Centipede – Mowing
Improper mowing height is the prime cause of centipedegrass lawn problems. Mowing higher than 1.5 inches, except in special circumstances, will lead to substantial winter injury.
Every lawn grass has a height at which it should be mowed for best health. The rule is that only one-third of a grass plant should be removed in one mowing. As an example, if you intend to mow your centipedegrass lawn at a 1.5 inch height, you can allow it to grow to 2 inches between mowings. If you allow the grass to get taller than 3 inches you’ll mow down into the stems that have grown tall and the lawn will not look its best after you mow. If you fertilize moderately, mowing a lawn should only be needed once per week.
Rather than getting on your hands and knees to peer under the mower deck, just mow a spot and measure the height of the mowed grass with a ruler.
The first step in good mowing is to have a sharp blade. If the blade has not been sharpened in the past year, it needs to be sharpened or replaced. Dull blades whip the grass ends rather than cutting the grass. The ragged ends left by a dull blade cause a lawn to look yellowish the day after you mow. Ragged grass blades also lead to more water use by the grass and possibly an increase in disease.
Rotary mowers can do a good job if your centipedegrass lawn is relatively smooth and you keep the blade sharp. Otherwise, a more expensive reel mower will be needed.
In fall, let the grass go dormant without excessive mowing. It will have a nice brown color during the winter. In late March, mow off the top brown blades to expose the soil to the sun and warm the soil. Scalping the grass very low is not necessary. Burning the dead grass is also not recommended. It is illegal in most areas and it is dangerous in all places.
It is not necessary to catch the clippings when you mow. Research has shown that letting the clippings fall on the ground does not lead to disease or thatch problems. The clippings actually return nitrogen to the soil and save you money on fertilizer.
Centipedegrass does not usually form a thatch layer under the grass if it is mowed regularly. Using a de-thatcher when it is not needed can hurt the grass more than it helps. If the turf seems to be growing directly in the soil and if the thatch is less than 1/2 inch thick, don’t use a dethatcher.