As we approach summer, it is important to remember that your lawn needs 1 inch of water every week. If rainfall does not provide this, you will need to add water or supplement water during dry spells. Sandy soil can require up to ½ inch of water every third day.
Centipedegrass should be mowed to 1 inch and should not be taller than 1 ½ inch. In mid June, fertilize with ½ pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. High potassium fertilizers like 5-5-15 or 8-8-24 work best. It is recommended to have your soil tested every 3 years to provide the most up to date information on soil composition and needed supplements, such as phosphorus.
June through August is the perfect time to apply postemergence herbicides as needed to control weeds such as knotweed, spurge, and lespedeza. Centipedegrass can be sensitive to certain herbicides though, like 2, 4-D, and MSMA, so be careful and follow label directions closely. If the lawn is suffering from drought stress or weeds are not actively growing, do not apply herbicides. Check for and control any white grubs and nematode damage. Soil testing is recommended for those suspecting nematode damage.
From September through November, raise the mowing height to 1 ½ inches several weeks before the first expected hard frost. For Pitt county, the average first frost date is November 4th. Fertilize with 1 pound of potassium per 1,000 square feet 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost using 1.6 pounds of muriate of potash or 2 pounds of potassium sulfate. Continue to water the lawn until it browns. This means that the lawn has gone dormant and only requires water to keep the soil from becoming powder-dry.
December through February requires little care of your lawn. Do not fertilize centipedegrass at this time. It can be helpful to remove lawn debris as it builds up, but never burn off centipedegrass to remove excessive debris. Broadleaf herbicides can be applied at this time as necessary to control chickweed and henbit. Herbicides like atrazine or simazine can be used to control annual bluegrass and winter broadleaf weeds.
Other things to look out for in your centipedegrass lawns are ground pearls, appearing as circular dead areas with only weeds growing in the center, and fairy rings, appearing as circular green or dead areas that continue to enlarge for several years. Mismanagement of herbicides can cause similar issues and may require a consultation with your Cooperative Extension agent.
Remember that it can take up to 3 years to establish a new lawn! Centipedegrass is well growing turf but it does not tolerate traffic, compaction, high-phosphorus soils, low-potassium soils, high pH, excessive thatch, drought, or heavy shade. If this grass continues to die in a certain location, that area may be better fit for a different species.
Written by: Katie Winslow - Extension Intern