One of the most frequently asked questions we receive by those considering the installation of EMPIRE® Zoysia sod is whether they need to purchase a reel mower to cut their EMPIRE Zoysia. The answer is no, you do not. You can maintain a beautiful EMPIRE lawn with a regular rotary mower. In summary, the main difference between a reel and rotary mower is the cutting mechanism. Reel lawn mowers use a helical blade that meets a bed knife—almost like scissors. Reel mowers blades spin with a horizontal shaft. The blades spin on a central axle that causes the reel to spin. In comparison, a rotary mower cuts with a high-speed impact similar to that of a machete that “whacks” the blades of grass like a helicopter wing. They cut in a horizontal position driven by a small engine. You can learn more about the difference between the two types of mowers in the Sod University blog on Reel vs. Rotary Mowers.
Pictured above from left to right: a reel mower and a rotary mower.
The suggested mowing height for an established EMPIRE lawn, as specified in the EMPIRE Homeowner Maintenance Guide, is between one and two inches, which is nearly an ideal range for most rotary mowers. Honestly, most rotary mowers cannot mow as low as one inch; most can only get as low as 1.25 inches, which is fine for EMPIRE’s first mow of the spring.
Most rotary mowers, when adjusted to the lowest setting, cannot mow much lower than 1.25 inches, which is fine for the first mow of the year for EMPIRE.
After the first mow of the year for EMPIRE (about mid-March in most regions of the country where EMPIRE is grown), we suggest you gradually raise the mowing height of your lawn mower so that on June 1st, your EMPIRE Zoysia lawn is at or near two inches in height. The purpose for a longer leaf blade is to enable your EMPIRE to better endure the heat and drought stress that comes from the conditions of summer. Roots will extend deeper into the earth, which prevents weeds from coming up and competing for water. Since your grass will be denser, it will require less water and helps it withstand drought and heat.
Having said all of that, if you wish to maintain your EMPIRE Turf Zoysiagrass at or below one inch, which is a common practice for most golf courses, you will need a reel lawn mower because rotary lawn mowers cannot mow that low. The reason we suggest a mowing height for EMPIRE between one and two inches is because maintaining your EMPIRE Turf Zoysiagrass below one inch is not necessary or practical for most homeowners.
Overall, EMPIRE Turf Zoysia is a revolutionary medium-bladed, dark green zoysiagrass that is easy to maintain, soft and beautiful. It is the perfect choice for southern home lawns. Ensure a beautiful, low maintenance lawn when you choose EMPIRE, the proven zoysia grass that thrives in areas where others are not well adapted.
Pictured above: EMPIRE Turf Zoysia featured on home lawns.
Fertilizing your newly establishing EMPIRE sod is of vital importance. Make sure to feed your EMPIRE Turf Zoysia the nutrients it needs with Lawnifi®. If you are thinking about installing EMPIRE sod, be sure to fertilize it with the New Lawn Starter Box, which will give your lawn the necessary nutrients for establishment. Read a full list of instructions on How to Properly Install Sod and visit our Establishing a Newly Installed Lawn page for a step-by-step guide on sod installation projects and establishment guidelines. Sod Solutions also highly recommends EMPIRE Zoysia Grass Plugs for lawns that require a little patchwork or if you are interested in testing out how well EMPIRE performs in your lawn. An auger bit can be a useful tool to complete this fun landscape project.