Out here on the coast the sandy soil is pretty much held in place with the kikuyu grass, especially on the hills and I have no problem with this. The last thing we need is erosion or even worse – a blow out, where the wind whips away the sand causing a deep hole. Once you get a blow out it can be difficult to get it back into control as the lack of substance in the soil and the constant wind creates a bigger and deeper hole.
Our lawn is also Kikuyu grass and we enhanced what was already here by sowing seed! We have a lovely spongy lawn that stays green for most of the year, but when there is a drought it will brown off but comes back quickly with that first rain. But I also have a massive garden that I do my best to keep weed free and with Kikuyu Grass surrounding it on all sides it can be a bit of a constant battle to keep the creeping runners from encroaching into the garden, but after five years I can confidently say I have an effective barrier system of protection.
The first and most important thing is to make sure the ground is completely free of Kikuyu – roots and all, before you start. I had the benefit of getting the help of a tractor to scrape the soil bare. If you want to dig, then a slow and steady approach, doing a small amount at a time in a thorough and methodical way will get you there. The good news is you don’t need to dig to China. The runners form a thatch above and below the soil that is only about 30 cm deep. But you need to get every last bit of runner. Whatever you do, don’t use a cultivator as this will just chop them up and make a million more plants. The runners can regrow from the smallest shoot.
A good thing I have found with Kikuyu is if you leave something sitting on it to block the light the vegetative grassy bit quickly dies back to leave a bare patch. This is handy if you want to clear the land by putting a heavy cover over it, such as black plastic or cardboard. It’s not so great on the lawn though. Although it does grow back quickly as the roots and runners are still there, but it gives you an easier area to work with if you are doing the clearing by hand.
Once you’ve cleared the land, leave it for several weeks and any bits that you have missed will start to pop up like little green flags. So, you can just pull them up from the loose soil. Once there aren’t any more popping up, you are good to go.
But to stop them encroaching into your lovely clean soil requires regular attention. You can create a barrier – something about 40cm will work and there are things out there you can buy. Or you can get creative and see what you is around. In one of my gardens, I created a barrier by cutting some sheets of ClearLight roof material – the cheapest one, and inserted it into the garden to separate out the clean side and the wild side. This still does need attention as the runners can climb over the top – but they are easy enough to remove with a gentle tug.
For the majority of my garden there is no barrier. The main garden has a fence, but it was never designed to keep out the Kikuyu so is not very effective other than keeping the long blades from drooping across the edge of the garden. In this garden I hoe the sandy paths once a week to nip any weeds in the bud. If I encounter any green flags of the Kikuyu trying to bust through, I pull them out.
Sometimes it requires a bit of a dig about with a fork to loosen the soil and make it easy to pull any underground runners back all the way to the fence. Any overland runners get clipped off at the fence with a sharp pair of secateurs. This weekly approach works well, but if I leave it 2 or 3 weeks due to busyness, it is still a simple task.
In the newest garden, I tried something different. I kept a spades width around the garden free from any plants or mulch and that is my barrier there. I have to confess I have left it a while – too long, and the runners had snuck across the no man’s land and was popping up in the actual garden. So, over the last few weeks I have been working my way around this garden strip and with a fork and a pair of secateurs I have loosened the soil and pulled out the long runners and cut them back to the edge of their boundary.
To be honest this has taken a wee while as it has been too long since it was last done. But the time consuming bit is the size of the garden and not the actual work. So, I set myself up with a podcast and just work until it stops. Once I get it finished, it will be popped into a maintenance schedule where at least once a week I will hoe the no man’s land to stop normal weeds and pull any Kikuyu shoots. But once I month I’ll loosen the soil with a fork and rummage around in the soft soil to find any sneaky runners trying to breach the divide.
So, the key points to keep on top of kikuyu are:
- Start with a clean soil, and you really can’t skimp on this stage, or you will be wrestling with the grass in the garden, and it will be harder to remove.
- Take a ‘little and often’ maintenance approach to put a stop to anything trying to sneak into the garden.
I hope this helps someone out as Kikuyu can be such a pain to deal with in the garden.
Come again soon – #MakeMayCount is still going well (it is only day 3!)
Sarah the Gardener : o)