How to Get that Expanse of Lush Green Lawn

Popularly associated with a beautiful garden, a lush green lawn is something that is traditionally treasured by gardeners for its soothing effect on the landscape - the trick lies in achieving that perfect green carpet...

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Get That Landscaped Expanse of Lush Green Lawn

Nothing contributes quite as much to the appearance of the garden landscape as a lush expanse of well maintained lawn.

As the very foundation of a beautiful garden, a lawn enhances the appearance of the home while creating a tranquil foil for trees, shrubs and flowers.

A lawn provides a soothing, green, outside recreation area for adults, children and pets while reducing dust in our hot, dry climate.

It is advisable to keep the lawn to a size that can easily be maintained, as a small well kept lawn will do far more to beautify the home than a large, unkempt expanse of grass.

If the area in question is quite large, or very shady, consider using paving or gravel in conjunction with a smaller lawn when landscaping your garden.

Preparing the ground

Before planting your lawn it is worth spending time to prepare the area thoroughly as this will be a permanent feature of the garden landscape.

Dig over the soil to a depth of approximately 20 - 25cm and remove any rubble or stones. Loosen the soil really well and dig in compost and fertiliser. A good general fertiliser such as 2.3.2 should be applied at the rate of 100gr per square metre.

Rake again to remove any remaining stones and to level the whole area. Give the entire area a thorough, regular watering for a few weeks to allow any weeds to develop. Eliminate these by turning the soil lightly on hot days so that the roots of the weeds are exposed to the sun. Once the weeds have stopped germinating, rake once more and the area is ready for planting.

Lawn options

Roll on or instant lawn: This is the most expensive method but is quick and easy and will deliver immediate results. Roll on lawn can be laid at any time of the year. The grass types most commonly available as roll on lawn are Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda), a fine leafed, runner type grass; Penisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu), a tough, fast growing, coarse leafed runner grass; Stenotaphrum secundatum (Buffalo) a broad leafed, slower growing runner grass for warmer areas with well drained sandy soils and Dactylocenium australe (LM Berea grass) that has better shade tolerance than the grasses mentioned above.  It is the recomended choice if you have to plant lawn grass in shadier areas.  Please set your lawn mower to the maximum height setting when cutting grass in the shadier areas of your garden.  The lawn grass needs extra leaf area to absorb enough light to grow successfully.

Plugs and runners: Growing a lawn from plugs or runners is less expensive but more time consuming as the area needs to be planted by hand and the lawn takes longer to establish itself. The best time to plant plugs or runners is in spring and early summer. Broad leafed grasses such as Penisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu) will cover an area quite quickly when kept well watered while the finer grasses such as Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda) will take a little longer.  Use Dactylocenium australe (LM Berea grass) if planting grass in the shadier areas of your garden. Stenotaphrum secundatum (Buffalo) would be the grass to use in the sunnier areas in conjunction with LM Berea because the leaf shape and size of the two grasses is similar.

Seed: Although seed is the most inexpensive option, it will take quite some time to establish a lawn and the area will need to be well watered daily, until the seed has germinated and the grass is growing strongly. Seed should be sown in spring or early summer. There are a number of grass seeds available; these include Poa praetensis (Kentucky blue grass), All Seasons Evergreen, Evergreen Mixture and Shade Over. Kweek seedlings will take about 10 to 12 days to germinate.

Selecting the right grass

It is most important to choose a grass species that will do well in your area taking into account the prevailing conditions such as rainfall, frost, drought, wind and shade. Country wide, Kikuyu and Kweek are the most popular but both require regular watering while the slower growing Buffalo is more water wise making it perfect for the drier regions.

Shady areas: For grass to grow well in shady areas the soil needs to be well dug over and generous amounts of compost should be added. The grasses that will give the best results in shade are the various Agrostis species, Kentucky blue grass, Shade Master and Shade Over. All these can be grown from seed.

Frosty areas: If you wish to have a lush green lawn throughout winter in frosty regions, a popular option is to sow All Seasons Evergreen or Evergreen Mixture over your existing lawn.

Coastal areas: The best choice for coastal areas is Buffalo as this grass will withstand the hot, dry and windy conditions. Another option is Sea Green which is also a water wise, drought tolerant grass that can withstand salt spray but is not always easy to obtain.

Questions and comments


The questions/comments section has been closed as of 1 Sept 2015

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Aug 13 2015, 11:15 PM
Have you heard of this "GingerGreen" grass product from South Africa?
I'm in Florida and received an email about this seed.
Aug 19 2015, 04:18 PM
Gee, the marketers of Ginger Green Grass are doing a great job of getting the message out there! Please scroll down from here and see my Response to Nonkie Barnes who also asked if I am familiar with Ginger Green Grass. In a nutshell I have no knowledge of it, and have not received any good or bad reports about it. You might want to have a look on the website Hello Peter - that's where people post their experiences with various products, not just garden products. If Ginger Green Grass is not living up to what is claimed for it, you'd soon find out there. Otherwise contact the marketers via their website
Jul 30 2015, 09:11 AM
Nonkie Barnes
Can you plant gingergreen over kikui
Aug 12 2015, 04:37 PM
GingerGreen Grass came on the market after my retirement from the nursery industry so I have no personal experience with it. I'm giving you a link below to a (the?) GingerGreen website. You'll find some useful information there. They don't seem to indicate suitability for specific lawns, just to mow whatever lawn you have short before sowing the seed. Their contact details are on the website. Perhaps give them a call. I don't see why the seed would not work over Kikuyu Grass.
Dec 29 2014, 03:28 PM

We bought a house and it has a small garden area right around it. The grass at this stage can actually not be described as grass...most if consists of weeds and a type of grass that has a very think blade, but looks very ugly. The surface of the ground is uneven and makes cutting the grass very difficult. What would you suggest to make the surface even? Take out everything and start fresh or level it with ground. What type of grass would then be suitable? The front lawn gets sun the whole day and the back lawn gets no sun during the day. Thanks,

DJ Cape Town
Dec 31 2014, 10:00 AM
From your description, it sounds like you have Kweek Grass, otherwise known as Cape Quick Grass. It has fine blueish green leaf blades. It can in fact become a very nice lawn if fed and watered well. It is however as invasive as Kikuyu Grass. You don't say what sort of soil you have (sandy?) or its quality (lots of stones?). Also you talk about a "small garden" but don't mention the approximate lawn area. And since you have full sun in the front and shade in the back, you will need different lawn grasses in those areas. All in all, I'd advise that you do the following : (1) Go through the whole area with a large fork, removing all the weeds and the Kweek Grass as deep as you can (2) Rake the whole area level, removing all stones, rubble etc (3) Dig in compost and superphosphate as prescribed in other articles on the eGardens website, then again rake level (4) Plant Buffalo Grass plugs in the sunny areas and LM Berea Grass in the shade areas (5) Water very well and keep the newly planted area moist for 6-8 weeks (6) Don't mow for this duration and absolutely minimise traffic over this area. Obviously its very easy for me to recommend a procedure such as this one, because I'm unable to see the scale of the work and your own physical ability to get the job done. If you have the finances, you could lay down roll-on lawn but that could turn out to be quite expensive (depending on total area) though being an instant solution. Lawn grass plugs come in polystyrene trays of 200 plugs and each tray covers 8-12m2 depending on planting density. I don't think it would be worthwhile leveling the area with topsoil if you have so many weeds and you don't like the existing lawn grass anyway. In my view it's best to make a little extra effort now, and enjoy long term benefits. Do get in a labourer to do the hard work of clearing, leveling and preparing the soil - that will make the project much easier for you to handle! Now (mid Summer is actually NOT the best time to be planting new lawn. You should preferably wait until April. You could consider, if you have a Weedeater, just trimming the whole area for the next few months. That would be much easier than pushing a lawn mower over a bumpy uneven surface. Then you can tackle the big project in a few months time, just before the Cape Winter starts.
Nov 21 2014, 11:14 AM
We stay in a complex that is build on "turf", the grass was not watered or maintained as the house was empty for 8 months, we would like to save the grass and get it growing and green, where should we begin?
Nov 24 2014, 09:35 AM
Not sure what exactly you mean by "turf" but the the general definition seems to be " a matted layer of grass, roots and soil". You don't mention the specific type of lawn grass you have. But returning the lawn to a healthy state would usually involve several activities : (1) Feeding it with a balanced fertiliser e.g. 5:1:5 or with organic pelletised poutry manure such as Neutrog BladeRunner four times a year (usually January, April, July and October) , but you could do it now anyway (2) Twice weekly deep watering in the MORNING (each time equivalent to 25mm of rainfall) (3) Regular monitoring for diseases such as rust or funguses, and then spraying for these (4) Hand weeding where possible to keep weeds under control (only resort to weed herbicides if this is unavoidable) - there are organic methods of weed control too (5) When mowing, do so a little higher during the Summer months so that the longer leaf blades afford protection from the hot sun to the roots. Most lawn grasses will respond well to the above given time.
Oct 05 2014, 05:15 PM
Melvin Rose
Have you a local supplier in the George area?
Oct 07 2014, 11:22 AM
eGardens became a reference-only website some months back - so we no longer sell plants, trees or lawn grass. We previously only serviced the Cape Town metropolitan area, hence all our growers/suppliers were around Cape Town. We therefore don't have supplier information for the George area. But two of our previous growers might be able to deliver lawn grass plug trays to George, with a delivery charge. You don't mention what specific lawn grass you are looking for, or the need for roll-on or plugs. If it's plugs and a type of lawn grass not always obtainable e.g. Buffalo, LM Berea then perhaps consider the ex-Cape Town option. Otherwise you might want to go and visit my friends Morne and Hennie who run Norgarivier Nursery on the road from George to the airport. I'm sure they would know about your local growers of lawn grass. Let me know if you want me to sound out the Cape Town growers.
Aug 10 2014, 01:06 PM
Have you any experience/ science based info on the Ginger Green grass. Is it indigenous, a hybrid or GM? Apparently it grows in the sun, shade, at the coast; can be planted all year round,is evergreen,water wise....I am sceptical as photos Show it to be soft grass yet the Website maintains it is like Kikuyu. (Hibberdene area) thanks
Aug 11 2014, 10:36 AM
I have neither personal experience with nor research on Ginger Green Grass. I have simply heard it mentioned very occasionally. Information on the Internet indicates that it is a LOCAL hybrid, from LOCAL grasses and is not GM. So it's indigenous. For your convenience I'm supplying you with two websites which I suggest you visit. The first is a for a company selling Ginger Green Grass seed, and supplementary information is given. The second is a very commonly used South African website for registering compliments or complaints for ANY products or services offered for sale in SA. I see there are both good and "bad" things mentioned about Ginger Green Grass. But you can judge for yourself. You may also want to contact the people offering Ginger Green Grass seed and get their opinion "straight from the horse's mouth" but obviously take it with a pinch of salt! Do mention that you live right by the sea. I've asked one of my landscaping friend's if he knows of it, and I'll update this response if he has any relevant comments. Hope this helps you!
Jun 21 2014, 12:09 PM
HI i have planted ginger green seeds 2 months ago only see single single blade leaf when will the runners start growing thanks Brian
Jun 21 2014, 01:37 PM
I just vaguely recall hearing about Gingergreen lawn grass a good few years ago. So I have never actually seen it, not had any experience with growing it. I did some research on the Internet and see that it is sold locally in seed form, usually mixed in with a nutritious medium. It appears from the documentation that it grows in all types of soil, in sun, shade or semi-shade and can be sown at any time of the year. Apart from recommending that you be patient (at least your Gingergreen is showing signs of life!), you could contact the supplier of your seed and find out more about the growth stages you should expect. Could you perhaps submit a response hereunder with a little of that information so that all gardeners who use the eGardens website can benefit? Many thanks...
Jun 21 2014, 03:53 PM
hi thanks for the reply will give you an update Brian
May 11 2014, 12:16 PM
Hello. We have laid grass and the gardener covered it with soil and compost, presumably to get it to grow without lumps? Now being may in Johannesburg it doesn't seem to be growing. I am not sure if I must put fertilizer on it and if so which kind and also how much water must it get? At the moment it is a bit of a mud pit and very dissapointing. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.
Jun 23 2014, 08:49 AM
Lawns should never be completely covered with top dressing - several dressings should rather be applied over a period of weeks, if the intent is to level out bumps and indentations. I lived in Pretoria for most of my early years and recall how the lawns on the Highveld turned beige in Winter, with no sign of active growth. So right now the best thing I feel would be to try to wash the excess soil and compost into the root zone, where it at least serves the purpose of firming up the mat. There would be no point in applying fertiliser now. Rather wait for the arrival of Spring, around September/October. Roll-on lawn does tend to give one an uneven spongy surface, at least initially. Once the lawn has greened up and is growing actively you can also try light top dressings of clean washed river sand in order to level it out.
Jan 30 2014, 06:30 PM
I just came across your AMAZING website !!!
It is a treasure of information ! most importantly, its from LOCAL experts like yourself !

I am from Cape Town, southern subs, having just bought a new house with a decent back and front yard / garden I cant wait to get stuck into your website
and learn, but before I do, my priority now is my grass which I had laid 2 months ago, "roll on kikuyu' and I desperately would
like to pick your brain before I go diving into your website, if you don't mind ?

Photo 1 and Photo 2 are from a neighour in the road and the sportsfield where I work.
I am led to believe they are both Kikuyu ?

Photo 3 and 4 is MY grass.
Photo 3 is just a closeup of the same patch I cut as per Photo 4

My question is, my grass is very spongy and does not form a tight knight carpet. I can literally stick my fingers in between
down to the soil Is my kikuyu not meant to eventually look like Photo 1 and 2 ? tight knit, carpet like and firm under foot.

If so, how can I achieve this ?

I really appreciate you taking the time to read this

Thank You
Jan 31 2014, 03:05 PM
Wonderful getting feedback such as yours - makes this task so much more worthwhile! Not sure I would call myself an "expert" but the website owner insisted!...

I decided to discuss your query and photos with a landscaping friend who has laid LOTS of lawns. We both agree that the pictures are in fact of Kikuyu grass. We disagree slightly as to the approach to follow. Here's my take : I'm generally not a roll-on fan and believe that plugs or runners ultimately give a firmer and smoother law surface. I've seen many spongy roll-on lawns and I believe its because the soil drops away from the roots when the rolls are lifted and delivered. I've always been told that one should apply multiple thin layers of clean washed river sand over a period of 6-8 weeks, which should firm up the mat. Since the lawn was laid in mid-Summer it will have taken quite a bashing from both wind and hot sun. So watering regularly and deeply is essential. My friend's take is : don't be concerned about the spongyness - it is normal and the Kikuyu will eventually firm up. He concurs with me re watering as above. He says don't mow the lawn until our Winter rains start, as the grass blades must remain long so that photosynthesis can take place and the roots will be encouraged to grow downwards. So...I'd probably go for a hybrid of these two approaches - distribute a little river sand as and when you can, water deeply and don't mow until it gets much cooler. And by the way, when you do mow, start at the very highest height setting on your mower and then each time you mow bring the height down just a little. Good luck, and I hope this helps you in some way!
Jan 31 2014, 04:43 PM
great ! sounds like a plan, now I've got something to work with........and I'll enjoy telling my wife I'm not allowed to mow for a while :-) I'm glad to hear its just a matter patience and some clean sand and hopefully we'll get that tight knit firm carpet.....i'll be sure to pop back here and update...Thanks Rod !!
Dec 26 2013, 10:53 PM
Hi, is gingergrass as good as it claims?
Dec 27 2013, 08:50 AM
I have no personal experience with Ginger Grass (Paspalum distichum) - though I have vaguely heard of it! It is not clear what the claims are that you have heard, nor to what purpose you intend putting it. But I did some Internet research on it, so that both you and I could perhaps learn a little more, and came up with the following website which I suggest you have a look at :
The article seems to have quite a lot of information which could be useful to you. Depending on your situation, you could perhaps try it on a small scale first, then expand if it works for you. This is the best advice I can give based on information provided.
Sep 24 2013, 01:04 PM
Hi, I am based in Johannesburg and we have lm berea lawn and wanted to know what will be the best lawn mower to use.
Sep 24 2013, 05:59 PM
If you look carefully at the way LM Grass grows, you will see that it spreads via surface runners which put down roots (much like that spreading ground cover plant called Hen and Chicks). It is also a "fluffy" grass and looks best when left to grow fairly long. So definitely set your mower at a cutting height quite a bit higher than you would for say Kikuyu. The aim is to minimise the possibility of the blades ripping out the surface runners and their roots. Also you want to leave as much of the leaf blades as possible, particularly in any shaded areas. I imagine that any make of mower would do provided it has a good height adjustment range. You could of course also consider the Flymo which hovers above the grass while it is cutting. And the mower could be either mechanical or electrical - whatever is most convenient for you. I've tried one of those push mowers (no motor) on my own lawn and found that it did not work too well with LM Grass - only the exercise was beneficial! I think the problem is that the blades turn too slowly, making it difficult to achieve a clean cut. Hope I understood your question correctly!


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