Empire Zoysia Grass Sod
Well maintained Zoysia is possibly the most beautiful warm season lawn grass. Maybe Zoysia grass sod is where we get the saying “ the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” there’s no doubt that it makes a beautiful lawn. But there’s two sides to ever coin, the secret lies in the first two words of the introduction, well maintained, see when it comes to Zoysia, “the other side of the fence” gets a lot of maintenance to look that green.
Zoysia grass sod will require a high level of maintenance and are not as trouble free as all the hype would imply. They, like all other varieties of sod have advantages and disadvantages when used in the North Florida area. Before you jump on the Zoysia bandwagon, lets make sure its right for you.
Improved cultivar’s are being tested at the University of Florida in Gainesville and are showing good promise including ‘Empire’ which is quickly becoming the Zoysia of choice for Florida, but at this point these cultivar’s are still to new to know how these grasses pan out in the long run. Empire can be mowed with a standard mower and is showing improved establishment rates but has reduced shade tolerance.
Zoysia grass was introduced from Asia.
Adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions
Good shade tolerance
Good salt tolerance
Excellent wear resistance
Extremely dense sod which naturally reduces weed infestations
Slow growth means less frequent mowing
Excellent grass uniformity
Zoysia grasses slow growth rate makes the establishment period after planting extremely slow increasing the initial maintenance needed to get the sod rooted and actively growing
When propagated from plugs or seeds it will require two growing seasons for establishment
All varieties of Zoysia form a heavy thatch layer and require periodic renovation
Slow damage recovery
Poor growth rate on compacted soils and weakened when grown on soils with low potassium levels
High fertilizer requirement, high maintenance costs
High establishment costs, Zoysia grass sod is by far the most expensive turf to lay, cost has been driven up by increased demand
Frequent irrigation needed, not drought tolerant, with watering needed during prolonged droughts as frequently as every other day
Severe damage by nematodes possible
Hunting billbug damage
Reel mowers recommended for cutting
Shallow rooting, not a good option for soil erosion problems
Zoysia grass sods are adaptable to a wide range of soils.
Zoysia grass sod is known for its tolerance to shady conditions although it is grown commercially in full sun environments.
All varieties of Zoysia are salt tolerant.
Established Zoysia grass sod should be watered on an as needed basis when more than 30 percent of the lawn begins to show water stress. Grass blades begin to turn a bluish gray green color and footprints remain in the sod after walking across the lawn. When grass reaches this level water ¾ of an inch of water, which is equivalent to 465 gallons of water per 1000 s.f.
Zoysia grass will go dormant and turn brown within a week of typical drought conditions. It can stay dormant for extended periods of time without adequate rainfall but once irrigation or rainfall resumes it will regain its green color.
While more forgiving than Centipede sod Zoysia is not drought tolerant so make sure to keep an eye on the lawn and set the irrigation timer on automatic or have a neighbor water when going out of town on vacations. Irrigation systems are recommended when installing Zoysia grass lawns.
Zoysia sod will require frequent mowing to look its best. Depending on the growing season and recent waterfall rates, Zoysia sod should on average be mowed every week or when they reach a height of 3 – 4 inches. Mow down to a height of 2 – 2 1/2 inches with a rotary mower. Leave grass clippings on the lawn and be sure to run them over with a mower a few times to ensure that they are fine cut. This not only helps drought proof your lawn but reduces fertilization requirements and helps keep the lawn healthy and able to fend off insects and disease. They will not, as often believed, contribute to thatch buildup.
Excellent traffic tolerance
All Zoysia grasses are heavy feeders requiring up to -6 lbs of nitrogen per 1000 s.f. each year. Zoysia grass does better with smaller quantities of fertilizer and more frequent applications sometimes know as “spoon feeding”
Currently the minimum application for Zoysia in North Florida is 3-4 times per year with a complete fertilizer like 16-4-8, 10-10-10 or 6-6-6 can be applied in the spring and the fall with 1-2 applications of either ½ lb of a water soluble nitrogen source or 1lb of a slow release nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 s.f. and equal portions of potassium in the summer months. Potassium is especially important during the rain seasons due to the fact that it is quickly washed through the soils.
On high PH soils 7.0 or higher or where high PH water is being applied yellowing of leaf blades may indicate an iron or manganese deficiency. When an iron deficiency has bee identified, chelated iron or ferrous sulfate can be applied in a foliar application to correct the problem and re-green the Zoysia grass lawn. Manganese is available in a granular form.
Pest Problems and Management Practices:
Hunting Billbug is the most serious insect problem in Zoysia lawns with chemical control being needed when populations increase to 10 or more insects per square foot.
Nematodes can also pose a problem for Zoysia grass lawns, the extent of damage to Zoysia lawns is still under investigation at the University of Florida due to the increase in improved cultivar’s in recent years.
Mole crickets, sod webworm, white grubs as well as lawn caterpillars also pose problems in Zoysia grass lawns. When they have been identified as problems in your turf check with your local Agricultural Extension Agent for treatment options.
Disease Problems and Management Practices:
Although not classified a disease, but definitely a common problem that Zoysia grass users will battle is a thatch buildup layer.
Zoysia grass will develop a thick thatch layer within a few years of a newly established lawn, especially when over fertilized with nitrogen. Thatch must be removed every year or every other year to keep your Zoysia lawn beautiful and healthy. Keeping your nitrogen applications to the minimum requirements, watering on an as needed basis and proper mowing height and frequency will help prevent thatch buildup. There have been indications that ‘scalping’ your grass immediately after spring green up will help reduce thatch problems.
Diseases that affect Zoysia grass lawns are dollar spot, brown patch and rust. These problems are generally suppressed when frequent mowing, proper watering and proper fertilization practices are followed. When outbreaks occur and chemical treatment is necessary check with your local agricultural Extension Service for treatment options.
Zoysia grass must be established by springs, plugs or sod except for Zoysia japonica which is available commercially as seed. However establishment by plugs or sprigs may take up to two growth seasons to form a nice lawn making sodding necessary for most homeowners.
Properly or professionally maintained Zoysia grass will make beautiful lawns for the North Florida area. ‘Emerald’ Zoysia is available as sod in the North Florida area and are highly recommended as a top quality sod where time and money allow for a properly executed maintenance program.