Although this has been a colder than normal winter in central Florida, there are some standard guidelines for Empire care.
Two of the biggest mistakes people make while caring for Empire are overwatering and over fertilizing with nitrogen.
The last application of fertilizer should have been in September or October with 10-12lbs. of a 9-2-24 per 1,000 square foot of lawn. If you are in the habit of pulling soil and/or tissue samples, be sure to check the potassium levels (the last number in your fertilizer label = potassium). If the required levels are low it is a good practice to add potassium through a dry or liquid application. Potassium helps thicken the cell walls, thereby strengthening the resistance to frost, insects, fungus and reduces the need for water.
Even if we are experiencing high winter temperatures, the number of daylight hours has decreased and therefore so has the growth rate. With cooler temperatures and slower growth rates comes a reduction of water required to maintain healthy Empire. A once a week watering should provide the turf with enough water to stay healthy. If you have a healthy soil with very little slope the watering may be reduced to one ounce every two weeks. Empire naturally goes semi-dormant to dormant in the winter months.
Like many other warm season turf types, Empire is subject to Rhizoctonia (Brown Patch). If you notice two to three foot wide oval brown patches with a slightly gold outer rim color, most likely you are experiencing brown patch. This disease is sometimes referred to as large patch in Zoysia. Generally, two applications of Heritage, Armada or Prostar will remedy the problem. Make applications 12 to 14 days apart at the labeled rate.
Now that spring has arrived, (March/April) another application of fertilizer may be required. In general a 9-0-24 slow release product is sufficient. If you have experienced Rhizoctonia (Brown Patch) you might choose to apply ammonium sulfate instead. The ammonium sulfate will cause a sudden drop in PH while giving the turf a kick to outgrow and overcome the Rhizoctonia. When utilizing ammonium sulfate, only apply around 6-7 lbs. per 1,000 square feet of turf. If you opt for the 9-0-24, apply 10-12 lbs. per 1,000 square feet of turf. The grass should begin growing as the days get longer and the temperature continues to rise. If you desire a darker green, utilize liquid nutritional sprays containing iron, magnesium and manganese. These materials can be applied as needed without compromising the environment.
When Empire is fully recovered from winter the mowing height can be reduced to 1”. As you enter the summer months the height can be raised to 1.5” never to exceed 2.5”. If you desire a golf course look, this would be a good time to rake and vacuum your lawn.
The programs listed are sound practices to maintain a healthy lawn while protecting our environment. Keep in mind that “more” is not always better! Properly maintained turf grass is a benefit to our environment and contributes to a higher quality of life.