Thin lawns aren’t ideal – patchy and inconsistent, exposing the soil in certain parts. The result isn’t pretty and definitely doesn’t embody the outcome you were hoping for. So, you may decide to start looking for solutions.
If that sounds like you, you’re in the right place. We’re here to discuss how to thicken your centipede grass to create a thick, luscious, and healthy lawn. Bonus: it’s not as hard as you might think!
Why Is My Centipede Lawn Patchy?
Patchy lawns aren’t exactly the picture-perfect result you were hoping for. Unfortunately, this might be the result, despite your best efforts. Generally, inconsistencies happen for a few reasons.
First, the soil might be compacted. If the ground is too hard, the soil particles are too close for oxygen to reach the root hairs. In some cases, the seeds might not even take root because the soil is too packed.
You might’ve aerated the soil thoroughly before planting, but perhaps the patchy spot is your dog’s favorite place to relax, or maybe the area receives considerable foot traffic. Both of these scenarios can pack in the dirt, making it hard for the grass to take root and flourish.
Alternatively, the patchiness could be the result of thatch build-up. Thatch is the thick layer of organic material, usually consisting of dead and living shoots, stems, and roots, that collects around the base of the grass plants.
Eventually, the thatch layer can become so thick that it blocks water from penetrating the soil and reaching the roots, and this causes the grass to become thinner due to the lack of water.
How Do You Fix Bare Spots In Centipede Grass?
Bare spots in your lawn disrupt the potential for a thick and healthy lawn. So, to correct it, you could overseed it. This helps fill in the new spots by adding new grass seed and helps create denser and thicker grass blades in areas of existing turf.
Generally, early spring is an excellent time to overseed your lawn. You could choose to overseed a few weeks after the last frost or wait until the beginning of the growing season to complete the task.
To overseed a centipede lawn to fill in bare spots or grow a thicker, fuller lawn, follow these steps:
- Clear the lawn (or bare spots) of all debris, including leaves, dead stems, roots, etc.
- Mow the grass to about 1 inch in height. This exposes the soil, allowing the seeds to contact the ground when you apply them. As you mow, bag the grass clippings (or rake them later if you don’t have a mower with a bag).
- Using a core aerator, aerate the lawn to loosen the soil. This creates the space necessary for air penetration and will allow water to reach the grassroots. To break up large chunks of soil, use a rake.
- Next, seed the lawn. You can seed by hand if you’re targeting a small area, like a thin or bare patch. However, if you want to overseed the whole lawn for a thicker result, use a broadcast spreader.
- After you seed, cover the seeds with about ⅛-inch of soil (or the grass clippings you bagged while mowing). This helps the seeds retain enough moisture to germinate.
- Add a starter fertilizer to give the grass extra help. Follow the application instructions on the fertilizer of your choice. Don’t add any herbicides or pesticides.
- Water the new grass seed to activate the starter fertilizer. After that, water twice daily, allowing the water to penetrate 1 to 2 inches deep into the soil. Once they sprout, water the seedlings once a day. After 6-8 weeks of germination, begin other maintenance practices, like mowing, adding lawn food, applying pesticides/herbicides, etc.
What Do You Overseed Centipede Grass With?
Overseeding is a commonly used method to correct bare or patchy spots on your lawn. If you decide to overseed to correct patchy, thin, or bare areas of your yard, you can use a few different types of grass seed.
While you could always stick with centipede grass seed, you could choose another variety of grass seed to improve the hardiness of your lawn. For example, Bermuda grass is an excellent choice if you want to improve your lawn’s hardiness to diseases.
Tips For A Thicker Centipede Grass Lawn
Curating and maintaining a thick centipede grass lawn isn’t overly complex. While your lawn will require a bit of extra TLC, you don’t have to spend hours meticulously caring for the grass. Your grass should be fine if you take care of the grass well and on a routine schedule.
Water Deeply But Infrequently
Generally, grass only requires about an inch of water each week to thrive. Centipedegrass isn’t any different, but you need to pay attention to the temperatures and adjust your watering amounts as necessary.
During dry months, such as cooler winter months, water the grass with about one inch of water per week. Water less than one inch per week in the summer, adjusting as necessary. If the blades of grass become dry and appear bluish, you’ll need to water more.
Watering regularly in the summer helps protect the grass from drought stress. When the grass is dormant in the winter, watering regularly helps prevent dehydration.
Overwatering can lead to weak roots, which are more susceptible to diseases and weed growth, so only water as much as necessary.
Mow To The Correct Height
Mowing is integral to lawn care, but every grass type varies. Some grasses require more height to flourish, while others should be cut shorter. Centipede grass shouldn’t grow more than 2 inches in height, so you need to mow accordingly.
Mowing as necessary helps encourage thicker and healthier growth, but don’t mow too often. When it’s time to mow, set the mower to 1-inch or 1 ½-inches in height. Avoid cutting the grass lower than an inch, as it can cause scalp injury, making the grass more susceptible to diseases and shallow roots.
However, if you cut the grass higher than 1 ½-inches, you can deteriorate it. So, start by mowing at about 1 ½-inches, then gradually decrease the height to one inch as summer progresses. In times of environmental stress (high temperatures and limited water supply), set the mower to a higher height, like 1 ½ inches.
Avoid using dull blades, as blunt edges can tear up the grass, making it more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Remember – never cut more than ⅓ of the total height of the grass at each time. If it’s been a while since you mowed, you may have to do the mowing in a few installments.
Additionally, remember to leave the clippings on the lawn as they return nutrients to the soil.
As mentioned earlier, thatch buildup can cause issues for your lawn. So, clean up thatch before it becomes a problem. The remains of dead stolons and leaves (part of the thatch) create the ideal breeding ground for insects that may cause fungal infections.
Dethatch the lawn as necessary, removing the remains entirely. Use a rake to loosen the thatch and remove it from your yard.
Aerate Hard Soils
Compact soil is a recipe for disaster, as it prevents the necessary nutrients from reaching the grassroots. Aerate the lawn annually, generally at the beginning of summer. You can do this with a hand rake, but you might find it easier to use a core aerator.
Centipede grass doesn’t require fertilizer to flourish, but it can help boost the overall health of your lawn. Follow the instructions on a fertilizer of your choice. Minimal amounts of fertilizer, generally less than 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, can be beneficial once a year.
Generally, 2 pounds is only necessary when you have sandy soil, but you don’t need as much for clay soils. Be sure not to over-fertilize your lawn, as it can cause brown patches of burnt grass, increase vulnerability to disease, and trigger thatch buildup.
Control Pests And Diseases
You can do everything right with your lawn, but if pests and diseases take hold, they can decimate your beautiful yard. Insects, like mole crickets, can sap the nutrients from centipedegrass, impeding the growth of your lawn.
Grubs and nematodes can attack the grass during warm summer months, causing significant damage. So, apply insecticides to control pest damage. Usually, you should use these in mid-July, which will kill the little mole cricket and grub eggs.
However, the time frame and application vary by location, so check with a local agricultural expert before applying.
Additionally, you may need to control diseases with fungicides. The large patch commonly plagues centipedegrass in the growing season, leading to circular yellow or brown patches that appear and multiply on your lawn. To control this, you need to apply a fungicide.
However, you can help prevent this disease by keeping the grass dry and regularly dethatching to less than ½-inch.
If you overseed your lawn to thicken it or correct bare patches, you shouldn’t apply pesticides or herbicides immediately. However, once the time frame passes and it’s okay to use these chemicals, control the weeds as necessary.
Weeds like goosegrass, crabgrass, and sandburs compete with centipedegrass for vital nutrients, so the increased competition can make your grass unhealthy and thin. Kill and remove any weeds as necessary to allow your centipedegrass to flourish.
Pre-emergents should be applied before the weed seeds begin to grow, but post-emergent should be applied when the weeds are actively growing.