Zoysiagrass fills in as a dense ground cover that can hold up to all sorts of wear -- including kids running around in the backyard. This sun-loving, warm-weather grass thrives in the warmer months but quickly goes dormant during cooler weather. The basic care for zoysiagrass is similar to other turf grasses, but the specifics of mowing, irrigating and fertilizing vary slightly. Keeping the special needs of zoysiagrass in mind makes it easier to care for the lawn to keep it looking its best.
Mow your zoysiagrass the first time in the spring before it turns green -- around mid-April -- to clean out the old blades of grass, leaves and other debris. Use the lowest mower setting for this spring mowing. New blades of grass that are starting to grow will get better sunlight and moisture. This early mowing helps the grass grow in thicker and turn green faster.
Cut the grass to keep it shorter than other turf grasses. Zoysiagrass is usually cut to a height between 1 and 2 inches. Time your mowing so you're only cutting 1/3 of the total blade height. If you want the grass at 1 inch, cut it when it reaches about 1.5 inches tall. Leave the lawn clippings on the grass unless they clump. Break up or remove clumps to protect your zoysiagrass.
Irrigate the zoysiagrass as needed to keep it looking green. As long as your area receives regular rain, you can usually skip additional water. If you don't get rain for a long period, irrigate the grass deeply -- about 4 to 6 inches down -- so it reaches down to the deep roots of the zoysiagrass. Watch for signs that the grass needs additional water, such as footprints that stay in the grass. If it turns a grayish or bluish color and the blades shrivel or curl, these are additional signs your grass needs water.
Fertilize the zoysiagrass for the first time about three weeks after it turns green -- usually in May. Apply fertilizer two more times during the growing season: once at the beginning of July and again by mid-August. The total nitrogen application should be about 2 pounds for every 1,000 square feet.
Fix bare patches in your zoysiagrass lawn by regrowing the missing grass. Use patches of zoysiagrass sod or plugs for a quick regrowth. Overseeding with more zoysiagrass seed is another option.
Test the thickness of the thatch on the lawn each spring. Thatch is the layer of natural debris that accumulates at the base of the grass blades. Because of the thick, stiff nature of zoysiagrass, you may notice a buildup of thatch. Use a power rake or a special dethatching tool in the spring to break up a thatch layer that is more than 1/2 inch thick.