An Empire Zoysia Lawn or A Buffalo Lawn?

There are so many different types of turf grasses out there. And often it is hard to know which one will be the best for your home. Today I want to chat with you about the difference between 3 different grasses. The Empire Zoysia, The Palmetto buffalo and the Sir Walter Buffalo.

All your friends and neighbours will have their favourite. And they will tell you which one they think is best. But like all things in life, we are all different with different wants and needs. Thats why there are different varieties of turf. So how do you choose? Let us help you make the right decision.

I have broken it down in to 5 main factors you need to consider.

Blade Width

This is quite often the most important of the differences. Not is it just aesthetically that the grasses look different, but the difference in the look of the blade of the grass means they will grow in different conditions. The leaf width will determine if the plant will need more or less sunlight to thrive.

A thinner leaf grass will need more direct sunlight per day to photosynthesise. The thinner the leaf the longer it has to be in the sun to convert food and sunlight into energy. The thicker the leaf the less time it needs. That is why your thin leaf grasses, like couches, need all day sun to thrive.

The Empire Zoysia, has a medium blade leaf, about 1.5mm wide. These leaves stand upright next to each other creating a thick mat. But being a thinner leaf, the Empire needs 4-5 hours of direct sunlight per day to stay healthy and dense and lush.

Instead of standing upright next to each other, the buffalo turf grasses leaves lie down flat. Covering more ground with a single leaf.

The Sir Walter has a leaf about 8mm in diameter. So a really wide leaf in comparison. This means that the Sir Walter can survive in shady areas, and only needs 3- 4 hours of direct sunlight per day to stay healthy.

The Palmetto has a slightly thicker leaf again. About 8.5-9mm wide. This gives the Palmetto the ability to stay in the dark for longer. To have a beautiful lush Palmetto lawn, you need at least 2.5-3 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Colour

Again, aesthetically this is really important to us all. We all have our own favourites on which colour is the best for our home. The darker the grass, the more sunlight it needs.

The Palmetto buffalo is a lighter green colour. The Empire Zoysia and the Sir Walter are a darker green colour, as they need relatively the same amount of direct sunlight per day.

How does it feel on bare feet?

The way your lawn feels to you is really important to us. The way it feels under, not only our bare feet, but our kids feet is really important. The way it feels when you roll around on it. We want to have something we can let the whole family run around on, and enjoy.

The Empire has a more cushioning feel to it. Allowing your foot to sinking in to the leaves of your lawn. It almost feels like a soft carpet you are placing your feet upon.

The Buffaloes have leaves that are coarser and thicker and flatter. They lay flat to create a dense layer of leaf as your lawn, but as the leaves are thicker, there is less of them per square centimetre, and more stolen ( the thicker stalky bit that the leaf grows off) so the lawn does not have the same softness to it. The leaves on the Sir Walter, being slightly thinner are probably a little softer than the Palmetto. But there really isn’t much in it. Often the weather conditions make a difference as well. The cooler the area, the softer the leaves. The hotter and drier, then the harsher the leaves.

Drought Tolerance and Drought Resistance and Recovery

Although this sounds complicated, it really just means how will it cope within our environment. Our beautiful patch of the world here, from the Gold Coast, through the Tweed Costs, and down into the Ballina Byron regions, has extreme weather conditions. Sometimes we are in droughts that are so hot, we all swelter, and the ground cracks. And then we have flooding rains that are so intense we cannot remember what the sun looks like. And then, something in between. But, so far it never snows.

Drought tolerance is different to resistance. According to Sod Solutions “…Drought tolerance is the ability to survive a drought. In comparison to drought tolerance, drought resistance is the ability to look good during drought…”

In hot, dry, drought conditions, The Empire Zoysia will curl its leaf up tight, to try and conserve water. It will start to loose colour, so it doesn’t heat up to much and have water evaporate from its leaf. And when the rains come, or the lawn is irrigated, the leaf will flatten out again, and the plant will recover. Although it will be slowly. It has poor drought resistance, but great drought tolerance.

In the Extremely wet conditions, the Empire will flatten its leaves and absorb what it can. But if the water puddles in your lawn, and then heats up in the sun, the Empire becomes susceptible to fungus infection such as rust (a yellow or red dust which forms on the leaf) or fairy ring fungus infections. These funguses can kill the Empire. But they can be killed with an application of fungicide such as Rovral or Manzcozeb. The empire will recover, but slowly. It’s pretty tough.

As for playability and regrowth, the Empire will handle almost anything you can play on it. Having a deep root system, means that the Empire is great at recovering. The Empire is more of a long distance runner, than a sprinter. So it’s leaf will grow slower than a Buffalo, but will come back with vigour. It will take less mowing though than the buffaloes. So you can spend more time playing on your lawn, than mowing it.

And what about the buffaloes?

Sir Walter is the thirstiest. It will need love and care of regular watering to stay nice and healthy. When it gets really dry, and we haven’t seen rain for ages, the Sir Walter will wither, and go brown. Once it goes brown all the way down the leaf, usually it does not recover.

In the extremes of our rain events, the Sir Walter will grow quickly. Lapping up all the rain; growing like there is no tomorrow. Its ability to grow quickly it’s one of its best attributes. The Sir Walter can handle all the wear and tear, games and running, ball throwing and backyard sports you and your family can throw at it. It just likes to occasionally have a little drink. It can get water logged sometimes, if the soil are not well draining, and this can cause a disease called black spot. This can be treated easily and quickly with aerating and a fungicide spray if necessary.

The Palmetto Buffalo grows slower and as the most drought tolerant buffalo available, it will hold its its colour for longer. And will feel softer under foot for longer as well in the extreme heat. But again, once the whole leaf goes brown, the plant is dead and cannot recover. Being able to survive in shadier areas, means it will stay greener and healthier for longer in the shade, sun or rain.

The Palmetto needs a third of the watering of any other buffalo. So it prefers sandy soils as its base. It hates having water sit around its root system. And water pooling around the thatch means a black spot fungus infection as well. Again aerating the area to allow air and water to move easier around the roots will mean that the plant stays healthy. A quick spray with Mancozeb should eliminate any fungus spores. The Palmetto doesn’t have the same quick growing recovery as the Sir Walter. Because it needs less sunlight to grow, it grows slower and steadier. As a beautiful thick lush lawn, that requires a third of the watering, feeding and loving to stay that way, the palmetto also needs a third of the mowing. In heavy shade, Palmetto wonderful.

Soils

Often choosing the right grass for your new lawn can also mean choosing the right grass for your area. A good start in life is important for your lawn. And your soils are the best way to start. A lot can change about your soils depending upon where you are; right up on the beach front, or if you are higher in the Mountains, or in a valley. Mostly there are sandy salty soils around the beach fronts. This sandy loam goes back for kilometres in our towns.

The Palmetto loves a free draining soil. And it does not mind being kissed by a little salt every now and again either. So it loves being beach side. The Palmetto still thrives in land, but it needs a well drained soil. This will ease those fungus infections.

The Sir Walter and the Empire love a heavy soil. The richer the better, as dark and moist and rich as a beautiful mud cake. The Empire and Sir Walter prefer to have wet feet and love to grow rapidly in these nutrient high soils. But if they are in sandy loams, their root systems just keep digging deeper and deeper. The Sir Walter doesn’t like the salty air sitting on its leaf though. It would prefer to be have clean fresh water. The Empire, although it can love happily on beach front conditions, would prefer a little richer environment.

So which one?

Ultimately the decision is yours. But we are here to talk you through the pros and cons of all of our varieties. If you like a thick leaf buffalo lawn, we can help you choose which one will suit your home and lifestyle. And if you prefer a thinner softer lawn, we can point you in the right direction.

Also check out the varieties page. See the Palmetto, The Sir Walter and Empire Zoysia.

Give us a call or drop us an email and we will help you get your best lawn!