My Zoysia Lawn - How to Have a Beautiful Zoysia Grass Lawn for Your Home
If there is a nearly perfect grass to have in a lawn, my vote would be on having a zoysia lawn. Zoysia grass is slow growing, drought tolerant, likes heat and tolerates cold, grows well in sun and medium shade, thick enough to choke out weeds, self repairing, and on and on. I just can't say enough good about zoysia grass. With all the praise about zoysia, it can sometimes be difficult to establish a zoysia lawn from seed, and its slow growth can allow other weeds and grasses to outcompete it before it becomes established. Once it has taken hold, though, weeds find it very difficult to even sprout, much less grow, as the zoysia tends to grow so thick that it chokes out most competitors. Also, some don't like zoysia since it can be very aggressive, sending shoots over the top of the soil as well as underneath to where it ends up spreading all over into areas where it isn't wanted, like a flowerbed. I still feel that it's resilliance and the fact I only have to mow once every two weeks in the summer while neighbors with bermuda lawns are out there in the heat every five days to keep up.
I planted my zoysia lawn from seed, but if I had it to do over, I would likely use sod. The primary factor was the saving as I only spent $100 on seed where I would have spent more than $1,000 on sod. The end result is the same, but my method took a little longer to get there. I'm going to give an overview of both ways of establishing a zoysia lawn, so you can decide what you need to do based on budget and time available. Whichever method you decide on, you will need to perform a lawn renovation so that it's done right.
Not all varieties of zoysia grass are available from seed, and usually the seed varieties and sod varieties are different. They are all basically light to dark emerald green grasses with thicker blades than bermuda grass or fine fescue that grow into a nearly impenetrable carpet. They also tend to top out at around 6 inches in height, so you can get away with a long vacation or infrequent mowing much better than most other grasses.
You will be better off purchasing your seed from an online supplier as the big box hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe's sell bags of smaller quantity, lesser quality seed, and it's more expensive than what can be found online. Seeding zoysia is not much different from reseeding grass of any other type except for its germination rate. It can take zoysia up to 28 days of perfectly warm and moist conditions to sprout. This is longer than any other grass grown from seed, so it can be a little frustrating, especially when the weeds begin coming up before the grass. So, this, for me, is the primary reason I would go with sod if I did it over again since zoysia is such a booger to grow from seed.
After seeding and germination occurs, you will need to serve a role in defending the zoysia seedlings from other weeds, especially crabgrass. Crabgrass was my mortal enemy for an entire summer while I was getting my lawn established, but you can stay ahead of it if you are vigilant. You can't apply a pre-emergent since it prevents all seeds from starting, and usually if it's warm enough for zoysia, it is also perfect for crabgrass. The best thing I can recommend it to try to catch the crabgrass seedlings early enough to manually pull them, and then after the zoysia has had a couple of months to mature, you might be safe in spraying a crabgrass killer. Since crabgrass grows fast and zoysia grows slow, this is an essential part of making sure your lawn renovation effort isn't wasted.
Laying down sod for a zoysia lawn is the most popular and preferred method. You simply complete the steps described in renovating your lawn, and then lay the sod pieces like tile for your lawn. You will want to have some yard staples to secure the edges of the sod pieces, especially on a slope, and you should have a knife that you can cut the sod to shape for curves or small pieces.
Basically you are going to start near one corner of your yard by laying a piece of sod down. You want to but it up tightly to the edges, and use your lawn staples to secure it at the edge. You probably don't need to use the staples for every piece, but it is a good idea on the edges. You should stagger the joints on your sod to keep it from separating. Imagine a brick wall, how the joints where the mortar is are zig-zagged due to the bricks being shifted over on each course. This is exactly how your squares or rectangles of zoysia sod should look when you lay them. You will also want to make sure to but up the edges really tight. The best way to do this is slightly overlap the edge of what you've already laid down with the new piece by an inch or two. Tuck this edge in so that it buts up tightly, and press down to flatten it. If you have a ripple, then pull it back only enough to get everything laying down flat. The reason this is important is if the sod dries out, it tends to shrink laterally, so a gap may open up. This is ugly and if it occurs will only be corrected when the grass grows to fill in which can take weeks.
You want to continue laying down sod sections, staggering the joints, butting edges, cutting to fit curves and small gaps until your whole yard is covered. This is when many people rent a yard roller and go over the whole yard to press everything in. I have mentioned this may be optional for reseeding a lawn, but it is more important when laying sod. The reason for this is, in order for the sod to take hold and establish itself, the roots must grow into the soil. If they are not contacting the soil, it is much more likely that section of sod will dry out and die, so it's important that everything is flat. The yard roller is just about the best tool for this.
After this is done, you need to water everything in well, and water daily until roots have begun to grow. The best thing about sodding is your zoysia lawn instantly looks better and more like a lawn.
Zoysia is pretty low maintenance. You will need to fertilize it with higher nitrogen in late spring, and maybe mid-summer. Sometimes a winterizer fertilizer is good, but not required. Faster growing grasses like fescue and bermuda require more frequent fertilization schedules, so already your zoysia lawn is going to save you money. Since it is slower growing and uses less fertilizer, it also requires less mowing. Ideally, you can set your mower height near the top-most setting and get away with mowing once every two weeks, which is a time and money savings.
In established zoysia lawns it is a good idea to put down a pre-emergent product down in the spring and the fall to prevent warm season and cool season weeds from sprouting. As I mentioned, zoysia is good at choking out weeds, but extra precaution never hurts. Also, in the sping, it's a good idea to run a thatch rake through the grass to get rid of the thatch layer which will keep your zoysia healthier and vigorous. And, that's about all there is to it. Enjoy your zoysia lawn!