Healthy soil is one of the keys to a picture perfect Paradise Kikuyu lawn.
Like many things in life, a healthy foundation is incredibly important when it comes to creating a thriving home lawn. Good soil not only means you’ll get lush, even lawn growth, but it will also ensure weed infestations and disease issues are kept at bay. Soil health will be a big factor in whether your Kikuyu lawn reaches its full potential, so before sowing your lawn take some time to get to know your soil, and get it optimally prepared to grow a beautiful lawn.
Knowing your soil type is an important start as different soil types need different treatments. There are three main types of soil; sandy, loamy and clay. Though this may already be sounding complicated, you can rest assured, as Kikuyu is well adapted to all three soil types.
Sandy soils are, as the name would suggest, made up of mostly sand and very little organic matter. Sandy soils are more free draining than other soils & therefore don’t retain water as well. This means they can dry out more quickly.
Our tip for sandy soils: Before sowing your Kikuyu seeds, add some organic matter to your soil to help increase its ability to retain water & increase the nutrient content.
Kikuyu grass makes a wonderful match for sandy soils, and over time it’s presence can even stabilise sandy soil, by naturally transforming it into a more organically rich matter!
Clay-based soils are a heavier type of soil, characterised by being compact and sticky. They have very little silt or sand content and retain water. Clay soil under a lawn can become waterlogged in wet seasons and rock hard in the warmer months.
Our tip for clay soil: Before sowing your Kikuyu seeds, top dress your soil with quality organic matter and gypsum (both available from gardening supply stores). This will increase soil fertility and enable more drainage. Consider core aerating your clay soil prior to adding these materials, to ensure they can penetrate the surface.
Loam soil is generally recognised as the best soil type – it’s more fertile soil, with a good mix of silt, sand and clay. This mix makes it able to retain the right amount of water, while still being free draining.
The next thing to understand about soil is the importance of its pH level. Soil pH measures the levels of acid and alkaline in the soil itself. A pH of 7 is neutral – above 7 is considered alkaline, and below 7 is acidic. Soil pH level affects the solubility of minerals and nutrients essential for plant growth, so if your soil pH is too far from neutral, it will struggle to absorb the nutrients it needs to grow your perfect lawn.
Paradise Kikuyu performs best in soils with moderate acidity, so a pH between 5.5 and 7 is ideal. It can tolerate pH as low as 4.5, however, keep in mind this may be a toxic level for some other plants. pH is easy to test yourself with simple kits that are available from most garden centres. These kits are straightforward to use and require just a few samples from different locations in your yard. Digging down to around 150mm in each area to gather samples & then mixing the samples together will give an average reading for the area. Follow the instructions as per the kit to test the levels. Once you know what pH your soil is, you can work out how to bring it closer to neutral for healthy soil.
If you don’t have access to a store-bought test kit, you can try this traditional method: pop some soil from your backyard in a jar & add vinegar. If the vinegar froths, your soil is alkaline!
How to achieve the correct pH level
Alkaline soils (above pH 7) can hinder a lawn’s ability to absorb much-needed macro and micronutrients, in turn leaving you with a poor performing lawn. To bring alkaline soil back down to neutral, you can use treatments such as iron sulphate or aluminium sulphate. Urea or ammonia-based fertilisers can also help.
Soil that is too acidic (below pH 7) can generally be corrected with the treatment of Ag lime or dolomite to raise the pH level.
For new lawns, do these treatments prior to seeding by spreading the materials and then raking in. Treatments will also work on existing lawns, simply spread the material around the entire area and water in well.
Here’s to good soil health and lush, green lawns!