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Fertilizing Zoysia Grass
- Zoysia grass lawn will need a moderate amount of fertilizer during the growing season. The object is to supply enough nutrients for healthy growth and a rich green color, but not so much as to encourage excessively dense growth that is hard to mow and promotes thatch. If you apply more than the recommended amount, your lawn will not be any darker green, it will only grow faster and you will have to mow more often. The most efficient way to fertilize is to use the dry, granular fertilizers that are usually sold in 10-50 pound bags. Hose end liquid fertilizers work, but they are difficult to use correctly and you will need to fertilize twice as often as with granular fertilizer.

Zoysia Grass Fertilizer Facts
  1. Apply 3-4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year
  2. Apply 1.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet in mid-spring and early fall
  3. Optional application of 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet in mid- summer depending on your lawn's color
  4. Use slow release fertilizers whenever possible
  5. Water approximately 1 inch after fertilizing

What Fertilizer to use on your Zoysia Grass Lawn

Fertilizer is described by the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium contained in the bag. All fertilizer bags are clearly marked with these three numbers, known as the N-P-K ratio. Whenever possible, use a slow release fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio. An example would be a 12-4-8 fertilizer. A bag of 12-4-8 fertilizer contains 12% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 8% potassium by weight. The remaining 76% is inert material that adds bulk to the mixture and makes it easier to spread.

It is important to use slow release fertilizers whenever possible. Most major brands of lawn fertilizer will have a combination of soluble and slow release forms of nitrogen. Soluble nitrogen is available to the grass plant immediately while slow release nitrogen becomes available over a period of two to three months. In most situations it is best to have as much of the nitrogen in slow release form if possible. Good brands of fertilizer will have 40-50% of the nitrogen in slow release form. This is usually noted in a statement like "containing 6% nitrogen in slow release form."

Be careful when using hose end fertilizer sprayers or dry fertilizer in which all the nitrogen is in a soluble, quick release form. Soluble nitrogen will cause a major flush of growth for a week. Or two and will completely dissipate in 4-6 weeks. For most of us, it is almost impossible to fertilize with quick releases fertilizer without causing wild, fluctuating growth spurts. If you decide to use quick release, never apply more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per application. You will need to fertilize every 4-6 weeks during the growing season for a total of 3 or 4 applications. Stay on schedule throughout the season so that nitrogen levels will remain fairly constant in the soil.

How Much Fertilizer to use on your Zoysia Grass Lawn

Most bags of fertilizer are covered from top to bottom with completely useless information that is written by the fertilizer company's marketing department. Zoysia grass lawns generally need 3-4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet each year, regardless of the brand of fertilizer you purchase. If you use a fertilizer that contains a slow release form of nitrogen, you can apply the needed nitrogen in two applications of 1.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet in mid spring and early fall. Apply an addition 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet in mid-summer if your lawn is not dark green.

Unfortunately, the average bag of fertilizer does not tell you how much actual nitrogen it contains. It is easy to calculate, though, using two simple pieces of information: N-P-K ratio and the weight of the bag. Multiply the percentage of nitrogen (first number of the N-P-K) by the weight of the bag and you will know the amount of actual nitrogen it contains. For instance, a 50 pound bag of 12-4-8 has 6 pounds of actual nitrogen (12% of 50).

Determine the amount of coverage by dividing the amount of actual nitrogen in the bag by the amount of nitrogen you want to apply in a single application. With zoysia grass, you want to apply 1.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Therefore, a bag that contains 6 pounds of actual nitrogen will cover 4,000 square feet (6 divided by 1.5 pounds per 1000 square feet.) If your zoysia grass lawn is less than 4,000 square feet, remove the amount you do not need. Two cups of granular fertilizer weight approximately 1 pound.

All of this calculating may seem like a hassle, but it really is the best way to apply the correct amount of fertilizer to your zoysia grass lawn. It is also a great way to compare cost of different fertilizers so you get the best deal.

How to Spread Fertilizer on your Zoysia Grass Lawn

You can broadcast granular fertilizer using a rolling fertilizer spreader or a hand held spreader. Spreading fertilizer is not an exact science. The calibrated settings on even the best broadcast spreader are usually completely inaccurate. In addition, the majority of spreaders will clog, break, and jam.

Begin by measuring your lawn and calculating the amount of fertilizer you need to spread. If you only have a 40 pounds of a 50 lb bag, remove 10 pounds (20 cups) and set it aside. Next, turn off your fertilizer spreader and fill it. Begin moving and barely open the spreader only once you are up to speed. Try to spread as little fertilizer as possible while still broadcasting an even pattern. Continue covering the entire lawn at the same speed. If you must slow to turn around, shut off the spreader or you will drop too much and burn your grass. Work across your entire lawn until you return to your starting point and turf off the spreader. Now, see how much of the needed fertilizer is left. If half remains, repeat the entire process and you will be done. If a quarter (25%) is left, repeat the process but move twice as fast. Remember, it is impossible to be exact. Your foremost goal should be to spread the designated amount of fertilizer evenly over the entire lawn; avoid heavy doses in some areas and light does in others.

When to Fertilizer your Zoysia Grass Lawn

When it comes to fertilizer, timing is everything. This is especially important with Zoysia grass since you want your lawn to be healthy but not to grow excessively. The guidelines below will help you fertilize the right amount at the right time.

Mid-Spring: Zoysia grass lawns begin to green when soil temperatures reach a consistent 60 - 65 degrees. The best time to apply fertilizer is after the danger of frost has passed and when your zoysia grass is at least 50% green. Depending on the particular, this is usually in mid-March to mid-April when the dogwoods are in full bloom. Use a complete lawn fertilizer that contains a slow-release form of nitrogen. Apply at the rate of 1.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Water approximately one inch after fertilizing.

Don't Fertilize too early! It is hard to be patient in the spring. After mowing and removing the dead top growth, we are raring for action. At the first sign of new green growth, most of us want to drop everything and run out to buy fertilizer. Hold off. Two things will happen if you fertilize early. First, you will stimulate leaf growth at a time when zoysia roots should be growing foremost. Second, early leaf growth is particularly vulnerable to late season freeze damage.

Mid-Summer: (optional): Fertilize again in mid-summer if your zoysia grass is not healthy dark green. A good time to assess its condition is around the fourth of July. Use a complete lawn fertilizer that contains a slow release form of nitrogen. Apply at the rate of 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Water approximately one inch after fertilizing.

Early Fall: Fertilize your zoysia grass again in late August/early September. You can use the same complete fertilizer you have been using, or switch to a fertilizer with little or no phosphorus, but a higher rate of potassium. This might be something like 12-4-14 or 12-0-12. Either way, make sure the fertilizer contains a slow release form of nitrogen. Apply at the rate of 1.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Water approximately one inch after fertilizing.

Winter: Do not fertilize zoysia grass in the winter. You may stimulate your zoysia grass lawn to break dormancy during a winter warm spell only to be damaged in the next wave of freezing temperatures.

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