The Q&A Archives: Grass that didn't grow

Question: We planted summer grass in our backyard early this summer & it has grown very poorly only in patches. There are still patches where you can see the fertilizer & there are many succulent looking weeds scattered throughout the yard. Even if we are able to spray & kill all the weeds is it too hot now (we live in AZ & it's 112 degrees) to plant more grass? What would you suggest for removing the weeds?

Answer: Bermuda grass sod can be planted year around in the Valley, although it does best when installed during warm weather. Bermuda seed or stolons can be planted when night temperatures are 60 and over, usually from May 15 through August. You didn't say what kind of soil preparation you did, but since the grass doesn't seem to be doing well, here are some basics on soil preparation steps for any type of lawn. It is adapted from a chapter in ?Desert Landscaping for Beginners? from Arizona Master Gardener Press, written by a local expert for low desert turf. For complete maintenance details on watering and fertilizer, I recommend you read that chapter. As for weeds, pulling after watering when the soil is moist and the roots pull easily is the recommended method. Otherwise, a post-emergent spray on existing weeds, but follow product instructions exactly. Pre-emergent weed controls (which prevent seeds from germinating) are applied only once in late August or September, or once in March or April, only if needed.

Soil Preparation

Remove all debris, rocks and weeds.

Establish rough grade at one inch below the sprinkler heads by filling in low spots and leveling high spots.

Wet the soil to a depth of 6-9 inches, but 10-12 inches is better. Let it dry for 2 days.

Add soil amendments. In our area, typically add at least 2 inches of nitrified wood mulch or other organic matter, such as regular mulch or compost. Gypsum at a rate of 100 pounds per 1000 square feet improves drainage. Soil sulfur at a rate of 5 pounds per 1000 square feet assists in soil pH reduction, but this is on a limited and temporary basis. You can?t really change the pH of our desert soils significantly. Ammonium phosphate fertilizer (16-20-0) can be added according to package instructions.

Till in the amendments at least 4 to 6 inches deep, but 6-8 is better. Don?t leave them in layers on top of the soil.

Decide what type of irrigation system you're going to use and install that.

Water to settle the sprinkler trenches and soil and to build water reserves in the soil. Allow the soil to dry for one to three days so that it is workable. Don?t work wet soil, which can damage its structure permanently. It should crumble easily in your hands if it?s workable. Rake and level the surface.

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