Centipede Grass: A Complete Guide
Centipede grass is warm season grass popular in the southeast areas of the United States. Its heat tolerance and ability to grow in less-than-fertile soils make it a great choice for someone looking for a lawn with low maintenance requirements. When properly cared for, and not in dormancy, centipede grass is a light green color. While centipede grass has a fair amount of shade tolerance, it grows best with plenty of direct sunlight. Although well-suited for hotter, sunnier climates, it does not tolerate drought well, and requires more watering than other popular warm season grasses. To be sure whether centipede grass is the right choice for your lawn, contact a local lawn care expert.
How To Grow Centipede Grass from Seed
You have multiple options when establishing a new centipede grass lawn. The most budget friendly way of establishing new grass is by seeding. When using seed, a healthy lawn starts with your seed choice. Make sure you consult a professional to be sure you are selecting the best seed for the soil and climate conditions in your area. Generally, the best time to begin establishing a brand-new centipede grass lawn is in the late spring or early summer months, such as May and June. For a warm season grass like centipede, the soil needs to be at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the seeds to begin germination.
Once you have selected your seeds, you need to prepare your soil to give the seeds the best chance of germinating and establishing strong roots. The first step in this process is tilling, which is breaking up and stirring the soil. You can do this simply with a rake or with a dedicated tilling tool. After the soil is well-tilled, apply about an inch of fresh soil to give the seeds the nutrients they need to grow healthily. You can even improve the health of your grass and soil further by adding fertilizer after spreading the seed. Finally, you should water your burgeoning lawn every day, ensuring the soil stays moist until the seeds grow to about two inches in height.
How To Grow It from Plugs or Sod
The process of growing a centipede grass lawn from plugs or sod is much simpler than growing it from seed, albeit a bit more expensive. Due to the ease with which you can establish a new lawn from already growing sources, you will pay a premium for the convenience. However, the benefit could definitely outweigh the cost if your budget and needs allow for it. The main difference between sod and plugs is that sod is generally used for covering large areas whereas plugs tend to be used for filling in bald patches in your already existing yard.
Like seeding, you are going to want to prepare the soil through tilling, fresh soil, and fertilization with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Once the sod is laid down, water it twice a day for the first couple of weeks. This will allow the grass to take root.
How To Maintain Centipede Grass
Regular fertilization and mowing are the key to lawn maintenance, among other tasks. For a centipede grass lawn, you want to ensure you align your maintenance schedule with the seasons in which the grass thrives. As a warm season grass, centipede grass is best suited for hotter climates, like those of the southeast. For that reason, it does not tolerate cold well, and does most of its growing in the summer months. Unlike other warm weather grasses, centipede grass does not generally go into dormancy, like St. Augustine grass or Zoysia grass. This means that if temperatures drop too low and frost occurs, your centipede grass lawn could not only sustain injury, but long-term exposure to freezing temperatures will kill it. This is why in winter you will not want to fertilize if you live in an area susceptible to ice, because you will be encouraging growth, making it more vulnerable to damage.
Springtime is when your fertilization efforts begin, once soil temperatures consistently rise to above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, you will want to conduct a soil test, as this will tell you exactly what nutrients your lawn is lacking. This information will help you decide the perfect fertilizer for your grass’s needs, generally one with a high nitrogen content. This will be indicated by the numbers on the fertilizer bag, as a ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium (NPK). If a soil test cannot be conducted, your best bet is to use a fertilizer with a NPK ratio of 3-1-2.
As warm season grasses thrive in summer, you will want to maintain a schedule of fertilization every 6 to 8 weeks, continuing through summer until autumn. Once temperatures start dropping, your centipede grass lawn will begin going into dormancy and will not need fertilizer.
The mowing schedule for a centipede grass is fairly consistent, with a height of one and a half inches being optimal. You can avoid mowing in the winter if your lawn goes into dormancy, however, if you live in a warmer part of the United States, you might need to keep a mowing schedule year-round.
How To Get Rid of It
If you have a lawn consisting of a different type of grass, or your centipede grass is spreading to other areas of your yard, such as a garden, you will want to kill it as quick as possible. The best way to control weeds in your lawn is with a pre-emergent herbicide, which can often be found mixed in with fertilizer as well. This will prevent weed seeds from germinating, killing them at the source before they can become a problem.
If you already have a weed infestation, a selective herbicide will kill only specific types of plants by targeting metabolic processes based on the species of the plant. If you already have a particularly aggressive weed infestation, you might have to use a non-selective post-emergent herbicide, which could require the help of a professional. A non-selective herbicide will kill every plant it comes into contact with, so it should be applied with precision and care.
To ensure your lawn is always in its best condition, reach out to us here at LawnCare.Net to get connected with local experts that can provide the services and lawn care plans your outdoor space needs.