By SHANNON HATHAWAY, Landscape Horticulturist and Sod Specialist
Choosing the very best lawn for your property can be very subjective. Many clients ask for an evergreen lawn, but here in central NC the warm-season grasses perform much better than cool-season grasses. Warm-season grasses go dormant here for the winter. Cool season grasses stay green in the winter, but struggle in our hot summer months because we live in a very warm state! The particular features of your property – sun, shade, soil type, traffic, maintenance preferences, budget, proximity to gardens, and HOA requirements or limitations – factor heavily in the decision. So while one grass type may be the best choice for your neighbor, it may not fit your criteria. This article will discuss our top 3 favorites, but keep in mind that we can make a recommendation tailored to your site during a site visit. Click here to schedule an on-site assessment and estimate.
#3 Tiftuf Bermuda
TifTuf is the most popular new Bermuda grass for several reasons. It is very drought-tolerant, very traffic tolerant, and recovers quickly from external force damage because it grows very quickly. It is a great choice for athletic fields, so let’s look at it as the athlete of turfgrasses. It is tough, resilient, and fast. That means it needs lots of nutrition and maintenance. Because TifTuf grows quickly, it needs to be mowed every 4-5 days and kept short. Ideal height is 0.5-1.5”. It also needs to be fed 3 times in the growing season – more than any other grass. So despite the fact that you won’t need to water it as often as most other grasses, it will need lots of attention to thrive. TifTuf needs a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun per day, so it is not well-suited for shady areas. The price of TifTuf Bermuda is quite reasonable, and it can be safely sodded at any time of year. Bermuda is dormant in the winter months in North Carolina.
#2: Zenith Zoysia
Zenith is the most reasonably priced zoysia, and is an excellent choice for a sunny yard with a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun per day. Zenith is not suited for shady areas. Zoysias have a dense root system, so they are better at choking out weeds than other grasses. They grow more slowly than Bermuda, so they require less frequent mowing, keeping it at 1-2” and mowing every 7-10 days. Zenith is moderately traffic tolerant, so while it would not make a good sports field, it is hardy enough to handle my 2 dogs and my grandchildren. Zenith is also moderately drought-tolerant – much more so than Fescue, but less so than Bermuda. It feels so good under bare feet with its dense growth, and the dense roots choke out weeds very well once the lawn is established. It needs 2 fertilizations per growing season, and less weed control than Bermuda or Fescue. Zoysia is dormant during winter months in North Carolina.
#1: Zeon Zoysia
Our favorite turfgrass for central North Carolina is the luxurious Zeon Zoysia! Zeon is fine-bladed and gives the golf course look to your lawn. Although the grass blades are thin, the roots are dense and choke out weeds well once the sod is established. Zeon feels like a soft cushion under bare feet. It is moderately drought tolerant, and grows at a moderate pace, needing mowing every 7-10 days at a height of 1-1.5”. Zeon has moderate traffic tolerance, but will thin out if it is used as a sports field. It needs fertilization twice in the growing season, and needs less weed control than Fescue or Bermuda. Best of all, unlike most warm season grasses, Zeon Zoysia has some shade tolerance, and can handle a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun per day. That is a huge asset! It also loves full sun. All Zoysias are dormant during the winter months in North Carolina.
So what about the other sod varieties available in central NC? We do have other choices. The chart below will give you a comparison of the available turfgrasses to help you make the best choice for your lawn.