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How to grow a trouble free lawn


Gardeners have a conflicted relationships with their lawns. One moment we are thanking the stars for the privilege of having a lawn that enables you to enjoy outdoor living, and the next we are lamenting the high cost of maintenance and the numerous lawn troubles we have to put up with.

A good lawn begins with the basics: appropriate grass type, good ground preparation, and sound maintenance practices. You will be rewarded with lush green lawns against which other garden elements form a breadth taking tapestry of floral colour and foliage.

Choice of grass

When choosing a grass type, consider the location, utility, resilience of the grass variety and how much time and money you are willing to spend on maintenance. Utility means the service you expect from the lawn; will you be entertaining outdoors alot, a playground for children or just a green spot for occasionally basking in the sun?

The ability of the grass to withstand adverse conditions like trampling and drought is its resilience. To keep the grass healthy and beautiful, you need to maintain it by watering, weeding lawn mowing and feeding. We highlight common lawn grasses grown in Kenya below;

Kikuyu Grass

Indigenous to Kenya. It has thick blades and is bright green. Kikuyu grass establishes fast as its runners quickly colonize a given area. It thrives in sunshine and partial shade and is good for homes, playground and heavily used grounds. Its drawback is that it has to be mowed often compared to other grasses.


Paspalum grass has dark green thick blades and establishes slowly. It tolerates conditions such as wet soils and shady conditions. It is almost weed free as it smothers emerging weeds denying the light and moisture. If your garden has an open canopy despite having many trees, this grass works fine.

Cape Royal

It is a fine, thin and narrow leafed grass and forms a thick spongy mat. It has rapid regrowth and tolerates sand soils too. It grows fast and is popular for Golf courses, tennis courts and homes.

Zimbabwe grass

It is similar to Paspalum but has thin, fine blades and sprigs. It is very fast growing. It is the only grass that thrives both in shade and full sun. For densely shaded gardens, your first choice should be Zimbabwe grass.

Arabic grass

Arabic grass is the new kid on the block. Nairobians refer to it as Kidero grass as the former City Governor had it planted on Nairobi's Uhuru Highway. It has thin blades and gives off a light green velvety colour . It is very elegant but prefers full sun. Though quite popular it is expensive to maintain as it requires copious amounts of water and weeding.

Ground Preparation

Having settled on a grass type the next step is to prepare the ground. A false step here could result in a poor quality lawn, which may call for a repeat job. Initial digging must be deep, 15cm. Incorporate compost into the soil to a depth of 1 inch and rake the soil to a fine tilth. You can use manure or organic compost.

For clay soils sprinkle 250grams of sand per square metre to improve drainage. Red soil adds no value to your soil and is only good for back filling. Apply a phosphate fertilizer like DAP or single super phosphate at a rate of 1kg per square metre.. Top up with bone meal at three handful square metre. Phosphates stimulate root development while bonemeal conditions the soil.

Lawns can be sown from either seeds, sods or grass sprigs. Grass sprigs grow faster than seeds. Each grass stem is planted to a depth of 1inch and firmed up. Water immediately after planting.

How to Maintain Your Lawn

A newly planted lawn should be watered every other day until it establishes. Reduce the watering to twice a week. Keep watering. Once the grass is tall enough do the first mowing. This should be around three months after planting.

For mature lawns, mowing should be at fairly regular intervals. Cutting height caries with grass type although cutting more than 1 and half inch off is discouraged as this exposes the soil to weed invasion. When grass is cut at a taller height roots grow deeper which withstands drought and out competes the weeds. Also taller grass looks thicker to the eye.

Top dressing a lawn

This is done annually and it involves applying a mix of top soil, sand compost and DAP fertilizer to the lawn.  It is meant to give the lawn a head start against weeds and pests.

Problems will arise on the lawn. Sometimes weeds will emerge, termites appear or leaf rust occur. Whatever the issue may be, avoid resorting to chemical blast away the troubles. These are symptoms of a bigger problem that needs long term solution.

A lawn appears healthy when it has no weeds. In reality a lawn has no weeds because it is healthy.


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