We have seen the articles and so called reviews claiming that zoysia is the perfect turf, many from folks selling or growing zoysia turf grass, some without much hands on experience maintaining it in real world situations- in your Jacksonville Backyard.
This article references Empire, a common variation of Zoysia grass available in Northeast Florida. There has been a huge push for Zoysia lately, as an alternative to St Augustine grass because it provides a dark-green, durable and low-maintenance lawn that grows in many different soil types.
Separating FACT from FICTION. My experience is with Empire Zoysia in Jacksonville Beach. The turf was planted in March and this review was done in September. Some of the things that I read or was told that are simply not true:
- Your new Zoysia grass will only need to be mowed about every 20 or 30 days. FALSE- I find that the grass does best when it is cut every week during the summer. Though you can go two weeks with little damage or noticeable height. Proper mowing height is about 1.5 inches, like any turf grass its best to only remove about 30% of the blade during mowing.
- You will not have to supplement with irrigation. FALSE- Though this is dependant on rainfall. I would estimate that after five extremely hot days without rain, your Jacksonville zoysia turf will begin struggle. However it does take significantly more drought to permanently damage the grass.
- Empire Zoysia only needs about 2 hours of full sun. FALSE- That number is closer to 5. I’m hoping to see some adaptation in later years. The areas of my yard that receive more sunlight have healthier grass. The areas that receive 4 hours or less sun, have unacceptable thinning blades.
It is true that it is far easier to maintain than St Augustine. The Zoysia turf does require less water, less fertilizer, and less insecticide. The two biggest drawbacks for me: Dog urine- I have a male 58 pound dog. Every place that he pees leaves a yellow spot in the grass. More so when it is dry. Many spots will die then re-grow, some will recover faster. Which brings me to my next point- this stuff is slow to spread. If you do have a mishap somewhere in your turf, you have got to have the patience to wait for the grass to spread and fill-in. Some consider this a plus for edging.
All in all Empire Zoysia is a great warm-season grass. I’ll report back in the spring after a full year and a Jacksonville winter to share the results. I’m told Empire Zoysia tolerates some cold weather but prefers climates where the winters are warm and mild. I have found that Empire zoysia flourishes in hot and humid conditions, and resists drought, some insects and diseases. Empire zoysia's vigorous growth and deep root system make it difficult for many weeds to grow in the lawn.