The Emerald Coast is one of the hardest places in the country to maintain a nice lawn! The recent availability of Zoysia sod to our area is a huge opportunity for anyone who has been wanting a "trophy lawn" but has been unable to get it with centipede or St. Augustine. Although zoysia is not a new grass, up until the last few years, there were no sod farms in our region that grew it, making it unavailable in our area. Now there are!
There are a number of problems with centipede and St. Augustine grass.
The biggest problem with centipede grass is that it grows best and has the least problems when it is left alone with minimal water and fertilizer, however when its maintained that way, it looks kind of like you would expect a pasture or a road median to look, not very thick, drab, weedy and pale green. Therefore home owners have a tendency to over maintain their centipede lawns which creates a whole other set of problems. Applying lots of fertilizer and water makes centipede grass look much thicker and greener for a short period of time, but doing so brings on problems like thatch, disease, insect infestations, and the dreaded centipede decline syndrome! And because of these issues, it's not uncommon for centipede lawns to to only last 7-10 years after they are planted.
Although St. Augustine is a little better grass than centipede, it too has issues. Chinch bugs is the Achilles heel of St. Augustine! These tiny black bugs are an insect pest that is specific to only St. Augustine grass and no other. When chinch bugs attack a St. Augustine lawn, it turns a straw yellow color because chinch bugs suck all the moisture out of the grass, making it dry and crisp. Shortly, the lawn declines and weeds come in and take over where the grass once grew. Chinch bugs are also know to be resistant to insecticides and consequently very hard to control! Sometimes it takes repeated applications over and over to finally arrest their march through the lawn! St. Augustine is also prone to the same thatch issues centipede is and is very susceptible to large patch disease.
What makes Zoysia a better grass?
There are a number of reasons zoysia is a better type of grass than either centipede or St. Augustine. To start with, zoysia is not vulnerable to chinch bugs like St. Augustine is, zoysia has a naturally dense growing pattern. Zoysia is truly a "barefoot grass", it's not coarse and stiff like St. Augustine but has soft texture that tickles your feet and is pleasing to the eye when viewed from the street. When you walk across a zoysia lawn your feet will literally sink into the thick soft grass. Now that's a luxurious lawn!
One of the biggest attributes of zoysia is it's resistance to weeds! Since zoysia has a growing pattern that is naturally super dense, much thicker than centipede or St. Augustine, it is naturally resistant to weeds, it's so thick weeds have a hard time even getting established. Zoysia is also shade tolerant. Up until now, St. Augustine has been the only choice for shady lawns but zoysia can tolerate shade just about as well.
Zoysia also has a naturally deep, lovely, emerald green color unlike centipede which is naturally a pale, yellowish green. Although zoysia is an extremely dense grass, it also grows more slowly than centipede and especially St. Augustine, requiring less mowing!
The secret to Zoysia's superiority over centipede and St. Augustine is that zoysia has something that neither centipede or St. Augustine have...rhizomes. In simple terms, rhizomes has underground runners that spread and reproduce more grass blades. Neither centipede nor St. Augustine have rhizomes, underground runners, they only have stolens. Stolens are above ground runners, like what you trim off the edges of your sidewalk and driveway but zoysia has these too! In other words, zoysia has TWO methods of generating grass blades when centipede and St. Augustine only have one! That's what makes it produce such a luxurious lawn!
Proper installation of a new zoysia lawn is the key to its health and longevity. The first step is to do a thorough site evaluation so that the new lawn will thrive long term. This evaluation should include checking to make sure the sprinkler system evenly distributes the right amount of water over the entire lawn, taking a soil sample to check the nutritional and pH values of the soil and a thorough check is made for active lawn pests and environmental concerns such as areas that are overly shady or that may have root competition from trees.
The second step after the site evaluation is to treat the area to be sodded, killing off all the old, undesirable grass and weeds all the way down to the roots. Then all the dead turf and weeds should be scraped off and carried away. Finally, all the low spots and areas of root competition should be covered with a generous amount of sand. Skip explains this step is extremely important in areas of the lawn that have tree roots invading the soil where the grass is to be planted. By applying sand, the new sod will have plenty of free soil space to root in to and will not have to compete with the stronger tree roots for water and nutrition. Finally, any areas not covered in sand should be power raked, breaking up the surface of the ground to create a soft, smooth bed for the new sod to be laid on.
What time of year can new sod be installed?
New sod can be installed any time of the year. However certain considerations must be taken depending on when it’s installed. If the new grass is installed during the summer, it is critically important to make sure the irrigation system is operating correctly and is doing a good job at covering all the areas to be sodded. When installing sod in the summer, the new grass should be watered twice a day, early morning and later afternoon for about a week and then the watering reduced to once a day in the early morning.
When installing sod during the cool season you need to make sure the new grass is not overwatered which will cause disease activity. Watering one to three times per week is usually adequate for new sod laid between late fall and early spring.