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Centipede grass yellowing or dying?
Centipede grass
Centipede grass requires little maintenance. - photo by File

By Blake Carter

UGA Extension agent

Hello, Effingham County!

I have had an influx of calls as of late about lawns around the county., Specifically in centipede lawns.

I wanted to go through a few reminders as we get further into spring and into summer in a few months.

To start, I love centipede grass. You may say why? Well, to start, it is called the “Lazy Man’s Grass,” which may come across as offensive to some but, to me, that means less maintenance. Plus, centipede has better tolerance to a lower pH soil! Most of the time, I see low pH levels around the county, so that is a big bonus.

While it is a lower-maintenance grass, it does, however, have very specific growth requirements. Unfortunately, if we do not meet the requirements, the lawn may get a condition called centipede decline. The lawn may become unappealing, turn yellow and eventually die.

Centipede decline can be very difficult to cure. It is caused by improper management practices and is prevented by — you guessed it — proper management practices.

Starting with the hardest thing to do, DO NOT fertilize centipede lawns very much. Centipede lawns should be fertilized twice a year at most.

I would recommend halving your application of fertilizer that is recommended and do one spring fertilization and a second application, plus some iron in late summer. Centipede lawns should have yellow-green leaf blades most of the growing season. 

Centipede grass should be a low growing and slow growing. If you are fertilizing your centipede grass enough to keep it, thick and dark green, then you may be headed for problems.

Mow centipede grass one to one and a half inches tall — never taller! Higher mowing heights can lead to winterkill. Start with the lower mowing height in the spring and raise the height as temperatures climb.

Another big misconception is irrigation scheduling. Centipede wants and needs roughly one inch of water per week even in the hottest part of the summer. Make sure to consider rainfall when you water.

In our sandy soils, a good rule of thumb is, without any rainfall, water your grass ½ inch every three days. The best time to water is after sunup and before noon. DO NOT WATER AT NIGHT/EVENINGS. The lawns will not have significant time to dry properly and can lead to over saturation.

Believe it or not, a way to tell when the grass needs watering is when it starts to show signs of drought stress. The lawn will turn grey, the leaves will roll up and footprints will remain in the turf when it is time to water again. If the lawn dries out too quickly or the lawn is holding water on the top of the ground, find out what the problem is and fix it.

The sprinkler system may not be putting out enough water or putting it out unevenly. The ground may be hard or the turf may be thatchy. Dethatch if the thatch layer is more than one-half inch thick. Aerate the lawn if the soil is hard. Use an aerator that will remove plugs up to three inches deep.

One last tip for centipede. Right now, I have seen several cases of large patch disease and a few instances of nematode issues. Usually, these two issues are mixed with fertility problems.

To help combat large patch and nematodes, fungicide programs can be put into place, as well as nematicides to reduce nematode populations. We provide pathology tests and nematode assays to determine what is hurting your grass.

I also recommend a soil sample report to be done so I can better understand the nutrients in the soil. I hope this helps get you through the springtime Centipede scares!

If you are experiencing any of these issues, feel free to reach out!

Joke of the Week: What do you call a cow that is riding a wave of Centipedegrass? SURF-&-TURF

If you have any questions, suggestions, or want further information, give me a call at or stop by the Effingham County Extension Office, (912)754-8040, 501 N. Richland Avenue, Rincon Ga., 31326.