One potential problem with weed and feed products is the nitrogen level. Some products designed for centipede grass are 29-1-10 mixes, meaning the product is 29 percent nitrogen. Although this will definitely give your grass a boost, it may be more than it needs and can prove ultimately harmful. Another concern is the small window of opportunity for weed and feed products to work because centipede grass responds better to a late application, but weeds are better controlled with an earlier one, according to Danny Lipford’s Today’s Homeowner.
Centipede grass can be afflicted by centipede grass decline, when the grass either fails to green up in the spring or does green up, but follows that with decline and death in late spring or summer. To prevent this, maintain your lawn at a height of 1 to 1 1/2 inches, remove thatch as needed, water your lawn to a depth of 5 to 7 inches when the grass shows signs of distress and amend your soil to a pH of 5.0 to 6.0.
Easy Does It
Centipede grass is more sensitive to fertilizers than other turf grasses and over-fertilization can cause disease and thatch buildup. North Carolina State University recommends 1/2 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet using a high-potassium fertilizer like 5-5-15 or 8-8-24, applying it June — not in the spring. Always read the label on the product to make sure it is designed for centipede grass because some general-purpose weed and feed products can harm or kill centipede grass.
Control weeds in your centipede grass lawn with a combination of pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides. Apply products containing benefin, DCPA, bensulide or simazine in early spring to control crabgrass, but never apply a pre-emergent herbicide to the lawn prior to or immediately following seeding. To eradicate and control winter weeds and annual grasses, use products containing atrazine, MCPP or 2,4-D. These post-emergent herbicides are also effective on most broadleaf weeds, like clover, chickweed and thistle.
Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10, is often called lazy man’s grass. It can be mowed as little as once a month and has minimal irrigation and fertilization requirements. Using weed and feed products on the grass, though, is trickier, because finding one that works well can be difficult.
Selective, post-emergent herbicides can be applied as necessary for control of chickweed, henbit, and other cool-season broadleaf weeds. Centipedegrass is sensitive to certain herbicides, such as 2,4-D, so follow label directions for reduced rates and use with caution. Spray sufficiently to wet the foliage, but do not spray excessively. Repeat application in 10 to 14 days, if needed. Selected herbicides can also be applied in the winter for control of annual bluegrass and other winter annual grassy weeds. Contact the local County Extension office or the Home & Garden Information Center for weed identification and control measures.
Weed Control: A selective, annual grass or broadleaf weed control pre-emergent herbicide that is labeled for use on centipedegrass and applied during late winter and spring will reduce many weeds the following summer. If a pre-emergent herbicide was not applied in the spring, the resulting weeds will need to be controlled using post-emergent herbicides.
Aerification: Core aeration is the process of punching small holes in the turf and into the soil to alleviate compaction, thus allowing air to get to the root system. This will help to correct problems associated with poor infiltration and drainage. Once the threat for frost has passed and the lawn has fully greened-up, lawn aerification may be combined with dethatching to alleviate any soil compaction problems.
Nutrient Deficiencies: A yellow appearance during the growing season may indicate an iron deficiency due to excessive phosphorus and/or a high soil pH. A long-term approach is needed to correct either cause, but iron can be added to quickly enhance turf color between the spring and summer fertilizer applications.
Established centipedegrass should not receive phosphorus fertilizer unless a soil test indicates that it is deficient. Centipede lawns should receive 1 to 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per year per 1000 square feet of turf. The higher rate may be chosen for centipedegrass lawns on sandy soils and the lower rate for lawns growing on clay soils. Applying more than 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year may be harmful to the centipede turf by creating excessive thatch and increasing the chance of turfgrass disease.
Early Summer: Apply ½ to 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in early May after the lawn fully greens up. The rate will depend on soil type. A soil test will help determine if a fertilizer containing phosphorous is required for best growth of the turf. See the section on fertilizer calculations below to determine how much granular fertilizer needs to be applied.
Producing a yearly maintenance calendar for managing turfgrass consistently year after year can be difficult in a state with such a diverse climate as South Carolina. Because of this, it is important to monitor temperatures and apply the needed management practices based on that year’s climate. Important times to monitor the weather are during late winter or early spring when the turf is coming out of dormancy and early fall when the first frost is forecasted. Last frost dates and first frost dates can vary by several weeks to a month from coastal areas of South Carolina to the foothills of the Upstate.