Let’s be honest: nobody wants their lawn to be patchy and inconsistent. But how many of us have the time and effort to put into making our lawns lush?
Most of us don’t, so we often resort to grasses like Centipede, which are hardy and low maintenance. However, growing them isn’t fail-safe either, and a few wrong steps here and there can cause your grass to thin out.
Whether you are already facing the problem or want to prevent it from happening, today we will talk about everything you need to know to make your centipede grass grow thicker.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Understanding How Centipede Grass Grows?
Before discussing how to make centipede grass grow thicker and better, let’s start by understanding its growing mechanism.
Centipede and St. Augustine grass grow similarly, that is, through stolons. Both are creepers and spread through stolons, which is the foundation behind their dense growth.
Now, what is stolon?
Stolon or runner is the shoot or stem of a creeping plant that grows horizontally to a surface. The roots and vertical branches of the plant emerge from it.
In the case of centipede grass, stolons grow on the soil surface, so if you notice closely, you can see their web-like distribution.
Stolons are the most important part for your centipede grass to grow thicker because the more stolon branches, the more nodes will be there. More grass blades will emerge from those nodes, making your turf denser.
How do you Encourage Centipedes to Spread?
To encourage centipede grass growth, you need to ensure you are providing it with the right environment. Centipede grass grows best in warm and humid climates and is not at all cold-tolerant.
Let’s briefly examine the environmental factors required for optimal growth conditions of centipede grass.
Centipede grass thrives in full sunlight, so it is best for unshaded gardens and lawn areas. Especially if you are growing them from seed, you may notice significantly slower growth in shaded areas.
Well-drained sandy soil is the best for centipede grass. Besides, if you need optimal growth, make sure that the soil is slightly acidic but not very low in the pH scale.
Centipede grass doesn’t need fertile soil. However, they grow best in areas with at least six inches of topsoil.
While picking sandy soil, ensure it is not saline, as salinity is unsuitable for centipede grass. Also, if you plan to do a soil test before seeding, look for the iron levels, as centipede grass grows well in iron-rich soil.
Centipede grass is a drought-tolerant turf and doesn’t require much water. It is native to regions with less than 40 inches of annual rainfall.
They can show signs of moisture stress if you accidentally overwater them and start wilting. However, you also don’t want to water them very lightly, as it can stun their root growth.
So, you can water it 1 to 1.25 inches per week in summer. But if you have very sandy soil, then you need to distribute that amount in equal intervals and make it more frequent.
For that, we suggest watering 0.5 inches every three days.
4. Temperature and Humidity
There is very little you can control about the temperature and humidity, but if you are trying to understand whether centipede grass can grow well in your area, the answer will be – it grows well in a warm and humid climate.
As mentioned before, centipede grass doesn’t do well in the cold, so if your locality has prolonged winters or it snows, you will notice the grass going brown as soon as the temperature drops.
Centipede grass needs low maintenance and is self-sufficient, so it doesn’t require much fertilizers. In fact, giving it too much fertilizer can have adverse reactions.
But if you must, one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year should be enough. Please note that you must equally distribute this amount over two to three fertilizations.
3 Effective Tips to Make Centipede Lawn Thicker
If your centipede turf grew less thick than you wanted, here are some things you can try to make it better.
1. Mowing it Right
Although centipede grass grows quite slowly, it is important to mow them occasionally. If you want your turf to grow thicker and denser, you can trim them to a height of 1 to 1.5 inches.
That way, the grass can save energy from growing vertically and channel it to other places, like nodes, from where new grass blades sprout.
2. Do Regular Weeding
You would want to give it the right amount of water and nutrients for a healthy turf. However, weeds can be a big roadblock in this plan.
Broadleaf weeds are often very invasive and can easily outgrow your turfgrass. Especially when compared to the growth rate of centipede grass, there is a good chance that the weeds will outgrow it.
So, to give your grass enough room and nutrients to grow, you need to keep a close eye on weeds and stop them from infesting your lawn/garden.
3. Mix Other Grass
If you have a partially shaded lawn/garden or don’t get at least six hours of sunlight, it will be difficult to grow a thick centipede sod.
So, to save your garden’s aesthetics, you can mix other grass with similar growing conditions as Centipede but are shade tolerant. One such example would be St. Augustine.
St. Augustine and Centipede grass make a good pairing as their soil and water requirements are very close. The only difference is that St. Augustine can also grow in shade, and its growth rate is faster than Centipede’s.
If you want your tuf to look dense and don’t mind mixing two types of grass, you can try this.
How Long for Centipede Grass to Spread?
Centipede grass grows super slowly, which is also why it is called the lazy man’s grass. It can take you several years to spread, depending on how much area you want to cover.
It usually takes the seeds two to four weeks to germinate. After that, they will grow slowly and gradually throughout the year.
On that note, although it is a hardy and low-maintenance grass, while it is in the growth phase, it is very susceptible to footfall, soil compaction, and cold. Any of these can prolong the time it will take to spread.
Can You Over Water Centipede Grass?
It’s a problem many newbie gardeners face with centipede grass.
As it grows in sandy soil and prefers hot weather, amateur gardeners assume that they might require more water to grow, which is totally the opposite of the reality.
Centipede grass is a drought-tolerant plant, so it requires very little water. Forty inches per year is enough for it—more than that can cause discoloration, moisture stress, and wilting.
What is the Best Fertilizer for Centipede Grass?
Centipede grass does best in sandy soil that has very limited nutrients. Giving it too many nutrients can cause adverse reactions, such as turning the grass into a deeper shade of green or leading to lawn disease.
So it’s advisable not to apply any fertilizers to this grass. But if you must, you can go for organic compost and light nitrogen-based fertilizers.
Fixing Patches in Centipede Lawn
If your centipede turf turned out patchy, follow the steps below to give it a retouch.
- Prep the area: First, you must prepare the patchy areas by removing the thinned-out grass. After that, you can go on with a shovel and loosen up the soil. Make sure you have removed all the dead grass and seeding roots.
- Spread seeds: Overseed the area with new centipede grass seeds.
- Water it right: A deep, thorough initial watering is important for the initial stage. So, you need to water these spots separately until they germinate and sprout.
- Add mulch on top: You can add a layer of mulch on top to keep the newly seeded areas moist for a longer time.
There can be a lot of reasons behind a patchy centipede turf. However, significantly large patches can be a sign of fungal disease.
Yellowing your centipede grass can be a sign of iron deficiency. It can also happen if you’ve applied too much nitrogen.
No. Centipede and St. Augustine grass grow through stolons that spread on the soil surface. Therefore, scalping or cutting your grass on a very low level can damage the stolons and hamper their growth.
In conclusion, to make your centipede grass thick and green, you must understand how it grows. It likes sunlight, good soil that drains well, and not too much water. Also, stay away from too many fertilizers.
Most importantly, be patient; it spreads slowly! If you see bare spots, plant new seeds, water them well, and cover them with mulch. Your centipede grass will soon become thick and lush with the right care.