Zoysia lawn can't get enough water

johnb352(9)May 5, 2011

Planted Zoysia sod last July. It looked great last year. This year it can't seem to get enough water. But not the entire lawn. Just in some areas.

Seems like I read something about this before here. Is something eating the roots?

The symptoms appear is typical dryness. The blades close up and get very narrow, and then if it isn't watered soon, they start to turn light brown. The lawn is getting watered every other day! About 25 minutes per zone. This is central Florida. Any ideas?

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What is the soil like in the areas that get dry very quickly? Are they excessively sandy, or is there a lot of gravel or rocks just under the surface?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 9:44PM
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botanicalbill(9b SWFlorida)

I have the same problem as you. I water for 10 min every day, if it drys out then it yellows up.
I am thinking nematodes are chewing away the roots or a fungus is doing the same.
My partly shaded area under a tree is thriving. I'm going to put down a fungicide in a few areas to see how that works.
Ill let you know.
I have pure sugar sand for a soil.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 10:14PM
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Tomorrow morning, just after sunrise, go out to the affected areas and see if there are any mycelium on the grass blades. Mycelium will look like a "cottony" substance, or like a watery web on the grass blades. This would indicate a possible disease presence. Also, early in the morning, is there a "ring" appearance to the affected area...in other words, do the outer edges of the affected area look like a ring around them?

ASAP after your next watering, go to an affected area and dig up an area a few inches wide and about 4-6 inches deep. Observe the plug that you remove from digging. Is the soil you removed wet or bone dry? Are the roots deep, shallow, or non-existent? Answers to these questions will help us determine your next course of action. I believe you have one of the following issues:

1. Nematodes
2. Hydrophobic soil
3. Turf Disease
4. Insect damamge

I also believe you would be well-advised to follow the recommendations of dchall's "basic steps of lawn care". In particular, his comments concerning how to water...watering deep and infrequently.

These thought will provide you with a starting point to determine what is happening with your lawn.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 10:55PM
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Nematodes! I bet that's what it is. It's got to be something eating the roots. If I stick my fingers in the soil where the lawn looks dry, the soil is moist. There is no powdery substance in the morning, no rings. The effected areas are very irregular in shape. The soil is sandy. No rocks or stones. I renovated the lawn myself, so I know. There is a little organic material in the soil, so by Florida standards, the soil is good.

If this lawn doesn't get watered every 48 hours, I believe it would die.

I need to do something ASAP. How do you treat nematodes?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 7:25AM
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First, you need to confirm that it is, or is not, nematodes. You will need to submit a soil sample for testing. Contact your local County extension office and let them know you suspect nematode damage in your lawn and ask for their recommendation on how and where to submit a sample for testing. Once you dig up a sample for testing, there is a time limit on how long the sample will be viable for testing. I do know that the sample you take cannot be allowed to dry out. When I would submit a sample for testing in S.C., I would always drive the sample to the lab myself (1 hour drive). That way I knew the sample was viable and delivered.

I'm sure there are specific rules and laws in Florida that deal with nematode control. Your extension agent will know this information.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 11:29AM
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botanicalbill(9b SWFlorida)

Unfortunately, there are no residential treatments for nematodes in Florida.

Adding clay and or organic material before planting was the best bet. I am considering of putting down about 30 yards of clay over my lawn to level it and to create a more nematode free soil. This would also add to the ability of my soil to hold moisture longer. This would then take a few years to fill in.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 7:08PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Why would nematodes make the grass dry? Are you saying the roots have been bound up by the nematodes? I suppose that could be.

When you talk to people on an organic program they never complain about nematodes. The thinking is that a healthy soil contains bacteria and fungi that 'prevent' the root knot nematodes. The actual prevention mechanism is not understood.

The quickest way into developing an organic base is to spray molasses (3 ounces per 1,000 square feet) on the soil. Molasses feeds bacteria in the soil. You can spray it every week for a month to get it going.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 1:08AM
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botanicalbill(9b SWFlorida)

The deep sands (sugar sand, 100% fine sand) of florida are a perfect breeding ground for a few types of root eating nematodes. A soil with more clay inhibits the growth of these types of nematodes.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 11:01AM
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Plant parasitic nematodes (such as root-knot, lance, or sting) feed on turfgrass roots and are particularly prevalant in sandy soils (such as those in central Florida). They cause such damage that even after a deep and thorough watering, a lawn can appear to be wilted or even hydrophobic. The reason for this is that there is no longer a developed root system in place to take up the water that was applied. The root system has been removed by the feeding of the plant parasitic nematodes.

I am becoming more of a believer in the value of an organic approach to lawn care.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 12:42PM
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After doing some more research and reading the responses here it doesn't look good. According to the University of Florida's extension service website, there is no treatment for plant-parasitic nematodes. My only hope is that the information on this page is outdated, and they have something new for this problem.

I'm also going to contact the person at the bottom of the page. I've been to the local Extension Office in the past, and they're staffed with retirees that aren't knowledgeable about lawns, they are mainly there to hand out pamphlets. So that won't help.

I am going to get the Nematode sample kit and send that in. And just go from there. The website does talk about "the pesticides used to kill them tend to be very toxic", maybe that means a professional lawn service will have that? God knows everything they have is toxic.

Totally tearing up the lawn, tilling in clay, and putting down Zoysia sod again is not an option. It would be too expensive. The lawn isn't even a year old again. The thought of tearing it up is painful. I realize there may be no better way. Except, to pray for lots of rain. But, the last few years in Florida seem to have been dryer than usual.

One question I have is, does winter frost kill off the Nematodes?

This is a of the lawn I posted on here last year. I hate the thought of losing that, I put it in myself!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 2:17PM
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Here is some contact information that may be helpful:

Willliam T. (Billy) Crow, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Nematology
University of Florida
(352) 273-3941

Nematode Assay Lab
(352) 392-0190

And to answer your question...no, winter frost does not kill off nematodes; but it does decrease their activity.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 3:01PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Thanks nearandwest. We have root knot nematodes here but I mostly hang with people who are organic. We really don't have that problem.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 10:36PM
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botanicalbill(9b SWFlorida)

I have heard that rye has some chemical in it that reduces nematode populations. This may be worth some research or attempting on what would overseading with rye do to the zoysia. this may help and get the grass established.

The link below might help but I think this needs to be researched some more. If I attempt an overseeding, Ill post back here with the results.

Here is a link that might be useful: rye

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 11:25PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)


Hmm... I wonder if this http://www.tampaagriculturalproducts.com/organics/plantshield-hc/ will help? :) All you have to do is apply corn meal every few month to keep up its population.

I know this will make Dchall happy. That's his thing.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 6:09PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)


    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 6:12PM
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It is encouraging that they are finding *something* to treat nematodes. But, it only seems to work for root-knot nematodes, and it is VERY expensive. $108 for a 1 pound bag. Not really meant for spreading across an entire lawn.

The link I posted by the University of Florida lists 11 types of nematodes. So the chances are 1 in 11 that trichoderma would help someone with nematode problems in their lawn.

But, I will definitely mention that to Professor Crow at UF.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 7:55PM
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I know that in S.C. (Sandhills and coastal areas), the sting nematode was the most destructive nemesis for us. The product we used back then is no longer on the market.

I'm definitely going to learn more about the organic approach for situations such as this.

@johnb352: keep us posted on your findings.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 11:25AM
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Tampa, Fl

It's great to finally find people that are having the same issues as me. I've had my zoysia down since 2006 and have been fighting this ever since.

I'm finally starting to make ground here. I was on the nematode thing for a while but never got my soil tested for them. What got me thinking is that in certain areas my grass was really thriving. Area 1 was near my flower beds where all my tiny pieces of mulch seemed to wash away down into the grass, area 2 was anywhere I had pine mulch(the zoysia would chase it and thrive. This lead me to believe that my soil just doesn't hold enough moisture.

Last fall I placed an ad on craiglist for a Zoysia expert and got a local sod layer that was willing to help me figure this problem out. He cut out a 15'x15' area of sod and I dropped in some great organic-rich home depot soil about 4 inches deep. This year the area is doing great but is full of mushrooms and fungus because it is holding so much water and to keep the rest of the lawn alive I have to keep watering and the same sprinklers hit both spots.

I also did the same test on my back lawn with a 3'x3' cutout and it's doing amazing. Yes, 1 bright green square in the middle of the lawn.

If you ask me, the typical florida lawn is a hydroponics garden. Water, useless sand with no minerals from years of heavy rains and everyone bagging their clippings, and of course hollow calories from the chemicals we put on it. I believe it's been compared to a person living on glucose bags :)

Anyway, I've been following the organic threads a bit and thought I'd start experimenting with Alfalfa. In multiple areas I've cut out 1x1 foot squares dropped in some alfalfa pellets mixed them up with the top 6 inches of soil then placed the sod back. Again, 1'x1' bright green lush squares in the middle of my dried up empire zoysia. And again, a few mushrooms because these areas can actually hold water. The alfalfa is a little expensive right now but it's some amazing stuff. I've sprinkled small areas with it and 2 weeks later the zosyia is crazy dark green and about 2 inches longer than the rest of the grass. So while you're fertilizing with alfalfa you're also putting the organic water holding material back into the soil.

Next I'm moving onto corn meal and compost tea.

PS: we have a growing zoysia forum at turfgrass.com. It's one of the only Zoysia only forums I've found. It would be great to get more people on it with their experiments and experiences.

PS again: I'm a techie, not a writer so try not to slam my writing :)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 9:30AM
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Hey Man, absolutely nothing wrong with the writing. Very informative post. Thanks for sharing your experience. Hopefully someone can benefit from what you have learned and shared.

I am actually moving more toward an organic approach to feeding turfgrass, and I must admit I am seeing positive results so far. I also have to thank dchall for being an influence on my decision to move away from being a "synthetic slave".

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 9:44AM
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botanicalbill(9b SWFlorida)

Nice post. This still supports that the damage was caused by nematodes as the rich organic soil does not harbor or support root eating nematodes.

I have pulled up my sod and the roots are swelled and short. Thinking this is still nematode problem.

My plan is to fertilize lightly every two weeks to keep enough nutrients in the soil so I can get deep roots. I think once I get deep roots I can cut back on fertilizers and the soil will hold its own moisture, organic material and bacteria to support zoysia.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 1:56PM
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Here's something I posted a few years back. Do your roots look like my bad pics?


Here is a link that might be useful: zoysia pics

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:04PM
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botanicalbill(9b SWFlorida)

my roots were shorter. I put down some fungicide in a few areas to see what that does, it seems the grass is growing much better now. Ill post back in another week.
This would be nice if a fungicide cured this all up.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 12:48AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

mrmumbels - careful mentioning other forums and be especially careful of inviting people to leave this forum and visit a competing forum. I believe that violates the terms and conditions of this site. I have a couple of other forums I would suggest people join, but I can't mention them.

The original owner of GardenWeb had a hilarious way of stopping people from breaking his rules. As soon as you hit the Submit button, you were "sent to Disneyland." Which means you were redirected to disneyland.com and your message was discarded.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 2:09AM
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Here's my spot that I lifted and put down alfala pellets about a month or 2 ago. The zoysia is thriving and actually had mushrooms growing in it IN THE AFTERNOON after a 1/2 inch watering 2 days prior!

Here is a link that might be useful: alfalfa sod test

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:24PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

mrmumbels, thank you for posting the picture. Here is is without a special link...

You don't need to lift up the turf to apply organic fertilizer. I sprinkle it on top and get the same results.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 2:16AM
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I have used cracked corn for fertilizer(20 lb/1k sq ft/2-3 months) the last year. It seems to work well. I sprayed some molasses(3oz/gal) in areas that the grass doesn't grow well and it seems to help the grass to fill in. I have been told the molasses feeds the bacteria and they kill the nematodes. Also nematodes can't live in rich organic soil.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 9:13PM
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