Dig­ging In: Zoysia grass looks re­ally nice

The Progress-Index - At Home - - FRONT PAGE - BY KATHY VAN MULLEKOM

NEW­PORT NEWS — About 42 years ago, Paul Weiss spent days on his knees in­stalling a lawn he hoped would last for­ever — sev­eral hun­dred Zoysia plugs he or­dered for about $17 from a mag­a­zine ad.

Within no time, those Zoysia plugs spread to cre­ate a lush 30-by-60-foot front lawn where his 15 grand­kids and 19 great-grand­kids love to play to­day.

Even neigh­bor­hood crit­ters like squir­rels fancy the Zoysia grass around his rancher in south­east­ern Vir­ginia.

“It’s funny to see the squir­rels crawl through it,” says Paul’s wife, Sarah.

“The grass is so thick that all you can see is their lit­tle heads peek­ing out.”

Over the decades, Paul, 80, has done lit­tle ex­cept mow to main­tain the Zoysia. He sel­dom fer­til­izes it, and still the grass bounces back with great vigor each grow­ing sea­son. When he does fer­til­ize, about ev­ery three years, he uses a 5-10-5 for­mula.

“It looks re­ally nice and sel­dom has any weeds in it, maybe a few dan­de­lions that I quickly elim­i­nate,” he says.

Whether you grow a warm- or cool-sea­son fes­cue lawn is a mat­ter of pref­er­ence plus cli­mate con­di­tions for where you live.

Warm-sea­son grasses that in­clude Ber­muda, Zoysia, St. Au­gus­tine and Cen­tipede green up in sum­mer and turn brown in late fall, win­ter and early spring, whereas fes­cue does just the op­po­site.

Warm-sea­son grasses are gen­er­ally best for south­ern cli­mates but also adapt very nicely to what’s called the “tran­si­tion zone” — lo­cales sit­u­ated be­tween north­ern and south­ern cli­mates, which in­cludes Kansas to the Caroli­nas and Vir­ginia.

Zoysi­ais con­sid­ered the most or­na­men­tal of warm-sea­son grasses, ac­cord­ing to Mike West­phal, gar­den sup­ply buyer at McDon­ald Gar­den Center — www.mc­don­aldgar­den­cen­ter.com — in Hamp­ton.

“It does take some time to get es­tab­lished,” he says.

“From seed or plug you are typ­i­cally look­ing at a two-year pe­riod be­fore com­plete cov­er­age is achieved and is al­ways tricky to keep the grass grow­ing while also con­trol­ling weeds. You must have some pa­tience with this grass, but if done prop­erly it will re­ward you for many years to come.”

Whether your lawn is a cool- or warm­sea­son type, fall is the per­fect time to give it a lit­tle TLC, and here are some gen­er­al­ized tips to help you; consult your fa­vorite gar- den center or lo­cal ex­ten­sion of­fice for in­for­ma­tion spe­cific to your grow­ing con­di­tions:

Fes­cue Fall Care

• Sow fes­cue seed in early to late fall. • Fer­til­ize dur­ing Septem­ber, Oc­to­ber, and Novem­ber — think SON. Avoid fer­til­iz­ing cool-sea­son lawns in the spring be­cause it pro­motes ex­ces­sive lawn growth that stresses dur­ing sum­mer’s heat.

• Core-aer­ate to re­lieve com­paction and open up the soil to air, wa­ter and or­ganic ma­te­rial.

• De­thatch the lawn if thatch (dead stems, de­cay­ing mat­ter) ex­ceeds 1 inch. While dis­rup­tive to the lawn, its ben­e­fits out­weigh the dis­ad­van­tages and fall is the best time for the lawn to re­cover.

• Mow at the proper height — 3 inches is ideal for fes­cue; us­ing a mulching mower to re­cy­cle nu­tri­ents and mois­ture back into the soil.

Warm-Sea­son Fall Lawn Care

Warm-sea­son grasses are gen­er­ally not fer­til­ized in fall be­cause they are get­ting ready for win­ter dor­mancy. How­ever, a light fer­til­iza­tion can keep the plant alive longer but not to the point of sub­ject­ing it to win­ter kill.

Over seed Ber­muda, if de­sired, with rye for a green win­ter look but know weed con­trol prod­ucts can ad­versely im­pact new seedlings, so read la­bels care­fully.

Do not core aer­ate or de­thatch warm-sea­son lawns at this time of year.

Test Your Soil

• Be­fore you ap­ply nu­tri­ents you lawn may not need, do a soil test to de­ter­mine what nu­tri­ents are abun­dant and which ones are lack­ing. Soil-test­ing kits are avail­able through gar­den cen­ters and ex­ten­sion of­fices na­tion­wide.

Online Turf Tips

• Year-round lawn care tips from The Lawn In­sti­tute at www.TheLawnIn­sti­tute. org.

• Or­ganic and al­ter­na­tive lawn tips from SafeLawns at www.SafeLawns.org.

NEW­PORT NEWS DAILY PRESS/MCT

Paul Weiss has en­joyed a car­pet of Zoysia grass at his home in Vir­ginia for about 40 years with the breed of grass be­ing prac­ti­cally weed- and main­te­nance-free.

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