If you live in USDA zones 7 to 9 then you’ve probably chosen centipede grass as this is one of the most common types for these areas. The grass can get nice and tall and makes for a lush, green lawn. However, a lot of people struggle with how to make centipede grass thicker but there are things you can do.
Applying fertilizer during the growing months as well as watering the grass correctly will ensure better thickness. Choosing the right mowing height and ensuring there aren’t any weeds are also things you can do if you want to know how to make centipede grass spread.
In this guide, we will look at some easy ways to get your centipede grass looking thick and healthy.
Centipede grass is normally difficult to get thick if the soil is too compacted or there is a lot of thatch. When this happens, not enough oxygen can circulate around the soil and get to the grassroots. Without this, the grass doesn’t get the right level of minerals and water that help it grow thicker.
If there is a lot of thatch then this will block any water from getting to the roots which, again, means the grass doesn’t get as much water as it needs.
1. How To Make Centipede Grass Spread
One of the main reasons that people want a thick lawn is for aesthetics. But thick centipede grass will also ensure that weeds cannot grow. However, if you want to get that perfect lawn then you need a good maintenance schedule.
2. Apply Fertilizer
Typically speaking, centipede grass doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer to get nice and thick. However, it is a good idea to give it a boost using nitrogen which you can apply 2lbs for every 1000 square feet of lawn. That said, if the soil is largely clay then you might not need as much.
While it can be tempting to add more fertilizer, putting more than the above dosage can burn the grass and result in brown patches as well as encouraging thatch to build up. Some fertilizers also contain phosphorus which, when applied in large amounts can take precious iron away from the lawn.
In early spring, you will need to use very little unless the grass looks yellow. In this case, you might need to add some iron fertilizer. Once June comes around, you can apply the nitrogen fertilizer using 2lbs per 1000 square feet.
Throughout the growing season, you can continue to add nitrogen fertilizer at a rate of 0.25 to 0.75 pounds per 100 square feet. If the soil pH exceeds 6.0 then you should use sulfur to counteract this before adding your fertilizer. It’s important to perform a pH test before you start treating your lawn.
Once the growing season ends, you can add one final dose of fertilizer. This time, you’ll add 0.5 pounds for every 1000 square feet. Just make sure that you do this before the middle of August.
3. Overseed To Fill Bare Spots
If you find that your centipede grass isn’t as dense as you’d like then you could try adding more seeds. This will encourage thicker growth especially on bare or patchy spots.
It is also possible to add other types of grass seeds to the lawn as long as they’re suitable for the growing zone. In most cases, Bermuda is an excellent choice as this will not only make the grass thicker but will also promote disease protection.
We’d recommend overseeding the lawn a couple of weeks after the last frost but you can do it at the beginning of the growing season if you prefer.
Make sure that you remove all debris from the lawn before overseeding and give it a mow to around an inch to make sure that the soil is exposed, ready for the seeds. Before sowing the seeds, ensure that the lawn is aerated.
When you’re ready to add the seeds, a hand spreader is ideal for smaller areas but if you’re working on a large lawn, you might be better using a broadcast spreader. Be sure to fertilizer the seeds with a starter feed and water the area regularly. At this stage, centipede grass seeds will need up to two inches of water a day.
4. Water The Right Amount
Providing your centipede grass with the right amount of water is one of the best ways to ensure it grows properly. You will need to give the grass around an inch of water during the drier winter months if you’re looking to stop it from becoming sparse.
When summer comes around, it’s essential to water but you don’t need to go mad. One inch of water a week should be enough but you may need to add more if the grass begins to look blue or dry.
Centipede grass grows much thicker when it has infrequent but deep waterings. Just make sure that you don’t add too much water as this will make the lawn prone to diseases and weed growth.
5. Dethatch And Aerate The Lawn
If the soil is not aerated then oxygen cannot get through and transport water and nutrients so it’s really important to make sure that you include aeration in your lawn care schedule. You will typically only need to do this once a year. The beginning of summer is the best time and you can use either a rake or a core aerator.
You will also need to prevent thatch buildup as this will stop water from getting to the roots. If there is more than ½ inch of thatch on the lawn then this will result in shallow roots and the potential for fungal infections.
6. Mow to 1 to 1.5 Inches High
While you might not think it, mowing your lawn actually makes it grow thicker and keeps it healthier. But when you have centipede grass, you’ll need to make sure that it doesn’t get any higher than two inches.
This means making sure that your mower is set to no more than 1.5 inches but preferably just 1 inch. Be mindful not to go any lower than this as this could damage the grass making it more prone to disease; it’s important to get the balance just right.
At the start of summer, it’s best to set the cutting height to 1.5 inches and gradually decrease this to 1 inch throughout the growing season. That said, if there are very high temperatures or the lawn is suffering from drought, then it’s best to cut it higher. With all of that in mind, you should never take away more than a ⅓ of the current length of the grass.
Take care of your lawn mower blades, sharpening them regularly as dull blades can rip up the grass making it sparse. Use a mulching plug where possible as this will ensure the grass gets as many nutrients as possible.
6. Kill Surrounding Weeds
Weeds can quickly take over a lawn and drain it of its nutrients which will result in it being less dense than you would like.
Most commonly, centipede grass will suffer from weeds like goosegrass, crabgrass and sandburs. You will need to remove these so that your centipede grass can make the most of the water and nutrients within the soil without having to compete for them.
You can use a pre-emergent herbicide just before spring which will take care of any weed seeds that are present before they have a chance to grow. However, for the best results, you will need to reapply two months later.
It’s also a good idea to use a post-emergent treatment later in the year which will deal with any grassy or winter weeds.
A sparse lawn doesn’t look attractive. What’s more, there’s more potential for weeds to grow which can have a negative effect on your lawn. It seems to be one vicious circle. However, if you want your centipede grass to do well then you can prepare a detailed lawn care routine that will ensure it grows thick and lush.