Centipede grass is a popular turf in Southeast parts of the United States. It is a low maintenance grass tolerant to drought and heat. However, Centipede grass has few downsides, it grows slowly and does not stand up to heavy foot traffic. Let’s look at how to make it spread faster and grow thicker.
Centipede grass is known to be slow growing but very aggressive. It can easily spread on your patios, driveways or flowerbeds. In lawn, you’ll want your centipede grass to spread faster and form a thick lush turf. You are not far away from your dream, as this very possible.
How to Make Centipede Grass Spread
You can make your centipede grass to spread faster and grow thick through a number of ways. The very first important thing is to implement the right growing conditions for centipede grass. Next you will have to do everything right during planting. Last but not least, you will have to carry out some basic care and maintenance.
Centipede Grass Growth Conditions
With a similar appearance to St. Augustine grass, centipede grass forms a thick sod with creeping horizontal stems that grows to a height of about 3 to 5 inches. This coarse textured grass spreads by production of above the ground runners called stolons.
Unlike other warm season grasses, centipede grass has low requirements of fertilizer and regular mowing which makes it a choice for many gardeners. Its pick growth happens in the warm months of spring through summer. In mild winter centipede may retain its light green color.
Centipede grass prefers acidic sandy soils the reason it thrives in coastal plains of the southeast, from Carolinas to the gulf coast of Texas. Northern of this region, winters are too cold for centipede grass to survive while soils in southwest are too alkaline for this turf.
Centipede grass needs about 6 hours of full direct sunlight to grow well. It can tolerate shade and thus one of the idea grass to grow under trees. Since centipede grass has swallow roots and forms above-ground runners, heavy traffic can cause significant damage that will also take longer to recover.
Apart from less fertilizer and mowing requirements, dethatching is not a common practice for centipede grass. Sandy soils drain faster and you will need to do watering during drought for your grass to remain green. Before using weed control products and fertilizers, read the product label to be sure that it safe for centipede grass.
Planting Centipede Grass
Ideal soil and climate conditions of your region are very important factors for a successful growth of centipede grass. A new lawn of centipede grass can be planted from seed or sod with the latter taking short time but cost more. Your choice will depend on time you have and the depth of your pockets.
Late spring through early summer when soils is warm becomes the right time to plant centipede grass. Seed or overseed your lawn after all the frost danger has passed and soil warms to 65°F – 70°F. These conditions might vary slightly depending on where you live in the Southeast Unites States.
Adequate soil preparation is also important for faster growth and spreading of the grass seedlings. Testing of soil pH has to be done to ensure the pH is ranging from 4.5 to 6.0. Rake the area to loosen up the top soil and to get rid of any hard debris.
When seeding a large area, a spreader will make the work easier. Once done, gently rake the seed into the soil. Watering is critical for a proper seed germination. You’ll need to keep the area moist through daily watering until when the seedlings sprout from the soil. That should be between 10 to 30 days.
While less fertilizer will be needed for the growth of this turf, applying a starter fertilizer like Scotts turf builder will help the grass to grow faster. Any additional fertilizer will depend on the overall health of the grass or per the recommendations from your soil analysis.
Maintaining centipede grass
The following care and maintenance practices are important for faster growth and spreading of your centipede grass.
Avoid heavy Traffic: Centipede grass does not tolerate heavy foot traffic. This grass will not easily recover from a lot of wear and tear. That means your lawn will need some protection from playing kids, pets and any form of heavy traffic.
Mow properly: Mowing is an important requirement for a lush green lawn. For your centipede grass, do the first mowing when it reaches the height of 3 inches. This gives the roots ample time to establish well in the soil and the grass blades to grow strong and healthy in their new environment.
Always ensure the mower blades are sharp for a clear clean cut. Remember the 1/3 rule – remove the top ⅓ of the grass blades at any one time. Centipede grass should be maintained at 1½ to 2 inches tall for it to spread faster and grow denser.
Water during drought: Although drought tolerant, centipede grass may turn brown with prolonged drought conditions. This is attributed to swallow root system in the upper soil layer. Apply about 1 inch of water when you see the blades rolling, grass wilting or turning brownish.
Feed your lawn: Centipede grass requires little grass fertilization. Too much of it will may lead to grass browning or turning yellow. Feed the established lawn once in mid-spring and again in mid-summer with a slow release nitrogen fertilizer that is recommended for centipede grass.
Control weeds: Weeds are always a problem for any grass. A pre-emergent weed control application can be done before planting your centipede grass or in the early spring for established lawn. Alternatively, a weed and feed product can be used once the grass if fully out of dormancy and its actively growing.
Repair bare spots: Bare spots in a lawn can result from too much wear and tear, prolonged drought and inability of all seeds to germinate. To make your centipede grass spread quickly and prevent weeds from taking over, you should repair all bare spots by sodding or overseeding in late spring or early summer.
Centipede grass is a favorite for home in the Southeast part of the United Sated. It is a low maintenance turf that can be used to decorate sandy lawns. Proper soil and climate conditions, adequate timing, soil preparation and proper care are critical for faster spreading of centipede grass. Any feed, weed and pest control products should be used as directed by the product manufactures.