Zoysis is good lawn grass, but not as good as advertised

I am sure you have seen the advertisement for ordering zoysia plugs . I was thinking about ordering some, but is there any advantage to this instead of buying locally? And can you tell me about this zoysia grass? -- Preston


A: I see no advantage to ordering by mail. I think you will actually get less grass than if you buy it locally.

Garden stores will sometime sell you trays of plugs. I think they are bigger than those you get in the mail. At least they look bigger than the picture in the advertisement.

You can also buy grass squares or rolls and cut them up and make your own plugs. This is a more cost-effective way than ordering by mail.

This advertisement makes you think you are buying some miracle grass. It is nothing but plain old Meyer zoysia that we've had in Augusta for as long as I can remember.

Actually, many sod producers have been getting away from Meyer zoysia, for various reasons.

Some of it is simply going to newer varieties. The other is because of mite problems unique to Meyer. Mites cause a stippling yellow streak down the grass blade for which there is no insecticidal cure.

Let me address some of the points in the ad:

GRASS SEED IS FOR THE BIRDS: Literally! You always take a chance when planting seed because it is susceptible to the elements such as washing away, and birds might eat some.

Certain warm-season grasses, including zoysia, cannot be planted from seed.

A variety called Zenith, which looks similar to Meyer, can be planted from seed. Seed germination is slow, though, so it will take an entire summer before you see much coverage in the lawn.

ZOYSIA GROWS WHERE OTHER GRASS DOESN'T: Yes, Zoysia is a tough grass, but it has a much slower recovery rate than Bermuda. It does take shade very well (Bermuda does not), and is second only to St. Augustine in shade tolerance. Zoysia is a good choice for stopping erosion on slopes.

ELIMINATES ENDLESS WEEDS AND WEEDING: Maintaining nice thick grass is the key to keeping weeds out of any lawn. There is no doubt that zoysia, when thick and well established, keeps weeds choked out.

CUTS WATERING AND MOWING BY AS MUCH AS TWO-THIRDS: It says it only needs to be mowed once or twice a season. Sure, maybe once or twice a season up North in a much shorter growing season, but in Augusta, no way!

It generally needs to be mowed weekly but will not look that bad or grow very high if you mow it every other week or so.

The ad also says watering is rarely, if ever needed -- even in the dead heat of the summer. I wish this were true, but in Augusta, that won't work.

Although all warm-season grasses are inherently drought tolerant when compared with bluegrass and fescue, they will need some watering.

Most warm-season grasses will go semidormant if they are not watered, only to bounce back when rain comes.

But I saw parts of several Meyer zoysia lawns that died during the drought of 1998 when we had water bans most of the summer.

Zoysia will need a good bit of watering during the summer. How often depends on your soil type. But even with our permanent water restrictions, you will not have a problem keeping the lawn watered.

I just guarantee you will need to do it more than once or twice unless we get timely rains all summer, and how often does that happen?

STAYS GREEN IN SUMMER THROUGH HEAT AND DROUGHT: The ad claims zoysia thrives in the blistering heat of 120 degrees.

No plant I am aware of in Augusta (except maybe cacti), likes 120 degree heat.

Don't water your grass if it gets 100 degrees or higher if we don't get rain and see how long it stays green.

There are certainly many factors to consider when deciding what you want for a lawn grass, too many to discuss here. If you like zoysia grass, there are many varieties from which to choose.

Meyer makes a fine lawn and has for years. For the most part, you can't go wrong with it.

I would encourage you to look at different varieties of zoysia and make up your mind which you like the best, then you can decide whether you want to plant seed, sprigs or sod.

Sod is always the best route if money is no object. You have an instant lawn!

The ideal time to plant grass seed in our area is about May 1. The soil temperature is too cold until then.

Zoysia plugs or sod can be planted anytime of the year, but the roots will not begin growing until about the middle of April.

You will also have a better selection once we get into the growing season this spring.

Sid Mullis is the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service Office in Richmond County. Reach him at (706) 821-2349 or smullis@uga.edu.


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