If you are looking to fix some patches in your Kikuyu or Couch lawn, a common method would be to head down to your local Bunnings and grab a box of Kikuyu or Couch seeds. The hope is that you can sow the seed, the seed germinates, grows and fills in the patches with the type of lawn you already have.
The big problem is this: not every seed company is totally honest on the front of the package about the exact type of seed they are actually selling. That information is often hidden, in small print, on the back of the package, the part of the box that most innocent home owners don’t read.
So whilst the front of the package has a nice big “Kikuyu” or “Couch” heading, the reality is that there may only be less than 10% of the seed blend that is truly Kikuyu or Couch seed. The rest of the seed blend is filler seeds like Rye or Fescue.
There are 3 problems with these filler seeds
- Having different varieties of grass in a lawn often ruins the uniform look of a lawn that the homeowner was trying to achieve by buying the seed in the first place.
Rye and Fescue grasses, even though they can be magnificent lawns on their own, often look like weeds when found in Couch or Kikuyu lawns (as the attached photo shows). Many home owners then end up spending more time and effort trying to get rid of the filler grass types.
- Rye and Fescue are cool season grasses, which means that they are not very tolerant of hot weather (but typically outperform Couch and Kikuyu in the winter months as shown in the photo).
The result is that the cool season grasses often die off as soon as the hot weather hits. This again results in dead patches in the lawn, the very thing the home owner was trying to fix. Unfortunately, the Rye and Fescue often re-germinate in the cooler months again just to die off in summer.
- It is often very expensive or time consuming to rid your lawn of these grass types because
common herbicides won’t work. The best option to control these grasses are professional grade herbicides that are either unavailable to the public or cost hundred of dollars.
Manual removal is an option, but it is very time consuming … and the grass is likely to return.
The best option for most people is to hire a licensed spray technician to treat the existing grass and then apply a preventative herbicide to stop it coming up again next season.
Two reasons why seed companies do this:
- It’s cheaper.
1kg of Pure Rye seed from a specialised seed supplier is about $35.
1kg of Pure Kikuyu seed from a specialised seed supplier is about $160.
Filling the seed blend with cheaper seeds makes it look to an innocent shopper like they are getting a better deal for the same product.
- Kikuyu and Couch can be much slower to establish.
So filling the seed blend with much faster germinating seed varieties makes the product appear to be more effective.
The innocent homeowner will buy the cheaper package and then think that they have had great results, only to find their lawn contaminated with a different variety of grass.
Some of the perpetrators
Here are a few of the seed blends that are misleading. I have picked a few different brands as I have no interest in picking on one specific business. When you are shopping, always read the back of the packet.
From the Munns website: “Lawn Seed Type: Couch and Improved Turf Type Perennial Ryegrass”.
One redeeming factor is that is does say “Lawn Seed Blend” on the front, even though most homeowners won’t know what that means.
From the Scotts Bunnings listing: “Scotts Lawn Builder™ Seed & Feed Kikuyu is a blend of kikuyu and annual rye; the rye is included for fast greening and to provide a protected environment for the slower germinating kikuyu seed”.
Note that this product doesn’t even mention ‘seed blend’ on the front.
From the Hortico website: “Kikuyu is a hard-wearing broad leaf grass with vigorous runners. As it is slow to establish, we have blended it with a companion grass for fast establishment. Once established, Kikuyu is a vigorous grower and will replace the companion grass.”
“Kikuyu and Annual Ryegrass seed”
I must note that it is highly unlikely the Kikuyu will out-compete Ryegrass in all circumstances. In cold climates or heavily shaded areas it is far more likely that Kikuyu will be outcompeted by the Ryegrass.
Some home owners don’t care, and that’s fine
Some people are happy with any type of grass in their lawn. The type of grass or how uniform the lawn is is irrelevant to them as long as it is thick and green. I can totally understand this point of view.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not some OCD, purist snobbery that can’t handle different seeds being mixed together. There is a market for these products and they should be sold at Bunnings or other nurseries.
This is simply a critique of how misleading the packaging is and an educational article to help those who do want a uniform, beautiful lawn.
Where can you get pure lawn seed from?
- Bunnings do sometimes stock pure seed like this Munns Pure Kikuyu. Feel free to head to Bunnings, just make sure you double check the back of the packaging. If you’re still unsure, check the website and if you’re still unsure after that, perhaps buy a different product.
- Some local agricultural supplies shops or specialised nurseries will stock pure lawn seed. Call before you make the drive if you are unsure.
- Specialised Seed Suppliers like McKays Grass Seeds have a wide variety of seed and deliver to your house.
If all of this is just too complicated for you and you just want a professional, experienced gardener to sort everything out for you, contact Silverstone Gardening today.