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How To Grow and Care for Centipede Grass?

Centipede Grass

Bugs crawling over your lawn are often seen as pests, but what if there’s a type of grass that looks like a carpet of moving centipedes?

You might be surprised to know that centipede grass is a great low-maintenance option for your lawn.

You’re about to discover how to grow and care for centipede grass to have a beautiful lawn with minimum effort.

What Is Centipede Grass?

Centipede grass is a type of warm-season grass that originated in China and Southeast Asia.

It was introduced to the United States in the early 1900s and has become popular in the southern regions.

Here are some of its features and benefits:

  • It has a coarse texture and a light green color.
  • It grows slowly and spreads by stolons (horizontal stems).
  • It requires little maintenance and fertilizer.
  • It can thrive in poor soil and hot climates.
  • It can tolerate some shade and drought.

However, centipede grass is not for everyone. It does not tolerate heavy traffic or wear and is sensitive to cold temperatures and excessive fertilization.

Centipede Grass: Sun and Acid Soils Are Its Jam!

Centipede grass is best suited for USDA hardiness zones 7 to 10, which means it can survive in areas where the minimum winter temperature is between 0°F and 40°F (-18-4°C).

It prefers acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 6.5 and full sun to partial shade. It also needs regular watering during the establishment period and dry spells.

Preparing the Soil for Planting Centipede Grass

Before planting centipede grass, preparing the soil to ensure optimal growth is essential.

Here’s what you need to know.

Soil Preparation

Clear the area of any debris, including rocks and weeds.

Break up any compacted soil so that the roots can penetrate easily.

You can use a rototiller for larger areas or a hand rake for smaller ones.

Soil Testing

Test the soil pH and nutrient levels to determine whether adjustments are necessary.

Centipede grass prefers slightly acidic soils, so if the pH is too high, you may need to add sulfur to lower it.

Fertilizing

Centipede grass requires minimal fertilization, so applying the right type and amount is essential.

A slow-release fertilizer with a 4-1-2 ratio is ideal for centipede grass.

Choosing the Right Time To Plant

Plant centipede grass in late spring or early summer when soil temperatures reach 70°F (20°C).

Avoid planting during hot and dry periods, as the grass will struggle to establish itself.

How To Grow Centipede Grass?

Centipedegrass
Source: Wikimedia

Now that you’ve prepared the soil, it’s time to plant your centipede grass.

Here’s what you need to know.

Seed Selection

You can either plant centipede grass seed or sod.

Seed is a more cost-effective option, but it takes longer to establish.

Sod is more expensive, but it provides an instant lawn.

Seeding Techniques

Spread the seed evenly over the soil surface using a seed spreader.

Rake the seed into the soil to ensure good soil-to-seed contact.

For best results, overseed at a rate of 1-2 pounds (0.45-0.9 kg) per 1,000 square feet (93 square meters).

Watering the Newly Planted Grass

Water the newly planted grass frequently and lightly to keep the soil moist.

The first few weeks are critical for establishing the roots, so be sure not to let the soil dry out.

Post-Planting Care for Centipede Grass

Now that you’ve planted your centipede grass, it’s time to start thinking about keeping it lush and green.

Follow the tips below to ensure your centipede grass stays in top shape.

Watering

Centipede grass requires infrequent but deep watering.

Water the lawn deeply, about an inch (2.5 cm) per week, and let the soil dry out slightly between waterings.

Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to disease and pest problems.

Mowing

Mow the grass to a height of 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm).

Avoid mowing too short, as this can damage the grass and leave it susceptible to weeds and pests.

Mow regularly, but avoid removing more than one-third of the grass blades at a time.

Fertilizing

Centipede grass requires minimal fertilization but needs some nutrients to thrive.

Apply a slow-release fertilizer with a 4-1-2 ratio in the spring and fall.

Weed Control

Centipede grass is relatively weed-resistant, but it’s still essential to watch for any unwanted plants.

Use a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to prevent weed seeds from germinating, and spot-treat any weeds that appear.

How To Get Rid of Centipede Grass?

Centipede grass may not be your ideal choice of lawn for various reasons.

Maybe you want to switch to a different type of grass that matches your climate or style better.

Whatever the reason, getting rid of centipede grass is not an easy task, but it can be done with some patience and persistence.

Here are some methods you can try.

Use Non-Selective Herbicides

These herbicides kill all types of plants (e.g., glyphosate).

This is the most effective and fastest way to kill centipede grass, but it also kills other plants in the area and may harm the environment.

You must apply the herbicide multiple times, follow the label instructions carefully, and wait for the grass to die completely before removing it.

Use Solarization To Kill Centipede Grass With Heat

Use clear plastic sheets to cover the grass and let the sun heat the soil underneath.

This can kill the grass and its roots and any weeds or pests in the soil.

However, this method takes a long time (several weeks or months) and may not work well in cloudy or cool weather.

Use Smothering To Kill Centipede Grass With Mulch

Cover the grass with thick organic material, such as wood chips, straw, newspaper, cardboard, or compost.

This can deprive the grass of light and air, eventually killing it.

However, this method also takes a long time (several months or more) and may not work well if the grass is too thick or resilient.

You must also add more mulch as it decomposes and ensure it covers the entire area.

Dealing With Problems Growing Centipede Grass

Brown patch of Centipede grass

Centipede grass may seem like a low-maintenance lawn option, but it has its challenges.

Like any living thing, it can suffer from various problems that affect its health and appearance.

Some of the most common problems are the following.

Iron Deficiency

This causes the grass to turn yellow or pale green, especially in alkaline soils.

To prevent or correct this problem, apply iron supplements or acidify the soil with sulfur or peat moss.

Thatch Buildup

Thatch is a layer of dead grass and organic matter that accumulates on the soil surface, preventing water and air from reaching the roots.

Aerate the soil regularly and remove excess thatch with a rake or a dethatcher.

Pest and Disease Infestation

Centipede grass can be attacked by various insects, fungi, bacteria, and viruses that cause damage or disease.

The most common ones are mole crickets, armyworms, nematodes, brown patches, dollar spots, and large patches.

Always maintain a healthy lawn with proper watering, mowing, and fertilizing, and use appropriate pesticides or fungicides if needed.

Conclusion

Centipede grass is a low-maintenance, warm-season lawn that suits sandy soils and hot climates well.

However, it also needs proper care and attention to prevent or deal with common issues such as iron deficiency, thatch buildup, and pest and disease infestation.

Follow the guidelines and suggestions in this article; you can have a healthy and beautiful centipede grass lawn that will last for a long time.

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