It’s not surprising to find centipede grass on the lawns of many properties across the nation. It is a low-maintenance, coarse-leafed type of turfgrass that doesn’t require much mowing or fertilizing. It can also grow with just six hours of sunlight each day. But understanding how to care for centipede grass is still crucial if you want your lawn to be healthy.
As with any grass, the success that your centipede grass will enjoy depends in large part on the environment in which you live. In areas with widely divergent temperatures, wind, and weather conditions from the spring to summer, fall, and winter, centipede grass will be harder to maintain. Freezing conditions, especially when they occur unexpectedly early or late, can also affect the centipede grass’s health.
Understanding how to care for centipede grass year-round will help keep your lawn green and healthy. Here are some simple tips that will ensure you take the best care of your grass every month of the year.
From January until spring arrives in April, the grass may be dormant depending on the temperature conditions. If you are mowing, be sure to leave at least 1″ of clearance, which will help protect the grass.
You can expect the grass to start to green up in April in most areas of the country. Once the growing season begins, use a bagger on your mower to sweep up any dead material that you might collect. As an alternative, rake your lawn to remove any dead leaves and grass clippings.
Keep in mind that spring does not always arrive as scheduled. If it comes later in the year, such as May, for example, you may see the grass green up and die in cycles as late frosts persist. Just keep the mower at a 1″ clearance to protect the soil, and you should be fine.
Spring and Summer
From May to August is when most of the mowing takes place. The ideal height setting for your mower is 1″ to 2″ depending on the conditions. If your lawn has plenty of shade, 2″ is usually best to keep the grass healthy. A significant factor in caring for centipede grass during the summer months is how you mow during the height of the growing season.
In fact, keeping your lawn at 2″ is a good general rule during the spring and summer months. This helps protect the grass during the early growing stages. Plus, it helps prevent accidental scalping if you have some uneven areas of your lawn. You should also expect to do more weeding during this time of year.
As you reach the hot summer months of July and August, lower your mower towards 1″ clearance. This will help keep the lawn healthy and resilient when precipitation becomes more scarce and the weather really heats up.
Fall and Early Winter
Centipede grass slows its growth from September into December. The cooler temperatures combined with reduced sunlight will mean that you will mow less often. Keep the blade around 2″ above the ground. This allows the grass enough length to resist the first frost.
You may need to apply more water at this time, depending on the amount of rainfall that your area receives. If you are using fertilizer, nitrogen is generally not needed during this time. Potassium is usually better as the grass starts to slow its growth.
General Tips to Care for Centipede Grass
Every part of the country has its unique conditions. Some regions are prone to early or late frosts. Other areas have very hot weather during the summer or a considerable number of lawn pests. To care for your centipede grass, you need to address those conditions.
One aspect of lawn mowing that often gets overlooked despite the damage it may be causing is how sharp your blade is. A dull blade can still cut the grass, but it can begin to pull up the grass by the roots if you never sharpen it. Don’t wait until you see bare patches left behind by your dull mower blade. Instead, check the blade regularly and sharpen it when necessary.
Proper watering is a balancing act. You need to keep enough water in the soil for the grass to access the nutrients, but apply too much water, and the grass will drown. If you overwater, you will notice diminishing quality and texture of the grass blades and a dull lawn. When you underwater, the grass starts to turn brown because it cannot access the nutrients in the soil.
However, since all lawns are different, you will have to engage in a little trial and error before finding the right amount of time to water your lawn. Your grass needs the most water during the hot summer months when evaporation robs the plant of its moisture.
You should add fertilizer when a soil test indicates that it is needed. Otherwise, stay away from fertilizer because overfertilizing may do more harm than good. If the soil still has plenty of nutrients, there’s no reason to pile on the fertilizer. You should conduct a soil test on different parts of your lawn at regular intervals—every couple of years, at least. Use that to gauge your soil’s needs. The Turfgrass Group recommends fertilizing TifBlair™ Centipede Grass annually during the growing season, with between 1 and 2 pounds of nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet.
However, if you see some indications of grass that is not that healthy, conduct a soil test in the area right away. Be sure to use the type of fertilizer that provides the nutrients required by your lawn in particular.
Consult a Professional
There is no such thing as too much knowledge when it comes to caring for centipede grass. Consult with a local professional about how you can better take care of your lawn. They can provide valuable insight into the conditions unique to your part of the country. One easy way to find a local expert is to visit your regional extension office. Most counties have an office, and the professionals there are happy to help.
When you know how to care for centipede grass, your lawn care will be much more effective, and you’ll do it in less time while still getting excellent results.