Spring is almost here! The birds are chirping, bees are buzzing and life begins to return to outdoor lawns and gardens. As temperatures start to slowly warm up again, it’s important for us lawn and garden lovers to provide our tender love and care to our beloved centipede grass lawns.
When it comes to seasonal centipede grass maintenance, spring lawn care slightly differs from the summer or fall seasons. Temperatures rise and soil conditions change. Centipede grass is just starting to come out of dormancy and turn green again.
Depending on where you may be located, your centipede grass lawn may not have even gone dormant at all! Regardless, this is a time to help your warm season lawn transition into the warmer months.
Our turfgrass experts compile a list of spring lawn care tips to help your centipede grass come out of dormancy and flourish into the spring season ahead.
If you have a centipede grass and want to keep up with spring lawn maintenance, be sure to also check out our Homeowner Maintenance Guides for generic centipede or Santee® Centipede. Each maintenance guide is divided into sections for spring, summer and fall maintenance.
1. Begin Mowing Your Lawn at the Proper Height Again
The timing for which the first mow of the spring for your mature, established centipede grass widely varies depending on the area you live in. Centipede grass can come out of dormancy differently depending on the environment and temperatures your area encounters.
For example, if you live in South Florida, your centipede grass may have never entered dormancy at all during the winter. Many homeowners who live in South Florida will mow their lawn every other week during the winter—oftentimes starting in September and resuming a regular, weekly mowing schedule again in mid-March.
Generally speaking, mid-March is about the time for you to begin your regimen for spring green-up and mowing. It’s important to note that he first mow of the spring shouldn’t take place while your centipede lawn is dormant—wait until it’s actively growing again before mowing and never remove more than a third of the leaf blade or you may risk scalping the lawn. For the first mow of the spring, remove dormant grass leaves to promote new growth by mowing at 2.5 inches in height with a rotary mower that has a sharpened blade.
Keep your centipede between 1.5–2.0 inches in height for the remainder of the spring season. Spring mowing will be the same for Santee Centipede grass.
Lastly, a good tip for spring is to make sure your lawn mower blades are sharpened so that the mower blades neatly slice through the grass in place of ripping them. If the grass blades aren’t cut neatly, the mower is ripping them and opens the grass up to possibility of disease.
2. Start Your Lawn Off Right with the Appropriate Spring Fertilizer This Year
With most centipede grass coming out of dormancy, the spring is one of the most important times to use fertilizer. The best fertilizer for centipede grass needs to promote healthy roots and the return of green leaf blades.
Be careful when making your first fertilizer application of the year though—it is common for homeowners to see their grass green up and immediately pull out the fertilizer and lawn mower.
We advise that you typically wait until the last frost has hit. If you fertilize your lawn and another frost hits, your centipede lawn will go right back into dormancy and you’ll have a harder time getting it to green up again. This does more harm than good.
The date of the last frost varies from location to location. In the Florida Panhandle, for example, centipede grass may not go dormant and will reach its full green-up in early February (depending on how cold the winter was).
Even then, you won’t want to apply fertilizer until after Easter once the last frost has passed. Refer to the Farmer’s Almanac to figure out the last frost date for your area in 2022.
Sod University recommends two different options for centipede grass spring fertilization: Lawnifi® Foundation, a slow-release granular option that comes in 25 lb. bags and lasts for three months, and our Lawnifi Spring Fertilizer Box, a liquid fertilizer program that includes three bottles of liquid fertilizer that can be applied monthly with a hose-end sprayer.
Each of the options are great centipede grass fertilizers that cover 5,000 sq. ft. Learn more in Granular vs. Liquid Fertilizers or by clicking the two products listed below.
Our patented nano-fertilizers with Catalyst TechnologyTM give your centipede lawn the jump-start it needs to emerge from dormancy, green up fast and thrive throughout the spring months.
Next, it is important to mention that if you have a centipede lawn, you may start to notice spots of brown or straw-like grass while the rest of your lawn comes out of dormancy. This is usually a sign of disease.
You do not want to apply fertilizer to a lawn with disease as the nitrogen in the fertilizer will feed the disease and promote its growth. Apply a systemic fungicide first and then wait several weeks before following with a fertilizer application.
3. Set Up a Spring Irrigation Schedule
Dormant centipede grass doesn’t need much water until the active growing season kicks in and your grass starts to green up. In our Winter Lawn Maintenance Tips article, we state that if you have a dormant, warm season lawn, it is not dead—it’s just “sleeping”.
Although dormant grass requires much less water than it would while it is actively growing, it will still need water.
Once it starts to come out of dormancy, centipede grass requires about 1 inch of water per week including rainfall. The same can be said for the different brands of centipede like Santee. If you aren’t sure how to measure how much water your lawn is receiving, an irrigation audit may be beneficial to you. Irrigation audits provide measurable information about how much water each area of your lawn is receiving within a given amount of time.
If you’re a homeowner who lives far enough south and your centipede doesn’t go dormant during the winter, you may continue to regularly water your lawn in the winter.
However if you live in South Florida, for example, you may turn your irrigation off completely during the winter and during the months of June–August when it rains a lot. The atmosphere in South Florida isn’t usually evaporating much water and the grass isn’t using it much during the winter, so frequent irrigation isn’t needed.
The next few tips in this article discuss spring applications for fungicides, herbicides or insecticides. If any of these control products or fertilizers are granular, you will need to water the product in so that your lawn absorbs it. This means that you will already be watering your lawn with the appropriate amount of water during the week of application.
The same can be said with any liquid products as they are either products that attach to the end of your garden hose or require tank mixing with water.
Above all, read and follow label instructions thoroughly before watering any products in.
4. Control Weeds with a Pre- or Post-Emergent Herbicide
In the spring, a pre-emergent herbicide should be applied once soil temperatures reach about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. A pre-emergent herbicide functions to prevent weeds from emerging from the surface of the soil. In opposition, a post-emergent herbicide treats currently existing weeds.
The exact dates for these pre-emergent applications differ depending on the area you live in, but generally speaking, pre-emergents should be applied between March 1st and March 15th.
Atrazine-based post-emergents like the ones below are the best spring lawn treatments as they’re the most effective weed killers for centipede lawns. They also serve as an excellent pre-emergent herbicide. Be sure to follow product labels appropriately during application.
Note: St. Augustine and centipede lawns are sensitive to active ingredients like 2,4-D, MSMA or Mecroprop. Apply an Atrazine-based weed control product like Hi-Yield Atrazine to control weeds. Both Atrazine products serve as pre- and post-emergent herbicides.
Pictured above from left to right: Crabgrass, goosegrass, clover, knotweed, spurge and lespedeza.
5. Watch Out for Insects That May Begin Coming Out
If your lawn has suffered from insect damage around this time in the past, it is a good idea to apply a broad spectrum insecticide at this time to prevent them from coming back again. If the insecticide is a granular product, be sure to water it in so that it soaks into your soil. On the other hand, if it’s a liquid product, you will either need to attach it to the end of your garden hose or tank mix it.
Spittlebugs, or froghoppers, are garden and turf insects that feed on the fluids found in your grass and ornamentals. Overtime, this can cause grass to turn yellow or brown and die. They love centipede grass the most but can be found in other turf types.
Scotts GrubEx and Dylox 6.2 are often used to treat currently existing grub worm infestations where as Imidacloprid-based products like Merit 0.5 G and Merit 2F (not pictured) prevent them.
Bifen L/P and Bifen XTS can treat a spittlebug infestation.
You can read more about these insects in our Insect Identification blog. Refer to some of our most popular and effective insect control products below and be sure to follow product label instructions before application.
Pictured above from left to right: White grub worms and a spittlebug.
6. Prevent Disease as Temperatures Begin to Warm Up
As previously mentioned, disease outbreaks may start to show up as centipede grass comes out of dormancy. This is a sign of disease and you may need to make applications of a systemic fungicide. Even if you don’t have disease in your lawn, it’s still good practice to apply it preventively to keep disease from taking over—especially if you’ve had disease in the past around this time.
Systemic fungicide applications should take place before you apply any spring fertilizer. If you have fungus in your lawn, the nitrogen found in fertilizers oftentimes feeds it and helps it spread. Apply a systemic fungicide and wait a few weeks before applying any fertilizer.
There are a few other optional things that can be done to help your lawn thrive in the spring.
Before the onset of summer heat, lawn patchwork and light top dressing with a sand and topsoil mix is a great way to recover any weak areas. SodPods or seed can be purchased to fill in areas of the lawn with bare spots. Learn more about SodPods and grass plugs here.
Aerating your lawn is also an ideal way to help deliver nutrients and really break up compacted soils. We typically recommend doing this once every couple of years. If you notice thatch that is thicker than 1⁄2 inch, dethatch in late May. Read more in Aerating vs. Dethatching.
Spring maintenance tips differ from other practices that take place during the rest of the year for centipede grass care. Weather starts to warm up and everything will turn green again, so you lawn needs different things at this time. Be sure to check out our individual Homeowner Maintenance Guides for generic centipede and Santee® Centipede.
Lastly, if you have a new lawn and are looking to learn about spring lawn care treatment for new sod, we recommend starting with our establishment guide for the first 30 days after installation and then transition to one of the maintenance guides here.