Centipede grass seed heads

Carpetgrass Uses: Information On Carpetgrass In Lawn Areas

Native to the Gulf States and naturalized throughout the Southeast, carpetgrass is a warm-season grass that spreads by means of creeping stolons. It doesn’t produce a high-quality lawn, but it is useful as a turf grass because it thrives in difficult areas where other grasses fail. Read on to find out if carpetgrass is right for your trouble spots.

Information on Carpetgrass

The disadvantage of using carpetgrass in lawns is its appearance. It has a pale green or yellowish green color and a more sparse growth habit than most turf grasses. It is one of the first grasses to turn brown when temperatures cool and the last to green up in spring.

Carpetgrass sends up seed stalks that quickly grow to a height of about a foot and bear unattractive seed heads that give the lawn a weedy appearance. To prevent seed heads, mow carpetgrass every five days to a height of 1 to 2 inches. If allowed to grow, the seed stalks are tough and hard to mow down.

Despite the disadvantages, there are some situations where carpetgrass excels. Carpetgrass uses include plantings in boggy or shady areas where more desirable grass species won’t grow. It is also good for erosion control in difficult sites. Since it thrives in soils with low fertility, it is a good choice for areas that aren’t regularly maintained.

The two types of carpetgrass are broadleaf carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus) and narrowleaf carpetgrass (A. affinis). Narrowleaf carpetgrass is the type most often used in lawns and the seeds are readily available.

Carpetgrass Planting

Plant carpetgrass seeds after the last spring frost. Prepare the soil so that it is loose but firm and smooth. For most soils, you’ll need to till and then drag or roll to firm and smooth the surface. Sow the seeds at the rate of two pounds per 1,000 square feet. Rake lightly after sowing to help cover the seeds.

Keep the soil constantly moist for the first two weeks, and water weekly for an additional six to eight weeks. Ten weeks after planting, the seedlings should be established and beginning to spread. At this point, water at the first signs of drought stress.

Carpetgrass will grow in soils without a lot of nitrogen, but applying a lawn fertilizer will hasten establishment.

A Quick Guide to Carpet Grass Seed

A name can say a lot. In the case of Carpet Grass, it almost says it all. Want a grass that looks like carpet? Carpet Grass.

Carpet grass a hardy perennial grass that is an aggressive spreader about as low maintenance as they come. It is particularly suited to areas prone to low fertility, acidic, or just generally poor soils, as it has an ability to withstand very tough conditions and spread out regardless.

The name comes from the fact that it is a particularly thick and low growing variety. The sod is very dense, feeling firm underfoot. This denseness and minimal upkeep associated with the grass makes it a favourite of not only Australian backyards, but of sporting fields, airports and even roadsides.

While technically a warm season grass, Carpet Grass can be grown in nearly all of Australia (with the exception of particularly cold regions, such as Tasmania and Victoria). It will grow best in the Tropical, sub-Tropical and warmer temperate climates from the middle to the north of the country. Despite the preference for warmer areas, it’s still able to withstand up to 50 percent shade without being adversely affected. It also has quite a good tolerance for frosts, albeit only if they are occasional.

Carpet Grass is a very shallow rooted variety, with 90 percent of its roots only penetrating only down to the 0-5cm range of topsoil. While it is a hardy breed, this lack of a deep root system that can reach underground water supplies does mean that its drought tolerance is considered low, and it will need to be nurtured in extended dry periods or if planted in a dry soil.

For use as a backyard lawn, the aggressive spread of Carpet Grass may cause problems if you haven’t got proper barriers in play to stop the lawn overtaking other areas of your garden. Ensuring flower beds and vegie patches are well fenced it important, and making sure you keep an eye on any potential creepers should be inserted into your lawn maintenance routine.

The pros certainly outweigh the cons though, and if you are in an area with reliable rain and generally warm conditions, it’s the sort of grass that you can plant and almost forget about. The hardiness for low quality soil really comes into play in these conditions, as Carpet Grass can put up with acidic soils down to a PH of 4 – and will really thrive with a PH of 5-6 – as well as not requiring a hugely fertile soil to flourish. It will thrive in conditions that most other grasses will find intolerable.

It can handle high traffic areas with ease, as the thickness of the grass combined with a good ability to recover from wear and tear make for the perfect toughness combination.

Carpet Grass seeds develop relatively slowly, and germination can be expected within 2-3 weeks of sowing. Post planting, use of a light roller may be advisable, to assist in the retention of soil moisture, and to ensure good contact between seed and soil.

McKays offers a Carpet Grass Seed that is 100 percent pure and has a minimum germination rate of 85 percent, meaning you’ll have no need to worry that your new turf won’t take on the first sow. Twenty grams of seed per metre should do the trick for getting a brand new patch started, so for a backyard of 100 square metres you’ll require about 2kg of seed.

For more information on McKays’ Carpet Grass Seed, or for any other lawn seeding queries, consult your friendly McKays team.

Best Uses for Carpet Grass

Carpet grass is a lawn variety that has very clear pros and cons. Its disadvantages clearly eliminate it as a grass choice for a few situations, but its advantages make it the stand-out best choice in many specific scenarios. Its unique combination of characteristics make it a fantastic choice of ground cover where no other grass would fit the bill.

So, let’s have a look at these advantages and disadvantages and what are the best uses for carpet grass.

What is Carpet Grass?

Carpet grass is a perennial warm season grass. It has runners and stolons and wide, blunt leaves. Carpet grass originated in the southern states of the USA so loves warm, wet weather.

Pros and Cons of Carpet Grass

The best thing about carpet grass is that it will grow in low fertility and rarely needs fertilising. Carpet grass also does will in very moist soil, in shade, and in sandy soils. Its thick sod makes it weed resistant, and its runners make it self-repairing. All of these together make it a very low maintenance grass.

The characteristics that stack up against carpet grass, however, are that it’s not very drought tolerant, it doesn’t deal well with saline soils, and the colour isn’t very attractive. The single biggest drawback of carpet grass is its very rapidly growing seed heads. These seed heads quickly grow up to a foot in height which means it needs frequent mowing to keep them at bay. Carpet grass is one of the first grasses to brown off in autumn and the last to recover in spring.

Best Uses for Carpet Grass

Reading those cons of carpet grass might put you off the grass altogether, but just hold on a second! Carpet grass is really, really useful for particular areas. In fact, there are some situations where no other grass will grow and you can quite easily maintain a happy and healthy carpet grass.

The most obvious one is in shady, moist areas. Most warm season grasses aren’t very shade tolerant. Carpet grass is a special warm season grass that not only loves the hot weather, but loves shade. If you’ve got a big shady tree in a sandy back yard, you’ll likely find that not many grasses will grow under it. That’s where carpet grass comes to the fore. For ground covers in boggy areas and under big trees or areas in semi-permanent shadow, carpet grass is the best choice.

Carpet grass is best used in tropical northern areas of Australia. Its love of hot weather and regular rain make it best suited to that climate, where it’s another alternative to kikuyu and Bermuda grass.

Whilst carpet grass isn’t regularly used as a turf in a home yard, ground cover for large council areas is one of the best uses for carpet grass. The seed heads in a home yard can look weedy, meaning frequent mowing to keep it looking tidy, but in a council area where the seed heads aren’t off-putting it makes for a fantastic low-maintenance ground cover.

Areas like roadsides, golf course roughs, median strips, airports, and park boundaries are perfect spaces for carpet grass. In these areas carpet grass is incredibly low maintenance and its ability to grow in low fertility makes it a safe choice – you know you won’t have problems with it! It also won’t need fertilising, making it a good budget option.

Carpet grass is also great for erosion control. Any patch of land that you’re not ready to work with yet but would like to keep from eroding away will do well to have a patch of carpet grass grown on it to keep it safe until you’re ready to work with it. The thick sod of carpet grass keeps weeds to a minimum too, meaning you won’t come back to the site and find that there’s been an infestation of Bermuda grass or other weeds. This in itself sums up what carpet grass is best for – covering areas that are rarely maintained but need some super low maintenance ground cover.

Carpetgrass for Lawns

Did you know we actually have a lawn grass that is commonly called “Louisiana grass”? It is common carpetgrass or narrowleaf carpetgrass (Axonopus affinis). Also known as “flatgrass,” creoles have called it “petit gazon.” This grass species is a naturalized grass brought to the United States through the port of New Orleans during the early 19th Century. Common carpetgrass is native to Central America and the West Indies and is now found in tropical and subtropical regions. It was originally brought to the United States for pasture use. In the early 1920s, the USGA Greens Section had promoted carpetgrass over bermudagrass for fairways. The adaptation of carpetgrass in the United States ranges from coastal Carolinas, mid-Alabama to East Texas; hardiness zones 8 and warmer. There are two lesser species of carpetgrass found in southern ranges: big carpetgrass (A. furcatus) and tropical or broadleaf (A. compressus). Common is the more frost-tolerant of the group and most attractive.

Carpetgrass is a stoloniferous, creeping, warm-season grass adapted to the Gulf Coast’s warm temperatures and heavy rainfall. It has an alternating arrangement of leaves on the stolon, as does centipede, but not the opposite arrangement of St. Augustine. This grass tolerates high soil moisture and low soil fertility. One problem with carpetgrass is its tall, thin seed head (culm) appearing when mowing is not done on a weekly schedule. This culm resembles a three-fingered crabgrass culm, although raceme fingers may number from two to four. There is current discussion concerning whether or not common carpetgrass is as cold tolerant and shade tolerant as the lawn grasses St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass, but it has more frost tolerance than bermudagrass and less shade tolerance than St. Augustine. The texture (width) of common carpetgrass’ blunt-tipped leaf blades falls between that of centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass. Research efforts at the LSU AgCenter have determined the cold tolerance, water requirements and fertilizer requirements of common carpetgrass.

Seed is small, about 1 mm long, and available for $3 to $4 per pound. This can produce an inexpensive method of establishing a large serviceable lawn. Soil temperatures for planting carpetgrass seed in spring should be 69 degrees F (at 2” depth) or higher. Sow at the rate of about 1.0 lb. per 1,000 square feet. Pasture and roadside seeding rates are about 20 lbs./A , but lawns run between 30 and 50 lbs./A.

Although many are unfamiliar with carpetgrass, chances are you have come in contact with it if you live in Louisiana. The plant appearance is so similar to centipedegrass that nurse-grass seed mixtures of common carpet and centipedegrass are sold. Common carpetgrass is faster to establish cover than centipedegrass, and eventually the centipede plants can dominate in well-drained, more-fertile soils if regularly mowed. It does not compete well with tall native grasses, so some mowing is essential to maintain any carpetgrass stand.

Carpetgrass usually does not respond much to fertilizer or lime. It tolerates a soil pH of 4 to 7 and will thrive if provided no fertility. In fact, it often becomes a turfgrass weed in improved lawns that are grown in poor soils and not fertilized. If fertilizing carpetgrass, choose a complete lawn fertilizer blend and do not apply at rates of more than ½ pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq.ft. (22 lbs./A).

If there is any drawback to common carpetgrass, it is the numerous seeds that are generated from June through September. This will only be an issue when the lawn is not mowed weekly as needed. Plant growth regulators have successfully reduced seed head height and number for up to five weeks after application. A recommended mowing height of 2” for common carpetgrass will maintain good turf quality.

Pests are rarely a problem for carpetgrass, although some report problems with brown patch, leaf spot and white grubs. Damages usually grow back in a good growing season.

The trend today is to minimize fertilizer and chemical inputs in Louisiana landscapes. If you are looking for a grass that is well adapted to poor or sandy Deep South soils, having high moisture (not swampy, however), low salinity and acid conditions, then common carpetgrass may be the most sustainable choice.

Carpet Grass

Carpetgrass is a perennial, coarse-leaved, creeping grass. It grows better on low, wet soils than do other grasses. It will grow well in either sun or shade but is less shade tolerant than St. Augustine and Centipede grass which it resembles. Carpetgrass may be planted by seed or sprigs.

Carpetgrass is recommended only for lawns on wet, low fertility, acid, (pH 4.5-5.5) sandy soils where ease of establishment and care is more important than quality. Its chief disadvantage is rapid seedhead production.

Carpet Grass makes a dense turf, can be grown from seed, shallow rooted and therefore is not drought tolerant. It is as cold tolerant as centipede and has poor salt tolerance. It’s shade tolerance is about the same as Centipede (less than St. Augustine grass).

Carpetgrass is a native grass to the interior Gulf states and similar tropical climates. Weeds and Bermuda grass can be crowded out by its thick sod. It is a good grass for erosion control and is a low maintenance grass on low fertility soils and can thrive if not mown without the addition of fertilizers.

Carpetgrass is ideal for those slightly shadier areas when moist soil is present for long periods. It will withstand higher traffic than many other grasses with these conditions. It is similar to centipede grass in its cold tolerance. It does not tolerate salt. Good option for soil erosion control combined with low maintenance.

Carpetgrass can be found from the sandy soils of East Texas to Florida and north to Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas. Carpetgrass is found in fields, woods, along roadsides, pastures and lawns. Also known as flatgrass, Louisianagrass and as “petit gazon” by the Creoles of Louisiana, carpetgrass is native to the Gulf Coast states and other tropical climates. It is a creeping, perennial grass that can be recognized by the blunt rounded tips of its leaves, flat stolons and a tall seedstalk with 2 branches at the apex. It forms a dense mat and will crowd out most other species.

The ability of carpetgrass to thrive under low fertility makes it suitable for use on low maintenance areas such as parks, roadsides, airports and golf course roughs. Its most objectionable characteristic, frequentand prolonged production of seedstalks, limits its use on lawns. Frequent mowing with a rotary mower is required to maintain a nice looking carpetgrass lawn.

Pest management

Carpetgrass is susceptible to common soilborne diseases such as brown patch and Pythium and to most leaf spot diseases, but rarely do these diseases justify fungicide applications on carpetgrass. The grass usually recovers with little injury when environmental conditions change. The exception might be brown patch in the fall which can produce unsightly turf for several months.

White grub and, in the southeastern states, mole crickets can cause serious injury to carpetgrass turf. Again, where infestations of these insects can cause a problem, insecticides are available to effectively control them.

Where weeds are a problem in carpetgrass turf, the hormone-type herbicides can be used for broadleaf weed control. Also, most pre-emergent herbicides are safe on carpetgrass and can be used for crabgrass control.

Broadleaf carpet grass

Scientific name Axonopus compressus
Common name Broadleaf carpet grass
Other names (PBR name, trademark, breeder code) Buffalo grass (Northern Australia), broadleaf carpet grass, cow grass (Singapore, South-East Asia), tropical carpet grass, carpetgrass.
Description Broad leaf carpet grass forms a coarse-textured, fairly dense low-growing turf with a distinctive dark green colour. The green leaves have a shiny, waxy appearance, with crinkles in them. It is generally quite shallow rooted, and relatively intolerant of drought. The species spread by short underground rhizomes. If it dries out during the dry season, and then when it rains or it is watered, the older leaves die and do not green up. This gives the lawn a half green – half dead appearance. Broadleaf carpet grass is commonly identified as a weed, especially when found growing among fine-textured turfgrasses like green couch. Broadleaf carpet grass loves the shade and can also grow in full sun. A significant downside is being able to control fine-textured turfgrasses or other broadleaf weeds growing within the carpet grass . It is best adapted to acid, sandy or sandy loam soils of low fertility. Broad leaf carpet grass prefers moist, well watered soils, but not water-logged conditions (Source: Cameron, 2006). If shade is an issue, and the area receives little to no wear (does not like wear), then broadleaf carpet grass may be the option for you.
Other comments Broadleaf carpet grass does produce some viable seed, but not in commercial quantity. Previously overseas, a slightly broader-leafed genotyoe/variety of Narrowleaf Carpet Grass has been sold as “Broadleaf carpet grass” and it is mistakenly thought that Broadleaf carpet grass is available in commercial supply; this is not the case. Broadleaf carpet grass is sensitive to broadleaf herbicide and therefore is difficult to maintain as a monoculture (single turf sward). Foliage can be green and purple. There was a varigated form of broadleaf carpet grass, ‘Whitsunday White’ which was protected by Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) then terminated on 24 Nov 2011, being sold in North Queensland (Loch, 2003). Pests, diseases and weeds Check to see which Pests, Disease and or Weeds this turf variety may be susceptible to and how to successfully control them in your home lawn or sports turf.

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Carpetgrass Lawn Maintenance Calendar

Lawn Maintenance Calendars

March Through May

Skip to March Through May

Mowing
Mow the lawn to 11⁄2 inches when it turns green in the spring. Do not let it grow taller than 21⁄4 inches. Use a rotary mower to remove the seedheads. NEVER burn carpetgrass to remove excessive debris.

Fertilization
DO NOT apply nitrogen now. Have the soil tested every third year to determine nutrient and lime requirements. (Contact your Extension center for details.)

Watering
Make sure your lawn gets 1 inch of water each week. If it doesn’t rain enough, you may need to water. In dry, sandy soils, you may need to water 1⁄2 inch every third or fourth day. Proper irrigation helps prevent or reduce problems in the summer.

Insect Control
Check for white grubs, mole crickets, armyworms, and sod webworms. On dry, well-drained soils, also check for nematodes. If you suspect nematode damage, ask your Extension agent how to submit a sample for analysis.

Weed Control
Unless your Extension agent suggests otherwise, do not make a broadcast application of herbicide. Carpetgrass is sensitive to most herbicides, and most herbicides are not labeled for use on carpetgrass. Manage weeds by hand pulling and mowing.

Renovation
Replant bare areas no earlier than April 15 (or when average daytime temperatures are continually above 60°F). Use 2 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet or 11⁄2 bushels of sprigs per 1,000 square feet. (One square yard of turf pulled apart is equivalent to one bushel of sprigs.) It’s easier to spread seed if you mix it with fine sand. Rake seeds into the soil or cover the seeds lightly with light soil. Keep the seedbed continually moist, but not soggy, with several light waterings daily for several weeks. Seeds should germination in 7 to 10 days. Continue to water regularly for several weeks to keep seedlings from dying.

Thatch Removal
Thatch (layer of undecomposed grass) is usually not a problem unless you overfertilize or overwater. If thatch is thicker than 1⁄2 inch, power rake (vertical mow) lightly several weeks after spring greenup. Space blades 2 to 3 inches apart and 1⁄4 inch deep in one direction. Do not use a vertical mower with a 1-inch blade spacing or you will severely damage your lawn.

How to Harvest Centipede Grass Seed

Centipede grass seed can often be difficult to find or expensive when it is available. The reason for this is that centipede grass does not often produce commercial-grade seed. No special equipment is necessary for harvesting centipede grass seed from a residential yard. If you have centipede grass, you may harvest your own seeds by hand, although the process can be somewhat tedious and time-consuming.

Water your centipede grass as usual, keeping it green and healthy.

Stop mowing your grass. Allow your grass to blossom and establish seed heads. Seed heads are generally ripe toward the end of summer — often two harvests can be made, one in midsummer and the other in late summer, depending on your local weather conditions. Warm weather favors multiple harvests. Seeds are usually ready to harvest approximately six weeks after the grass flowers.

Check a seed head for ripeness by slapping it against the palm of your hand. If seeds break loose, the seed heads are ready for harvest.

Put on gloves. Grab the grass stalk just below the seed head and pull your fingers up through the seed head. Seeds will separate from the grass and collect on your fingers and hands. Practice will allow you to develop a method of collecting the largest number of seeds with each pass of your fingers. Collect seeds from one or two seed heads at a time.

Place the collected seeds in a brown paper bag as you collect them. Place the bag of collected seeds in a warm, dry location with the bag open and allow the seeds to dry for two weeks. Shake the bag every two days to encourage even drying.

Spread the dry seeds on a clean sheet and gently blow on the seeds to remove dry leaves and other debris. Pick out larger pieces of debris with your fingers until the seeds are clean. Place the seeds in a small brown paper bag, mark the bag indicating the contents and the date of harvest and seal the bag until you are ready to plant your new lawn.

Should You Ever Let Your Lawn Go to Seed?

We’ve probably all seen it, and some of us might even be guilty of it from time to time. It can be the result of neglect, apathy, or just personal preference. I’m talking about those overgrown lawns that look like someone decided to turn their yard into a hay field. Throw in a cow and a couple horses and you’d have a fully functioning pasture. Neighbors complain about them, cities enact ordinances over them, and fire departments warn against them. Even with all the pressure to not let your lawn grow out of control, some folks continue to stick to their reasoning. One of the more interesting explanations I’ve heard from homeowners who allow this to happen is the natural overseeding theory. By leaving their grass uncut, some people believe they can thicken up their lawn by letting the grass go to seed. Once the seed matures and falls to the ground, the theory is it will germinate, grow more grass, and produce a thicker lawn. While this sounds like a really smart idea at first, in reality it has little effect and could actually damage your existing lawn.

Regular Mowing Controls Weeds

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t let your lawn go to seed besides keeping your neighbors happy. Weed control is an important factor to consider. The major reason a healthy, lush lawn is able to remain weed free doesn’t have anything to do with herbicides and weed-killers. Most weeds can’t handle regular mowing, and this one act alone is usually the only thing needed to keep most weeds at bay. By letting your grass grow tall, you’re inviting weeds to grow out of control as well. Not only would you be letting the grass go to seed, but the weeds will do the same. And unfortunately, weed seed has a quicker, more successful germination rate than your grass seed will.

Hybrid Grass Issues

Allowing your lawn to go to seed is also detrimental because many of our modern lawn grasses are hybrids and have been specially bred from wild varieties and either won’t produce seed to begin with or the seed won’t germinate. Like many of our vegetables and fruit trees, even if they do produce viable seed the seedlings won’t be “breed true”. This means that the offspring won’t have the special characteristics and will revert back into their wild forms. For example, say you grew a hybrid tomato plant. After harvesting the tomatoes from that plant you discover they were the best tasting tomatoes you’ve ever had, so you take the seeds and plant them the next season. This time however, they didn’t taste nearly as delicious as the parent plant. This is because any seed from a hybrid plant will not be “true-to-type”, or in other words will not resemble the plant it came from. The same is true for those of us with hybrid grasses in our lawns. If you were to let your lawn go to seed, and even if that seed germinated and grew, it would not resemble the parent grass and you’d end up with a patchwork-like lawn.

Allowing Grass to Seed Thins Lawn and Wastes Nutrients

Another reason not to let your grass go to seed is because it could actually thin it out instead of thickening it. While this might sound confusing, let me explain. Most lawn grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermudagrass, grow and spread through the use of specialized roots and stems known as rhizomes and stolens. This spreading attribute is what helps your lawn repair itself after damage and fill in bare spots. Most grasses grow much faster by this method than by spreading from seed. Once a grass plant grows tall enough and begins producing seed, most of the energy of that plant goes from rooting and spreading into seed production. In other words, producing seed is more important to the plant than spreading rhizomes and stolens. As more and more energy is required for seeding, the grass plant begins to absorb nutrients from the soil at an accelerated rate. The more nutrients removed from the soil, the less healthy your lawn will end up and you’ll soon find yourself spending more money on fertilizer.

Cut Back on Mowing By Using Alternative Grass Species

While the idea of free grass seed produced naturally from uncut lawn seems intriguing, in reality this is not a good idea and should be avoided. Not only could it damage the overall health of your lawn and cause weed infestation, but to keep the peace around the neighborhood it’s highly recommended you give your lawn a regular mowing. If regular mowing isn’t your thing, consider a lawn grown from Buffalograss. Buffalograss is very slow-growing and gets only 6-8 inches tall. And if you really, really hate mowing, perhaps our Low Maintenance Seed Blend is for you. This blend contains three types of alternative grass species that you can actually get away with not mowing at all!

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