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How To Grow Kikuyu Grass?

Pennisetum clandestinum

Have you ever dreamed of having a lawn so vibrant and resilient that it could handle your kids’ soccer games and your dog’s playful antics and still look flawless?

You’re about to discover the secret to achieving just that with Kikuyu Grass – a robust turf that can transform your outdoor space into a thriving oasis.

This article will guide you on how to grow, care for, and overcome potential challenges when nurturing Kikuyu Grass, ensuring your garden becomes the envy of all your neighbors.

What Is Kikuyu Grass?

Kikuyu Grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) is a warm-season perennial grass native to East Africa, particularly the highlands of Kenya.

It is named after the Kikuyu tribe, who traditionally used this grass for thatching roofs and grazing livestock.

The flowers of Kikuyu grass are small and inconspicuous, giving it its specific epithet (clandestinus), but it has long grass and wiry leaves that are green in color.

The grass can grow up to 18 inches (46 cm) high when ungrazed but usually forms a low-growing turf under grazing or mowing.

It has green, flattened, or folded leaves that are 1/3-6 inches (10-150 mm) long and 1/30-1/5 (1-5 mm) wide.

Some of the benefits and uses of Kikuyu grass are:

  • Erosion control: Due to its robust root system, it helps prevent soil erosion on slopes and bare areas.
  • Sports fields and parks: Kikuyu Grass is commonly used in sports fields and parks due to its ability to withstand heavy foot traffic.
  • Lawns and landscaping: It is popular for residential lawns and landscaping projects, providing a lush, green carpet-like appearance.
  • Weed suppression: Kikuyu Grass has natural weed-suppressing qualities, reducing the need for additional weed control measures.

Growing and Caring for Kikuyu Grass

Pennisetum clandestinum flowers
Source: Wikimedia

Kikuyu grass can be grown from seed or sod.

If you are growing Kikuyu grass from seed, prepare the soil by tilling it to a depth of 6 inches (15 cm).

You must also add some compost or manure to the soil to improve drainage and fertility.

Choose Location

Kikuyu grass can grow in various soils but prefers well-drained, sandy loam soils.

The ideal pH for kikuyu grass is 6.0 to 7.0. If you are planting kikuyu grass in clay soil, you must add sand or other materials to improve drainage.

If you plant kikuyu grass in very acidic soil, add lime to raise the pH.

Prepare the Soil

Clear the area of any existing vegetation and debris.

Conduct a soil test to determine its pH level and nutrient content.

Amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost, to improve its structure and fertility.

Plant Kikuyu

Kikuyu grass can be planted by seed or sod.

Decide between seeding and sodding methods based on personal preference and time constraints:

  • Seed: sow the seed at a rate of 1 pound (0.45 kg) per 1,000 square feet (90 square meters). The seed should be covered with a thin layer of soil and then watered thoroughly.
  • Sod: lay the sod in a staggered pattern and water it thoroughly. Sod is a more expensive option, but it will provide a lawn ready to use immediately.

Watering and Irrigation

Kikuyu grass needs about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water per week. Water the grass deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth.

If you live in an area with hot, dry summers, you may need to water the grass more frequently.

Kikuyu grass is drought-tolerant, but it will not survive if it is allowed to dry out completely.

Fertilizing Kikuyu Grass

Kikuyu grass should be fertilized every 6-8 weeks.

Use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for the growth of Kikuyu grass. You can use a liquid fertilizer or a granular fertilizer.

Spread granular fertilizer evenly over the lawn and water it thoroughly. If you are using a liquid fertilizer, follow the directions on the label.

Mowing and Maintenance

Mow your lawn regularly to keep it at a height of 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm) in full sun or 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) in shade.

Mowing will also help control weeds and pests that may compete with or damage your lawn.

Use a sharp mower blade and collect the clippings to avoid spreading seeds or runners.

Additional Care

Kikuyu grass is a relatively low-maintenance grass.

However, you can do a few things to keep it healthy and looking its best:

  • Weed the lawn regularly to prevent weeds from taking over.
  • Aerate the lawn once a year to improve drainage.
  • Control pests and diseases as needed. 
How To Identify Kikuyu Grass?

You may have Kikuyu grass if you see bright green, coarse grass with flat leaves that end in sharp points. Look closer; you’ll notice long, fleshy stems that creep along the soil.

Kikuyu grass also has a distinctive smell that has been described as similar to freshly cut hay.

How To Get Rid of Kikuyu Grass?

Pennisetum clandestinum pasture
Source: Wikimedia

When dealing with unwanted Kikuyu Grass, there are both non-chemical and chemical control options available.

Non-Chemical Methods

There are two non-chemical methods:

  • Hand removal: Pull the grass by hand, removing the entire root system. However, this can be tedious and ineffective, as any small pieces left behind can regrow
  • Smothering techniques: Cover the grass with a tarp or other material to block out sunlight and kill the grass. This may take several months to work and may also affect other plants.

Chemical Control Options

There are two chemical methods:

  • Selective herbicides: Use an herbicide specifically designed to kill Kikuyu grass. These include products containing triclopyr or MSMA.
  • Glyphosate-based herbicides: Use a glyphosate-based herbicide to kill the grass, but be aware that this will also kill any other plants it comes into contact with. Be careful not to spray or drift onto desirable plants, and use a small brush or wand to apply them directly to the Kikuyu grass leaves.

Possible Problems With Kikuyu Grass

If you are considering planting Kikuyu grass, it is important to know the potential problems.

Kikuyu grass can be a great choice for some areas, but it is not the right choice for everyone.

Here are some problems you may encounter

Invasiveness

Kikuyu grass can spread by seed, rhizomes, and stolons.

Rhizomes are underground stems that can grow long distances. Stolons are above-ground stems that can root at the nodes.

This means that Kikuyu grass can spread quickly and easily, even if it is not planted intentionally.

Tough To Control

Kikuyu grass can be difficult to mow, weed, and control pests and diseases.

Kikuyu grass is deep-rooted, making it difficult to kill with herbicides. It is also a very tough grass, which makes it difficult to mow.

Kikuyu grass is also susceptible to several pests and diseases, making it difficult to control.

Not Suitable for All Area

Kikuyu grass does not do well in cold climates and can be susceptible to pests and diseases in wet environments.

Kikuyu grass is a warm-season grass, meaning it does not do well in cold climates.

It is also susceptible to several pests and diseases common in wet climates.

Conclusion

Kikuyu grass is a versatile and resilient plant that can be a blessing or a curse depending on your needs and preferences.

Whether you want to grow or eliminate it, you have learned some useful tips and tricks in this article.

Did you know that Kikuyu grass can be used to make a natural dye?

The leaves of the grass can be boiled to create a yellow dye that can be used to color fabric.

This is a great way to add a touch of natural color to your home décor.

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