Are you tired of centipede? Try zoysia

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Old Man Winter has been relentless this year, but I always know spring is close when I see the Amazoy advertisement in the Parade section of the Sunday newspaper.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong with the Meyer zoysia grass plugs they are selling, there are better zoysias available now. Crowne, Empire, Zenith and newer selections like JaMur and Zeon spread more aggressively and maintain good to excellent color through the summer.

Centipede grass is still the most popular turf in the area even though, as lawn grasses go, it’s rather homely. Centipede is rather coarse textured and doesn’t have great color. Why do so many folks plant it? It won’t drive you crazy with mowing and fertilizing. In fact, too much fertilizer is one of the biggest reasons people struggle with centipede. If you want a lawn that you can practice your putting stroke on, skip the centipede. If you desire a grass to hold the world together, it’s a great choice.

Lots of folks who have chosen to pass over centipede look to zoysia grass. In general, zoysias have good color, much better wear tolerance than centipede and tolerate slightly more shade. Keep in mind, though, that no turf grass, not even St. Augustine, is particularly shade tolerant. If you can’t cobble together 6-8 hours of sun each summer day, turf isn’t a good choice.

While we don’t have any scientific studies to prove or explain it, some of the more aggressive zoysias like Crowne and Zeon seem to hold up better under ground pearl pressure. This insect inhabitant of sandy soils is one of our most frustrating problems because we have no effective controls.

Zoysia grasses do have their issues. Since they typically take a bit longer to grow at the sod farm, the cost is a little more than centipede and Bermuda grasses. All of the zoysia selections look better if you use a reel mower rather than a traditional rotary type. Medium-textured varieties such as Crowne, Empire, Zenith and JaMur tolerate the rotary mowing better. Add too much nitrogen and keep the mowing height above 2 inches and you’ll have lots of thatch accumulation.

Even if you do everything right, you’ll still need to de-thatch your zoysia once every couple of years. Zoysia grasses aren’t very drought tolerant either. A well-designed, in-ground irrigation system is a major plus in keeping them happy through the summer.

If you decide to go with zoysia and you do a good job of managing it, you will be rewarded with a thick, dark green lawn that looks great and crowds out most weeds.

Speaking of the impending arrival of spring, people are already asking about fertilizing their lawns. No matter which of these warm-season grasses you have—centipede, Bermuda, zoysia or St. Augustine—leave the fertilizer in the bag until mid to late April.

Al Hight is the county extension director and horticulturist with the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension Service. Call 253-2610 or e-mail al_hight@ncsu.edu.