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 downsides; it grows slowly and does not stand up to heavy foot traffic.
To make centipede grass spread, limit foot traffic, mow high, water thoroughly during drought and feed it with a slow-release nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Additionally, control weeds early in spring before getting the opportunity to choke the grass.
How to Make Centipede Grass Spread
You can make your centipede grass spread faster and grow thick in several ways. The first important thing is implementing 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 the production of above-the-ground runners called stolons.
Unlike other warm-season grasses, centipede grass has low requirements for 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 their light green color.
Centipede grass prefers acidic sandy soils, a reason why it thrives in the coastal plains of the southeast, from the Carolinas to the gulf coast of Texas. Northern of this region, winters are too cold for centipede grass to survive, while soils in the 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, is one of the ideal grass to grow under trees. Since centipede grass has to swallow roots and forms, above-ground runners and heavy traffic can cause significant damage and take longer to recover.
Apart from less fertilizer and mowing requirements, dethatching is not common for centipede grass.
Sandy soils drain faster, and you will need 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 is safe for centipede grass.
Planting Centipede Grass
Your region’s ideal soil and climate conditions are very important factors for the successful growth of centipede grass. A new lawn of centipede grass can be planted from sod, which takes a short time but costs more. Seed is a cheaper option.
When soil is warm, late spring through early summer becomes the right time to plant centipede grass. Seed or overseed your lawn after all the frost danger has passed and the soil warms to 65°F – 70°F. These conditions might vary slightly depending on where you live in the Southeast United States.
Adequate soil preparation is also important for grass seedlings’ faster growth and spreading. Soil pH testing must be done to ensure the pH ranges from 4.5 to 6.0. Rake the area to loosen up the topsoil and eliminate 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 proper seed germination. You’ll need to keep the area moist through daily watering until 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 on the recommendations from your soil analysis.
How to Make Centipede Grass Thicker
The following care and maintenance practices are important for the faster growth and spreading of your centipede grass.
1. Limit foot 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 protection from playing with kids, pets, and any form of heavy traffic.
2. Mow properly
Mowing is an important requirement for a lush green lawn. For your centipede grass, do the first mowing when it reaches a 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 time. Centipede grass should be maintained at 1½ to 2 inches tall to spread faster and grow denser.
3. Water during drought
Although drought tolerant, centipede grass may turn brown with prolonged drought conditions. This is attributed to the shallow root system in the upper soil layer. Apply about 1 inch of water when you see the blades rolling and the grass wilting or turning brownish.
4. Feed your lawn
Centipede grass requires little grass fertilization. Too much of it will 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 recommended for centipede grass.
5. 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 an established lawn.
Alternatively, a weed and feed product can be used once the grass is fully out of dormancy and is actively growing.
6. Repair bare spots
Bare spots in a lawn can result from too much wear and tear, prolonged drought, and the 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 homes 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, preparation, and care are critical for the faster spreading of centipede grass. Any feed, weed, and pest control products should be used as directed by the product manufacturers.