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For the UPDATED version of this web-page click on the link below...

For the interest of all future lawn planters in the Tampa, Florida region and all of Southern U.S.A....

Aug 6, '02 (Updated Oct 21, '02 & Nov 14, '03) - Greetings!  My name is Smiley Papenfus.  I have a lush smooth carpet of

EMPIRE Zoysia lawn around my new home - it's a wonderful lawn - I'm really pleased with it.
I'm originally from South Africa, where many homes have picturesque gardens.  Our family moved to Florida in 1994.
Being accustomed to lush lawns that really enhance ones home, I was most surprised that a coarse scraggy grass like St. Augustine was the popular choice for the majority of Tampa homes.  I thought, 'surely there must be a better alternative to St. Augustine.'  I wondered, 'what is the best lawn for our warmer climate?'
One morning, on my daily walk past the entrance of Bloomingdale Golfers Club on Natures Way, the greenskeeper happened to be trimming some trees there.  Wanting to learn from the many years of experience of this senior lawn expert, I asked, "What would your top recommendation be for a beautiful and reliable lawn?"  His immediate response was, "EMPIRE Zoysia!!!" - a lawn I had never heard of before.

A short while later, a garden around the corner from our previous home in S. Valrico laid down a beautiful new lawn - truly eye catching and appealing.  I rushed home to get my wife to show her the lush smooth soft carpet of fine broad leaf grass.  She responded, "That's the lawn we've got to have in our next garden", which set me off to find out what kind of lawn it was.  When the owners of that beautiful lawn came home, they informed me it was EMPIRE Zoysia - coincidently the same lawn that the greenskeeper had highly recommended.

Since then I've done extensive research on EMPIRE Zoysia and found it to be
perfect for warmer climates in S. USA.  You may ask, "If it's so good, why isn't everyone using it?"  Either (i) they don't know about it or (ii) because it's more expensive - BUT I've found a reputable Tampa supplier called 'Agro-Turf', who offered to supply EMPIRE Zoysia for a discounted price of only 2c more per SqFt (usually 10c more).  Price aside, EMPIRE Zoysia has several advantages over St. Augustine - see the 'comparison table' below ê.  Your local supplier of EMPIRE Zoysia can be located at

Come and see the difference in appearance and touch for yourself at my home - I welcome you to contact me for my honest experience with EMPIRE Zoysia vs St. Augustine...
J  Tel: 813.600.3292 -
15322 VireoGlen Lane, Lithia, FL, 33547
We are constantly being asked what kind of lawn we have and where did we get it - evidence that many locals are dissatisfied with the long term results of St. Augustine and would love a more reliable lawn to enhance their home.

ç Compare EMPIRE Zoysia's smooth carpet to the coarse scraggy look of St. Augustine at the foot of the picture on the left and also in the close up below ê.



1. Low maintenance lawn - nicknamed "EZ" lawn.  It grows slower, needing only to be cut every 7-14 days.  Maintain between 1-2" (1" is optimal).  Heights above 2" will reduce quality.  Cut with a sharp blade standard rotary mower.  Never cut more than 1/3 of the total length of the blade.  EMPIRE Zoysia prefers a mower that bags the clippings.
2. Due to its deep massive root system EMPIRE Zoysia can survive on one third of the water that St. Augustine does, which is a major plus, because Tampa municipality has frequently restricted watering - è currently it's once a week.
3. EMPIRE Zoysia has rapid injury recovery after drought.
4. EMPIRE Zoysia was discovered in hot humid Brazil.  It does well in heat and humidity.
5. EMPIRE Zoysia is weed resistant due to it's tight mat and strong, thick, deep root structure that has a reputation to stand up to invading grasses and weeds.  It's called EMPIRE because of its dominance.
6. EMPIRE Zoysia is ideal for kids to romp and play ball on.  It's planted in parks for its excellent wear tolerance, eye catching dark green color and soft-to-the-touch feel.
7. EMPIRE Zoysia looks like a beautiful lush soft inviting carpet that will greatly enhance the beauty of one's home.
8. EMPIRE Zoysia is susceptible to billbugs which are easy to detect and treat with Sevin from Wal-Mart.

St. Augustine

1. è High maintenance - grows to ±7" by the seventh day and only looks really good for a day or two after it's been cut, because it can't be mowed lower than 3".
2. Unless it is regularly well watered St. Augustine develops dead patches and is quickly overrun by weeds, other grasses, horrible Crabgrass - it struggles in our Florida heat under severe watering restrictions.
3. St. Augustine recovers poorly after drought.
4. St. Augustine does not do as well in the heat, unless daily well watered.
5. On my past daily walks in S. Valrico, I noticed 8 out of 10 St. Augustine lawns were overrun by Bermuda, Bahai, ghastly Crabgrass, and a multitude of weeds.  I saw home owners with one year old lawns that were already needing to replant because of a Bermuda takeover - then have to do it a second time because of a Crabgrass takeover.
6. I had to stop the kids playing ball on my old St. Augustine lawn, because it quickly wore thin and bared under traffic.  Come to think of it, you seldom see kids playing on St. Augustine lawn - maybe because of it's uncomfortable feel.
7. St. Augustine is a coarse lawn, often with a scraggy appearance.
8. St. Augustine is susceptible to chinch bugs, webworms & mole crickets, which are more difficult to detect and treat.

NB. Please don't confuse EMPIRE Zoysia with negative reports you may read about the many other types of Zoysia grasses that do well up North, but should never have been planted in Florida.  EMPIRE Zoysia is a specialized species that has been thoroughly tested and proven to thrive in the Southern U.S.A.  PageDn ê to read about the other species of Zoysia grasses.

EMPIRE Zoysia also has good shade tolerance; performs well in sandy and clay soils, has good cold tolerance and excellent salt tolerance - causing it to thrive near coastal conditions.

Please do call
è Sod Solutions on 843.849.1288 for a FREE full color informative brochure on è EMPIRE Zoysia, with the opinions of 5 lawn experts, to be mailed to you.  Their web-site has good information on lawn planting and maintenance.
Here is the
testimony of one of the aforementioned 5 experts: "At King Ranch, we call EMPIRE Zoysia the 'EZ' grass because it's so easy to grow and maintain.  We think the public are ready for a new and improved turfgrass, so we're excited about growing and marketing EMPIRE Zoysia." - Paul Grose, General Manager, è King Ranch, FL.

è EMPIRE Zoysia is naturally resistant to the weed killing chemicals (i) Fusilade, (ii) MSMA and (iii) 2-4-D - making it relatively easy to control weeds.  I personally just pull the few weeds I see before mowing with my standard rotary mower and grassbox - EMPIRE Zoysia prefers the clippings to be bagged.  As you're only cutting ½ to 1" off a week, the grassbox is really no bother at all.  Because weeds grow so much faster than slow growing EMPIRE Zoysia, they stand out like a sore thumb, and are easy to locate and pull.  I just leave them lying on the lawn to be sucked up by the mowers grassbox - unless they have seeds; those I throw down the storm-water drain.  There's an important rule that says if you have a choice between weeding and mowing, always choose mowing.  Regular short mowing does discourage weed growth - but prompt pulling of weeds prevents their deadly spreading.  With weeding, a stitch in time (most definitely) saves nine (or 100 or 1,000).  Regularly go for an enjoyable stroll around your lawn at dusk and pull those nasty few weeds, before they multiply and have you pulling your hair out.

Folks planting St. Augustine today, will almost certainly at some time in the future have either a Bermuda, Crabgrass or a weed infestation war to wage.  New home owners and second time lawn planters should seriously look into planting EMPIRE Zoysia as an appealing low maintenance alternative.

This slow growing lawn needs 12 months for the roots to fully establish in order for it to reach its full drought capability, reputation and resilience.  On the other hand St. Augustine lawn owners will have to permanently pay for the extra two thirds of water that their thirsty lawn demands.  They'll have to do high volume weeding, fight off invading lawns, re-plant sections of lawn, etc.  All these problems can be minimized by planting EMPIRE Zoysia - recommended by the expert greenskeeper at Bloomingdale Golfers Club.  Another point to consider is that an enhancing lawn does have a positive effect on the re-sale value of one's home.

Planting A New EMPIRE Zoysia Lawn

Because EMPIRE Zoysia is such a slow growing lawn, it is not at all advisable to plant plugs or seed - they'll both take too long - at least one full growing season - and until the lawn is established you'll be fighting weeds in the bare patches that whole year - no fun - definitely not recommended.  The only recommended way to plant EMPIRE Zoysia is with sod.
Soil preparation would best be accomplished by tilling your property or a second option would be to kill off the existing lawn and weeds chemically, before planting EMPIRE Zoysia sod.
Naturally a new lawn will need to be watered regularly - everyday the first 30 days - then backing off to every 2nd and 3rd day - which encourages the roots to grow deep in search of water - but without some regular water for the entire first year, the roots won't be able to effectively grow and spread. 
Click on this
è sod locator link to find your closest EMPIRE Zoysia sod supplier for a free quotation and expert advice.

Cost Calculations...

EMPIRE Zoysia costs a bit more than other sod, because it's so slow growing, giving suppliers a lower yield and turnover time - so they have to up their price to stay in business - but most are open to negotiate some.
Even though it costs more, I would not plant anything else, because I like high quality / low maintenance lawn - you get what you pay for.
Tim Ward from 'Agro-Turf' in Tampa only charged our community
2c more per SqFt (usually 10c more per SqFt), which translated to ±$120 more for our 6,000 SqFt of lawn.
Is this extra $120 a good investment?
There is an old South African saying that reads, "Cheap buying ends up being expensive buying", because initially saving $120 on St. Augustine, but down the road having to re-plant with EMPIRE Zoysia is bad economics (besides having to do the back breaking job all over again - which usually ends up being unsightly, as replanted sod over an existing lawn stands too high above the sidewalk).
The dollar implication of this double buying (as of August '02) is…
1. $720 for St. Augustine
2. $840 for EMPIRE Zoysia
Totaling $1,560
If you bought EMPIRE Zoysia alternative lawn in the first place you'd save $720 in the long run - not to mention the water and chemicals you'll save, which over time will exceed $120.


è is an interesting web-site that explains how to fertilize correctly.
What do those 3 numbers on every fertilizer bag mean?  N P K base - N=nitrogen, P=phosphorus, and K=potassium.
N - Nitrogen promotes foliage and overall growth, also a healthy dark green lawn.
P - Phosphorus promotes good deep root development.
K - Potassium promotes diseases resistance plus the flowering and fruit development in plants.
Recommended for EMPIRE Zoysia (in fact for all warm season grasses)…
Starter = 18:24:6 - high phosphorous and nitrogen levels are ideal for new lawns to drive the roots down and green it up.
Lawn Food = 27:4:6 - high slow release nitrogen gives a sustained Spring boost to produce a dark green lush lawn.  Re-apply at least one more time during the Summer.
Winterizer = 5:5:25 - a high potassium content is an excellent disease fighter.
I just use an all purpose 10:10:10 lawn, shrub & tree fertilizer by Rite Green from Wal-Mart for under $5.00 a bag for all seasons.  These other 'specialized' fertilizers cost up to $30.00 a bag - it's crazy!!!  With a 'push type' fertilizer spreader I can evenly distribute a 40 lb bag of fertilizer in 5 minutes.  I apply this at least 4 times a year to produce a thick lush deep green healthy lawn.
I also soak any dormant or ant patches with
Specticide (in a spray bottle connected to my garden hose) to kill whatever bugs might be attacking the roots or foliage.  The dark green lush color comes back to that patch within a few days.

Two Local Suppliers Of EMPIRE Zoysia For Tampa Residents...

1. 'Agro-Turf', Tampa, FL - Tim Ward (who gave me excellent service) - 813.633.3094 W  813.781.1888 C - Email.
2. 'SMR Turf & Trees', Bradenton, FL - Clive - 941.708.0772 - - Email.
Go to for your local S. USA supplier.

14 Other Varieties of Zoysia grasses...

1. Zenith Zoysia   2. Companion Zoysia   3. Empress Zoysia   4. El Toro Zoysia   5. Emerald Zoysia   6. Meyer Zoysia - Z-52 or Amazoy   7. Belaire Zoysia   8. Cashmere Zoysia   9. Cavalier Zoysia   10. Crowne Zoysia   11. De Anza Zoysia   12. Diamond Zoysia   13. Palisades Zoysia   14. Victoria Zoysia.

Only the first 4 Vireo Ridge home owners who put their names down before the end of September '02 deadline were granted permission to plant EMPIRE Zoysia lawn by Newland Communities as a Fishhawk Ranch experimentation project.  In my estimation the experiment was a great success, opening the way for others to confidently plant EMPIRE Zoysia lawn.  Those first 4 Vireo Ridge properties are...
1. Lot 29 - Smiley & Marlene Papenfus - 15322 VireoGlen Ln, Vireo Ridge, Fishhawk Ranch - My web-site
2. Lot 28 - 15324 VireoGlen Ln, Vireo Ridge, Fishhawk Ranch
3. Lot 14 - Ron Leybovich - 6130 VireoRidge Dv, Vireo Ridge, Fishhawk Ranch
4. Lot 11 - Perla & Del Gonzalez - 6131 VireoRidge Dv, Vireo Ridge, Fishhawk Ranch.
All the above accurate information is from thorough research and talking to several lawn experts who have many years of experience working with both St. Augustine and EMPIRE Zoysia lawns.
Two of the above folks have communicated with me that their decision to plant EMPIRE Zoysia was based on what they read here AND their OWN OUTSIDE RESEARCH - confirming the accuracy of the information on this web-page.

Vireo Ridge Developers:-
Inland Homes - Allen Henderson & Sabal Homes - Bill Lee

Landscape Developer for Sabal Homes:-
Turf-Keepers - Roger - Tel: 633.2092x229 & 295.3458 Cell

Landscape Architect's for Fishhawk Ranch:-
Newland Communities - Rhonda Brewer - Tel: 631.0306x18 & 685.7500 @ Fishhawk Ranch.

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