Centipede grass doesn’t need winterizing. Do the right things as needed, and centipede grass will provide a low maintenance, dense carpet for a well-landscaped look.
Centipede needs far less fertilizer than many lawn grasses, and it generally requires fertilization once a year — in early summer or late spring. Use a fertilizer with low nitrogen. Those numbers on the bag like 28-3-3 tell, respectively, the percent of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer.
The first number for centipede should be around eighteen. High nitrogen will green it up quickly, but can discourage deep root growth. This may expose the roots to freezing temperatures during the winter and cause “winter-kill.” Established lawns should grow well on an 18-0-18 formula. Centipede requires practically no phosphorus. Feed centipede once in the spring following directions on the bag. Persistent, heavy rainfall may leach nutrients from the soil and require re-fertilization. Additional fertilization may be required if soil is of poor quality. A soil test will provide the necessary information.
As an acid-loving grass, centipede usually does not require the addition of lime. Do not add lime without a soil test. Centipede can thrive with a soil pH of five or six. Raising the pH can weaken the grass.
When mowing, bag the clippings and compost them to prevent the formation of thatch which can cause lawn fungus and discourage deep roots. Centipede should be mowed to a height of 1 ½ inches. This height provides shade for the soil and conserves moisture. Centipede is not particularly tolerant of shade, drought, or traffic. One to two inches of water weekly is usually enough. Apply water twice a week about one inch each time.
Aeration is the process poking holes in the lawn providing space for roots and soil to expand. A deeper root base makes a lawn more heat and drought tolerant. Aeration aids water and nutrient infiltration and provides for better availability of oxygen to the grass. Aeration can be done anytime the grass is actively growing in the summer. It is best to aerate once a year on a continual basis. A gasoline-powered aerator works well.
Centipede may look nice when it a dark green, but actually its natural color is a more medium green. Fertilizing to keep that dark green color runs the risk of root overgrowth. If grass has a yellowish tint, it may need iron which can be provided by broadcasting iron sulfate.
Centipede lawns can be established with sod or seed. Sod is by far the preferred method. Centipede sod is relatively cheap and available. It comes in rolls, and two people can “roll out” an average lawn in a day. If you must use seed follow direction on the bag. Seeding with centipede is only a bit cheaper than sod because seed is expensive and requires frequent watering and a watchful eye to chase birds away. A heavy rain can quickly wash your investment away.
The most common problems with centipede are caused by uninformed homeowners who use too little water, too much fertilizer, or insist on adding lime. Cutting the grass too short also increases the need for water and adds stress to the lawn.
Small bare spots may appear in centipede. This may be due to disease, thatch, or soil conditions. For small spots, dig out the spot with a claw tool and loosen the soil to a depth of two or three inches. Add some topsoil. If the spot is smaller than six inches in diameter, the surrounding grass will grow over it. Large spots can be filled in with new sod.
Warm spells during an early spring may cause centipede to temporarily “green up,” as it doesn’t go into a real dormant stage in the winter. Cold weather or frost will kill the new growth, but it will come back as good as new when warm weather comes.
Thatch is the mat of dead grass that develops when cut grass in not bagged or when roots die in the winter. It’s easy to recognize –- just pull back the blades and look for a brown or gray dead mass on the grown. A small amount — it will decay if you water sufficiently.
Dense thatch can encourage insects, fungus, and winter-kill. Remove thatch with a thatch rake, a dethatching lawn mower blade, or a dethatching machine. Lawn services can also take care of this for you, but proper lawn care can go a long way toward preventing thatch.
The procedures above help insure a healthy centipede lawn. One of its main virtues is low maintenance, so don’t do things that are unjustified. A good centipede lawn pretty much takes care of itself. It doesn’t even need special care as winter approaches. Just do the usual summer work until it stops growing.
With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...