The quickest way to kill a centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) lawn is by over-fertilizing it. Unlike other lawn grass species’ voracious appetites, centipede needs little nitrogen to remain healthy. Centipedegrass is known as the “lazy man’s grass” because all it really requires is a light dose of fertilizer, water and occasional mowing. Grow this warm-season grass in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10.
Timing Is Everything
Timing of the fertilizer application is critical with centipedegrass. If you fertilize too early in the season, the new growth flush might be damaged in an unexpected frost. Wait until June to apply fertilizer. If you choose to make two applications, fertilize in June and again in August or September.
Type of Fertilizer
To know with certainty which nutrients your centipedegrass lawn needs, you must do a soil test. With a test you’ll learn how much lime, phosphorous and potassium to provide to keep the soil pH within the ideal zone of 5.0 to 5.5. For instance, too much phosphorous in the soil makes iron unavailable to the grass, turning it a mottled yellow. Without a soil test, choose a fertilizer with a percentage of potassium – the last number in the three-number fertilizer analysis -- that is equal to or higher than the nitrogen content – represented by the first number in the analysis. Examples of these fertilizers include 15-0-15 or 18-0-18.
Plan on supplying your centipedegrass with 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn, per season. If you have sandy soil, use 2 pounds each year. All the information you need to determine how much of the fertilizer in your bag to use to supply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is right there on the fertilizer label. Look for the analysis, for instance, 18-0-18, and divide 100 by the first number, which represents nitrogen. Since 100 divided by 18 equals 5.5, you will need to apply 5.5 pounds, or 11 cups of the product to 1,000 square feet of lawn to supply the lawn with the required 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
Fill your fertilizer spreader on a concrete surface or place a tarp beneath it. Close the hopper and pour in half the required amount of fertilizer. Don’t open the hopper until you’re ready to lay down the fertilizer. Start with a horizontal strip at both ends of the lawn, then, walking swiftly, lay down the fertilizer in vertical strips, closing the hopper when you get to the end zones that have previously been fertilized. Turn the spreader around and apply the next vertical strip, slightly overlapping the previous one. Pour the remaining fertilizer into the spreader and repeat the process, only this time walk in horizontal strips so that you leave a checkerboard pattern. Water the lawn after the application until the top 4 to 6 inches of soil is wet.