Lawn grasses and other types of ground covers serve a variety of purposes in the landscape. Not only do they improve the appearance of a yard, but they provide a playing and walking surface for pets and people, as well as guard against soil erosion. Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) forms a thick mat of slow-growing ground cover in areas with adequate amounts of soil nutrients, moisture and sunlight. Like many types of lawn grasses, this turfgrass requires some maintenance to form an attractive and healthy ground cover in the landscape.
Mow your centipede grass regularly, starting in the early spring when it turns green. Use a mower with a sharp blade, and cut when the grass and its surface are slightly dry. Avoid mowing this type of grass if it's shorter than 1 inch. Remove less than one-third of the length of the grass blades during a single cutting session to avoid damaging the lawn and small plants. Mow regularly to maintain a height between 1 and 2 inches throughout the growing season. Leave the clippings on the surface of your lawn to retain moisture and increase the amounts of nitrogen in the soil.
Look for bare areas of your centipede grass lawn after mowing in the spring. Reseed these areas by mixing grass seed with sand and distributing it evenly over the bare patches. Use about ¼ to ½ pound of seed per 1,000 square feet of surface soil. Sprinkle water over your new seeds. Keep these areas slightly moist while the seeds germinate and sprout.
Test the soil in your centipede grass lawn. Even though you may have tested the soil prior to planting your lawn, soil changes as plants deplete the existing nutrients. Keep your lawn looking healthy by determining the level of existing nutrients. Follow the recommendations on your soil test results to increase the levels of missing nutrients. Amend low levels of nitrogen by applying a fertilizer in late April or May, once the lawn becomes evenly green. Use a granulated nitrogen fertilizer specified for use on lawn grasses. Use a fertilizer broadcaster to spread a little less than 1 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Push your broadcaster across your lawn in an even pattern, working from one side to the other to avoid uneven greening and growth.
Water your centipede grass lawn to maintain a healthy level of moisture near the plants' roots. Provide about 1 inch of water each week during the active growing season. In arid climates and in sandy soils, split this watering session into two sessions, applying about ½ inch every four or five days. Adequate amounts of moisture assist your centipede grass in fighting off diseases and pests.