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Since the harvest the rains have been abundant, resulting in the establishment of a dense mat of weeds. Without chemicals or machinery it will require a massive effort to remove them. Our thick mulch will help somewhat with the broadleaves and the plain grasses, but the presence of kikuyu, Pennisetum clandestinum, a virile runner grass, will necessitate considerable hand labor.

Kikuyu grass is fiercely aggressive and persistent. It invades new territory by sending out stolons (runners), which climb over all obstacles, including other plants, and everywhere it goes, it develops dense networks of rhizomes (roots), which monopolize all available soil nutrients. This strategy enables it to establish itself very rapidly, outcompeting virtually all other plants. It grows so densely that it chokes out all challengers, plus it also produces its very own toxic herbicide, which further discourages any rivals, even if they are already established.

Some neighbors have burned it with flamethrowers. Most kill it with roundup. It can also be scraped up with earthmoving equipment (along with all the topsoil). But if even the smallest piece is left in the ground, it will start another plant. To remove it without damaging our soil involves meticulous hand weeding. But that is an arduous and very costly process. We will have to dig up and remove every particle of each individual plant, and carry it far away from the vines. If even the smallest piece snaps off, it can establish a new plant!

Such a tremendous expenditure of effort and resources may not be entirely efficacious. So I’m walking around in the night wondering if there is any other way to deal with it. One idea is to move some chickens in and feed them in the vines. Perhaps they will be able to scratch up the kikuyu. But once the buds pop we risk the entire crop, and our low cordon means that the buds will be in reach. We will have at least another month of winter, so it might be worth the risk…

And you thought grape growing was easy!

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