The Q&A Archives: Bermuda Lawn in the Desert

Question: I live in Arizona and am putting Bermuda grass in my back yard. It's summer. How long should I water each day, or how many days a week? Should I put a rich soil down before putting my grass in?

Answer: It's essential to prepare the soil properly before planting to have a healthy lawn for many years. The following steps for soil preparation are taken from the chapter Growing a Healthy Lawn in the book Desert Landscaping for Beginners by Arizona Master Gardener Press, 0-9651987-3-1.

Soil Prep:

Remove all debris, large rocks, old turf and weeds.

Establish rough grade one inche below sprinkler heads.

Wet the soil to a depth of 6 to 9 inches. Let it dry for two days.

Add soil amendments. At least two inches of nitrified wood mulch or other organic matter. 100 pounds of gypsum per 1000 square feet of lawn. Ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) according to package instructions. Till in amendments to a depth of 4 to 6 inches, preferably 6 to 8.

Install sprinklers or check that existing sprinklers provide full coverage.

Water to settle everything in and build water reserves. Allow the soil to dry for one or two days so that it is workable. It should crumble easily.

Rake and level. Foll the area with a lawn roller half filled with water.

Plant seed or sod.

In the midst of summer, you'll need to monitor watering carefully because the grass will quickly die if it dries out because its root system hasn't established yet. You'll probably have to water at least 4 times daily, for 5 to 10 minutes each, for the first two weeks, gradually reducing the number of times, but adding to the duration. From 15 to 21 days, water once daily from 15 to 20 minutes between 10 am and 3 pm. After 21 days, water 2 to 3 times per week between 3 am and 6 am. Water should soak 8 to 10 inches deep. When temperatures drop below 90 degrees again in the fall, reduce the frequency. Good luck with your lawn!

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