Tips on keeping centipedegrass healthy

April 30, 2014 

For the past few weeks, I have received many calls on centipede grass not greening up this spring.

For the moment, wait another week to see if there is any more green-up. After that period of time if there is still little to no green-up, then your centipede is most likely in decline.

Centipede grass is subject to a condition called “centipede grass decline,” which is the failure to green up followed by decline or death in late spring and summer. Since centipede does not tolerate excess moisture and very cold temperatures well, the main cause of centipede decline this year is the result of all the rain this past year, and the snow and ice we had this winter.

Even though the main cause was the wet and cold weather, there are many other factors that can contribute to the problem.

A soil test is always a good place to begin, especially if the grass is showing signs of yellowing as it greened up in the spring, or when it went into dormancy. A routine soil test report includes information on soil fertility and the pH. This report will let us know if the cause is due to pH or nutrient imbalance. Centipede likes a pH of 5.0-6.0, and as the pH goes above the 6.0 mark, iron availability decreases.

In the previous season, was the grass dark green in color? Centipedegrass is normally olive green in color. If the centipede is dark green for most of the growing season, this means there is an excess amount of nitrogen. This is usually the primary reason for centipedegrass decline.

If the grass can be lifted easily from the soil surface by pulling on the stolons, this is a sign of poor root system development. This can be caused by excess thatch, compaction of the soil, drought stress or nematodes.

Overwatering can also cause the roots to remain toward the soil surface causing winter kill. Centipede needs around 1.5-2 inches of water per week. Having a rain gage is recommended. The best time to water is early morning.

Are there any insects (mole crickets) or vertebrates (moles) that can be found in the grass? The presence of these creatures can also lead to decline. If the grass is dying in the spring and summer in a semicircle, this could be caused by fairy ring fungi. Circular patches may be the result of brown patch fungal infections.

The most important factor for soil health is soil sample analysis; cleaning, grading and tilling the site; and preparing the topsoil correctly for planting by adding needed nutrients (based on the soil analysis) and amending the soil with organic matter. This will permit better root development and a more sustainable lawn.

It is not uncommon for centipedegrass to be over-fertilized. One pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year is ample nitrogen for most established centipedegrass lawns. Proper fertilization should be based on the soil sample report. The recommended mowing height for centipedegrass is 1.0 to 1.5 inches. This height can be raised by 0.25-0.5 during drought stress. Please contact the extension office for more information.

Source: www.caes.uga.edu/publications/

For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston/ for more news about your local Extension office.

Dates to remember

May 14: Egg Candling Certification Class 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Perry

May 15: 4-H Luau

May 22: Healthy Lawns Class 6:30 pm-8:30 p.m., Perry

May 26: Office Closed, Memorial Day

Charlotte Mote is the Houston County agricultural and natural resources agent. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or cmote1@uga.edu.

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