Wilmington Lawn Care – Caring for Coastal Lawns

Wilmington Lawn Care ExampleWilmington lawn care starts with understanding the unique requirements of your turf and the specifics of lawn maintenance in the coastal area of North Carolina. Obviously this area of the country is most suited to warm season turfgrasses with the most popular being Bermuda, Centipede and Zoysia. Although these are all hardy choices in our hot, humid climate they each have specific needs for optimum lawn health and appearance.

All three grasses thrive in the heat and are reasonably drought tolerant in addition to tolerating the sandy soils of our region. But if you’re serious about Wilmington lawn care, you’ve got to know the specific differences to treat each of these 3 turfgrasses. They each thrive at slightly different mowing heights as well as different fertilizer requirements in addition to specific lawn insect and lawn disease controls.

Wilmington Lawn Care Specifics

Mowing Height

Bermuda grass is the least sensitive to a variation in mowing height. It is an aggressive, creeping turfgrass in warm summer months and can be mowed at 1″ – 2″ for Common Bermuda and even as low as half an inch for hybrid varieties. Ideally with any turf you don’t want to mow more than a third of the leaf blade’s height in any one cutting, but in good weather Bermuda can bounce back from most anything.

Centipede is more sensitive to traffic than Bermuda and needs enough height to maintain its thickness. 1.5″ – 2″ is ideal.

Zoysia will tolerate a range of mowing heights but is usually best at 1″ – 2.” In shady areas opt for the higher cutting height.


Top lawn care services will suggest watering your lawn regularly here in the South during the summer months unless we are having an unusually wet summer. Sandy soils down east drain faster, and our summer temps get pretty hot. However, watering too much like every day, or twice a day is not advisable as the added moisture beyond what the plant needs can create conditions in which turf diseases thrive. Your lawn can literally start to rot.

Most lawns will do well watering 3 times a week early in the morning for 5 – 15 minutes depending on the sprinkler system. Watering in the evening is not a good idea as it lets water stand all night on the leaf blades and creates ideal conditions for disease growth. Watering in the morning allows the grass to dry off sooner as the sun rises. Also it’s a good idea to have a rain sensor on your irrigation system that tells the system to shut off when there has already been enough natural rainfall. Roughly simulating 1″ of rainfall per week is a good average.


Fertilization is a key component to a healthy lawn especially here in the southeast as our sandy soils allow nutrients to leach through more quickly than the loamy and clay soils to our west. The more aggressive the grass and mowing intensity, the more fertilizer you will likely need. But overdoing it will create it’s own set of problems … imagine overfeeding us humans – we get fat and lazy. We don’t want that in our turf as it can get less resistant to disease, pests and environmental changes.

A good general fertilizer for all of these lawns is a slow-release type with a nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) balance of 16-4-8. This is 16% Nitrogen, 4% Phosphorous and 8% potassium. The best lawn care companies like the pro’s at Gunnell will be able to advise you on a good fertilizer and sometimes a soil sample is a good idea just to be sure.

Bermuda is the most aggressive of the bunch and can handle the most fertilizer but is also fairly hardy if you don’t. At first greenup in the Spring, apply 1/2 – 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn. At 16% nitrogen on a 16-4-8 fertilizer, this means 10 pounds of fertilizer has 1.6 pounds of nitrogen in it. So roughly 5 pounds of fertilizer per 1000 square feet of lawn should do the trick. Followup in the heat of summer from June – August with good watering and the same fertilization rate every 4 – 6 weeks. This means you could fertilize up to 4 times for the season – the greenup fertilization in the Spring and then once in June, July and August. At the end of the season in September it is a good idea to apply a final fertilization that’s high in potassium using “muriate of potash” (0-0-60) or “potassium sulphate” (0-0-50) to strengthen the turf’s root system for its dormancy going into winter.

Centipede is the least aggressive of the turf varieties we’re covering here and requires the least maintenance and the least fertilizer. Overdo it and you’ll create problems. A dark green lawn of centipede is usually a no-no and a sign of too much nitrogen. Centipede is normally an “apple green” color. If it is yellowish and you’ve fertilized according to schedule,  look into applying iron to the lawn for green-up. A soil sample is a good idea to be sure.

Centipede only requires 1 – 2 pounds of nitrogen per year, per 1000 sq feet with 2 pounds being a good bet in sandy soil with steady watering. One application in late April/early May and another application before August 15th is a good rule of thumb. Using a 16-4-8 or a 15-0-15 fertilizer means using approx 5-6 pounds of fertilizer per 1000 square feet of lawn. At these rates a small 3000 square foot lawn will only need 30 lbs of fertilizer a year.

Zoysia falls somewhere in between Bermuda and Centipede on the aggressiveness of its growth and its fertilizer requirements. A balanced 16-4-8 slow-release fertilizer is a good recommendation for Zoysia and expect to make the first application in early May. 5 pounds of 16-4-8 per 1000 square feet of lawn will provide .8 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 feet which is a good average in our region. Apply the same rate every 4-6 weeks until August 15th and your lawn should respond nicely. Note this sets a max of 4 fertilizations (May, June, July August) per season and a max of roughly 3lbs of nitrogen per 1000 feet of lawn … less may be required for your lawn.

Lawn Pests & Insect Control

All of the turf types in our region are susceptible to mole cricket damage and white grubs. Ideal treatment for mole crickets is usually last week of May, first week of June. It’s important to catch them in the larval or nymph stage before adulthood as the adults are tougher to kill and damage will have been done if you wait too late. Gunnell Landscaping can advise you on treatment techniques as pesticide treatments are best left to licensed professionals. White grubs are another pest you may see late in summer, usually easiest to control in August when they are close to the surface. Nematodes can be a problem in drier sandy soils

Lawn Disease Controls

When it comes to Wilmington NC lawn care, over watering is the main reason for most lawn diseases as it creates the perfect conditions for fungus growth in our warm humid climate. Proper watering and a healthy turf will be fairly disease resistant. However, Centipede and Zoysia are still prone to dollar spot, leaf spot and brown patch  with brown patch being the most prevalent. Chemical treatment by a licensed professional such as the lawn care professionals at Gunnell Landscaping is recommended.

Hopefully you found this article helpful as you consider what it takes to maintain a healthy lawn in the downeast or coastal environs of the Carolinas. This is not intended to be an exhaustive look at everything required for an optimum lawn but should be a good starter reference. If you would like a professional opinion on what’s required for your Wilmington Lawn Care, don’t hesitate to contact us at Gunnell Landscaping, 910-686-8234.