Zoysia grass is our very FAVORITE! With the proper fertilization program, Zoysia is extremely aggressive in its growth and is the best turf to choke out weeds. Zoysia is also the least susceptible to pests, pathogens, and fungus. Thick and green is the name of the game for Zoysia………however, in any shade, you will be less than impressed. Zoysia likes full sun. Zoysia sod is also the most expensive, which is why you just don’t see it as often. Zoysia grass can also get pretty thatchy. Maintain a good aeration program (twice a year), and you’ll be smooth sailing.
Mowing heights can vary from season to season. In a nutshell, we recommend that you pick a height and stay with it. 2-3.5″ works well. You can certainly mow it much shorter (like a golf course), but your lawn’s grading needs to be perfect. Weekly mowing during the growing season is a must. If maintained correctly, the grass can serve as a flower bed and tree bed barrier, keeping your mulch, etc., in place. Use a blade edger (not a line trimmer) along the concrete surfaces like sidewalks and driveways to create a nice crisp 90-degree angle.
Your mowing blades want to be nice and sharp. Our goal here is to cut the grass rather than tear or shred it. During the dormant season (Dec-Feb), you want your mow blades to be nice and sharp. Bi-weekly mowing is sufficient during the dormant season, but mowing frequency should increase as the grass eases out of dormancy. Once the turf is fully out of dormancy, (April) weekly mowing is highly advised. Mulching your Zoysia grass clippings rather than bagging is also a good idea. Mulching puts all kinds of wonderful nutrients back into your soil. (Mulching does NOT add to the thatch layer).
Irrigating your Zoysia grass is simple. Zoysia grass requires 1/2 as much water as St Augustine. First and foremost, more water does NOT mean more green. Too much irrigation leads to insects, fungus, and other pathogens and will drown out your Zoysia grass. As a VERY general rule of thumb, our local weather provides enough water for our grass all the way thru April, so irrigation up to this point is probably not necessary. When you do water, water to a depth of about 6”. You’ll know when your grass needs watering because the blades will curl in. Once the hot, dry season starts (mid-June-September), you may find that a good drenching once or twice a week is necessary. Once October hits, you can start thinking about turning your system completely off. Please keep in mind these are general guidelines as mother nature will not be boxed in with hard and fast rules. Let common sense prevail here. Err on the side of too little water with your Zoysia lawn.
Zoysia grass can be susceptible to several funguses. Brown patch and leaf spot are probably the most common that we see. A distant second would be Rust. You can mitigate these pathogens by adequately watering and maintaining a healthy thatch layer. Brown patch is most common in the early spring when the evenings are still cool, but the days have begun to warm up, and people begin to irrigate again. The same cycle is repeated in the early fall. Brown patch starts off looking like a donut.
As the pathogen progresses, the shape may become irregular. A “copper” colored ring is the easiest way to tell if it is still active. Left unchecked, brown patch can create serious havoc on the well-being of your turf. Leaf spot is a little more challenging to detect but is easily recognizable to your turf professional. A well-balanced fertilization plan with plenty of bio-nutrition works wonders to lessen the severity or even eliminate outbreaks.
Because Zoysia is very dense and hardy, most turf-eating insects have no chance, except for grubs. The two most common types we see in our area are the tropical sod webworms & armyworms. A good insecticide program will mitigate, if not completely eliminate them. Sod webworms eat at night and can do a significant amount of damage in a very short period of time. A good sod webworm program is budget-friendly and will give you peace of mind and protection. More good news is the sod webworm insecticide will also prevent armyworm damage! It’s a “BOGO”!
Fertilizers, like everything else, come in good, better, and best. When possible, use the best you can find. Yes, nitrogen is wonderful to help green the grass blades quickly during the growing season, but like caffeine, it wears off quickly. A balanced bio-nutritional program will give you the season-long, thick green grass you’re looking for. Weed prevention starts with quality pre-emergents. Remember that pre-emergents are not universal in the weeds that they prevent. Each pre-emergent prevents the next season of weeds from germinating.
Timing is everything with pre-emergents. You’ll need to get these out before your targeted weeds begin to germinate. Post-emergents (weed killers) are also NOT universal in the weeds they kill. You will probably require at least three different types of weed killers to cover all your bases. Follow the labels closely, remembering that more is NOT better. Lastly, NEVER use roundup to kill weeds in your lawn. Roundup is non-selective, which means it kills EVERYTHING it touches.
At best, Greater Houston soils are awful, with heavy clay and gumbo soil being the most typical, both having high pH levels. We like to see pH levels at 6.5 or less, as high pH and salt levels cause a myriad of problems. First, they bind up your soils, creating compaction and minimizing the oxygen and water flow in and around the roots of your turf. They also prevent the turf from accessing the nutrients being put out. A quality soil test and analysis will identify any issues your soils may have and should be performed at no charge by any quality fertilizer service company. Salt enters your soil profile via cheap fertilizers and through city water via irrigation. So focus on a fertility program that breaks down the salt and lowers the pH levels.
We absolutely love aeration, especially for our compacted, salty soils. Compaction comes in 2 forms. The first and most obvious is from regular traffic, such as mowing, kids playing, etc. But our most common & harmful form of compaction is chemical bonding. As pH and salt levels rise in your soil, they chemically bond the soil colloids. As a result, the soil becomes more rigid, and as this worsens, prevents oxygen and hydration from freely moving about. Therefore, any nutrition that would be available to the plant is also bound up, preventing the plant from accessing it.
There are several ways to aerate your lawn. Historically, plug aeration was utilized to loosen up the soil by removing a 2.5” plug of dirt about the diameter of a quarter and depositing it on top of the turf. The primary drawback was it only worked on about 20% of the lawn and did nothing to break down the more damaging chemical bonding happening deep down. Technology now allows us to apply a liquid aeration. Liquid aeration covers 100% of your lawn and works to loosen surface tension with highly oxidizing materials and bio-stimulants. A quality liquid aeration program will also break down thatch, which is paramount for Zoysia Grass, increasing oxygen movement and reducing insect and fungal pressure. However, the most fantastic benefit is that it also works to break down the chemical bonds freeing up all kinds of great nutrition and washing out the salt. A golf course will typically aerate five times a year; we recommend 2x’s a year (Spring/Fall). Liquid aeration can be performed any time of the year.
Other Misc. Stuff You’ll Want to Know
How fast will my Zoysia grass fill in bare areas?
Under perfect growing conditions, like on a sod farm, Zoysia will grow laterally approximately 1.5 inches every two weeks. However, most homes do not enjoy “perfect” growing conditions. Zoysia grows by the use of stolons and rhizomes.
How much sunlight does my Zoysia grass need?
This one is straightforward. Zoysia grass needs a MINIMUM of 50% available hrs per day of good sunlight, with no exceptions. This is a minimum, and favorable results are questionable at this rate. Filtered sunlight through trees does not count. Full sun is best. A minimum amount of photosynthesis is absolutely necessary. Without it, the grass will begin to thin and continue to die back or struggle. Trimming low-hanging branches, cutting back scrub material, or even removing a few trees are a couple of strategies to increase sunlight. Increasing the size of your beds around shady areas may also help to “fill in” places that just won’t grow from too much shade.
When does my Zoysia grass go dormant and brown out?
All grass goes dormant during the winter months, which is entirely normal and nothing to be concerned about. Two primary factors that affect dormancy are daylight hours and soil temperatures. As the daylight hours lessen, a hormonal response is triggered in the Zoysia grass to start growing more slowly. Also, during this time, the grass is trying to gobble up nutrients to prepare for next spring. In addition, Zoysia is extremely sensitive to cold weather. For example, a fall cold snap can brown out Zoysia in just one weekend. But If soil temps can remain above 58 degrees, the grass can maintain some level of green color. A more severe browning will occur if soil temps drop below 58 degrees. This occurrence is perfectly natural and part of your turf’s life cycle. With a high-quality fertilization program, the grass typically stays greener for longer periods of time due to the high microbial heat-generating activity. If you’d like that green golf course look all winter, we suggest looking into lawn pigmentation.