Centipede Sod & Chlorosis

Overview

Centipede sod is a coarse, bladed grass suitable for warm season growing. It is tolerant of poor soil conditions and has a slow growth rate. The grass is not prone to most diseases and insect problems as other sod and it is a fairly low-maintenance ground cover. The plant does not spread by rhizomes, which keeps it from invading garden beds. Best suited to shadier areas, the grass does need warmth and does poorly in overly wet areas. One of the biggest problems with centipede grass is chlorosis. This can affect growth and appearance of the sod.

Features of Centipede Grass

While there is no such thing as maintenance-free grass, centipede sod is a perfect choice for an easy-to-care-for lawn. It can do well in sandy soil or even clay, provided the pH is low and there is adequate drainage. A medium blade grass of greenish-gray, the sod will tolerate considerable neglect. It spreads by shallow roots so it will need more water than other grasses but it does not need to be mowed as frequently due to a slow growth habit. In fact, the grass should not be mowed low as this enhances moisture evaporation and can lead to weed infestation.

Chlorosis

Chlorosis is characterized as iron deficiency in the soil. It can also be caused by damaged roots, other nutrient deficiencies, high alkalinity and poor drainage. The most common cause is low iron content. This causes a lack of chlorophyll since iron is needed to produce chlorophyll. The result is yellowing blades and a reduction of potassium to the plant. Less potassium reduces the availability of iron to the leaves and compounds the yellowing. Most often, it is necessary to correct the soil pH to correct the problem and this will vary according to zone and type of soil.

Type of Soil and Terrain

The grass needs to be planted on a very even surface to prevent puddling and dips in the lawn. Puddling adds iron to the area since most public water is laden with it. Clay soils high in calcium and phosphorus are contributing factors to chlorosis. A sandy soil often contains high amounts of crushed seashell or coral, which will raise the alkalinity.

Prevention/Solution

Centipede grass is prone to chlorosis. The grass cannot produce chlorophyll and fades and the root system is not able to process nutrition and water properly. Some areas may just yellow in circles and some may completely die. Ideally the soil should be tested before planting the sod to assure that the ph is not too high. A pH level of 5.0 to 5.5 is suitable. If it is, then amendment with sulfur is possible. If the sod is already in place, the easiest thing to do is add chelated iron or iron sulfate.

Centipede Grass Care

The grass has little need for fertilizer and a pre-emergent herbicide handles weed problems. Fertilize with one pound slow release nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. A product high in potassium will produce the best results. The grass will produce a heavy thatch so it is important to rake or use a grass bag when mowing. Watering heavily and soaking the roots is important. The grass has few pest problems but nematodes can be a problem. Adequate water should solve this as the nematodes like dry, sandy soil.

Keywords: lawn care, grass problems, soil iron deficiency

About this Author

Bonnie Grant began writing professionally in 1990. She has been published on Web sites like GardenGuide and eHow. Grant recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in business management with a hospitality focus from South Seattle Community College.