Centipede is a warm-season grass, which means that it is green in summer and brown or dormant above ground in winter. Centipede is a sod-forming, creeping grass. The leaf blades are broader and coarser than those of hybrid bermudagrass or zoysiagrass. Centipede forms a loose turf which is not very wear-resistant. Its natural color is yellow-green. It should not be heavily fertilized to get a dark green color. In fact, you should not push centipede to make it as green or grow as fast as other turfgrasses. If you do, you will kill it.
Centipede is best adapted to eastern North Carolina. In most cases it is subject to winter kill if planted north or west of Wake county. Centipede grows best in full sun but does well in light shade.
The first step in starting a centipede lawn is to get a soil test made and then follow the recommendations. Spread the suggested lime and fertilizer material evenly over the soil surface and then work it into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Rake or harrow the area, leaving it as smooth as possible. Seed or sprig in May, June, or July. Seed at the rate of one-fourth to one-half pound per 1,000 square feet. Since the seeds are very small, mix them with sand to improve your ability to sow them evenly over the lawn. Centipede is very slow to establish from seed. It may take 3 years to develop a good cover.
If sprigs are used, use the sprigs from one-half to three-fourths of a square yard of sod per 1,000 square feet. Water immediately after sowing the seed or setting the sprigs, and keep the soil moist until the plants are established.
As soon as your centipede begins to grow, apply 1/2 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. For faster spread, apply 1/2 pound of nitrogen every 2 to 4 weeks.
In future years, apply 15 pounds of 3-9-18 per 1,000 square feet around the first of May. This is all the fertilizer that your lawn need will most years. If you feel that it needs more fertilizer, apply another 15 pounds of 3-9-18 per 1,000 square feet in late July or early August. The best way to kill centipede is to apply too much fertilizer or lime.
Begin mowing your centipede when it gets 1 1/2 to 2 inches high. Set the mower at a cutting height of 1 inch.
Centipede lawns may develop yellowing or dead spots after a few years. This may be caused by such things as too much nitrogen, uneven soil surfaces, nematodes or high soil pH. The best pH for centipede is 5.0 to 5.5. Your county Extension center can advise you on taking a nematode assay if you suspect that nematodes are the cause of dead or yellowing patches of grass.
© Erv Evans, Consumer