Let’s face it–there is little one can do to escape the oppressive August heat in Arizona and California. But, did you know your property with grass is a good 30 degrees cooler than your neighbors’ with rocks, and 50 degrees cooler than the ones with artificial turf?  Natural turfgrass has some major benefits!

I thought I would start off today’s blog by giving you some light at the end of the dark tunnel we call “summer.” While we started the summer off with mild temperatures, they have quickly soared making it one of the hottest summers on record. In order to combat the temperatures most people try to stay inside or crank up their air conditioners, but what we should be doing is looking for ways to control the ambient temperature at our properties. Installing grass is one of the best ways for lowering the temperature around your house, and allowing you to stay cool when you’re out enjoying a beverage by the pool.

I know a lot of people are reading that first paragraph and saying we’re experiencing a historic drought–how can we put in a new lawn? Yes, we are experiencing a drought, but the media would have you believe all the water being used is by lawns and golf courses. How about hotels, pools, washing cars, long showers, fountains, air conditioners, increase in electricity usage, washing dishes, and on and on? It’s easy to blame turfgrass for using too much water, but we need to look ourselves in the mirror each day and realize all need to act responsibly during this drought. Some see grass as a luxury, and golf as a silly game that is using our water supply. What they don’t see are the positive effects turfgrass  has on the environment.


Warm season turfgrasses such as bermudagrass, paspalum, zoysia, St. Augustine, buffalograss, and several others are native to the desert southwest. We as consumers created a culture where we wanted to bring in grass varieties that are not native to our area because they look prettier. While these grasses are great for cooler regions of California and northern Arizona, we need to realize they weren’t meant to be grown in deserts. There is a reason we don’t grow these grasses at our desert farms, and that is because they would be large water consumers in that region. In northern California where temperatures are mild, these grasses are adapted to the climate and water usage will be half of what it is in the desert. My point being, grass doesn’t waste water, people do. We need to take responsibility for our daily actions and figure out ways that people with lawns can coexist with those that prefer to xeriscape their yard. As I see it, you can continue to rip out your lawns, or you can make the decision to be a responsible water consumer.

For those of you that already have a lawn, check out how we’re painting lawns with Turf Colorant in the desert to save water during the hottest times of the year.  http://www.kesq.com/news/painting-brown-lawns-green-during-drought/34683984

Below you will find my recommendations for the month of August into early September. I am also putting together an all inclusive turf maintenance guide for our website. This should be up in the next couple weeks. This guide is so long that you grass nerds out there will have tons of new reading material soon.

  • August turf recommendations

For those of you that already have a lawn and are looking forward to the fall season it is time to start preparing your lawn. I talk a lot about verticutting/power raking and there is no more important time than before you overseed. The warm humid weather is the ideal growing environment for warm season grasses and after a couple months of this weather they have a tendency of becoming very thick.

Have you found it hard to push your mower through your lawn or are you scalping it every time you mow? This is where verticutting/power raking comes in handy. At this time of the year you have a ton of new leaf tissue waiting to emerge and grow, but the excessive top growth is preventing it from getting any light. I would suggest verticutting in two directions and removing all the dead material on the surface as well as opening up the turf canopy. Thinning out your turf will allow your mower to move freely through your lawn without digging in and scalping. It will also allow the new leaves to get light so they can grow.

Finally this will reduce the amount of water needed on your lawn. The buildup of thatch, excessive leaf tissue, and top growth does not allow water to penetrate the soil easily. I suggest doing this now and also right before you overseed so the seed gets down into your grass plant. A thick turf canopy is way more problematic to ryegrass seed than the 1000’s of birds that gather in your yard.

  • Fertilizer

We’re at a point in the season where you need to decide if your lawn still needs a push in growth prior to overseed or if you just want to keep the nutrients in balance. If you still have areas that you’re trying to fill in then go ahead and push the runners by using ammonium sulfate 21-0-0 at 5 pounds per 1000 SF every other week for the next month. If this is the situation you’re in you should not be thinking about overseeding until the end of October or better yet letting it go dormant for the winter. I would look at applying our Turf Colorant to keep your lawn green this winter.

For those that have a great looking lawn and will be overseeding between the 1st and 15th of October, I would suggest keeping the fertilizer inputs to slow release products. I’m happy to announce that Soil Burst is once again available in Arizona, and is now a 100% organic product. We changed the product to provide you with an organic fertilizer. The high quality nutrients in Soil Burst will produce excellent results year round. The new formulation is called Soil Burst 4-4-2 and a 15 pound burlap bag is $19.95. This product should be used monthly during the growing season and is also the perfect starter fertilizer for new lawns.

  • Water

As I noted above, watering turfgrass is a sensitive subject to many people. During the month of August you really need to keep an eye on your irrigation. While rain is often sparse, the humidity in the air will dictate how much water is necessary for the grass plant. When we go through humid conditions your grass will use 30-40% of the water needed for hot dry conditions. If we’re experiencing a humid week go ahead and let your lawn go 3-4 days without water and then apply a good deep watering. If it’s 115 and dry, then you will need to water every second or third day for 20-30 minutes per station. The time listed isn’t set in stone, it’s merely a guideline. Everyone has different sprinklers and soil conditions so make sure you check the soil with a screwdriver after watering. You should be able to easily push a screwdriver in the ground 6-8 inches. It’s okay to stress out your lawn and wait until you see a bluish grey tint or footprints. These grasses are adapted to the desert and can survive long periods without water. Remember that statement does not mean your lawn will be 100% aesthetically pleasing, but you’re doing your part during the extreme heat to reduce water usage.

  • Weed control

Most weeds can be controlled by maintaining a healthy lawn, but there will always be some that sneak by and need to be treated. You can either pull them by hand if you don’t have very many, or use a product that contains 2,4-D and Dicamba. If you have a pasplaum lawn make sure you use products such as Speedzone or Trimec southern which have very low rates of 2,4-D and Dicamba.

Many people want to avoid weeds all together and spray a pre-emergent. This is a great idea especially as we move closer to overseed. One of the most popular methods for controlling winter weeds prior to overseed is to apply Barricade. This is a product that MUST be applied 7 weeks prior to seeding. Please note that when you use this product it will take a little more water in the first few weeks to germinate the ryegrass. The roots can get bound in the barricade layer and they need a little more water to penetrate the ground. Remember, 7 weeks prior to overseed, no sooner.

Barricade can also be used on grass that you will be letting go dormant but I will address that in September. It doesn’t need to be applied before October to control winter annuals.

If you will be overseeding early in the year (mid-September) then it’s too late for Barricade, but you do need to apply a growth regulator such as Primo a few days before scalping your turf. If you don’t apply a growth regulator you will get an excessive amount of bermudagrass regrowth while watering in your ryegrass. While your lawn will look perfect in the warm temperatures it will take a nose dive after the first frost. All of the areas where bermudagrass grew back it will prevent ryegrass from coming in.

Remember to look for the in depth turf guide page coming out soon, and check out my past blogs for more info on overseeding, how to water, and just about anything to do with grass and your lawn.

Until next time,



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