The Q&A Archives: High Desert Turfgrass

Question: We are moving to Ridgecrest CA 93555, an extreme desert climate- what type of grass would grow best in the climate? -the backyard is all dirt right now. Also do roses flourish in that climate?

Thank you

Answer: You have a choice. Many people plant both warm and cool season grasses so the lawn remains green all year around. Or, you could plant a cool season grass or a warm season grass. Here are the descriptions:

"Cool Season" turfgrasses grow mainly in fall, winter and spring but remain green all year. To extend color into fall and winter, annual or perennial ryegrass "cool season" grasses are sometimes used to overseed "warm season" grasses.

Alternatively, "cool season" turfgrasses can be established alone. "Cool season" turfgrasses are higher water use than "warm season" turfgrasses.

Tall fescue performs better under high temperatures than other "cool season" turfgrasses. It requires sun, but accepts partial shade. Tall fescue is moderately wear-resistant, but does not recover completely from severe injury. It is a low-maintenance turfgrass. Two or three varieties should be blended for optimum performance.

Perennial ryegrass performs well in partial shade in the High Desert. It is highly competitive against weeds if properly maintained. Two or three varieties should be blended for optimum performance.

Kentucky bluegrass lacks high-temperature tolerance, and does not fare well under heavy traffic or compaction during summer when planted alone. Blending two or three good performing varieties together is recommended. It requires moderate maintenance.

Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass mixtures is preferred over planting either turfgrass singularly. The mixture results in a more disease-resistant stand, offering good color and year-round performance. By weight, at least 15 percent perennial ryegrass is recommended.

"Warm Season" Species

"Warm Season" turfgrasses grow mainly in spring and summer and go dormant in late fall and winter. They use less water than "cool season" turfgrasses.

Common and hybrid bermudagrass require full sun, but do well in hot High Desert summers. Both recover relatively quickly from moderate wear and severe injury during their growing season. Common bermudagrass is a lower maintenance turfgrass than hybrid bermudagrass, and can be established from seed rather than vegetatively.

Zoysiagrass is heat tolerant, and takes some shade. It is relatively wear-resistant, but recovers slowly from excessive wear, due to its slow growth rate.

St. Augustinegrass is not commonly grown in the High Desert because it does not always survive the cold winters. It performs well in high heat and is moderate in wear-resistance and recovery time.

Hope this answers your question.

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