Lawn & Garden
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Lawn care is heating up across the country along with the weather. Transforming turf takes time, patience and science. An Alabama Cooperative Extension System commercial horticulture expert provides knowledge for every neighborhood’s turf titan.
This article is part two in a three-part series highlighting three of the most popular turfgrass species in the Southeast. Homeowners or renters with a zoysiagrass lawn will find care tips and things to look for while growing the perfect lawn.
Alabama Extension Commercial Horticulture Regional Extension Agent David Lawrence said zoysiagrass is one of the most aesthetically pleasing turfgrasses.
“Zoysiagrass is mostly utilized in home lawns and common areas but can sometimes be found on golf courses where the presence of shade does not allow bermudagrass to thrive,” Lawrence said.
For some residents, zoysia is the best species to use in a lawn if the yard contains shady areas and not enough consistent sunlight. Lawrence said it performs well in these environments and is a slower-growing grass than bermuda.
Although zoysia is shade tolerant, full sun is still its preference. When healthy, it creates a dense canopy that helps prevent weeds by outcompeting for sunlight.
“Zoysiagrass is sometimes referred to as shade loving; however, this is not true,” Lawrence said. “While zoysiagrass is more shade tolerant than bermudagrass, it still prefers full sun and a mowing height of 1.5 to 3 inches.”
Unlike the popular bermudagrass lawn, zoysia does not thrive in heavy traffic areas. Some athletic fields will use both species simultaneously to ensure a lush turf for playing–no matter the sun exposure.
Lawrence said in general, zoysia sod is more expensive than bermuda because of its slow growth habits, which requires growers to maintain the sod for longer periods. When it comes to zoysiagrass, there are two separate cultivars based on blade shape–wide and narrow.
“Wide-bladed cultivars include Meyer (Z52) and Empire while narrow-bladed cultivars include Emerald and Zeon,” Lawrence said. “These cultivars are only available through vegetative propagation (grown from parent plants).”
Lawrence adds that seeded varieties are also available for purchase. One of the most common cultivars is Zenith zoysia, which produces wide blades–providing an overseeding solution for thin lawn areas. Contact your local Extension office to see which cultivar and turf application method is the most appropriate.
Zoysia and bermuda turf share many of the same irrigation and fertility requirements. Conducting a soil test provides a base for nutrient application in any horticultural or agricultural project. These are available through the Auburn University Soil, Forage and Water Testing Laboratory. Each test delivers real-time measurements of essential soil nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. The analysis also provides an alkalinity (acidity) reading using the pH scale.
“A soil test should determine the amount of nutrients that will be applied to an area,” Lawrence said. “Zoysiagrass requires 2 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet, per year, for adequate growth. Also, one inch of supplemental irrigation should be applied during periods of no rainfall.”
Like with most other turf species, diseases are no stranger to zoysiagrass. Common diseases for zoysia include brown patch, large patch, dollar spot and fairy ring. Lawrence said that preventative applications of a broad-spectrum fungicide should be made on areas where there is a history of brown patch disease. If zoysia lawns fall victim to disease, it can take longer to recover–much like its growing habits.
“Even though zoysiagrass produces a thick canopy that can choke out some troublesome weeds, herbicides are usually still required to maintain a weed free lawn,” Lawrence said. “Preemergent herbicide applications should be made prior to weed seed germination.”
As a rule of thumb for most of Alabama, March is the best time for treating warm season weeds and October is primetime to treat cool season weeds. Identifying weeds is also critical when selecting a post-emergent herbicide in any lawn. Setting reminders and making notes of a year-long routine allows for annual protection and nutrient application.
Be sure to talk turf with your local Extension agent to learn about the best lawn care methods for your specific area. From county to county, Extension recommendations can be customized to ensure that turf is green, healthy and resilient.
For more information on bermudagrass and other lawn types, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu. Try searching your lawn species for specific recommendations or read the Extension publication, Home Lawn Maintenance.