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How do I grow a zoysia grass lawn?
Zoysia grass is a warm- season grass native to Japan, Korea, and the Philippine Islands. It is a low growing perennial grass that spreads by above ground stolons and shallow rhizomes. Zoysia grass grows best on good neutral (pH 5.5 - 7.0), well drained soils.Before planting a zoysia grass lawn in the St. Louis area, consider the following advantages and disadvantages of this warm-season grass.
- Tolerates heat – thrives in hot weather
- Tolerates drought – takes less water than cool-season grasses
- A thick established turf resists wear and weed invasion
- Requires less fertilizer than cool-season grasses
- Loves full sun locations of at least 6 to 8 hours per day
- Tolerates light shade but tends to be thinner and less competitive in these areas
- Greens up late in the spring and turns brown in early fall
- More expensive to establish and renovate than a cool-season lawn
- Slow growing and slow to recover from damage
- Lawn mixtures of zoysia and a cool season grass presents maintenance problems
- Does not tolerate wet or poorly drained soils
- Does not tolerate dense shade
- Harder to mow than cool-season grasses
- Can invade adjacent flower beds, vegetable gardens and turf
- Prone to development of thatch
Zoysia grass is usually planted in a new lawn with plugs, sprigs (a.k.a. stolens), or sod. Seed is generally inadvisable because individual plants produced from seed are highly variable in leaf width, color, vigor of growth and winter hardiness.
Proper soil preparation is required no matter which method of establishment is chosen. Till the soil or core aerate to loosen the ground making it better for nutrients, water and oxygen to get to the roots. In the case of sprigging or sodding proper soil preparation should involve tilling the soil and preparing a “seed bed” instead of core aerating. Have a soil test to determine the proper nutrient and pH requirements. See “How do I test my soil?”. Incorporate the recommended nutrients, lime and/or sulfur from the soil test results into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.
Plugging is the easiest method of establishment for homeowners. Plugs should be 2 inches in diameter, contain 2 to 3 inches of soil and roots, and be spaced on 12 inch centers in a diamond pattern. For complete zoysia grass coverage in one year, place plugs at 6 inch intervals. Do not poke holes in the ground for planting plugs but use a tool called a plugger to remove cores of soil. A long handled bulb planter would also work as a “plugger”. Dip the plugs into a container of water before placing them into the holes. Press the plugs firmly into the holes by foot or by lightly rolling or tamping to insure good contact with the soil. Keep plugs moist for the first 2 to 3 weeks to prevent the roots from drying out and then begin recommended watering practices.
Sprigging is less expensive and may cover faster than plugging but is harder to do and requires more initial care. Sprigs are 4 to 6 inch long pieces of a zoysia plant that includes runners, roots, and leaves. The sprigs are placed into shallow furrows that are about 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Sprigs can be obtained from some nurseries or by tearing apart pieces of mature sod. It takes about 2 to 3 squares yards of sod to produce enough sprigs to plant 1,000 square feet. Attention to watering frequently after sprigging is critical in getting the sprigs to establish before beginning recommended watering practices.
Sodding provides an instant lawn but is much more expensive than plugging or sprigging. It is also the preferred method when trying to establish zoysia grass on a hill or slope.
The soil should be moist, but not overly wet prior to laying the sod. The pieces of sod should be staggered in a brick like arrangement with ends in contact, but not overlapping. Do not stretch sod because cracks may develop between the pieces as they shrink during drying. For better rooting, roll the finished lawn lightly to improve the sod and soil contact.
Immediately after sodding, water the lawn to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Then, water frequently for two to three weeks to maintain adequate moisture for rooting into the soil. After the sod is rooted into the soil, begin recommended watering practices.
Extra attention to watering practices is needed in very hot weather in order to give the new sod adequate moisture without overwatering and rotting the sod.
After establishment of your new lawn, answers to the following FAQ’s will help you determine proper maintenance practices and potential problems of zoysia grass.