Centipedegrass is popularly known as a "lazy man's grass". As the name suggests, you can choose to be most lazy with it, but just a little tender loving care will make your lawn look like it belongs to someone who spends a lot of time tending to it, making it healthy and attractive! Centipedegrass is a warm season lawn grass that grows slowly and has low tolerance for fertilizers. So you must ensure that your purchase of a bag full of fertilizer does not create an urge to use it liberally on your lawn!
It might be interesting to note, that the natural shade of the common centipedegrass is "light crabapple green" and not a dark shade as most people believe. If you like the dark shade for your lawn turf, you'll perhaps be recommended to stimulate the growth of new leaves by adding a fertilizer that has more nitrogen content. However, if you add too much fertilizer, the new growth will look healthy and promising but soon the quality of growth will decrease. In addition, the grass will become more prone to winterkill. If you're trying to replicate the look of Bermuda grass or Zoysia grass by infusing your centipedegrass lawn with fertilizer, you will not meet with long-term success because, centipedegrass simply does not have the natural fine texture of the other varieties of grass. A single application of fertilizer usually serves the purpose for centipedegrass and is in fact, the general rule of the thumb.
Fertilizer Usage Tips for Centipedegrass
Remember that centipedegrass is shallow rooted, thrives on moderately fertile soil and therefore, it will tolerate only low levels of fertilizer.
Some Basics on Choosing the Fertilizer
Before planting centipedegrass, the soil must be spread with fertilizer, followed by regular, annual application. Centipedegrass can withstand acidic soil up to pH 6.0. If a soil test reveals more acidity (pH greater than 6.5), elemental sulfur can help to bring down the acidic nature of the soil. Alternatively, liming the soil can help neutralize the acidity and improve activity of soil bacteria. You may also choose to add ferrous sulfate to correct iron deficiency of the soil. Late spring and midsummer are the best times to spread fertilizer over centipedegrass. A late fall fertilizer application in order to "winterize" the lawn is NOT recommended as centipedegrass does not require that kind of treatment.
Fertilizer bags are usually clearly labeled with the percentages of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K), denoted as the N-P-K ratio. For example, a 20-0-5 N-P-K label indicates the presence of 20% nitrogen, 0% phosphorous and 5% potassium. It is best to have no phosphorous as it brings down the iron levels in the soil. It is beneficial to use slow-release fertilizer (preferably with added iron) that has a high nitrogen content on centipedegrass. Soluble nitrogen in slow-release form will be available to the grass over a period of several weeks, as opposed to quick-release fertilizers that will introduce a gush of soluble nitrogen into the grass immediately but the effect will wear out after 2-3 weeks. It is important to know that a dramatic change in the soil's nutrient content will stunt the growth of the grass and unfortunately, it is not easily revived.
Optimum Quantity of Fertilizer
Typically, your fertilizer manufacturer could make your life easy (read lazy) by putting a "recommended use" quantity on the bag itself. It might be useful to note down the brand of the fertilizer for future purchase, in case it does recommend the dosage. Alternatively, the calculation for dosage would be as follows.
- Note the "N" percentage in the N-P-K label. So consider 15, if it says 15-0-5.
- Multiply 15 by the weight of the bag. If the bag weighs 50 pounds, 50 X 15 gives 750; 750 divided by 100 gives 7.5 pounds. That means the bag contains 7.5 pounds of nitrogen.
- You may use 1-2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of centipedegrass, so measure out accordingly before spreading.
Spreading Fertilizer on Centipedegrass
You may use a hand-held spreader or a rolling spreader. Cyclone spreaders or drop spreaders can also be used. Be careful not to load the spreader while on the grass. Spillage over the grass may ruin its texture. In case you spill accidentally, sweep up or mop up quickly. Preferably, apply half of the fertilizer going back and forth on the lawn area and the other half in the perpendicular direction, such that you have spread out the fertilizer horizontally as well as vertically across the grass.
Things to Remember about Centipedegrass Care
♦ Choose fertilizers with added weed control herbicides to promote uninterrupted growth of centipedegrass.
♦ Although potassium is not recommended, trace quantities may be added to promote root development, during spring.
♦ Iron deficiency is characterized by light green or yellow coloration of the grass, do not mistake it for the time to throw in more nitrogenous food.
♦ Early fertilization after planting centipedegrass is a strict no-no. Resist the urge to fill the spreader and spill fertilizer on the new growth.
♦ A soil test analysis is recommended before spreading fertilizer on centipedegrass.
♦ Knowledge of common centipedegrass problems can help you judge whether the grass is in need of pest treatment, mowing or fertilizer treatment.
The recommendations provided above are aimed at helping you stick to the low-maintenance schedule for centipedegrass on your lawn. When to fertilize, and how often to fertilize are important factors, in addition to knowing the type and quantity of the nutrients in the fertilizer. With minimal care as suggested above, you will be able to effectively maintain the growth of centipedegrass on your pretty green lawn.