The Best Time to Plant a Centipede Lawn From Seed
Where it grows in USDA Zones 7 to 9, Centipede seed sprouts and develops best when planted from March through mid-summer. Seeds planted when temperatures are cooler will germinate when soil temperatures rise to 70 degrees F and above. Spring through early summer plantings tend to do best. Competition from weeds and other grasses are less at this time.
Note: If you are in Zone 7, check with your Local Extension Service Agent to see if Centipede grows well in your area.
Site preparation is critical for establishing a thick lawn in the shortest amount of time. You can aerate and overseed an existing Fescue or Bermuda grass lawn, however, you will achieve better and quicker results if the soil is loosened with a tiller or garden rake to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. In hard-packed clay soils addition of sand can help to loosen the soil. After tilling soil, use a garden rake to level and smooth seed bed and create 1/2" deep furrows across the entire planting bed. This depth is critical for proper germination of seed.
Note: Keep in mind, whether aerating and seeding or using the till method that seed planted too deep may not germinate.
Before tilling soil, a pre-plant fertilizer such as 5-10-15, 15-0-15 or 18-0-18 may be added by broadcasting at a rate of 10 to 15 pounds per thousand square feet of lawn area. Alternatively, we've found that using a 'Lawn Starter' fertilizer works best.
Note: Never use a 'Weed & Feed' fertilizer or Lawn Weed Killer sprays prior to planting seed as this will inhibit germination or kill the Centipede seedlings as they sprout!
Planting the Seed
To broadcast seed evenly, broadcast seed with a hand-held or walk-behind rotary type spreader. Make sure to set spreader on a very low setting as you will need to cover a large area with a very small amount of seed (1 pound covers 4,000 square feet: 100' x 40' area). Due to customer demand, you can now purchase seed spreaders at Wilson Bros. new online gardening store: GardenerDirect.com
Note: Avoid mixing seed with sand as the seed might condense in the mixture and not spread evenly over the planting area.
To start, spread half of the calculated seed over the entire planting area following the direction of the furrowed rows you created. Broadcast the other half of the seed in the opposite direction (perpendicular) to the first pass. This crossing pattern will ensure even coverage. Finally, carefully cover the seed using a leaf rake or by using a lightweight lawn roller.
In the region where it can be grown (USDA Zones 7-8), Centipede Lawn Seed is available at most nursery and garden centers in 1 and 5 pound packages. If you are in Zone 7, check with your local nursery and garden center or Extension Service Agent to see if Centipede grows well in your area. Due to customer demand, you can now purchase Centipede Seed in 1, 5, 25 and 50 pound packages at Wilson Bros. new online gardening store: GardenerDirect.com
Note: Beware of stores selling "5-pound" packages of Centipede Seed which contains 4 pounds of filler and 1 pound of seed. Centipede Seed does come with a nutrient-packed coating that usually accounts for 50% of the weight of a package. So, a 5-pound package of Centipede Seed should contain at least 2-1/2 pounds of seed.
If the area is prone to washing or erosion, lightly mulch with wheat straw, hay or some other type of straw. Distribute mulch thinly: just enough to cover the soil. Mulch applied too heavy can inhibit growth by shading young seedlings.
The most critical step in establishing a lawn from seed is keeping the soil bed moist...but not too wet. The soil should remain moist to a depth of 1" until seedlings have reached at least 1/2" in height. In cooler weather, this may be accomplished by watering 2 to three times per week if there is no rainfall. In warmer weather, daily watering may be necessary if there is no rainfall.
Once seedlings have reached the requisite height watering may be cut back, but not stopped completely during the first active growing season. During the second growing year, Centipede should only require watering during prolonged periods of dry weather.