Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) sod, named for the resemblance of its stolons to centipedes, turns bare ground into lush, green lawn instantly, much the same as covering a bare floor with carpet. Despite its advantages, sod requires careful preparation and maintenance to ensure it takes root. A warm-season grass, centipedegrass does best in humid regions within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10, particularly in the southeastern United States.
Late spring to early summer is the best time to install any type of sod, before the intense heat and drought season of summer begins. Centipedegrass in particular tends to fail when installed in winter while dormant due to temperature fluctuation at the soil surface where the roots originate.
Sod is generally cut from the sod farm and delivered within 24 hours after placing an order. The sod begins dying from the moment it is cut, requiring installation as soon as possible to slow the rate of decline. Prepare the ground for sod installation before placing the order to give the new sod the best chance at establishing into a healthy lawn.
Centipedegrass roots must be able to spread easily into the native soil layer below as quickly as possible after installation. Till the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches so the soil is loose and easily penetrable.
Centipedgrass does best in acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 5.5 and can suffer from iron chlorosis in soil with a pH above 6.5. Have a soil sample tested to determine the specific rate of any amendments needed to alter the soil pH. Lime -- to increase pH and make it more alkaline -- is rarely needed, but soil may require a pH lowering amendment such as ferrous sulfate to increase acidity.
Fertilizer should also be applied before installing centipedegrass sod. A soil test can also reveal the ideal fertilizer application rate, but the sod generally requires an application of 10 pounds of 5-10-15 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.
After tilling and applying amendments, drag the soil with the back of a bow rake to make it perfectly smooth. Sod does not root properly in bumpy soil. Apply 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water the night before installation to moisten the soil.
Centipedegrass Sod Installation
Sod is sold in rolls, usually 2-by-5 feet -- enough to cover 10 square feet. To avoid trampling newly laid sod, start along a straight edge in a far corner of the yard and work your way back off the area, just as you would mop a floor to avoid walking on it. Unroll sod just as you would unroll a carpet or simply set square pieces in place. Stagger the joints in adjoining rows so the seams do not line up. Cut pieces with a sod knife or similar serrated knife to fit along curves or obstacles. While foot traffic should be minimized, a lawn roller helps ensure good contact between the sod roots and native soil. To avoid the costs of a lawn roller rental, fill a barrel halfway with water. Roll the lawn in the direction of the sod strips.
Sod must be watered daily for the first week after installation or until the roots begin to take to the soil. Apply 1 inch of water immediately after installation and as much as needed to keep the top 1 inch of soil moist. Water in the morning until the sod layer is thoroughly saturated and the soil beneath is moist -- afternoon watering dries too quickly, and evening watering keeps the soil wet and at risk for fungal problems. Reduce watering to about 1/4 inch every three days for nine days, and then cut back to 1/2 inch every five days for a period of 10 days. Just 1 inch of water weekly is sufficient for the rest of the growing season. Adjust watering rates according to the amount of rainfall.
Wait 30 days after installation before applying fertilizer. Spread ammonium nitrate at a rate of 1 pound per 1,000 square feet or follow the rate determined by a soil test. Twice annual fertilizer application is sufficient in subsequent years. Broadcast 4 pounds of 15-0-15 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet in spring and midsummer.
Regular mowing produces a healthy lawn, but fortunately, centipedegrass is a low-maintenance, low-growing grass that doesn't require mowing as frequently as other species. Allow the grass to grow to 3 inches before mowing for the first time. Trim it back to 2 inches and allow it to reach 3 inches before mowing again.
Limit use to only foot traffic for watering in the first week to avoid soil compaction. Use only a lightweight push mower for the first month. Wait at least 30 days before opening the lawn for regular use.
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