Harnett County,
North Carolina

Cooperative Extension 

Which turf grass is best from today's environmental perspective?

ASK THE HORT AGENT

Question Which turf grass is best from today’s environmental perspective?

Answer Lawn maintenance inputs which impact the environment include fertilizer, pesticides, water and petroleum. Affectionately known as “lazy man’s grass” or “poor man’s grass,” centipede requires far less of these inputs than any other turf grass. Half of North Carolina and 85% of Harnett County lawns are covered with centipede.

This grass only requires one half pound of nitrogen per 1,000/sq ft per year. Fescue requires 6 times more nitrogen (3 lbs/1,000 sq ft annually). Bermuda requires 12 times more nitrogen (6 lbs/1,000 sq ft annually). If managed correctly, far less fertilizer will be flung at storm drains while fertilizing centipede. Excessive fertilization actually causes this grass to die out. http://virtual.clemson.edu/groups/turfornamental/tmi/fertlime/CentipedegrassDecline.pdf

While other turf grasses prefer a pH between 6 and 6.5, centipede requires a lower pH of 5.5 to 6. Lime is typically not necessary on centipede lawns since their lower pH requirement is in the pH range of most native North Carolina soils.

Proper maintenance of any turf grass reduces the need for pesticides. Herbicides exceed 80% of the pesticides used on lawns. Centipede is sensitive to most herbicides (including 2,4-D). Therefore, fewer pesticides are even available to use on this grass.

Water use is an issue during dry times. Centipede’s primary vice is water. Fortunately, weeds like water as well. Drought is rough on all plants – turf and weeds. Eventually, the rain will return. A landscape full of cactuses will have a harder time during rainy years than centipede will have during a dry year. The University of Florida has addressed the water issue by developing new varieties of turf which use less water. The new centipede variety is called ‘Hammock.’ The name says it all. http://www.grounds-mag.com/news/turgrasses_florida_030105/

The final factor is petroleum. Mowing accounts for 95% of turf management. Centipede is naturally low growing and produces small seedheads. It is also dormant half the year. Therefore, it requires less mowing. Since it is low growing, it can be mowed with a reel mower (old timey push mower that doesn’t have an engine). Reel mowers give environmentalists the opportunity to convert their philosophies into actions. http://landscaping.about.com/cs/lawns/gr/reel_review.htm

Often described as apple green, centipede is a lighter shade of green. Its color isn’t dark green, but from an environmental perspective, it is the “greenest.” For a great set of Environmental Guidelines for Lawn Care and Landscaping, visit http://www.ncipmc.org/reallyipm/guidelines.pdf If you have lawn questions, call me at 910-893-7533 or email me at gpierce@harnett.org

Since 85% of Harnett County lawns are centipede, yet nobody uses a reel mower, I guess we’re just “lazy environmentalists.”

Gary L. Pierce

Horticulture Extension Agent

Harnett County

 
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