Dead/dying lawn--rehab or last rites?

PanglossJune 28, 2013

Hi all! Brand new to posting on these forums, but I've been browsing them extensively for some time. So nice to find a forum specific to Arizona's peculiarities of climate!

I moved about 5 weeks ago, and although I'm a native Tucsonan and used to growing green(ish) things here, this is the first house I've ever had that has a lawn.

Since my house was a short sale, with the typical interminable delays, this lawn went unwatered and untended for something like 4 months. It's dry and yellowed, with numerous patches of dirt showing through. The weeds, of course, were hale and healthy and deposited a nice carpet of burrs to be tracked into the house.

I'm guessing the lawn is bermuda, since the few tufts growing near the evap runoff are nice and green. I've run the sprinkler a few times, a a few dozen little sprigs of green have appeared, but that's all. I've tugged on some handfuls and they are still strongly rooted, if that means anything.

We'd like to keep this little 13x13 patch as a lawn for the kidlet and dogs. Aside from that, the uniform dead yellow is a real eyesore.

Could someone explain to me, complete lawn novice that I am, what I should be doing? Should I keep watering, and about how often? Should I fertilize, or would the heat and dormancy/death of the lawn make that a bad idea? Should I let it rest in peace and resign myself to overseeding in the fall/spring? Unfortunately, paying a lawn service is not in the cards for the time being.

I've tried to research this, but between only finding things for other climates/grass types/seasons and trying to unpack, paint a whole house and look after a 6 month old, I'm at my wits end, lawn-wise. Any guidelines from you kind folks would be very appreciated!

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To revive your lawn, water is the remedy. You'll want to run your sprinkler system so the water soaks down to 6 - 8 inches which could take from 10 - 20 minutes depending on your type of sprinklers. Because your soil is probably compacted, its best to split the watering into 2 or 3 applications with 30 minute to 1 hour periods in between. This will allow the water to soak in and not run off. The frequency should be 2 or 3 times a week during summer. If you get a good monsoon rain, you can probably skip a watering.

Be prepared to see weeds sprout too. Once your grass has grown in thick and lush it will choke out most weeds. As for mowing its best to mow your grass tall for a while until it fills in. This also keeps the soil a little more shaded and is less stressful than mowing short.

Here's a link to information on caring for lawns in the desert. It includes watering, fertilizing, mowing etc.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Desert Lawn Care

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 1:28PM
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You should put down some pre-emergent to stay a step ahead of the weeds.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 4:05AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Ditto on the water recommendation. Bermuda could be 'dead' for a hundred years and come back once watered.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:47AM
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For the record, one of our neighbors (we're also in Tucson) NEVER waters his Bermuda "lawn" - instead he uses it as a parking lot for his ever-evolving collection of RVs.

Every summer, after a few good monsoon rains, his grass springs back to life and he has to borrow another neighbor's mower to keep it under control!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 12:36PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

OT, but doesn't Tucson have an ordinance that prohibits your neighbor's RV 'collection' on his lawn?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 5:15PM
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Thank you so much for the help! Pre-emergent has been placed and and the yellow patch of scruff has been getting some water (the sky is even pitching in once in a while with a few drops! Yippee!)

Looking forward to seeing the results!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 11:58AM
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