The Q&A Archives: Lawn care

Question: I live in Tucson, AZ. How do I get kill the winter rye and when and how do I get dormant
lawn going for the summer?

Answer: 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. Good luck with your grass.

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