Homeowners in the desert areas of the southwest often plant Bermuda grass lawns. Bermuda grass is a warm-season variety that can stand up to the extreme summer heat, when temperatures routinely exceed 105 degrees. Bermuda grass goes dormant in the winter months and turns an unattractive brown color. Homeowners wanting to enjoy a green lawn year round overseed the Bermuda grass with rye grass, which grows rapidly and does just fine in cool weather. The major challenge in growing grass in this region is to prepare the rocky, nutrient-deficient soil so it can support the growth of healthy turf grass.
Reduce soil compaction. Turn the soil at least twice, going down to a depth of 6 inches. Use a rototiller if your soil is particularly hard or if you are planting a large lawn area, more than 400 square feet. Break up stubborn clumps of soil with a garden fork. Take out rocks and pieces of plant material such as old tree roots.
Add soil amendments. Counter the alkalinity typical of soils in the southwest region by adding gypsum. Work in two inches of compost to boost the nutrient level. Finish amending the soil by working in fertilizer that has nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Keep working the soil until it is soft and crumbly.
Install an irrigation system. Lawns in the arid southwest need consistent watering, particularly when they are first planted and also in the summer. Run irrigation tubing from the main water source out to the lawn. Use pop-up sprayers designed for lawns. Calculate how many you need based on the distance they spray. Connect the sprayers, test them out and adjust the spacing so the entire area is watered uniformly.
Rake the planting bed. Bury the irrigation tubing and rake the entire area until it is level and the surface is smooth. Rake lengthwise and then go across the rows.
Spread the seeds. Use a push spreader to ensure even distribution of the seeds rather than tossing them by hand.
Cover the seeds. Spread a very fine layer of compost--not more than one-quarter inch--over the seeds to help keep in moisture, which will promote germination.
Keep the seed bed moist. Water at least three times a day for short 6 to 10 minute periods. Keep this schedule up for three weeks. Do not let the seeds dry out. Water more frequently if the weather turns unseasonably warm.