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How to Make Centipede Grass Thicker: Best Tips to Look Great!

By Britt Olizarowicz

Centipede grass is supposed to be one of the easiest lawns to take care of. It can hold up well against shade and weeds, but there are times that your centipede grass can grow a bit thin. When the centipede thins out, there are sometimes bare spots and an overall unhealthy look to the turf. In our guide for growing centipede grass thick, we will provide:

  • Why centipede grows thin
  • How to care for a centipede lawn
  • And how to have the best-looking centipede lawn on your block!

Why Does Centipede Grass Grow Thin?

Centipede grass will grow thin because of the lack of oxygen and nutrients in the soil. The majority of warm season grass does well when oxygen and nutrients can get to the root system. When soil becomes compacted, this is nearly impossible.

If you are not dethatching and aerating your centipede grass, expect the grass growth to be sparse. Following proper maintenance procedures and staying on top of the appropriate timing to ensure strong growth will help your centipede grass grow thick.

How to Make Centipede Grass Thicker

The good thing about centipede grass is that you can follow some very basic maintenance steps and benefit from it greatly. Here are some of the things that homeowners should be doing to ensure that their centipede grass grows thicker.

Cut To The Proper Height

So many homeowners are cutting their centipede grass to the wrong height. Maybe you had a St. Augustine grass lawn prior, and you think that grass blades are best kept in that 3-4 inch height range. With centipede grass, this is too high.

The centipede grass does better when cut to around 1.5 inches in total height. If you do this during the growing season, it will actually help the turf to increase strength and get that darker green color you are looking for.

Pre-Emergent In The Fall

Weed control in centipede grass can be a little more complicated than it is in Bermuda grass. When you spray centipede for weeds, you have to be very careful. However, following the proper maintenance procedures in the fall will give you a much more successful early spring.

Use a pre-emergent herbicide before the winter months. The current weeds and any other early spring weeds will have a hard time coming up. You may still have an issue that requires a post-emergent spray, but the overall maintenance is much easier.

Dethatch and Aerate

The centipede grass needs air, water, and nutrients to survive. With this turf being a little thinner, you can quickly start to struggle with compact soil. In addition, when centipede grass spreads, it needs room to spout, and it’s hard to do this if your yard is completely compact.

Dethatching and aerating will help to ensure that you don’t have shallow roots, and your centipede grass will grow thicker and greener.

Watch Out For Transitions

When the centipede grass is transitioning from winter dormancy into the spring months, you must be careful not to expose it to post-emergent herbicide. The transitioning time is a bit of a sensitive time for centipede and if you spray the wrong thing during this period, expect the grass to have a very hard time greening up. In fact, you could delay that summer green by more than a month!

Overseeding

Overseeding is a great way to fill in almost any type of grass. With centipede lawns, you can apply centipede seeds with ease. Ensuring your new seeds have plenty of water and the soil is properly prepared will help your centipede grass grow considerably thicker.

Soil Test and Fertilization

Lawn fertilizer is essential as many soils will have deficiencies you will never know about. However, many homeowners make the mistake of picking up a fertilizer, putting it in the spreader, and heading out across the lawn.

Fertilizer has different levels of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and nitrogen (N). If you don’t know the current chemical makeup of your lawn, it’s hard to get the proper NPK ratio. Many times nitrogen fertilizer is overused on centipede lawns, and it can stress the turfgrass.

Have a soil test done, and then apply fertilizer at a safe rate. Overfertilization can also make your centipede lawn thinner.

Watering Schedule

Even though centipede is a low-maintenance grass, it still needs a good amount of water. However, watering an inch of water at a time, with longer breaks between watering days, will help your centipede grass grow thicker.

Take some time to deep water while doing it less frequently. The results will be a thicker and greener lawn. Getting that perfect watering schedule worked out is always a balance because of weather conditions and rain. Approximately one inch of water every three days should be a good option for many centipede lawns.

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How to Care for and Maintain Centipede Grass

Now that you have some of the best tips for making your centipede grass thick again. Here are some of the maintenance requirements and overall best practices to help you care for and maintain centipede grass.

Seeding Centipede Grass

Some warm season grasses like St. Augustine and even Zoysia are purchased as sod, making it difficult for homeowners in the southeast and southwest to purchase seed. Luckily centipede seed is readily available, and you can plant new grass relatively easily.

Centipede Grass Seed

Centipede grass seed is slow growing, so you may think you have struggled to get the grass to grow, but if you give it time and wait until soil temperatures are warm enough to plant, you should have no trouble getting it to sprout faster.

Where to Buy Centipede Grass Seed

Centipede grass seed is available at local garden centers, Home Depot, Lowes, and even Amazon. Make sure that your area has the proper weather for centipede grass as this is a warm season grass.

How Much Centipede Seed Per Acre?

Centipede should be applied at a rate of 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet. Most times, this means a 40-pound bag of seed is needed to seed an acre of property. However, if you are planting a brand new lawn, the chance of needing to overseed that fall is relatively high.

Planting Centipede Grass Seed

One of the best things to do before planting centipede grass is to get a soil test done on your turf. If the soil pH level is off, or if there is an iron deficiency, you will want to know about it before you place the seed down.

When to Plant Centipede Grass?

The soil should be more than 70 degrees before you plant your centipede grass. This means that the late spring and early summer is probably the best time to get this done. When planting centipede grass, make sure you can do it at a time when heavy foot traffic is avoidable.

How to Plant Centipede Grass Seed

As we mentioned, you must take the time to prepare the soil before planting centipede properly. We highly recommend raking the area out, preparing the site with some fresh topsoil, and then treating it with a starter fertilizer. Once centipede grass has been spread, ensure that you are watering more frequently as the new seed will need that in the beginning.

How Long Does it Take Centipede Seed to Germinate

It takes three weeks on average for centipede grass to germinate. Depending on the weather and the local environment, expect the window to be anywhere from 10-28 days.

Overseeding Centipede Grass Seed

Most of the time, overseeding is something that needs to be done in the Carolinas, Florida, and other areas where the weather and conditions can be different year in and year out. The overseeding helps to bulk up your centipede lawn before the winter and in the early spring if necessary.

How to Overseed Centipede Grass

The best way to overseed centipede grass is to first prepare the area by raking any debris and looking for bare spots of dead turf. Try to pull weeds if you see them and make sure that the surface is clean and ready for seed. Doing small aeration can help ensure the seed gets to where it needs to, especially if you have more compact soil.

Once you have properly prepared the soil and area, simply use a spreader to apply the centipede seed to the area. Water frequently and wait to go over this area with the lawnmower until the seed has had a few weeks to grow.

What Do You Overseed Centipede Grass With?

Many warm season grasses need Perrenial Ryegrass for overseeding. However, with centipede, a traditional centipede seed works quite well. The seed should be readily available. Some local garden facilities will sell centipede in sod pieces if you are trying to get a quick patch of grass installed at your home.

When to Overseed Centipede Grass

Overseeding in the early to late spring gives the centipede seed the best chance to fill in. You can do this again in the fall, as long as you don’t wait too long and the grass enters dormancy. Letting the new seed be a little more established before the cold temperatures hit can be beneficial. Make sure that the soil temperatures are above 70 degrees before you start.

Fertilizing Centipede Grass

Fertilization for centipede grass is really important. One thing to remember here is that too much fertilization can cause nitrogen buildup in the turf and may create other issues for you. Instead, when fertilizing centipede grass, make sure to do a soil test first to get the right NPK ratio.

A popular option for centipede grass is 15-0-15, but you first need to check if that’s the right ratio for your area.

What is the Best Fertilizer to put on Centipede Grass?

A slow-release fertilizer with a good amount of nitrogen applied at least twice per year tends to be the best choice for centipede grass. The key feature of nitrogen is that it helps thicken your lawn, something that all homeowners need to work on with centipede.

When is the Best Time to Fertilize Centipede Grass?

After your centipede grass has greened up and started to look healthy for the summer months, it’s time to fertilize. However, this is best done before the daily temperatures reach more than 85 degrees. The high temperatures don’t mix well with fertilizer, and the results can sometimes be burnout.

How do You Fix Bare Spots in Centipede Grass?

One of the most critical steps for fixing bare spots in centipede grass is to keep the area clear of debris and buildup. Rake out your centipede grass in the areas where it is struggling and allow water and air to penetrate this spot. In addition, centipede grass will not be able to spread because of the way you treated the bare spots.

If this doesn’t work to let your centipede grass spread, we recommend adding a bit of seed to the area and giving it a few weeks to fill in.

Should you Aerate Centipede Grass?

Aerating a centipede grass should be something included in your annual maintenance procedures. The roots of centipede are shallow, and sometimes the soil gets too compact, making it difficult for the grass to grow thicker. Aeration ensures that the centipede can spread and the overall soil and grass health are considerably better.

How Often Should You Water Centipede Grass?

A total of about 1 to 1.5 inches of water is needed in centipede grass for the week. If you have sandy soil, you will need more frequent watering with slightly lower amounts of water each time. Centipede grass does well with heavy watering and then taking some time off before the next watering. It is drought tolerant but will show signs of stress if not watered properly.

What is the Best Way to Stop Centipede Grass from Spreading?

Centipede grass can be a fast spreader, and you will have to create barriers between the turf and the flower beds to ensure that the grass does not fill into your beds. A simple landscape border should do the trick.

Recap

Centipede grass can be a great option in the warmer states, but it still requires a bit of maintenance to help it grow thicker. If you find that this process of taking care of a centipede lawn is a bit more than you can handle, TruGreen offers some great programs for homeowners. TruGreen has been around for more than 15 years, and having a professional lawn care service handle all of this for you is a very nice benefit. In the end, pay close attention to your turf, and ensure you are watering and testing it often, and you should benefit from a thick centipede lawn.

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