You’ve got the property, you’ve got the house, and you’ve got the lawn—a big, beautiful, lush green lawn. You’ve also got the desert environment of Arizona, but you’re determined to keep your perfect lawn from succumbing to the arid Southwestern climate, even in the face of blistering heat and periodic water usage restrictions. There are a whole host of things you can do to minimize water usage, yet still keep your lawn healthy and happy, too many to list here; however, here’s the top five things you can do to maintain a thriving lawn even under the most adverse of conditions.
Instead of watering your lawn daily, water every two to three days. In the evening is the best time to water, as the heat of the day will cause evaporation and the water doesn’t have a chance to get to the roots. Be sure that your sprinklers are watering only the grass, not the driveway or walkways. If you haven’t already, replace your sprinkler heads with water-economical sprinkler heads, and if you have a broken one, replace it immediately. Putting a timer on your irrigation system ensures that your lawn will receive the right amount of water at the right times. Low areas with puddles should be leveled to ensure even water distribution.
Creating shaded or semi-shaded areas will minimize water usage. It is advisable to put multiple timers on different segments of your irrigation system, allowing full control of watering time and frequency in different areas; shaded areas do not need as much water as full sun areas.
When mowing, leave the grass clippings on your lawn rather than using a grass catcher. The clippings will mulch into the lawn and create a protective moisture-holding layer. As they decay, they also provide nutrients to the roots, so your lawn will require less fertilizer over time. Don’t cut your lawn super-short, as the soil will dry out quicker. Adjust your mower height to its highest or close to it. Taller grass blades help mitigate rapid evaporation.
Even if you had put down an ample layer of topsoil when you originally seeded your lawn, over time the organic matter deteriorates, becomes devoid of essential nutrients, and loses its water retention capacities. Annually topping your lawn with a layer of sphagnum peat moss will restore the moisture-holding top layer, and as it gradually composts into the soil it will nourish the roots and improve soil structure. Top dress your lawn with a 1/4- to 1/2-inch layer of peat moss and rake it in.
Using an aerating tool on your lawn allows the roots access to oxygen that is necessary for healthy root growth. Aerating also improves water and fertilizer retention capacity, and alleviates soil compaction, making for deeper root growth and a healthy, vigorous lawn that requires less watering.