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Zenith Zoysia success story (novel rather) - Charlotte, NC - Pics!!!

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by YoungClay, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. YoungClay

    YoungClay LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    A couple of years ago, my wife and I purchased a home in one of the older neighborhoods in Gastonia, NC. We loved the house, but the yard was a complete disaster. Our 1 acre lot was covered entirely in azelias - literally thousands of them...you can go to google maps and see them in the satelite images. The azelias were beautiful for about 2 weeks out of the year, but were ugly bushes for the rest of the time...and the worst part was that I had NO LAWN. We worked out butts off just to keep the bushes trimmed. No matter how much time and energy we put into the "yard", it was never going to look very good. So we finally took the plunge and gave our lawn the overhaul it needed.
    Here's a few pics of our "old" yard "in bloom":
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard before.jpg
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/side yard before.jpg

    I grew up in Mississippi, so I am used to warm season grasses. For some reason, EVERYONE in the Charlotte area has a fescue lawn...personally, I hate fescue. I believe that grass is meant to grow in the summer. I also believe that if you cant roll a ball on it because you have to cut it 5 inches high its not a lawn...more like ground cover.

    Anyways, I was almost deadset on trying to establish a centipede lawn...until I stumbled across some information on Zenith Zoysia. It sounded like the "perfect' grass. I was sold.

    We started the clearing process around the middle of April and had our seedbed ready for planting on May 10th.

    A few pics of the clearing process:
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard bulldozer.jpg
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard bulldozer2.jpg

    After clearing and about 12 loads of fill dirt, here is what we had:
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard bare.jpg

    4 tractor trailer loads of compost and a new sidewalk later, we had this:
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard compost.jpg
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard sidewalk compost.jpg

    We put down the Zenith Zoysia seeds on May 10th at a rate of about 1.5 lb per 1000 sq feet...I still cant believe that 50 lb of ANY grass seed cost $1300. :O

    Now my priority was the keep the seeds moist until germination. There was no way I was going to lose $1300 worth of grass seed by not applying enough water. The problem was that after all the heavy grading, fill dirt, new sidewalk, and topsoil, I couldnt afford an irrigation system, so I went to the big box and bought about $600 worth of water hoses and sprinkler heads. I have good water pressure so I was able to run 2 heads (in series) at the same time. I bought a couple of those battery operated irrigation timers and got it all set up so that I had complete coverage watering for 20 min 4 times a day...basically non stop watering for about 10 hours a day....water bill was about $700 for the first month.

    After I got the seeds down, it rained....no, I mean it REALLY rained. We got about 7 inches of rain in 10 days. I felt sick. My side yard is on a pretty good slope and every bit of seed on that hillside got washed out. Not only that, but most of the new fill dirt was on that hill too...so it got washed out really bad. It was a muddy mess; even a week of sunshine didnt dry it out. I had erosion channels 18 inches deep and 30 feet long. The only thing I could think to do was to manually fill in the channels, rake it as level as I could, and put sod down. So, I took 2 days off of work and got it done. First day was spent raking and moving mud from one place to another. The second day I put down 4 pallets of sod...A special thanks to the Morman missionaries for helping me get it down...I could have never got it all done in one day without them - who says Mormans are all bad. lol

    Here are some pics of the sod going down and what it looked like once all 4 pallets were down:
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard sod on hillside.jpg
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard sod on hillside complete.jpg

    At this point, I had seedlings. They werent very uniform thank to all the rain, but I'd say 70% of the area that I seeded had at least some seedlings that were growing.

    About 30 days after the seedlings sprouted, I applied some 10-10-10 fertilizer. In hind sight, I should have gone with a fertilizer that was higher in Nitrogen. I didnt fertilze again - which is another thing I would have done differently...I should have hit it with nitrogen at least once or twice more.

    So things are going pretty well now...right? Well, they were, at least until the City of Gastonia decided to open up the fire hydrant FULL BLAST and let it run down my ditch...IDIOTS!!!!

    Take a look:
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard wash hydrant.jpg
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard wash1.jpg
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard wash2.jpg
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/yard wash3.jpg

    Needless to say, I was pretty upset. I got an estimate from a lawn company to fix it with sod and they quoted me $1700. The City DID admit fault, but they didnt want to pay that much. They offered me 1 pallet of sod (delivered) and a load of topsoil. I accepted the offer. They also offered to have some city employees put the sod down for me....ummm, I declined. lol

    1 week later, the sod arrives. I was at work, so my wife accepts it...I get home and its the WRONG TYPE OF SOD..they delivered emerald instead of zenith. I finally got the city manager on the phone and he admitted he screwed up. 7 days later, the correct sod finally showed up. I couldnt believe it. Installing the sod was tough because I hard to kind of dig out the area where the sod was going in order to avoid having the sod "higher" than the surrounding grass. What a pain; I can only imagine what kind of job the city workers would have done...geez

    Again, things were finally back on track. UNTIL...

    I read online that you should really have a sharp mower blade to cut Zoysiagrass, so I went out and bought a new blade for my mower. I put it on, and decided to cut it about a half inch shorter than I had been cutting it. BIG PROBLEM: I accidentally put the blade on upside down and didnt notice until AFTER I had completely finished BEATING my grass to shreds. I know, I am an idiot. The grass recovered, but I did get a disease - I guess because the grass was stressed? Rust. Not the end of the world I guess.

    As of September 2nd, here is what I had:
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/front yard Sept 2.jpg
    http://www.southeastforestlands.com/pics/lawn/side yard Sept 2.jpg

    Overall, I am extremely happy with the results. Its still a little "lumpy" but it should form a good level turf by the end of the next growing season.

    I cant wait for the Spring!!!
  2. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,207

    Thanks Young--what an adventure your year has been. I would be worried about any areas of deep shade--can zoysia handle shade? Steady feeding with a fert high in slow release nitrogen is what I would suggest this first year. Once it is 100 percent thick, cut back in future years to reduce the need for too much mowing. Rust is a fall problem--should be Ok in spring. Remember zoysia is a warm climate grass--it will brown out at frost or when cold and stay brown until the temp hits about 80 in spring. Thin or new grass with topsoil added usually has a few weeds--be ready to deal with them when it happens. Does Gastonia have acid soil--probably. A soil test would reveal any need for lime. Ph of 6 to 6.5 is ideal.

    You may wish to apply a crabgrass preventer suitable for zoysia in spring, just before temp hits 80.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2009
  3. YoungClay

    YoungClay LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    It does "ok" in the shade...not spectacular; definitely not as many runners as what you get in full sun. I'll probably put down a little more seed in the shadey areas this spring and topdress with some compost.

    As suspected, weeds have been a problem for me this year. Crabgrass mainly. I was wary of putting chemicals on the new seedlings, so my only method of controling the crabgrass was manual pulling. I am planning to use a crabgrass preventer (pre-emergent herbicide) in the early spring to keep the crabgrass at bay.

    I picked up some soil test kits from my county extension agent earlier this week. So once I get the results back, I'll apply lime as needed over the winter to make sure the pH is good for Spring. I suspect that the "shadey" areas where I didnt have runners was more due to acidity than shade. we'll see.
  4. cpa4t9r

    cpa4t9r LawnSite Member
    Posts: 124

    From what I've read, zoysia is the most tolerant of shade of the warm season grasses. If I ever decide to go that route, that's what I'd use.

    I think once you get it established, zoysia should choke out most of the weeds, but a pre-emergent is definitely recommended. I'm sure many others can offer tips for zoysia e.g. greendoctor has a lot of posts and is an expert. I'd build landscape beds around the trees in shade for ground cover plus you won't have to fight the branches when you mow.

    Great job with everything - I have been debating renovating my in-laws yard with zoysia. Was curious how zoysia seed would perform as compared to sprigging (sod too spendy) and am impressed with your amount of coverage.

    Check out NCSU turffiles - they have a TON of good info and is readily accessible to homeowners. I'd recommend using their maintenance calendars as a guide and then supplement with your own research from others on Lawnsite.
  5. YoungClay

    YoungClay LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    I have heard many people talk about horror stories with Zoysia seed. I think the key is to make sure that you've got good soil contact and to make sure that you keep it moist.

    Ironically, I think it was the hard rains that we got right after seeding that really helped my germination percentage by "beating the seed into the soil". The compost did an amazing job of "holding" the seed and keeping it from washing away - everywhere except for the hillside anyways.

    If I had it to do over again, I would probably find someone with a turfseeder so that the seeds are actually buried underneath about 1/4 in of topsoil.
  6. grassman177

    grassman177 LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,795

    i some here in my back yard and my neighbors lawn is totally zsoysia. it does not take shade well at all as soon as it hits the tree drip line it stops dead in its tracks. goes no further. cool thing is it is at my property line. i am a fescue fan here. tall cut grass is the bomb. grass IS a ground cover and not an outdoor carpet. different grasses have to be cut at diff heights though. here we can cut zsoysia at 3.5 in with no preblems, loks pretty cool really and stripes really nice.
  7. bigslick7878

    bigslick7878 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 809

    Get off of the "I want my lawn nice and short!!" kick and you should be fine. What is it with homeowners who think their grass should be as short as a MLB field? I swear I ride around just shaking my head at people who are mowing fescue at one inch all the time. I guess they think that since "everyone else does it" that is the right way.

    Different grass is meant to be cut at a certain lengths and the best way to ruin a nice lawn is to constantly cut it too short. The grass should be mowed 1/2 and inch HIGHER not shorter than recommended. You want to keep it "nice and tight" to the ground, be prepared to up your maintenance costs and time taking care of it by 100%. It is a lot of work to keep a lawn up at its proper height, and it is even more work to maintain it at a lower length.

    There is a laundry list of reasons why, just google it and do some reading.

    Grass cut too short is prone to weeds and just about every other bad thing that can happen to a lawn.
  8. YoungClay

    YoungClay LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    Nah. I'm not on a short grass kick. 2 3/4 inches seems to be about right for my lawn. I would probably try for 2 inches but my lawn just isn't level enough for that. A lawn cut nice and short looks great but if your Terrain isn't just right it ends up looking splotchy and scalped on the high spots. Definitely not aiming for that.
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  9. YoungClay

    YoungClay LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    So, it's been a while since I've updated this thread so I figured I would stop in and provide a pic of what my Zenith Zoysia lawn looks like half way through my 3rd growing season. I still have a few places that aren't quite as thick as other areas, but on the whole I am very happy with my zoysiagrass selection. The only problem that I've had so far is a little bit of rust fungus but I've found that an application of 1/2 lb of nitrogen per 1000 sq ft knocks it right out. I would also like to say that I have yet to irrigate my lawn at all this year which is really making me happy. During year 1, I basically ignored my beds and put all my efforts into getting my zoysia established. During year 2, I lined my beds with monkey grass but really didn't do much else so my beds were really weedy. This year, I finally got around to putting down landscape fabric and mulch in my beds...I also trenched around my beds which I wasn't quite sure about at first but I am glad I did. It's a very nice look and keeps my zoysia out of the beds.

  10. YoungClay

    YoungClay LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

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