If you are looking for a drought-tolerant lawn that needs minimal or no maintenance, then you should try growing Zoysia grass rather than contemporary lawn grass. This thick, robust grass not only prevents weeds from growing but it requires less mowing, fertilizing, and watering once you have planted it on your turf.
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What Is a Zoysia Grass
Zoysia is a rhizome, drought-season grass that can cope with numerous conditions, including foot traffic. With its strong stem and leaves, the grass has the natural ability to heal itself more effectively when stepped on. Although zoysia blossoms in the full sun, it can also endure shade.
Zoysia grass can thrive in conditions that most grasses cannot flourish. Their root system is one of the deepest and adapts easily to various soil kinds, including sand and clay. The only downside of zoysia grass is that it is very susceptible to cold climates and hence best suited to warm conditions.
In cold areas, the grass may go brown until warm temperatures reoccur, the grass will remain dormant.
Tip on Planting Zoysia Grass in Existing Lawn
If you are wondering how to plant Zoysia grass in your existing lawn, here are the three simple steps and tips to follow:
1. Prepare Your Ground and The Zoysia Plugs
Before you plant your Zoysia plugs in a lawn that already has grass, you need to mow the existing turf first. You can do this using the shortest blade height. The lower the height, the better.
Once you are through with mowing, water your lawn’s ground to make it easier for digging. Moisten your sod sheets that come with the Zoysia plugs. Your plugs’ roots need to be moist to maintain their health.
Use a sharp lathe tool to cut the sheets into 1–2-inch plugs, depending on your preference. Keep in mind that larger plugs speed up the planting process while smaller ones can lead to a thicker lawn.
2. Plant Your Zoysia Plugs
The first step to take when planting your Zoysia plugs is planning where to place them. Ensure that the wholes purposed to plant the plugs are spaced between 4-12 inches apart, although the exact spacing depends on the thickness preference. Plant the plugs together, leaving no gaps as this will make the lawn fill faster, resulting in a sparse covering.
Furthermore, plant your plugs using a diamond pattern to give the plugs a similar distance from each other. It also facilitates better plugs’ roots development. Dig the holes 1 inch wider and deeper than the plugs to have loose soil and water the holes halfway, about 1 inch of water.
Next, partially refill the hole with loose soil, around 1 inch of loose soil to give space for the moisture. Doing this will offer a nice bed for the grass to thrive on since they require softness and moisture to grow better.
Plant the plugs and then cover them with loose soil, burying all its roots. Don’t cover the entire plug. Press it down firmly until it creates contact between the plug and the roots.
Caring and Maintenance of Your Zoysia Grass
Once you have planted your Zoysia plugs, you are not done with the job yet. You need to maintain it for the grass to grow uniformly and alluringly.
Generally, the Zoysia grass lawn mowing height ranges between 1-2 inches during the summer. However, during spring, you can mow the lawn at the mower’s lowest setting to get rid of dead leaf tissue. That enhances the grassy rate and allows easier and uniform mowing during the growing period. But the mowing height should be increased by a half to one inch in September to prepare for the fall.
At any one time, never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade when mowing. Besides, ensure you have collected all the clippings if they don’t remain clumps on the lawn surface. Here is a list of the best mower for Zoysia grass.
Due to its drought-tolerant ability, zoysia grass requires less water to remain green and actively growing in the summer months. Watering is usually not necessary except in the prolonged dry seasons.
Cultural practices, like mowing, thatch control, and proper feeding, can go a long way in creating a drought-tolerant turf.
While watering, consider these simple rules:
• Water during early mornings to minimize disease incidence.
• Water thoroughly, moistening the soil to a 4-6 inches depth.
Established Zoysia grass needs less fertilizer for a healthy and alluring lawn. An annual total amount of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is enough. Excessive or inappropriate fertilizer application can cause more thatch, fewer root, diseases, or top growth that needs increased mowing.
For optimal results, carry out soil testing before fertilizing. A soil test will show significant nutrient deficiencies and soil alkalinity or acidity (pH). The best acidic soil pH for zoysia grass is 6.0 to 6.5. In case the soil pH is less than 6.0, consider applying lime.
For established Zoysia grass, feed it from May to August. Early spring feeding benefits weeds and increases top growth before roots start to grow. On the other hand, late feeding can interfere with the normal hardening process before winter.
Where soil test shows no significant deficiencies, apply a turf fertilizer with approximate nitrogen (N): phosphorus (P): potassium (K) at a ratio of 3:1:1 or 4:1:2. That can help in routine maintenance of the grass.
If the soil test shows low potassium or phosphorus levels or if normal fertility levels are unknown, apply fertilizer with a ratio that is more closely to 1:1:1 or 2:1:1.
A well-maintained zoysia grass turf is very competitive with weeds. However, winter seasons, such as henbit or chickweed, can be an issue when the grass is dormant. Weeds can also invade your lawn after it has been weakened or damaged by disease, insects, or excessive dethatching.
Winter season weeds are easy to control during the fall rather than the spring when they blossom and produce seed.
Lush weeds, such as crabgrass, are not an issue in established Zoysia grass turf. However, you should apply an early spring crabgrass preventer when planting on a new lawn or a frequently irrigated or close-mowed yard.
Look for and control any white grubs. Use Merit 0.5G to prevent grub worms and apply Dylox 6.2 or Scotts GrubEx to eliminate them if they have already invaded your grass. When you use a granular mixture, make sure you have watered the lawn after application to facilitate soil absorption. Include that into your weekly watering amount. August is the perfect month to control grubs since they are small and normally feed near the soil surface. Other insects to check out include spittlebugs, billbugs, and mole crickets.
Disease outbreaks in zoysia grass are rare during the summer. However, if needed, treat with a broad-spectrum fungicide such as Heritage. When you use a granular mixture, make sure you water the lawn immediately to help soil absorption.
Thatch is a build-up of both living and dead material that forms at grass plants’ base, where the stem meets soil and roots. It appears as a marked horizontal brown spongy layer or grooved substance just above the soil surface. Zoysia grass is prone to thatch buildup due to its thick rhizomes, coarse network, and tough stem tissue.
Dethatch your lawn when the thatch is more than a half-inch in thickness. You can accomplish this task by the use of a vertical mower or a spring-tine power.
In case the thatch has exceeded 1 inch, don’t try complete removal in one year. Instead, eliminate the thatch for two to three years. Consider intensive coring as this causes minor damage to the turf compared to vertical mowing and power raking.
You can reduce thatch accumulation through proper cultural practices, such as:
• Clip the grass regularly at the recommended height to sustain vigor and to avoid shock. Trimmings can be left to decompose where you do mowing at regular intervals. Note that the leaf tissue removed during each mowing should not exceed one-third. Eliminate excessive clippings that build up in clumps on the surface.
• Feeding moderately to maintain lawn density without unnecessary growth
• Thorough watering and only as required.
• Using vertical mow or power rake with dethatching equipment as required to ensuring the thatch thickness is less than a half.
• Where the lawn is prone to traffic, core aerify to improve water and fertilizer penetration. Leave soil granular on the surface to dry and break down before mowing.
In addition, do not mow your lawn for a whole month after you have planted the plugs. That will give your grass enough time to develop its roots and blossom. Also, avoid using chemicals for at least one and a half months after planting your plugs. Chemicals can cause damage to young plants.
Wrapping It Up
As soon as the climate gets cold, zoysia grass goes dormant. You will observe a brown lawn until sometime around March. If you live too far north, you might have a dormant turf for much of the growing season. That is why this type of grass is typically not recommended for cooler climates.