How to Aerate and Overseed Your Centipede Grass

Centipede grass is a staple for lawns and backyards for many homeowners. Centipede grass grows best in plant hardiness zones 7 through 10 and reaches heights of 1 to 3 inches. Grass thins out as time goes by and it is important to regularly overseed your lawn to keep that lush green field around each season. Aeration is the process of poking a multitude of holes into the soil your grass is grown in. Aerating your grass is both beneficial and vital. It allows water, oxygen, and nutrients to access your grass. This will keep your grass looking bright and healthy.

Keep reading to learn about the benefits of overseeding and aerating your lawn with centipede grass!

Why should I aerate and overseed my grass?

There are many benefits to aeration and overseeding. Aerating grass improves the rooting success of seeds, as well as increases airflow and nutrient cycling, thus creating an aesthetically appealing lawn. Centipede grass lawns can look patchy in certain areas over time. This can be because the soil in certain plant zones is densely packed due to high clay concentrations, so the grass is not getting enough access to oxygen and water over time. Aerating your grass prior to overseeding is crucial to a polished centipede grass lawn.

Overseeding grass prevents lawns from losing their uniform look. Centipede grass is particularly susceptible to foot traffic and areas of compacted soil. Centipede grass produces runners over time, but to fill in any struggling spots more rapidly, overseeding is the most effective method.

When should I begin treating my grass?

The best time to aerate, then overseed your grass is in the spring or early summer. This is because the grass has not begun to grow rapidly yet. Depending on your climate, the best time may differ. The more compact the soil is, the more often you may need to aerate it.

How to aerate:

A tip to keep in mind: aerating your grass when the earth is soft and moist, and the grass is beginning its growth stage, will allow for the greatest chance of success.

Step 1: Rent or purchase an aerator device. You can also use a rake to aerate.

There are different types of aerators to choose from. “Core” aerators are inserted into the ground and pull out a large plug of the earth. “Spike” aerators insert narrow rods into the earth. It has been shown that core aerators increase rooting and water extraction while spike aerators have no impact on grass health. When in doubt, select a core aerator.

Step 2: Remove all debris from the lawn. This could be weeds, rocks, and any other items that may disturb the aeration process.

Step 3: Mow the existing lawn low. Grass should be 1 – 1 ½ inches long after mowing.

Step 4: If using a rake, scratch the ground surface to aerate it.  The ground should be raked until there are loose pieces of dirt. Approach your lawn by raking in parallel lines until there is no more soil to rake.

If using a motorized aerator device, a checkered pattern is the most effective method in approaching your lawn. First, direct the machine going back and forth in one direction. Then direct the machine going back and forth at right angles (perpendicular) to the original direction.

How to overseed:

Step 1: Mow your lawn to 1 – 1 1/2 inches long.

Step 2: Water your lawn for 30 minutes or until the soil is thoroughly moistened. This will help the seeds take to the ground when spread.

Step 3: Spread seeds across your lawn using a broadcast spreader or by hand spreader for small areas. Disperse seeds by going back and forth in straight lines across your lawn. Once the lawn is covered, go over it again but this time perpendicular to your original lines. A good rule of thumb is to spread about half a pound of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Depending on how bare your lawn is, you can use as much as 1 pound per 1,000 square feet.

Step 4: Rake over your lawn again or spread leftover grass clippings to ensure grass seeds are covered in a layer of dirt. This is to ensure seeds don’t blow away and are secure in the ground.

Step 5: Once seeded, be sure to water your grass thoroughly so the soil feels damp. Water your grass each day until seeds germinate. Be careful not to over water as this may harm preexisting centipede grass.

Step 6: Consider fertilizing your grass. Fertilizing ensures your grass receives the appropriate amount of nutrients and reduces patchy or yellow-tinted grass. Look for a Centipede grass fertilizer that has higher levels of nitrogen and potassium, and a low amount of phosphorus.

Centipede grass prefers a soil pH between 5 to 6.5. The best fertilizer is dependent on the soil and any amendments in use. Test the soil for any lime or phosphorus supplements then adjust accordingly. Centipede grass fertilizer should be applied when soil temperatures at a depth of 4 inches reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Caring for your grass doesn’t have to be complicated or frustrating. Centipede grass is relatively easy to care for, and when aerated and overseeded accordingly, can result in a lawn that is flourishing and uniform season after season.

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