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Spring Maintenance Tips for Your Zoysia Lawn

Zoysia Lawn Spring Maintenance Tips 1600x900

Spring is almost here! The birds are chirping, bees are buzzing and life begins to return to outdoor lawns and gardens. As temperatures start to slowly warm up again, it’s important for us lawn and garden lovers to provide our tender love and care to our beloved zoysia lawns. When it comes to seasonal turfgrass maintenance, spring lawn care slightly differs from the summer or fall seasons. Temperatures rise and soil conditions change. Zoysia is just starting to come out of dormancy and turn green again. Depending on where you may be located, your zoysia lawn may not have even gone dormant at all! Regardless, this is a time to help your warm season lawn transition into the warmer months.

Our turfgrass experts compile s a list of spring lawn care tips to help your zoysia come out of dormancy and flourish into the spring season ahead. If you have a zoysia lawn and want to keep up with seasonal maintenance, be sure to also check out our Homeowner Maintenance Guides for generic zoysia grassEMPIRE® ZoysiaGeo® Zoysia and InnovationTM Zoysia. Each maintenance guide is divided into sections for spring, summer and fall maintenance.

1. Begin Mowing Your Lawn at the Proper Height Again

The timing for which the first mow of the spring for your mature, established zoysia widely varies depending on the area you live in. Zoysia can come out of dormancy differently depending on the environment and temperatures your area encounters. For example, if you live in South Florida, your zoysia may have never entered dormancy at all during the winter. Many homeowners who live in South Florida will mow their lawn every other week during the winter—oftentimes starting in September and resuming a regular, weekly mowing schedule again in mid-March.

Generally speaking, mid-March is about the time for you to begin your regimen for spring green-up and mowing. The first mow of the spring shouldn’t take place while your zoysia lawn is dormant—wait until it’s actively growing again before mowing.

The first mow of the spring for your mature zoysia grass will require a buzz-cut of sorts. You will want to drop your mower down a notch below the height at which you usually mow—if not the lowest setting. For most rotary mowers, this means a little more than 1 inch in height.

Pictured above from left to right: An EMPIRE lawn in the spring and a lawn mower setting.

Over the summer, you won’t cut any more than a third of the leaf blade off, so the grass continues to get taller. People often fall behind the weekly mowing schedule during the summer due to vacation, rainy days, etc. as well. While you consistently leave at least a third of the leaf blade, the grass’s height gets higher and higher as summer progresses so it’s no longer at the lower, ideal height.

The first initial buzz-cut of the spring for zoysia gets rid of that excess growth that’s accumulated. You want to get its height back down in the spring as it comes out of dormancy. With grass coming out of dormancy, you aren’t going to hurt it too much and you want to promote fresh growth for the spring.

Be sure to bag your clippings afterwards because you’ll have a lot of leaf blade you just removed. Although it’s common to apply the leftover clippings back to your lawn for nutrition, you just removed a large amount of clippings that will result in lumps when you reapply it to your lawn. These lumps of leftover bag clippings will also cause problems like disease or thatch.

After the first initial mow of the spring has taken place, begin keeping your zoysia between 0.5–2 inches in height. Keep fine-bladed zoysias mowed between 0.5–2 inches. Keep coarse-bladed zoysia grass mowed between 1–2 inches. These heights slightly vary for different cultivars of zoysia. For example, EMPIRE should be maintained at a height of 1–2 inches whereas Geo and Innovation should be kept at a height of 0.5–1.5 inches during the spring. If you have an EMPIRE lawn, be sure to check out our blog on First Mow of the Spring for EMPIRE.

Lastly, a good tip for spring is to make sure your lawn mower blades are sharpened so that the mower blades neatly slice through the grass in place of ripping them. If the grass blades aren’t cut neatly, the mower is ripping them and opens the grass up to possibility of disease. Performing regular maintenance on your mower is good practice for the end of the mowing season or before spring takes place.

2. Start Your Lawn Off Right with the Appropriate Spring Fertilizer This Year

With most zoysia grass coming out of dormancy, the spring is one of the most important times to use fertilizer. The fertilizer needs to promote healthy roots and the return of green leaf blades.

Be careful when making your first fertilizer application of the year though. It’s common for homeowners to see their grass green up and immediately pull out the fertilizer and lawn mower. We advise that you typically wait until the last frost has hit—especially if you live in an area that has fluctuating temperatures. If you fertilize your lawn and another frost hits, your zoysia will go right back into dormancy and you’ll have a harder time getting it to green up again. This does more harm than good.

The date of the last frost varies from location to location. In the Florida Panhandle, for example, zoysia may not go dormant and will reach its full green-up in early February (depending on how cold the winter was). Even then, you won’t want to apply fertilizer until after Easter once the last frost has passed. Refer to the Farmer’s Almanac to figure out the last frost date for your area in 2021.

Sod University recommends two different options for zoysia spring fertilization: Lawnifi® Foundation, a slow-release granular option that comes in 25 lb. bags and lasts for three months, and our Lawnifi Spring Fertilizer Box, a liquid fertilizer program that includes three bottles of liquid fertilizer and can be applied monthly with a hose-end sprayer. Each option covers 5,000 sq. ft. Learn more in Granular vs. Liquid Fertilizers or by clicking the two products listed below. Our patented nano-fertilizers with Catalyst TechnologyTM give your zoysia lawn the jump-start it needs to emerge from dormancy, green up fast and thrive throughout the spring months. Read Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer? for more information about Lawnifi.

Next, it is important to mention that if you have a zoysia lawn, you may start to notice spots of brown or straw-like grass while the rest of your lawn comes out of dormancy. This is usually a sign of disease. You do not want to apply fertilizer to a lawn with disease as the nitrogen in the fertilizer will feed the disease and promote its growth. Apply a systemic fungicide first and then wait several weeks before following with a fertilizer application.

3. Set Up a Spring Irrigation Schedule

Dormant zoysia doesn’t need much water until the active growing season kicks in and your grass starts to green up. In our Winter Lawn Maintenance Tips article, we state that if you have a dormant, warm season lawn, it is not dead—it’s just “sleeping”. Although dormant grass requires much less water than it would while it is actively growing, it will still need water. Once it starts to come out of dormancy, zoysia requires about 1 inch of water per week including rainfall. The same can be said for the different brands of zoysia like EMPIRE or Innovation. If you aren’t sure how to measure how much water your lawn is receiving, an irrigation audit may be beneficial to you. Irrigation audits provide measurable information about how much water each area of your lawn is receiving within a given amount of time.

If you’re a homeowner who lives far enough south and your zoysia doesn’t go dormant during the winter, you may continue to regularly water your lawn in the winter. However if you live in South Florida, for example, you may turn your irrigation off completely during the winter and during the months of June–August when it rains a lot. The atmosphere in South Florida isn’t usually evaporating much water and the grass isn’t using it much during the winter, so frequent irrigation isn’t needed.

The next few tips in this article discuss spring applications for fungicides, herbicides or insecticides. If any of these control products or fertilizers are granular, you will need to water the product in so that your lawn absorbs it. This means that you will already be watering your lawn with the appropriate amount of water during the week of application. The same can be said with any liquid products as they are either products that attach to the end of your garden hose or require tank mixing with water.

Close Up Of Watering Lawn With Sprinkler

Pictured above: An irrigation head watering Innovation Zoysia.

4. Control Weeds with a Pre- or Post-Emergent Herbicide

The most important thing you can do for any weed issues your lawn may be having come springtime is to apply a pre-emergent herbicide. A pre-emergent herbicide functions to prevent weeds from emerging from the surface of the soil, as its name suggest. So if you know you get a lot of weeds in the spring and summer like crabgrassgoosegrass, sandspurs or others, applying a pre-emergent to keep them from even appearing may be a good idea for you. It’ll also save you time, money spent on more product and effort from pulling the weeds that appear in the future. It’s actually not recommended you use an herbicide in the summer or winter, so pre-emergents can be especially useful for this reason. Read more about this in The Best and Worst Times for Herbicide Applications.

Pre-emergents should be applied during the spring when ground temperatures reach about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The exact dates for these applications differ depending on the area you live in, but generally speaking, pre-emergents should be applied between March 1st and March 15th in the spring. For more information, read our blog on spring pre-emergent applications and refer to our recommended pre-emergent herbicides below. 

Apply post-emergent herbicides in May as needed to control summer annual and perennial broadleaf weeds like white clover, knotweedspurge and lespedeza. Post-emergent products containing multiple broadleaf active ingredients like SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf are more effective in controlling broadleaf weeds. If you start to notice grassy weeds such as crabgrass or goosegrass, post-emergents like Drive XLR8 will treat them. Be sure to follow product labels appropriately during application. Lastly, if you notice weeds and you aren’t sure which type of weed it is, check out our Identifying Common Lawn Weeds blog.

Pictured above from left to right: Crabgrass, goosegrass, clover, knotweed, spurge and lespedeza.

5. Watch Out for Insects That May Begin Coming Out

If your lawn has suffered from insect damage around this time in the past, it is a good idea to apply a broad-spectrum insecticide at this time to prevent them from coming back again. If the insecticide is a granular product, be sure to water it in so that it soaks into your soil. On the other hand, if it’s a liquid product, you will either need to attach it to the end of your garden hose or tank mix it. Some of the most common spring insects in zoysia are white grub worms and billbugs. You can read more about these insects in our Insect Identification blog. Refer to some of our most popular and effective insect control products below and be sure to follow product label instructions before application.

Pictured above from left to right: White grub worms and a hunting billbug.

6. Prevent Disease as Temperatures Begin to Warm Up

As previously mentioned, circular brown or yellow spots may start to show up as zoysia comes out of dormancy. This is a sign of disease and you may need to make applications of a systemic fungicide. Even if you don’t have disease in your lawn, it’s still good practice to apply it preventively to keep disease from taking over—especially if you’ve had disease in the past around this time. Systemic fungicide applications should take place before you apply any spring fertilizer. If you have fungus in your lawn, the nitrogen found in fertilizers oftentimes feeds it and helps it spread. Apply a systemic fungicide and wait a few weeks before applying any fertilizer. Read product labels thoroughly.

Dead Spot In Lawn Pink Flowers Spring

Pictured above: Spring dead spot.

There are a few other optional things that can be done to help your lawn thrive in the spring. Before the onset of summer heat, lawn patchwork and light top dressing with a sand and topsoil mix is a great way to recover any weak areas. Plugs can be purchased to fill in areas of the lawn with bare spots.

Aerating your lawn is also an ideal way to help deliver nutrients and really break up compacted soils. We typically recommend doing this once every couple of years. If you notice thatch that is thicker than 1⁄2 inch, dethatch in late May. Read more in Aerating vs. Dethatching.

Spring maintenance tips differ from other practices that take place during the rest of the year. Weather starts to warm up and everything will turn green again. Be sure to check out our individual Homeowner Maintenance Guides for generic zoysia grassEMPIRE ZoysiaGeo Zoysia or Innovation Zoysia.

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