Gilbert, Ariz.- When the weather gets cooler, warm season bermudagrass lawns go dormant, tend to look brown or blonde in color, and stop actively growing. If you are looking to save money and water this winter, try not overseeding with winter ryegrass this year. Bonus: Sewer fees are calculated in the months of January, February and March, so if you use less water during those months than you had in the past, you’ll likely see a lower sewer fee for the upcoming year.
Not planning on overseeding or only have desert landscaping in your yard? Check out this resource for how often you should water in the cooler months.
Some residents choose to overseed in order to have an actively growing lawn in the winter months. Late September and early October are generally when lawns are prepared for overseeding. The best time to overseed is when temperatures are around 55 degrees at night and 80-85 degrees during the day.
- Germinate the seed. Ryegrass is applied as a seed into the bermudagrass lawn. To successfully germinate, the top 1 inch of soil needs to be kept moist. So, you need to water frequently (3-4 times a day throughout the day), for short bursts (about 2-4 minutes, depending on the water application rate of your sprinklers) until the seed is germinated, which typically takes 7-10 days.
- Don’t set and forget. Overseeded winter lawns can use more water than summer lawns when improperly irrigated. This often happens because people set the original germination watering schedule (step 1 above) and forget to change it once the ryegrass is up. Once the seed is germinated, gradually increase the run time or minutes and decrease how often you water in between irrigation events. Once established, winter ryegrass can be watered:
- Once every 3 days in October
- Once every 7-10 days in November
- Once every 10-14 days in December and January
- Once every 7-10 days in February
- Once every 5-7 days in March
The trick to watering grass in the desert is to make sure you achieve a deep soak every time you irrigate. These means running the sprinklers long enough so that you can stick a screwdriver into the soil 6-8 inches. By watering deeply, you develop a healthier root system, which allows you to go longer in between irrigation events.
By irrigating less frequently, you prevent your lawn from becoming a squishy mud bog and you can enjoy your winter grass without the guilt that you are wasting water.
- Cycle and soak. Prevent water from running off onto the sidewalk by utilizing the multiple “start times” on your irrigation controller. On the day you irrigate, break up the total minutes you need into 3 different sessions, running about an hour apart. For instance, if you need 15 minutes total for your grass areas, you could water for 5 minutes at 2:30 AM, 5 minutes at 3:30 AM, and 5 minutes at 4:30 AM to get you your full 15 minutes, without the mess of water runoff.
- Stagger your starts. To reduce the peak demand on our water system, consider irrigating earlier than 6 AM (that’s when everyone starts to use showers and many people tend to water their yards).
- Mow at the right height. We suggest you mow your winter grass at a height of 1.5 to 2 inches. Many times, people think that if they mow lower, they’ll be able to mow less often. The opposite is actually true. A good rule of thumb is to never remove more than 1/3 of the grass’s height when mowing. This maintains a healthy photosynthesizing (food-producing) leaf canopy.