The Q&A Archives: summer lawn

Question: Hello! I live in Phoenix & have a winter lawn which will be dying out currently (as the temp reaches 90-100 degrees). Do I need to put down bermuda seed or will the summer lawn come up automatically? There has been a summer lawn every year (for many years) previously. I am just not sure if it comes up on its own.

Answer: There are two main types of grass grown here in the low desert: a warm-season grass, which is Bermuda; it is sometimes overseeded for the cool-season with ryegrass. There is no grass species that can survive both temperature extremes here. However, many people install the Bermuda grass for the warm months and then let it go dormant in the winter. It's usually brown from about Thanksgiving until temps. warm up in the spring.

Spring lawn transition starts when temperatures are 60 degrees F or higher for 5 nights in a row, which usually is late March. At that point, gradually start mowing the rye lower with successive mowings. Don't remove more than one-third of the blade with any mowing as it strips the plant of its ability to photosynthesize. With reel mowers, the mowing height should eventually be one-half inch; for rotary mowers, 3/4 inch. This will allow sunshine to reach the Bermuda and allow it to start growing. Continue normal watering. Some people mistakenly believe they should stop watering to "kill" the rye, but this is not acceptable as it may kill the bermuda as well. Water should penetrate 8-10 inches deep for bermuda. (In winter, water needs to penetrate only 4-6 inches because rye has a more shallow root system.) Fertilize once per month with a lawn fertilizer. An excellent resource for low desert lawn care is "Desert Landscaping for Beginners" by Arizona Master Gardener Press. It has a complete chapter on lawn care, including maintenance charts.

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