Whether you live in Georgia, Alabama, or Illinois, a beautiful green lawn is worthy of admiration. Yet, it takes a lot of hard work and skill to maintain one. To raise gorgeous grass, you’ve got to have a comprehensive knowledge of the species and know exactly what it needs to thrive. Alternatively, you can find yourself an expert lawn care service and let the professionals take care of everything.
It is a particularly useful option if you have a zoysia grass lawn. This tough, hard wearing species is quite the survivor, but it is sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Even relatively small changes can cause an unsightly loss of color, so it is best suited to the warmer, southeasterly regions. It is also worth considering professional lawn care because it is a great way to ensure that zoysia grass stays green all year round.
This guide to caring for a zoysia lawn will give you some great tips on watering, fertilizing, mowing, and more.
A Quick Description of Zoysia Grass
The zoysia species is actually not native to the United States. However, it has been here a long time. It was first introduced in 1895, right around the time that the popularity of neatly mown and manicured lawns was starting to soar among homeowners. It is a warm season grass which flourishes in hotter regions, stretching from the Atlantic to the Midwest.
There are three major species of zoysia grass. They are Japanese Lawn Grass, Mascarene Grass, and Manila Grass. Japanese lawngrass (or japonica) is the most common variety across the southeast. The species is often confused with Bermuda grass, but zoysia is stiffer to the touch and can withstand a greater degree of downward pressure.
The biggest benefit of choosing zoysia over other species is that it requires very little lawn maintenance in the right conditions. If it is planted in a slightly colder area, this might not be so accurate, but zoysia is generous if given an optimal environment. For example, it is highly water efficient and can thrive with just half an inch of rain each week.
It also has a slower rate of growth than some of the other species. This means that it can be mowed less often. While most zoysia lawns struggle with discoloration issues in colder climates, they are very hard to kill off. Instead of dying, they enter a dormant state and can be brought back fairly quickly when the warm weather returns.
Ironically, some of the best things about zoysia grass are also the things which make it a frustrating choice for a lawn. For instance, its slower rate of growth means that it is low maintenance, but it can be tough to repair damaged sections. It may take a long time for a reseeded patch to develop and, sometimes, the superior option is to go straight for new turf.
For the same reason, zoysia can be hard to establish. Most lawn care services recommend the use of sod and plugs if you want to create an entirely new lawn. Thatch is another issue and aeration must be regular and consistent. Ultimately, it is very difficult to keep zoysia grass green throughout all four seasons, due to its sensitivity to temperature change.
Many amateur gardeners are unaware of the fact that zoysia has a fairly high silica content. This means that, the longer the blade, the tougher it is to cut. To prevent your mower from sawing at the blades, rather than slicing them neatly, it needs to be as sharp as possible. If you do not have a high-quality mower, it might be best to let a professional lawn service help.
When the blades are sawed at, they have ragged ends, and this makes the lawn look yellow. Therefore, the ideal tool is a very sharp reel mower. You should never cut zoysia below an inch. The golden window is somewhere between one and two inches high. This species grows slowly and can be mowed up to ten times less (per season) than varieties like Bermuda grass.
Similarly, zoysia needs around 80% less water than other grass species. In fact, it doesn’t usually need manual irrigation unless there has been very little rainfall. As explained, a minimum of half an inch of water is required, so keep an eye on this if you do live in one of the much drier regions. It is worth noting that sandy soil types often need slightly more moisture.
As excessive watering can cause damage to the roots, it is a big faux pas. Generally, trusting your own eyes is good enough. If the soil starts to dry out or crack, there hasn’t been enough rain, and you need to introduce some water. Even lawn plugs, which are normally saturated to give them a fast start, should not be doused in water if they are made up of zoysia grass.
Most types of zoysia are wonderfully hardy and can flourish in shady conditions as well as in full sunlight. Crucially, however, if you are going to plant zoysia in the shade, it needs to be somewhere which gets at least three to four hours of direct sunlight each day. It may be tough, but it cannot live without any light at all.
Keep this in mind, because it is the most common reason why some sections of lawns (around trees, for example) start to turn yellow. When planted in full sunlight, the species thrives and is heat tolerant up to temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It is just another one of the reasons why, in the right conditions, zoysia is a durable and rewarding choice.
Amazingly, zoysia can grow in almost all soil conditions. It can even withstand salty, coastal soils which is quite rare among the common lawn grasses. What it means for homeowners is that the species is impervious to things like pavement salt. If you have a driveway right next to the lawn, you can salt it in the winter without worrying about harming the grass.
Similarly, drier, sandy soils are sufficient too. They allow for rapid root development because there are more airspaces in which the root system can travel. Zoysia doesn’t grow quite as fast in clay soils, but it can still survive. The roots are very strong and, usually, they manage to push through even very dense soil material.
While zoysia grass can grow in a variety of soil conditions, it prefers a pH of between six and seven. You can, of course, use lawn fertilization techniques to achieve this balance. Most lawns do require a fertilization treatment once in spring and again in summer. Use approximately 15lbs of complete fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of grass.
For supplemental feeding, apply 2-3lbs of nitrogen over the course of the growing season on spaced out occasions. Ideally, leave 50-60 days between each treatment. It is worth remembering that the presence of trees can alter the pH of the soil, so think about testing shaded sections. You may need to add a little sulfur or pulverized limestone to these areas.
It is true that zoysia grows densely packed together and that this makes it harder for weeds to penetrate and take hold. However, it does not mean that the grass will thrive without any outside intervention. In fact, the species does require topical treatment with herbicides if you want to keep it entirely weed free.
The best approach to weed control is to apply a pre-emergent herbicide. If used periodically in the spring and autumn, it eliminates almost all weeds before they have a chance to emerge from the ground. The most common types, for zoysia lawns, are broadleaf and grassy weeds. They include chickweed, hairy bittercress, wild mustard, prickly lettuce, and dead nettle.
It is a common misconception to assume that insect killing chemicals are the best way to tackle pests in zoysia lawns. This not the case. If you want your lawn to grow strong and healthy, you need to establish a precise, consistent system of care. The right kind of mowing, fertilization, and aeration has a significant impact because it makes the grass less tolerable.
By relying on good maintenance, as opposed to insecticides, you’re also allowing skilled pest hunters (like nabids, big eyed bugs, and anthocorids) to do the work on your behalf. The alternative is that you end up killing the good bugs too and leaving the lawn totally unprotected, which, in turn, intensifies the need for chemical treatments.
You should keep a close watch on the lawn as your own eyes are an invaluable tool. Check the grass for signs of damage once per fortnight in the winter and once per week throughout the rest of the year. Be careful not to cut the grass too short, as this will make it more vulnerable to pests. Similarly, take care not to over fertilize and aerate regularly to penetrate the thatch.
Repairing Problem Areas
While reseeding is always the cheaper option, if you need to repair damaged sections of a lawn, it can take quite some time for zoysia seeds to develop. For this reason, many lawn care providers recommend using turf, plugs, or sod for a faster result. It is, of course, entirely up to you, but fully developed grass is the better choice for an immediate fix.
Zoysia sod can be installed at any time of the year, but May through June is the optimal window. This is a time when the species grows at its quickest rate. It is strong, robust, resilient, and naturally resistant to pests and weeds. Again, zoysia can thrive even in poor planting conditions but do break up the soil to a depth of between six and eight inches if possible.
Remove all surface vegetation and debris. Then, fertilize the target area with one pound of complete lawn fertilizer for every 100 square feet of grass. Finally, combine two to three inches of organic matter (an aged compost is ideal) with the top six inches of soil. The perfect time to install zoysia sod is in the early morning before the sun gets a chance to heat the ground.
Final Thoughts on Caring for a Zoysia Lawn
If you are blessed with hot, dry conditions, zoysia grass might just be your new best friend. It can be a tricky customer at times, especially considering its tendency to yellow in response to even slight temperature changes. However, it is extremely hardy, and you couldn’t ask for a tougher lawn species.
Don’t forget that the support of a professional lawn care service is a great asset to have if you find care and maintenance a daunting task. Expert lawn teams take care of everything from mowing to fertilizing, pest control, soil regulation, thatch removal, and more. They can guarantee a lush, beautiful lawn all year round.