Lawn & Alternatives
Caption plum:Choose a grass variety that can be mowed to two inches or longer
Common sense tells us lawns are not native to the Sonoran Desert. Just look at the hills around Papago Park. Keeping a high-maintenance water-intensive lawn can be a losing battle in Phoenix. However, if grass fits your lifestyle, consider limiting it to a small section of your landscape, and chose hardy, low-water-use varieties.
Some Valley experts also suggest that you pick one season to water grass. Choose a warm grass like common bermudagrass and allow it to go dormant in the winter. You'll have green grass for up to seven months. Having only winter grass is another option that will provide five months of green grass with less frequent watering in cooler weather.
Establishing healthy warm-weather lawns
Bermudagrass creates a heat- and drought-tolerant lawn in full sun. Quick growth and recovery from damage make some varieties good choices for Phoenix pet owners and high-traffic areas. Bermudagrass is salt tolerant and well-adapted to Phoenix tap or drinking water.
Tips to grow a healthy lawn and reduce watering needs:
- Before you seed, grade for positive drainage and prepare the soil.
- Think "2": select medium-density hybrids or "common" bermudagrass that can be rotary-mowed to "two" inches or longer (generally, longer grass requires less water).
- Broadcast seed evenly in mid-April using a drop spreader.
- Cover seed with a thin layer of compost/manure mix to retain moisture.
- Establish seed by watering ten minute cycles twice a day for the first three days - taper off slowly keeping the ground moist (not soggy) for about two weeks.
- Water when grass blades do not bounce back and footprints begin to show - in hot temperatures, water no more than once every three days (probe the soil with a screwdriver after a few minutes of watering, if it reaches a depth of ten inches, watering is sufficient).
- Stop or reduce watering when grass is dormant, at most watering once every two weeks.
- Water bermudagrass with bleed-off water from evaporative coolers if available.
Note. Consult with your landscape professional to identify existing grass varieties in your yard. Some hybrids (for example, "Tif" varieties) favor shorter mowing lengths.
Maintaining a winter lawn
Only one in three Phoenix area homeowners maintains both a summer and winter lawn. For those who do, knowing the "how-tos" can reduce seasonal watering requirements.
- Scalp bermuda grass to one-half inch height in October.
- Dethatch bermuda grass with a thatching rake.
- Sow ryegrass in early to mid-October with a drop spreader (perennial ryegrass is recommended over annual and is suited to rotary-mowing heights of two inches).
- Cover exposed seed with a thin layer of compost/manure mix to retain moisture.
- Water every seven to 14 days once grass is established.
- Stop watering winter lawn for at least two weeks in early April to kill off ryegrass.
- Resume watering after your ryegrass has fully-browned to bring bermuda grass out of dormancy.
Where can I find out more?