Kikuyu - Friend or foe
Author: Stefan Palm Date Posted: 14 February 2019
Kikuyu is often considered an uninvited pest and trying to eradicate it can seem like an uphill battle. So what can you do tame this beast if you have it invading your lawn?
It’s a question that we get asked often! In South Australia, kikuyu is by far the most common and the most invasive variety around and it has an uncanny knack of growing where it wasn’t planted. Kikuyu spreads by both seed and by its runners meaning it can literally blow into your yard or get dropped in by a bird flying overhead. It can be transported by a lawn mower or it can spread across from your neighbors property via its underground runners. On top of that, it’s perfectly suited to our climate, thriving in our hot, dry summers. Being more aggressive than any other type of lawn, it has the capacity to dominate its environment.
Sounds like the sort of lawn no-one would want right? The answer might surprise you
So… how do you control it? I recently wrote a blog on getting rid of kikuyu in your existing lawn. Click here to read it. This article is a follow up to that because while there are some instances where you can weed it out, there are also plenty of circumstances where it becomes so established in your lawn that it is virtually possible to remove it. If you have small patches of unwanted kikuyu in your lawn then by all means have a crack at removing it but if there is more than that, then there is a fair chance that you may have to learn to live with it. If your lawn is more than ¼ kikuyu, then you virtually have no chance of removing it. Once kikuyu becomes entrenched in your lawn, even if you go to the effort of completely removing it with a non-selective herbicide, then there is still a high chance it will return.
If that’s you, its not all bad news. While kikuyu is invasive and fast growing, it has some really good qualities. It’s extremely hardwearing and has a high level of drought tolerance. On top of that, it stays green year round and is remarkably soft. My advice to you is this – if your lawn is becoming dominated by kikuyu then your best course of action is to embrace it and make it work for you. Here are some tips for making kikuyu a good looking and practical lawn:
- Keep it mown regularly during the warmer months. The warmer it is, the faster it grows so I would recommend a maximum of 14 days between each mow. (weekly is better)
- Keep it no longer than 40mm tall (around setting 4 on your lawn mower). The shorter the better.
- While it is drought tolerant, it will keep its best colour and presentation if its watered with around 25mm of water once per week during the warmer months. If you water it less, it will survive but it will go hunting for water which is where it starts to more aggressively invade garden beds.
- Keep a trigger bottle of non selective herbicide on hand. If you notice it creeping into garden beds, spray it out. In this way it wont get a foothold.
- Fertilise it 3 times per year, mid season except for winter.
Kikuyu lawns like this one in the photo above can be a beautiful addition to any home. If you keep up these routine and simple maintenance measures, you’ll find yourself with a largely trouble free lawn. Ultimately, a happy, well watered, well fertilized kikuyu will be less aggressive, will look better and will provide you with a green tough surface. It’s ideal for high traffic areas and for pets. It’s a lawn we often recommend for its durability and suitability to our South Australian climate. Treat it right, and you soon discover it’s not as bad as you think. You might even come to like it!
Mowing KikiyuBy: John Kuys on 17 March 2019Hi Stefan, I cut my kikuyu at level 6 on my mower. My question is to reduce that to 4 now, would it be detrimental or should I wait til September before dropping down to the 40mm.
Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi John, Good question. Starting from the basis that your lawn is in good condition, is fertilised and growing well, you will need around 4 weeks of temperatures over 23 degrees to get a recovery after scalping your lawn. Kikuyu is a warm season grass meaning that it goes dormant during the winter months- ie, soon as the weather cools off, it stops growing. It is late in the season to be scalping your and while it is probable that we will get enough warm weather to get a recovery, I would wait till Spring to do it.
Spongy Lawn15 February 2019I have a kikuyu lawn which is extremely spongy in places-it stalls the mower! Should I scalp it, and if so, when?
Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Yes - scalping is a good idea for thatchy kikuyu lawns. You'll need about 4-6 weeks of temperatures over 25 degrees to get a full recovery so the optimum time of year is from October through to March.