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Is this Thatch in centipede

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by KLC Lawns, Mar 24, 2017.

  1. KLC Lawns

    KLC Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 305

    I'm wondering if the attached pictures are Thatch? I hope you can see what I'm talking about even tho it's not totally greened up yet. I'm not well versed in Thatch simply because our grasses don't accumulate as much as other grasses. This is a centipede yard with no irrigation just coming out of winter dormancy. 18-0-18 is applied late April and sometimes a second application in September. Last year's soil sample showed pH of 5.8. I understand centipede Thatch comes from stolons growing on top of one another, is that what this looks like? In over watered and over fertilized centipede yards I see this a lot where the grass is not really attached to the soil. But like I said this isn't irrigated and fertilizer is only applied at recommended rates once or maybe twice a year.

    How high should I mow it and what do I do to get the stolons growing back into the dirt? Is verticutting a good option? From other threads I searched it seemed like verticutting was something some recommended and some didn't.




  2. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,071

    It is. Unfortunately, Centipede does not have underground rhizomes. So, severe verticutting or dethatching will damage the lawn more than anything else. I would try to mow low. There is a reason why I prefer Centipede reel cut at 3/4-1".
  3. OP
    KLC Lawns

    KLC Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 305

    As long as I don't scalp it I should be fine mowing as low as the terrain let's me with a rotary?

    Am I understanding correctly that centipede maintained at 1 inch is tall enough to be sustainable? And that root length isn't compromised at this height?

    I'm re verifying these points because I'll need to start rededicating clients and bringing down the height of cut a bit. Clients won't trust me if I'm not sure myself.
  4. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,071

    Centipede does not put down very deep roots no matter what you do. That is why severe Verticutting is dangerous. It is possible to Verticut, but that is with the individual disc blades on the shaft much wider than is used on Zoysia and no more than one single pass. No cross pattern Verticutting.

    Mowing wise, I have done many things to grass that are not supposed to be done. Including taking down a Centipede lawn from a high of 4" all the way down to 1" in one day. Worse has happened on Centipede lawns not mowed low, like a thatch layer more than an inch thick.

    As for a rotary mower, it will not allow much lowering of height without taking out chunks of dirt and grass. For how uneven my lawns are, that is why I do not trust a rotary on them. The Greensmaster does much less damage while allowing me to mow as low as the grasses should be kept. I have never had to raise height of cut to levels that would cause more problems such as thatch later down the road.
    hort101 likes this.
  5. OP
    KLC Lawns

    KLC Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 305

    Thanks for the knowledge shared. Could I to dress to the top of the Thatch Layer and let the new stolons root into the top dressing?

    Would that decompose the Thatch or would the Thatch stay wet and spongy only to harbor disease, fungus, etc?
  6. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,071

    Topdressing is a great idea. Hope you are planning on using an inert or washed sand type of topdressing. That will serve dual purposes of helping the thatch decompose and make the lawn level enough to mow properly. Sand rather than dirt or organic matter will not stay wet.
  7. RAlmaroad

    RAlmaroad LawnSite Silver Member
    from SC
    Messages: 2,273

    Took care of centipede for years with so much great advise from Greendoctor. That look is normal for this time of year. I'd leave it alone and let it come out of dormancy first. It won't need cutting till June. If you CAN find a reel mower--the best for it--then use it by all means. Where are you located? Along the coast, a reel is very expensive for one/two lawns. I did not mow but hired that out--making sure that the mow guy had extremly sharp blades, moved slowly at a high RPM's. Centipede never really gets high and only had it cut monthly and that was just a manicure of the turf. It actually did better. What thatch that built up was generally just mulched back to the soil.
    Would be interested in know what your potassium source in the 18-0-18. Never found any commercial product with right stuff. Sod farm guys kept their nitrogen low--so did I but feed it way many more times.
    hort101 and greendoctor like this.
  8. Bigmks

    Bigmks LawnSite Member
    Messages: 118

  9. Bigmks

    Bigmks LawnSite Member
    Messages: 118

  10. MSlawnman

    MSlawnman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 181

    I didn't think I had a problem with thatch in my centipede but looking at this and the responses I'm pretty sure that's what I'm dealing with in one of the BEST areas of my lawn.

    I don't have a reel mower but I have a small electric rotary motor that I use for trim and keep the blades nearly razor sharp.

    I'm wondering, based on the responses here, if I could mow this area down to about an inch? It's now the second week of July in South Mississippi and hot and humid as heck. I don't want to kill off this area of my own but I need to do something.

    Any recommendations.

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