Return to the Lawn Care Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Weeds and Fire Ants

Posted by Asian none (My Page) on
Wed, Nov 9, 11 at 17:34

Hi.

I sowed grass in my backyard for creating a lawn this year but due to watering restrictions, the grass could not spread properly. Now, its an untidy, piece of land with grass in uneven patches and lots of weeds.

I am thinking of starting all over again as below :

1) Using some chemical to kill all and clear the land.

2) Planting grass patches instead of sowing as earlier. (to yield quicker, denser carpet in less time & less weeds).

3) Keeping 1/4 of backyard in a corner for children playing using an artificial turf (fire ants are a hazard in the grass here in summers).

4) I would prefer the soft carpet of Xoysia instead of the Bermuda that I sowed earlier.

Please share your experiences if you faced similar problem during lawn creation. Also need your opinion on the type of grass (Xoysia or Bermuda).

Thnx and Regards.


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

I'll not say much; I live in a northern area that uses Kentucky Blue, Fescue and ryegrass; I'm a stranger to Zoysia and other southern warm season grasses.
But, all grasses need moisture and since you have restrictions you must try to conserve as much water as you can without turning on the faucet.

To that, save your bath water...so its dirty...your lawn and plants will love it. Obtain and use a rain barrel.
Catch all the wasted water that runs away. Improve your grounds ability to hold onto water instead of its draining away. The way to that, improve your soil's organics.
Each spring and fall, lay a 1/2" - 1" of compost over the ground. This will encourage the grass (whatever type you plant) to grow and send down deep, sturdy roots which will use water to feed the grass above and hold onto more.

Water, when you do water, in early morning or late afternoon when the sun evaporates less. Never water when the sun is high which causes the grass to lose moisture and causes short roots adding to early death.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Are you looking for an improved appearance or feel underfoot? Depending on variety of either and how you maintain them, they can be pretty similar on both counts.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

I don't have any experience with Bermuda grass, but do enjoy the zoysia I have. According to Tukey's book on lawns, Bermuda has a "medium" Water Requirement, whereas Zoysia has a "low" Water Requirement. So if you live somewhere with water restrictions, you might want to go with zoysia. My zoysia isn't a water hog at all. It gets by with very little added water.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Hi.

Thanks all for the responses.

Reading ZoysiaSod's reply, I think Zoysia would be a good choice for me.

What would be the best sowing time if I plan to grow from seed to save costs? Can I sow now? We do have some cold winters here and frost resistance may be required. Or should I sow in spring?

Can I have a turf by summer or should I have to wait for maybe two seasons? In case of a long wait, I would go for readymade grass patches to put in my lawn to root and be ready by summer.

Anything about fire ants would be welcome.

Thanks and regards.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

I'll let someone else with more knowledge answer your questions. I've only been learning about grass for 6 months and have read only 3 books so far about grass.

I recommend these great books:

David Mellor's "Lawn Bible"
Paul Tukey's "Organic Lawn Care Manual"
Scotts "Lawns"

I've learned a lot from them.

There are only one or two varieties of Zoysia that are started by sowing seed. One of the varieties is called "Companion" zoysia. I think the other variety begins with a "Z" but that's not helpful because lots of zoysia varieties begin with "Z": Zenith and Zorro come to mind.

Almost all zoysia is planted vegetatively, meaning folks use sod, plugs, or sprigs. Plugs are smaller pieces of sod that were cut up from the sod, so the sod goes farther.

Zoysia sod can be laid just about anytime, I think, except when the ground is frozen. But it's probably best for you to wait until the spring. It probably wouldn't be easy to find zoysia sod this time of year, anyway. My nursery stopped carrying it around August 15. I guess you could ask a neighbor who has a zoysia lawn if you could dig some plugs out of his yard [chuckle]. Zoysia can be transplanted like that.

If you plant, say 2x2 inch or 3x3 inch or even larger-sized plugs now (I planted lotsa different sizes) during these cold temperatures, the zoysia's roots, stolons, and rhizomes won't be growing much at all. Zoysia's been going dormant for some time now.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

I'd take this winter to research the zoysia you want. The different varieties are not at all the same. The one on the back of Parade magazine is likely not the one you want. And the claims made in the ad are not as wonderful as real life.

I have not read Mellor's book, but keep in mind, he lives in the rarified world of p-e-r-f-e-c-t soil and unlimited budgets. I looked at Tukey's book and believe you get better advice in most organic forums. I've chatted with him a little and he admits that it is hard to cover every single possible base in one book. If you want to write about organic lawn care in Maine, you can cover it in a reasonable book, but some of that advice might not work outside of New England. So, yes, read the books, but also touch base in the forums for more local advice.

Fire ants are of the variety of ants that farm protein sources. Other ants are known for farming sugar. Fire ants will avoid sugar like it was poison. In fact I suspect sugar is a poison to them. It does not poison them directly but it probably allows 'bad' microbes to contaminate their underground farms. With that in mind one treatment that seems to work for fire ants is to mix up some molasses in water (3 ounces per gallon), drench the mound with half of that and spray the other half in a 10 foot circle around the mound. If you can spray your entire yard it will be better still. If you have some pure orange oil, add an ounce of that with a few drops of dish soap to emulsify it into the molasses water and it improves the kill power of the drench and spray.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Thanks for the responses. And the helpful word about fire ants.

I have one more query. Before planting the new grass, do I need to chemically kill all weeds in the land? Or should I just till the land and rake out the weeds from it? I have also bought a roto tiller for the purpose.

Thanks.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

AaaaaHA! You left that little tidbit about the tiller out of your initial message. At this point I think we need to start over. About all I know is that you want to renovate with some variety of zoysia.

Where do you live? Be specific. Name of your town is good unless you claim to live in Los Angeles (nobody with a lawn lives in Los Angeles with a few Baldwin Hillians)
How much are you willing to water? Keep in mind that watering should be done an inch at a time about every month in the cool months and increasing to weekly for the summer.

How often are you willing to mow? Some grasses look best when mowed 3x per week. Most get by on weekly mowing.

How do you plan to fertilize? Are you willing to fertilize monthly or are you looking for something with less of a requirement than that?

Can you post a picture or two? What you do about your current weed situation depends on how bad it is now.

DO NOT USE A ROTOTILLER TO PREPARE FOR GRASS. Yes I was shouting. I considered underlining it and making it red, but opted for just shouting. Go ahead and return the tiller and get your money back. You'll have no use for it unless you want to use it for veggies. I disagree with tilling for veggies, too, but that's a topic for a different forum. Search this forum for other comments on tilling. It is a big mistake that some lawn writers have fixated on. Nobody knows where the advice came from, because the old gardening books don't have it. Something about "tilling organic matter into the soil." Well, I believe it is the year 2011 and we know more about soils and the organic matter that matters. Forget about tilling.

Once we know more about your situation (questions above) we can get you better advice. Oh, and have you had a soil test done by a lab like Logan Labs in Ohio? Their $13 test seems to be the Gold Standard for lawn gurus around the country.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Hello David.
Thanks for the detailed advice.
I live in Round Rock here in Texas, 78665.

I can water weekly as you advised provided there are no state restrictions in place like in the recent drought season. Although 3 times a week would be too much, I can mow down once a week, fine. Fertilizing monthly is also Ok with me. I can also go with a lawn test for soil check.

I did not fully understand your strong stance against tilling which I assume is preparing the land for plantations. At least light tilling may be required in hard ground before one can sow or plant things.

I will also try to post some pictures of the area.

Regards.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

NO TILLING!!!

I didn't take the time to explain the why's before. Here goes...and this is only my argument against rototilling in preparation for turf.

First of all, 99% of the time you don't have compacted soil. What you have is hard soil with very little fungal life left in it. It is the beneficial fungi in the soil that soften it. When healthy soil is moist, it becomes soft like a moist sponge. When healthy soil is dry, it becomes hard...like a dry sponge. When you rototill, you are walking behind a bucking bronco. The tiller tines buck up when they hit rocks, roots, pipes, and harder soil. Try as you might, the under surface of hard, untilled soil, will be uneven...as in not level. When you level the surface on a rolling "under-surface," by using fluffy, rototilled soil, that fluffy soil will eventually settle back to a firm (not compacted) structure. The fluffy soil will settle back down the match the rolling profile of the firm but uneven soil that you did not reach with the rototiller. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it is not humanly possible to move a rototiller through soil and make a perfectly level bottom profile. After you till and the soil settles, you'll be back here asking how to level your lawn because your mower is scalping the grass.

If you want to address the hard soil, start watering now with 3 ounces of generic baby shampoo per 1,000 square feet. Then water a full inch with the sprinklers. Water like that once a week for about 3 weeks and your soil should be absorbing all the moisture it can get. It should be soft when moist and firm to hard when dry. As long as you don't let it get too dry for too long, it should remain relatively healthy. What the soap does is release the surface tension of the water allowing it to penetrate deeper into the soil. That allows the moisture level of the soil to remain more constant for a longer time which is perfect growing conditions for the beneficial fungi.

Are you familiar with deep and infrequent watering? If not you need to become familiar with it. Many of the Texas water restrictions I've seen are geared toward that program of watering.

I'll be in Round Rock next week for some training. I'll wave to you.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Hi.

Thanks for the detailed explanation about the mechanics of tilling and the various chracteristics of soil.

I understand your alternate method of reducing soil hardnesss through watering techniques rather than the mechanical means like tilling.

I hope to undertake the above steps to start my lawn preparation at the appropriate time.

One more thing that i need to know is what is the right time for planting my grass (whatever type i select). I assume that it maybe after the hard frost like in early spring. Or maybe its even after that.

Its delightful to know about your Round Rock visit. I will keep a tab on the dates.

Regards.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

I am going to suggest you go with a variety of bermuda. Which variety is going to require a little research. I believe Texas Weed answered that question for someone not too long ago. Look down in the list of topics and read all the ones on bermuda. Yes, I realize your preference is for zoysia but if you plant zoysia in Round Rock, TX, you will eventually have bermuda as a weed. Once you have that, it will look unsightly at first and eventually will take over. What happens is that zoysia is more prone to drought, disease, and insect attacks. If you ever get a thin spot in the zoysia, it takes months for zoysia to return. But by then, the bermuda will already have filled the spot. Whereas if you start with bermuda, you will not have the thin spots develop in the first place.

I live in an area of high value homes. Every now and then someone will buy a home in the area and try to convert from St Augustine to zoysia. There is still one home that is zoysia but another z lawn finally succumbed to the harsh heat and drought this year. It looks very weedy now. I'll be interested to see what they do next year in that lawn. The one remaining zoysia lawn is just managed with more and more money. Something goes wrong (like a bermuda infestation) and they simply replace that entire area with fresh zoysia sod. With a bermuda lawn, you'll never be in that situation. It is bullet proof in Central and South Texas.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Hi.
I will get more info on bermuda and its varieties. Zoysia sure is delicate and expensive to maintain although gives a more lush look.
We already have bermuda in patches and it looks like we will just sit back and let it spread all over the area.

Time to go with mother nature...


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Well, I wouldn't call Zoysia delicate :-)

Zoysia does great in the Transition Zone.

Bermuda will grow only about as far north as Kansas City, from what I've read. I guess you could say Bermuda is delicate since it can't take the cold of the north :-)

Zoysia is even found growing north of the Transition Zone in Chicago and Wisconsin, though it doesn't stay green for many months that far north (but so wouldn't Bermuda if Bermuda could survive that far north).

I'm not sure why Zoysia would be expensive to maintain. About all my zoysia in St. Louis has ever needed is a hair cut once every 1 to 4 weeks, depending upon the month of the year. After August, Zoysia grows really slowly, needing infrequent mowing, while the cool-season grasses like fescue, bluegrass, and rye start growing tall fast and furiously. You could be mowing them regularly well into October and November. That's what I've had to do with the ten percent of my lawn that's fescue and bluegrass.

I think zoysia is also more shade-tolerant than Bermuda. I've read Zoysia can grow even with just 2 hours of sun a day, though it likes more. Cold and shade are Bermuda's two Achilles' heels.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

The biggest problem with zoysia is disease. When you get a disease in zoysia, it is dead before you see any symptoms. It can kill large areas before you know it and then it takes until next season to recover. By then the weeds have moved in. AHeat/drought is the second worst issue. That doesn't happen every season but disease might.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

I don't know. I've read from several sources that Zoysia is pretty disease-resistant. Sandy Baker writes in "The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care":

"Zoysia is a slow-growing, thick grass and one of the only warm-weather grasses that does well in the south and also further north in some cool season and transitional areas. It requires less mowing than some of the faster-growing grasses such as St. Augustine and Bermuda and tolerates foot traffic well. It is drought tolerant and disease and insect resistant. Zoysia grass prefers growing in temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees, and it is considered the most cold tolerant of all warm-season grasses."

"It prefers sun, but it is fairly shade tolearant and can grow in rocky, sandy, or poor soils with a pH between 5.8 and 7.5. [Tukey lists pH between 6.2 and 7.2.] Once the lawn is established, zoysia will need little water. It is best to wait until the blades of grass wilt slightly and then provide the lawn with 3/4 inch water. Watering in this way will help the grass become more drought tolerant and will help the plant develop a deep root system..."[End quote] [I think that kind of watering helps most grasses.]

My zoysia has never had a disease problem.

David Mellor writes in "The Lawn Bible" that zoysia's [quote] "thick, dense turf is drought resistant and can withstand wear well..." He also says zoysia "forms a beautiful...lawn." I can attest to that.

You can tell I love my zoysia :-)

Paul Tukey writes in the "Organic Lawn Care Manual":

"From Florida north to Maryland, zoysia is one of the better grasses on the market, far more attractive than St. Ausgustine, carpet, or centipede grass. North of Maryland, however, the grass turns brown for about six months of the year; we're spoiled in that regard up north. When there's no snow on the ground, we expect our lawns to be green except between January and March."

Tukey goes on to write:
"The good news is that zoysia lawns are now possible from seed. The cultivar 'Companion' [now known as 'Compadre' because of a trademark issue] germinates readily and then spreads by rhizomes and stolons to fill in nicely, much more quickly than some early zoysia cultivars. Seeding brings the cost of a zoysia lawn more in line with Bermuda grass and makes it less expensive than a sodded or plugged St. Augustine lawn, so zoysia should become more common in the next decade."

Tukey goes on to say:
"It's fairly disease and insect resistant, and its growth habit helps it outcompete many weeds."

By the way, "Zenith" is another name of a Zoysia variety that can be seeded. So, Zenith and Compadre if you don't want to sod.

From what I've read online, Bermuda, especially the hybrid Bermuda grasses, might have more of a disease problem :-P


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

One of the fastest ways to get on my bad side is to quote Paul Tukey. I believe he is out of touch with most of what is going on in the country. I would much rather read "Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition" by Lowenfels and Lewis because I know those guys have spent years on the Internet forums getting information from around the world on their topics of expertise.

Most of the zoysia advertising discusses it as being the ultimate turfgrass, much like Tukey has described it. The problem is some varieties are very shade tolerant and some cannot grow in the shade. But the advertising does not distinguish among varieties. It makes blanket statements about it like it was all one grass.

It could be that zoysia is much better behaved grass once you get out of the humid/deep south. When you are living with a dew point in the 70s and temps in the high 90s for much of the year, that grass simply rots out. I do agree it makes a beautiful turf - just not a reliable one in my neighborhood. The zoysia I am growing is called Shadow Turf. Admittedly I have not cared for it like I could have, but part of my plan was to see how well it competed in nature against common bermuda. I believe the ultimate survivor in the sunlight will be bermuda simply because of the inability of zoysia to recover from stress issues in a timely manner. The survivor in the shade will be Shadow Turf because it can thrive between two houses with no problems.

Where have you read that bermuda has any disease issues? One of the reasons it is so successful as an weed is that it is immune to most turf problems.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Thank you David. I value your advice and posted messages.

Please don't take it the wrong way if I quote Tukey every once in a while because his book really sparks the imagination of a newbie like me with all its great colorful photographs. The publisher must have spent a pretty penny putting that book together.

But you also spark the imagination of newbies with your great, informative posts, which I read everytime, and even search out your past posts in the gardenWeb archives. I've learned a lot from you too.

In answer to your question, I mentioned a couple web sites in the thread called "Eliminating zoysia without chemicals" that discuss some of the disease issues some Bermuda varieties have.

At http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh007 it says:

"Because of the high maintenance requirements of the improved bermudagrasses, however, they are not generally recommended for use as a home lawngrass."

And

"Improved bermudagrasses require high levels of maintenance. They have poor tolerance to many insect, disease, and nematode pests, which limits their use in home lawn sites."

And at BermudaGrass.com it says:

""DISEASE / INSECTS: Pearl Scale is a big problem on Tifgreen and other sodded Bermuda grasses. Unfortunately, there is no good method to control them on some of the improved vegetatively established Bermudas. The pearl scale feeds on the roots, so getting insecticide down in the soil where the insects are is difficult, and insecticides are not that effective against them. The best option in turf infested with pearl scale is to plant seeded Bermudagrasses which are naturally resistant to them. No one knows the mechanism of resistance in the seeded Bermuda grasses to pearl scale - they just never get infested with it."

However, Bermuda obviously works well for you and lots of others in your warmer climate. And there's lots of Bermuda grown in those USDA zones, so Bermuda is obviously doing something right there. And Zoysia works well in the Transition zone.

Can I ask where you got that Shadow Turf variety of Zoysia? Is it sod from a local nursery or seed you bought online? It sounds like an interesting zoysia. Thanks very much.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Like to reply more to you but it is very late on Christmas morning. Santa is coming.

Shadow Turf plugs come from these guys. I can find it locally in San Antonio. I have visited the company and got a tour of local installations near their offices. Have a few pix but not for tonight. I'd like to read the links you provided, too. Will get back next week.


 o
RE: Weeds and Fire Ants

Okay here's the deal with bermuda. IF you want a really great looking bermuda lawn, then yes, it takes a lot of work to maintain. This is true no matter where you live. It is aggressive and tenacious. It will spread (invade) before you know it. But if you just want a ground cover and not a putting green, then it is easy to take care of...if you want it covering everything. It is not as bad as kudzu but it is quite an issue for invasion. Most installations of bermuda are not putting greens. Joe Homeowner can deal with bermuda as a lawn by weekly mowing and fertilizing 3x per year.

IF YOU LIVE IN FLORIDA, then all those pests might be an issue in a non-organic setting. I believe an organic approach to lawn care will resolve nematodes and likely will resolve the other issues without any hassle. I would be surprised of zoysia had absolutely no pest or disease issues in Florida.

Having said that, the one grass in Florida that really stands up proudly for the homeowner is St Augustine. Weekly watering is important but other than that, it is a normal lawn. If you insist on a fine bladed grass then you are really limited to bermuda and zoysia.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Lawn Care Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here