So yesterday was the big day for planting my Zoysia ground cover – most people would call it grass, it is in the grass family but I like to think of it as a creeping ground cover to differentiate it from my neighbors lawn…not that it matters.

Zoysia is used all over the country on some of the top golf courses and I have been meaning to try it for my home lawn for 3 years but have been scared off by the negative comments made on gardening sites such as Dave’s Garden and the like. Pushed by my attempts to be more eco aware I finally decided I needed to spend $75 and try Zoysia for myself. I made my purchase on line from a company called Zoysia Farms a few weeks back and patiently waited for my order to arrive.

The box came just after our Pittsburgh spring cold snap. I was impressed by the fact that they seemed to have a good feel for the weather and sent it only when it was truly safe to plant.

Concerned about others comments that the process was long and back breaking I set aside the entire day to install my 700 plugs.

I didn’t get started until nearly 11:00 AM and was worried about the late start. I assembled my tool chest to make sure I had everything I might need.

1. Garden gloves are a must – I never work without them
2. A pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors (the kind you cut chicken bones with) turned out the be the best tool to cut plugs with but my garden shears came in handy as well
3. A soil rake and mini hand rake were helpful prep tools
4. While I’m sure the included step-on plugger or auger would have worked nicely I opted for a seed planter for smaller plugs and hole digger for medium plugs
5. I used a trowel for some of the soil prep and getting into some of the harder dirt
6. My tool kit also included a phone…just in case I had to call the company for questions

When I opened the box the sheets looked dense and brown. This did not concern me because I knew I wasn’t buying sod, I was buying bare roots to plant. There is a big difference and it is a widely successful practice for many garden products.

The underside of the sheets were lightly covered with a sandy kind of dirt. Since mine came late the previous afternoon I’d laid them out, blade side up and thoroughly watered them to make sure they would not dry out before I could plant them.

The area of my yard that I chose to work on had large spots of dirt with patchy grass and a lot of weeds. I chose not to dig up the whole area because frankly, I’m lazy. I did go as far as to remove the major weeds and I hosed the whole work area down with water to soften it up. Being damp and not muddy it was easy to work with. I loosened up the top layer with my soil rake and/or hand rake then began to dig my holes.

When ever I plant prep work is the most important step. I dig a $10 hole for a $1 plant. I spaced them fairly close together with the hopes that it would fill in faster then filled each with a bit of water and some good potting soil.

I chose to use larger plugs than suggested – this, combined with the closely spaced holes should shorten the fill in time but mostly I did it because of the lazy thing again…at least I know my faults.

Each plug fit neatly in its hole. I tamped dirt around it and, according to the directions, pressed it into the ground firmly with my garden crocs.

It took me about an hour to do the first two sheets and frankly by the end of it I was pretty bored. I worried that I wouldn’t have the attention span to finish the other 5 sheets. The work was far from back breaking as others had claimed but B-O-R-I-N-G. I went in had had a cold beer to see if I could muster the motivation to finish the rest.

The nice thing is that getting set up and working out a strategy was the longest part of the project. Once I had a rhythm I was on a role and within the next 2 hours I’d planted the remaining 5 sheets, had set the sprinklers to sprinkle my new charges and had all of my tools cleaned and put away.

I finished off by treated my entire yard with ETS Plus soil treatment from Perelandra using the ‘large area’ directions then went in to figure out what to do with the rest of my day.

In my mind the whole process was pretty straight forward. Obviously I can’t speak for how things will go from here but my guess is that it will go pretty much as the company says it will – it will take time to green up and it will spread over future growing seasons. There are, however, so many negative complaints out there that I feel compelled to provide my opinion about said complaints- for what its worth I think the bulk of the negative criticism comes from people who simply didn’t understand what they were getting themselves into.

Most of the complaints start with “I opened my box and it was all brown” – yes, that is how bare roots ship. The company is aware that this may worry some newbies so they are very clear that this is how it will look and why. For some reason some people simply don’t want to admit that a company who has been in business for over 50 years might know something they don’t.

Many people seemed frustrated that the ‘plugs’ weren’t separated better. Using a simple pair of kitchen shears I was able to cut plugs into any size I wanted, easily and without the threat of self endangerment. What amazed me most was that it was the people who had the most trouble in this area were most adamant that they’d follow the directions exactly. So they followed the directions exactly but didn’t bother to use the suggested tools?

The next most common complaint that I saw was the HOURS of BACK BREAKING work. I didn’t find it exactly back breaking but then I study Iyengar yoga so maybe I’m more masochistic than they are. The thing that I noticed is that most of the complaints were from people who ordered 1,000 plugs and intended to prep and plant a huge yard. How long did they think it was going to take? I mean lets be realistic – you know you have to prep the ground, cut a hole, cut a plug, fill the hole and do some post planting work. If that entire process only took 1 minute and the plugs were cut the exact right size to produce 1,000 plugs you would have to work two full 8 hour days to get it all done – do the math…I have to ask again, how long did they think it was going to take? Now I’ve already admitted that I cut my holes and plugs bigger than I needed to but that is because I didn’t feel like working for two days. The way I figure it is it will all fill in sooner or later so I started in a small area that needed the most work.

Many of the complaints came from people unhappy with the company’s customer service. Frankly I’m not buying it. The policies are clearly stated – There is no place that it is said that there is a money back guarantee. They make a commitment to their product and customers by committing to replace plugs that don’t grow – regardless of how poorly they are planted. If they were rude to someone it was probably because that person didn’t want to play by the rules they agreed to when they made the purchase…my guess is THEY were the one that was rude and were frustrated when the person on the other end of the phone didn’t buckle under the insults and suggested that the conversation was over.

I can see that the Zoysia isn’t for everyone. It is not for anyone who wants the immediate satisfaction that newly planted grass seed gives but this is not due to the fault of the product, only the decision making process that brought the complainer to choose the product.

Some of the complainers rant about this being a big scam – listen, I’m sure Zoysia Farms makes a decent living for the owners and employees but if they were making a killing on a scam they would have sold out and retired by now. Instead they have been in business for over 50 years doing the same thing year after year. They do this because they believe in their product – so far, so do I. I’ll keep you updated so you can decide for yourself.