One of the most widely used types of turfgrass in the greater Pensacola area — and across the Florida panhandle — is centipede grass. One of the great things about centipede grass is how simple and inexpensive it is to manage in comparison to other varieties that grow around here. However, with that ease and convenience come some weaknesses and special requirements, too.
Let’s go over the pros and cons of owning a centipede grass lawn in Northwest Florida and discuss some tips for making sure that lawn stays vibrant and healthy all year long.
Why centipede grass is popular
Compared to other grass varieties that can grow in and around Pensacola, centipede grass is easy to please and low maintenance:
- It actually prefers more acidic soil, which tends to be very difficult for most other varieties.
- It has fair shade tolerance, so it’s not likely to wither near the edges of ornamental shrubs or under trees.
- It’s highly drought-resistant, fading to a brown state of dormancy (similar to how it survives the winter) when water is scarce, but perking right back up with the next watering.
- It grows fairly slowly, meaning less mowing throughout the year.
- It can be established via seed, sod, or plugs.
- It has modest fertilizing requirements. (In fact, over-fertilizing is one of the most common reasons for centipede grass problems.)
Where centipede grass falls short
That all being said, there are also some disadvantages to a centipede grass lawn, too:
- It is highly susceptible to nematodes and ground pearls (a scale insect) as well as spittlebugs, mole crickets and other common lawn pests.
- It is prone to excessive yellowing (aka iron chlorosis), which often causes homeowners to use too much nitrogen-based fertilizer.
- It does not do well in high salt conditions, so it’s not ideal for lawns right on the coast.
- It also doesn’t handle high traffic well.
- Centipedegrass Decline — a common fungal disease unique to the turf variety — affects a number of Pensacola lawns each spring, resulting in ugly dead patches.
How to best care for centipede grass
To get the most from what’s great about centipedegrass and avoid falling into some of its common traps, follow these basic tips for managing a centipede grass lawn:
- Don’t fertilize before your taxes are due.
It’s best to hold off on applying any fertilizer until around the middle of April. That way, you won’t be pushing your centipede grass to green up too early while the nights are still cool.
- Don’t fertilize after Halloween.
It’s also dangerous to apply fertilizer too late in the year when it can interfere in the lawn’s natural dormancy schedule. Doing so is often the root cause of centipede grass decline in the spring. Centipede grass will begin going dormant earlier than other varieties because of its low cold tolerance.
- Don’t use too much nitrogen or phosphorus.
Nitrogen-based fertilizers encourage the production of chlorophyll, resulting in a dark green lawn, which is usually what you want. But, centipedegrass is naturally a much lighter yellow-green, and forcing it to green up too much with extra nitrogen is damaging. Phosphorus is of no value to centipede grass.
- Use potassium instead.
On the other hand, potassium-based fertilizer is best for promoting the general health and vitality of centipedegrass.
- Don’t mow too low.
Centipede grass grows more slowly than many other turfgrass varieties and it can succumb to shock easily if it is mowed too low or too often. The optimal blade height for centipede grass is 1.5 - 2 inches.
- Protect the lawn in the summer.
While a well-established, healthy centipede grass lawn does an excellent job of fighting off weeds on its own, it doesn’t hurt to give it a helping hand with some pre-emergent herbicide in the spring.
- Stay vigilant against common lawn pests.
While its rougher texture makes centipede grass less appealing to many insects that affect other Florida lawns, it’s not immune to their attack. Worse yet, it’s more difficult to restore after falling victim to insect infestation.
- Water regularly and let it soak in deep.
Although centipede grass is highly drought-resistant, it doesn’t look great while it’s suffering from lack of water. To keep your lawn looking great over the long term, make sure it gets a thorough soaking at least a few times each week throughout the hottest part of the growing season.
If you have any questions about caring for your centipede grass lawn, or if you’d like to have our Pensacola lawn care company handle it for you, contact Lawn Master today.