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Centipede Grass Fertilizer – What You Should Know

Centipede grass is a popular and hearty variety of grass that thrives in high temperatures and requires less upkeep than other species. Fertilization is a vital maintenance tool that can take your yard to the next level. However, centipede's nutrient needs make it crucial to choose the right fertilizer. Furthermore, you must fertilize your lawn on the correct schedule. Applying the wrong centipede grass fertilizer or applying it at the incorrect time of year can damage your lawn.

What Type of Fertilizer Do I Need?

Centipede grass does not require extensive fertilization. Generally, you should apply a nitrogen-based fertilizer to your lawn. Additionally, make sure to stay away from potassium-rich mixes. The optimal fertilizer for your centipede lawn is a 15-0-15 mix. In brief, this means the suggested fertilizer mix will contain 15% Nitrogen, 0% Phosphorus, and 15% Potassium.

Here are two good options to choose from:

Fertilizers high in potassium can react with the iron in your soil and make it difficult for your lawn to process nutrients properly. If your soil has a Ph or phosphorus deficiency that you are trying to correct, you can use a 16-4-8 fertilizer. Addressing your soil's Ph level will increase the effectiveness of your fertilizer applications. Many times, additional non-fertilizer-based Ph treatments are needed to solve deficiencies. Potassium should only be used on centipede grass if indicated in a soil sample test.

How Much Fertilizer Should I Apply?

We recommended to apply 1-2 pounds of nitrogen-based fertilizer per 1,000 sq—ft per year. Depending on the turf's condition, fertilizer can be used in one application or broken into multiple doses. Also, lawns with sandy or loose soil tend to need more fertilizer. Clay, or harder, soils will require less fertilizer annually.

Applying excess fertilizer may cause damage to your turf. Excess fertilizer can over stimulate grass growth and put your lawn at risk for suffering from pests, fungi, or weather. When it comes to fertilizer, more is not always better. Applying too much fertilizer can scorch or burn your lawn. A scorched lawn will turn yellow and begin to exhibit signs of distress. Many scorched lawns die, with surviving grass becoming susceptible to disease and insect attack

When Should I Apply Fertilizer?

Early Summer (April 20th to May 10th)

Ensure the soil temperature is above 55 degrees before applying fertilizer. Centipede grass will not exit dormancy in soil that is cooler than 55 degrees.

Almost all areas that Centipede will thrive in, will have warm soil between April 20th and May 10th. Fertilizing Centipede lawns as soon as it enters a growth phase will have a dramatic effect on the grass. The earlier that a lawn can be safely fertilized, the better.

Recommended Early Summer Fertilizer/Herbicide Combo
Late Summer (August 25th to September 10th)

Apply fertilizer between August 25th and September 10th. This mitigates the risk of fertilizing too close to winter weather. Applying fertilizers too close to freezing weather can damage Centipede grass.

Fertilizing in cold weather causes centipede grass to sprout new growth too close to a freeze, leading to damage or death. Ensure that there are at least six weeks of above-freezing temperatures before feeding a Centipede lawn for the last time of the year.

Best Late Summer Centipede Fertilizers

How to Make Centipede Grass Thicker

1. Fertilize

Keeping Centipede grass nourished and fed is the first step in growing a thicker Centipede lawn. Healthy grass will spread and grow more quickly than malnourished lawns. 

Applying nitrogen-based fertilizer in early, mid, and late summer will aid in thickening a Centipede lawn.  However, do not over-fertilize a centipede lawn.  Too much fertilizer can cause damage, so be careful!

2. Aerate

Aerating Centipede grass can aid in making the lawn thicker. Aerating removes thatch and debris from the soil. Thatch prevents growth and causes thinning and patchiness. Removing thatch will allow water and nutrients to reach the roots of the grass faster and more efficiently.  Apply fertilizer after aerating to enhance the thickening process.

3. Water

Centipede grass needs between 1 and 1.25 inches of water per week.  Providing adequate water to Centipede grass can encourage spreading and growth. Centipede grass stressed by drought will grow very little. “Thirsty” Centipede grass can enter into decline, leading to thin spots and patches.

4. Provide Sunlight

Centipede grass thrives in full sunlight and heat.  Shady areas under trees, shrubs, and structures may show signs of thinning.  Remove any excess branches or obstructions that are blocking light.  The more sun that makes it to a Centipede grass lawn, the better. 

Tips for Applying Fertilizer to Centipede

  • Water the lawn three days prior to fertilization & after applying granular fertilizer
  • Aerate a lawn prior to fertilizing – never fertilize prior to aeration
  • Apply fertilizer in a set pattern, e.g. fertilize the exterior perimeter and work your way into the interior
  • Do not over-fertilize – more is not always better
  • Always follow all manufacturer’s application rates

Post Application Care

Water your lawn post-application if you use plain fertilizer. Watering the fertilizer removes granules from the leaves and prevents scorching. Applying water post-application also carries the pellets into the soil. Subsequently, this allows them to work more quickly. Many people apply fertilizer before forecasted rain, making for an easier application process. Should you use a weed and feed fertilizer and a pre-emergent herbicide, water your lawn post-application.

Pre-emergent products work in the soil, preventing weed growth. If your product contains a post-emergent herbicide, wet the lawn before application. Watering before application causes the herbicide to stick to the broadleaf weeds. Post-emergent herbicides are absorbed through leaves and not the soil.

Ensure that centipede grass receives the proper amount of irrigation after fertilizer application to prevent strain or burning. We recommend that you check the weather forecasts before application. This ensures the turf will stay hydrated and not struggle throughout the fertilization process.

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