Lawns are usually discouraged in desert areas due to the amount of water and upkeep they require. However, conscientious homeowners can enjoy the look and feel of a plush and healthy lawn by limiting the amount of planted area and recycling rain water to reduce its environmental impact. The drop in temperatures makes winter the perfect time for enjoying the lawn, but only when it’s properly maintained throughout the season. Follow these five tips for winter lawn care that your neighbors envy straight through the arrival of spring.
1. Switch Seeds
Most desert-dwellers stick with Bermuda grass for summer growth because it’s one of the only varieties that can handle the challenging conditions. However, this turf option goes dormant in the winter. Overseeding with rye grass as the temperatures start to cool is the best way to enjoy greenery year round. Aim to plant the rye when overnight temperatures stay steadily around the 60 degree F mark.
2. Dethatch Before Seeding
Of course, that fresh seed needs to actually reach the soil in order to sprout and grow up through the dormant Bermuda grass. Dethatching the grass with a specialty rake or a lawnmower attachment clears out the leftover dead material from your summer lawn. Aerating is also helpful, especially if your lawn has been growing sluggishly or you notice water standing on the surface for longer than usual. However, it’s best done before the Bermuda goes dormant so the roots have a chance to heal. Cut the dormant grass down to about half an inch before seeding too. Don’t worry, the roots are still intact enough to allow the Bermuda to re-establish when warmer temperatures arrive.
3. Time Your Herbicide
If you have to rely on herbicides to keep weeds under control, apply them in late October to early December. This keeps competition down as the new shoots of growth try to climb up to reach sunlight. Even if you’re not double-growing this year to enjoy a winter lawn, keep up with the herbicides while your summer lawn is dormant. Letting weeds get deeply rooted and well-spread over the winter only makes it that much harder to clean up the lawn when it starts growing again. Weeds should be growing more slowly too during the winter, so you may be able to switch to hand-pulling every other weekend in order to cut down on the amount of chemicals you’re applying to your yard.
4. Leave Leaves In Place
It’s tempting to rake up every single pine needle or leaf so you can appreciate an unimpeded view of the green. However, finely chopping them with your mower and letting them rot in place is much better for the yard. Keep the space raked until the winter seeds have sprouted, then switch to letting the leaves act as a natural mulch. Those leaves contain up to 80% of the nutrients the tree stored in them, resulting in a surprisingly powerful free and organic fertilizer. Grass clippings should also stay in place from both dormant and growing varieties.
5. Water Carefully
Since rye starts to sprout while it’s still fairly hot during the day, you’ll need to water at least twice a day to keep it growing. Once it’s at least half an inch high, cut back to watering twice a week, then just once each seven days. Aim to soak the top four to six inches of soil and no deeper to prevent waste and root rot.
If you are still unsure how to best maintain your lawn during the winter months so that you have a luscious spring scene, contact our team at Blooming Desert. We have the know-how and experience to help with all of your lawn and garden needs, no matter what the season!