The first day of fall is approaching and with the changing of the seasons also comes the changing of temperatures, weather and soil conditions. It’s important that your centipede lawn undergoes the proper maintenance during this time of year as it transitions from hot summer temperatures to cooler winter ones. Read on for a list of generic tips to help your centipede lawn transition into the colder months ahead. Be sure to also check out our Homeowner Maintenance Guides for generic centipede and Santee® Centipede. If you’re looking for maintenance tips for a different type of grass, take a look at our Fall Lawn Maintenance Tips article.
1. Reduce Mowing for Deeper Roots
Centipede grass is generally mowed at a height between 1.5–2 inches in height. During the fall, however, you should maintain a height that’s slightly higher than that of the summer. This encourages deeper root growth so that your grass survives during winter dormancy in the cooler months. This sets your grass up for survival during its dormancy period as the roots are what keep the grass alive underground while the blades above ground endure harsh temperatures. For more information on mowing heights, visit our Lawn Mowing Guide.
2. Water Less as Temperatures Drop
In the fall, you’ll want to water the centipede less than other times of the year as temperatures begin to drop. If you water your grass too much, it could lead to disease during this time. Your centipede generally only needs about one inch of water weekly including rainfall. You’ll actually want to water a little less than this during the fall months, though, because fall is one of the most opportune times of the year for fungus to start appearing. This becomes even more likely if you are overwatering your grass or have fall leaves on the ground that create areas of shade.
Regardless of disease outbreaks, you’ll still want to water your lawn to prevent drought stress while the grass is actively growing. Light watering during dormancy will also prevent dehydration and watering in the early morning will decrease the risk of certain turfgrass disease. To learn more information about watering practices, visit our Lawn Irrigation Guide.
3. Fertilize Your Lawn with the Right Nutrients
Fertilization differs this time of the year compared to the other active growing seasons (spring and summer). As previously stated, outdoor temperatures are starting to change—so are soil conditions. Your grass is a living thing that needs specific nutrients at this time. Depending on the area you live in, your centipede grass will likely enter a state of dormancy.
Sod University recommends two different fertilizer options for the fall, however, you will only need to use one of the two options for fall fertilization. The Fall Fertilizer Box, in particular, has three separate bottles of fertilizer in it that help your lawn recover from the hot summer temperatures it just endured as well as prepare for the colder temperatures ahead.
In the early fall, start off with applying Boost to revitalize the green leaf blade color after the heat of summer. The summer heat can really stress your grass out and may even leave hot spots or drought damage. With Boost’s time-release formula, the rapid green-up of your lawn will last from the time of application through the remainder of the growing season.
In the mid-fall, you should make an application of the second bottle in the box, Maintain, for well-balanced nutrition. Maintain serves to help with color retention late into the cooler months ahead and fortifies the root system to help it survive throughout dormancy or snow. In the late fall, you should apply Recover to prepare your lawn for environmental stressors of this colder weather. You can read more about The Fall Fertilizer Box and it’s mixture of nutrients in a separate Sod University blog here.
Lawnifi Foundation is a slow-release granular fertilizer option that comes in a 25 pound bag and lasts for three months. With a 29-0-5 NPK formulation, Lawnifi Foundation is the perfect granular fertilizer for lawns and gardens. The two percent iron included in Lawnifi Foundation’s mixture helps plants carry oxygen throughout the leaves, roots and other parts of the plants to promote a green, healthy lawn. Featuring slow-release nitrogen, Foundation gradually feeds your lawn over an extended period of time without overwhelming your lawn with nitrogen during the fall. Both Lawnifi Foundation and the Fall Fertilizer Box cover 5,000 sq. ft. Learn more in Granular vs. Liquid Fertilizers or by clicking on the two products below. For more generic information about the Lawnifi brand, read Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
4. Control Weeds with Pre- and Post-Emergent Herbicides
Your centipede lawn has just made it through the summer months when herbicide applications damage grass due to hot temperatures. Now that it’s starting to cool down, you are free to apply both post-emergent and pre-emergent herbicides without risking any damage to your lawn if applied properly. You may even notice that the weeds from summertime are starting to die off. Unfortunately, there are winter weeds that will start to pop up when the months are colder too. We recommend applying a pre-emergent during the fall to prevent winter weeds.
Some hard to control weeds that may appear around this time include Poa annua, sedge, crabgrass, goosegrass, chickweed or henbit. There’s a difference between pre- and post-emergent herbicide control for weeds. A post-emergent herbicide controls any current weeds you are experiencing whereas a pre-emergent herbicide, as its name suggests, serves to prevent weeds from appearing.
Fall is actually the best time to apply a pre-emergent—especially if winter weeds have been a big problem in the past years. You can also do this in the springtime around March or April. Check out some of our recommended pre-emergent products below and be sure to read labels thoroughly before application. Read more about pre-emergent applications in the fall in How to Use a Pre-Emergent Herbicide in the Fall and learn about the various types of weeds in Identifying Common Lawn Weeds.
It’s better to apply an insecticide as a preventative as opposed to having to resolve an infestation once damage has already occurred—it’s probably less expensive too. Apply a broad-spectrum insecticide to prevent any harmful insects from taking over your centipede. Although there could be a variety of insects that may be invading your lawn at this time, the main ones most universities recommend you look out for in your centipede are grub worms. Sod webworms, fall armyworms and mole crickets can also be a problem in centipede lawns at this time. If you have insect activity, treat with an insecticide labeled to treat the insect you are seeing. Be sure to read product labels thoroughly before application. If you use a granular variety, water the lawn immediately after application to help with absorption. Visit our Insect Identification blog for more details.
6. Prevent Disease Outbreaks as Temperatures Change
We recommend applying a systemic fungicide at preventative rates around the beginning of the fall season or right beforehand. This helps the grass enter colder months in a healthier condition by keeping disease outbreaks at bay.
If you’ve had a problem with lawn disease around this time before, you may need to make multiple applications of the systemic fungicide in affected areas. If spring dead spot was a problem during the spring, apply a fungicide at high rates to the problem area(s). Spring dead spot is caused by disease that damages grass during the winter—you just can’t see the damage because the grass is brown and dormant until the spring when everything greens up again. Applying a fungicide at a preventive rate will keep it from coming back. Consider mapping those areas because fungicide treatment can be expensive.
If you use a granular variety, water the lawn immediately after application to help soil absorption. Above all, read product label instructions thoroughly before application for detailed instructions. Be sure to check out our Sod University blog, Beware of Late Fall Fungus for Warm Season Lawns. For generalized disease control information, read Lawn Disease Control.
Tip: Remove any dead leaves.
As dead leaves accumulate on the ground during the fall, they create shady, darker spots on the lawn. Light cannot reach these areas and moisture becomes trapped. This quickly damages the grass underneath these spots. When warm season grass like centipede goes dormant, it can be difficult to notice any discoloration after the leaves are removed. Come springtime, you will notice the damaged areas while the rest of the grass turns green again. Depending on how many trees are nearby, consider raking once a week. Learn more here.
Lastly, lawn patch work and light topdressing with a sand and topsoil mix is a great way to recover any weak areas in your lawn that were caused by the summer heat. If you notice any hot spots, apply a light layer of topdressing to help it recover.