Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Warm season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine, Centipede & Paspalum
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Sojiiro109
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Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Sojiiro109 »

Howdy fellas! Been a while since I posted on here. Last time however, it was about my St. Augustine. This time, as the title suggests, its about my empire zoysia front yard. In 2020, I had my front yard (approximately 1.2k sqft) resoded with empire. The company was horrible and delivered a subpar product. The sod was cut like 3 days prior and by the time of installation was completely dried up. I managed to bring it back after constant mowing, fertilizing and a lot of RGS. My problem is that since the grass started growing, I've kept it at about 3"-3.5". I know now that this isn't the optimal cut height for empire since I've read that its actually between 1"-2". The grass has become extremely spongy now and I don't know the correct path to lower it back down to those low numbers.

Any suggestions for this spring coming up? I've had in mind to aerate, dethatch and perhaps even scalp if not lowering it one notch weekly. I don't know what the best route to take would be. Should I dethatch with a vericutter first then aerate then scalp? Any guidance would be appreciated!

Thank you guys.

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Monocot Master »

I scalp mine every year in early spring. But mine goes fully dormant in the winter, so not sure if the rules are the same for you being in S. Florida. But here are my observations in my Empire lawn....Depending on how low you scalp and how level your yard, you will go down to bare ground in spots. Your lawn will look terrible for a little while, especially those bare ground spots. But mine always looks great after it recovers. Maybe you should just scalp one piece of the lawn to experiment.

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Redtwin
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Redtwin »

Cut it to the dirt once you know it’s growing well.

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Reelrollers »

+1, take it to dirt! I’ve had my empire at the house for 14 years and every march I take it down to dirt and maintain it at 5/8” (where I found the sweet spot of short but healthy). I have sanded 3-4 times over the years, but even when I first got it I always:
-scalped in March
-aerated in June

I didn’t start dethatching until 2019, but honestly I haven’t noticed a big difference by dethatching in the spring. I do it anyways because it’s gratifying!

I live outside of Atlanta.


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Topic Author
Sojiiro109
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Grass Type: Empire Zoysia, St. Aug
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Sojiiro109 »

WOW! Reels your lawn is stunning! it looks like something out of a magazine. I hope to one day have it looking like that since I much more prefer the look of short grass over tall. I think I'm just going to take the plunge and come early march, scalp it to the lowest setting on my mower. I also wanted to aerate as I thought this would be beneficial but I see that you do it in June instead. That was also part of my question, the order. Should I scalp first then aerate later on down the line? and what about veriticutting? Where does that fit in if at all. I'm going to take pictures of my lawn tomorrow so perhaps it gives more insight.
I have a picture of my it looked like in September which is the near-end of my growing season and it wasn't that bad because thanks to the height, it got some great stripes which everyone else asked me about since they all have St. Augustine.
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I saw that you mentioned sanding. Is that for leveling or topdressing purposes? I've heard top dressing is important and makes the grass healthier but my lawn is EXTREMELY unleveled.

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by UFG8RMIKE »

I'm in the tampa area, we dont go fully dormant but more of a suspended animation state. I scalped way too early last year (Early March) which allowed weeds to take advantage. My advice is to wait till things really warm up and scalp in May, a few weeks after a good feeding to let the roots store up some energy.

I plan to level this year, and will also put down prodiamine with the pre scalp ferts.

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Sojiiro109
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Sojiiro109 »

So this is what my lawn looks like now. I don't know what those brown spots are. I thought they were fungus so I put down fungicide about a month and a half ago and nothing. I think it could just be the colder temperatures. But as you can see, the grass is about 4" high. Everything under it is brown like thatch or perhaps the legs/stalks and the company who installed the sod, did so waayy above the pavers. I sure hope I'm able to bring it down to 1" or 2 but I'm scared.
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Redtwin
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Redtwin »

Whoa! That's way too high for Empire. It will start to choke itself out and create thatchy disease-prone conditions. You've got your work cut out for you to get that down to between 1" and 2". I'd start with a heavy scalp and collect all the clippings. In your neck of the woods you could probably do it as early as mid-February. You will have a pile of clipping bags the size of a box truck. I'm not sure what type of equipment you have but take it as low as you can regardless of the HOC you plan to maintain. That will help get rid of all that undergrowth and open the canopy so the Empire can do what Empire does. It may require a scalp, dethatch/verticut, then scalp again approach.

Topic Author
Sojiiro109
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Sojiiro109 »

Yup! I'm paying the piper now for letting it get to high to begin with. I always knew I'd have to end up scalping I've just never done it before so I was hesitant. I also saw a video from LCN that he mentions not scalping because of torpedo grass coming in so that always put me off it.

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Greendoc »

Torpedograss becomes even more invasive if turf is not maintained at a low HOC.

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by RentalLawn »

In my experience, scalping is a big, dusty task which is best done when you have wet weather coming (2-3 days of rain) and no further threat of frost. Being you're in the the Miami area, as long as your soil temperatures stay greater than 60°, I think it's possible to do it anytime. Apply and surely water-in some fast-release fertilizer like Andersons PGF Balanced or a liquid fertilizer two weeks before you scalp so there's some energy in your lawn to recover from the scalp.

You could call around and see if any landscaping companies would be willing to do it for a $100-200. They need to have Walkers or some type of vacuum/bagging equipment. All the clippings have to go or you'll be in Thatch City again. @Redtwin is correct, there's an astounding amount of clippings even for a turf maintained at 1.5" from last fall, in my experience. Makes for great garden soil compost!

If taking it down in one fell swoop sounds daunting, you could do a series of aggressive drops with your HOC spaced over a few weeks. That's somewhat stressful on the turf, but you need to really get it down to dirt and hit the reset button from where you're currently at, in my honest opinion.

Start cutting LOW about two weeks after the scalp (even with the bare spots - you'll have them this first season) when you start seeing a green haze return. Apply another round of fertilizer and application of pre-emergent. Consider core aerating in a about a month after to allow the turf to recover.

Best of luck!
Last edited by RentalLawn on Tue Jan 18, 2022 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Redtwin
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Redtwin »

One of the advantages of having Empire Zoysia is that you have Quinclorac in your arsenal that can keep torpedograss on the ropes until your zoysia is nice and thick. Once it's full and established, there aren't too many weeds that can push through it. Not scalping or not topdressing zoysia out of fear that torpedograss will take over is unfounded in my opinion.

Also regarding fertilizer, short of doing a soil test to figure out exactly what is needed, I would stick with a balanced fert like @RentalLawn recommended above. The only difference is that I would just get the generic at Lowes for $.25 per pound vs. $2.22 per pound for the Andersons.

Topic Author
Sojiiro109
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Sojiiro109 »

You guys are awesome! Thank you so much for all the great advice. You answered my question before I even asked it and that was regarding should I fert with like a 10-10-10 or something fast acting before I scalped to give the lawn some food to come back faster. Is it a good time to level out some low spots or do you think that's even more stressful at the time of scalping and should be done at a different time?

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by RentalLawn »

Sojiiro109 wrote:
Tue Jan 18, 2022 4:19 pm
You guys are awesome! Thank you so much for all the great advice. You answered my question before I even asked it and that was regarding should I fert with like a 10-10-10 or something fast acting before I scalped to give the lawn some food to come back faster. Is it a good time to level out some low spots or do you think that's even more stressful at the time of scalping and should be done at a different time?
Hey, that's what we're here for!

Yes, while the cheaper balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer is out there (pricing at $25/bag as of last week at Home Depot :o), it is not a fast-release type - also with a huge SGN granular size. The Andersons has a small SGN size and is a disperable granular - once it wets, it turns into a thousand smaller particles. I use all Andersons DG fertilizer products and never have coverage gaps or movement issues. Rather legit stuff!

As for leveling, wait until the turf is ACTIVELY growing. Middle to late spring is typical for us in the Atlanta area. No point leveling now when you're about to take it all down to dirt with the scalp and may suck up sand/soil in the process. The grass needs to grow INTO the fill areas first. Ideally, it's scalp, mow low, aerate, then level from March through April. Rinse and repeat next year.
Last edited by RentalLawn on Tue Jan 18, 2022 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Don't be a victim of paralysis via analysis.

Topic Author
Sojiiro109
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Sojiiro109 »

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I guess I did have a thatch problem.

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Reelrollers »

+1 to all of the feedback! I would only add that time is your friend. Scalping, verticutting, dethatching (scarifying), aerating are all great buzz words - but doing them has a place and time.

What I mean is, start with scalping. Fert, let the grass recover like mentioned above. Once healed (2-3 weeks), maintain it at a lower HOC. I found my empire in GA likes 1/4”-1/2” higher than my scalp.

Then, dethatch. Let the grass recover. Maintain. Then I prefer to aerate during prime growing season for a faster recovery. Then, just maintain it at a low HOC all of 2022.

Next year, scalp, maintain, and then aerate with a top dress to help health of lawn and level it. Again, maintain rest of year. Empire zoysia, different from a zeon zoysia or Bermuda doesn’t grow fast so it’s recovery is longer and verticutting (in my opinion) doesn’t have a huge value until your lawn is super healthy and dense. That usually requires a few seasons of great maintaining. Often I speak to folks who try to do all of these things in a 3 month period and all it is doing is stressing their lawn out the entire growing season and it never looks good until year 2 or 3. Doing it slowly will let your lawn recover and look great year 1 and be amazing throughout the process of improving it for several years. Enjoy the journey and pleas keep us updated! Ever in Atlanta, Stop bye anytime!

Topic Author
Sojiiro109
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Sojiiro109 »

I don't know if this qualifies as a scalp or not but wow was that painful. I am a man so I know nothing of childbirth pain but if it's more painful than this than hats off to you ladies.
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You can definitely see the high/low spots now.

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by ionicatoms »

Sojiiro109 wrote:
Wed Jan 19, 2022 1:25 pm
I don't know if this qualifies as a scalp or not but wow was that painful. I am a man so I know nothing of childbirth pain but if it's more painful than this than hats off to you ladies.
I hear tell that "hats off" can lead to childbirth pain. Just like a scalp, it hurts so good.

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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Redtwin »

That's certainly a scalp. It's not a hard scalp but I would definitely classify that as a moderate scalp. How big was your clippings pile? Is that your lowest mower setting?

Topic Author
Sojiiro109
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Re: Empire Zoysia - To scalp or not to scalp

Post by Sojiiro109 »

Well, the clippings was enough to fill an entire garbage can. No. That was with my Ego lawn mower wich has 6 settings. Six being 4" and I did that with a 3 which is about 2.5" the lowest setting, one, is 1.5". I had to stop at 3 because the lawn mower was having such a hard time that it would just die completely and I'd have to restart it. So it can go lower obviously. I also have a John Deere S120 which is what I cut my St. Aug with. That can go to 1" and has a lot more power obviously so if you guys think it be necessary I could take it even lower than the 2.5" it is at now.

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