approximately 15 cm. At this point you could dig in some compost. This is not generally necessary and can cause problems if it contains weed seeds and is not well rotted. Never leave compost as a layer on top of the soil as it dries out far more easily than soil does, and will not allow the seed to stay moist enough during the critical germination period.
  • Break down clods to create a fine seedbed.
  • Spread a balanced fertiliser such as 5:1:5 or 3:1:5 at 30g per m² and rake into the surface of the soil.
  • Check levels by rolling the area lightly and then filling in any hollows.
Sowing the seed
  • Ensure that you have the right amount of seed, i.e. 1 3 g per m². Whether you should use the lower or higher sowing rate depends on how quickly you need to establish, how favourable the environment and soil preparation, and the available budget.
  • Mix the seed with sand and sow evenly in grooves 2 to 4 cm deep. Kikuyu is the only lawn grass that needs such deep planting.
Covering the seed
Rake the area lightly (using a steel rake), but don’t cover with a layer of compost as it dries out too easily and would influence the success of germination!
Compacting
It is essential to compact the area lightly. If you don’t have a roller, then use something like a drum on its side or simply trample lightly under foot. This step is very important as it bring the seed into direct contact with moist soil, reduces wash-aways, and initiates capillary action (the movement of water upwards through the soil profile).
Watering
Keep the area moist at all times for the first two weeks. By then the seed will have germinated and watering frequency should be reduced. You may need to water more than once a day. Avoid puddles.
Maintenance
Mowing
Start
  • When grass is 6 cm long. Set the mower at its highest setting (not less than 4 cm).
Height
  • Sunny areas 1 to 4 cm (lower heights necessitates twice to three times weekly mowing).
  • 1/3 rd RULE – Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time.
Frequency
  • Generally once a week (more if cut shorter than 3 cm).
Irrigating
This grass can be maintained without an irrigation system. A shortage of water will result in the grass going dormant (brown). If water remains unavailable for a protracted period the grass may die.
Although this is a relatively drought tolerant grass at maturity, it needs regular watering at establishment. Irrigation can be reduced once the root system is established.
Fertilisation
50 g (approximately one handful) per m² of 5:1:5 or 3:1:5 three times a year. Slow release formulations are recommended, as lawns do best when fertilised little and often.
Pests and Diseases
Take careful note of the symptoms, i.e. spots on leaves, size and location of patches etc. and phone the MayFord Helpline or speak to a specialist in this field. Remember that insects and fungal diseases know nothing about straight lines, so if you see straight lines look for a man-made problem!
Healthy, actively growing lawn is less susceptible to everything so don’t skimp on fertilising (you can’t avoid regular mowing!)
Good air flow reduces humidity and helps to avoid disease. Don’t over water or underwater both cause stress to all grasses.
Traffic
Where traffic is excessive the pressure can be reduced by setting paving stones or sleepers into the grass and just mow over the top.
Weeds
The best way to avoid weeds is to have actively growing grass forming a dense canopy that does not allow light through to the soil surface.
Fertilise and mow regularly and you will literally cut out the majority of problems. Ask a specialist before spraying a herbicide.
Aerating
Spiking or hollow tining: Use a garden fork or tining fork on highly compacted areas. Push the whole length of the tine into the soil to get good water and air penetration.
Top dressing: Creeping grasses may be covered with a layer of soil or compost. This activity is primarily done to level areas.