During the winter months centipede grass does not enter a truly dormant state. The grass can suffer severe damage if the weather is harsh and cold with warming stretches. A freeze will kill the top growth of centipede grasses. The grass can return once the weather warms again, but another freeze can cause damage to the root system if the cycle continues to repeat. The top foliage and the root system of the grass can easily be killed when the weather cycles between warm and freezing several times in a season. If this occurs, replanting will be necessary. Centipede grass should only be planted in areas that are temperate and do not offer dramatic wintertime fluctuations.
Mow centipede grass at a height of 2 inches during the winter months. Mowing grass to a shorter height can cause the grass to weaken and be more susceptible to wintertime damage. Keeping the grass at 2 inches will help protect the centipede grass roots during a frost. Allowing the grass to grow longer than 2 inches will cause excessive thatch buildup in the spring.
Fertilize in the late fall using a 15-0-15 fertilizer. Phosphorus should not be applied to centipede grass because it can easily deplete the iron supplies that the grass will need throughout the winter. Apply approximately 1 lb. of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. Water the fertilizer into the lawn thoroughly. Apply fertilizer again in January.
Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to the centipede grass during the wintertime to kill any weeds that might try to compete or take over the centipede grass. A hormonal herbicide will prevent many broad leaf weeds from reaching maturity. Apply the herbicides according to the instructions on the label.
Water centipede grass during the winter at a rate of 1/2 inch every three days. Sandy soil conditions will require more frequent winter watering to maintain the centipede grass. Water the grass any time that the temperature is predicted to drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The water in the soil will help keep the centipede grass warm during an extremely cold night.