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Desert Lawn Care

By Shelly McRae ; Updated September 21, 2017

Desert lawns are subject to harsh conditions, including temperatures that soar over 100 degrees F in the summer, extended droughts and sandy topsoil. Desert lawn care requires a regimen of mowing, watering, fertilizing and seeding. Local municipalities encourage residents to use drought-tolerant, indigenous grasses for their lawns and to limit the size of grassy areas within their landscapes. No matter the size of your desert lawn, following a maintenance schedule will keep your grass and soil healthy.

Add Bermuda grass seed to your lawn in early spring, preferably in mid to late March. Water lightly once a day until the seeds sprout.

Fertilize your lawn in April. Select a fertilizer high in nitrogen and apply 1/2 pound of fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet of lawn. Continue to fertilize once a month until September. Reduce the amount of fertilizer in July and August if your lawn shows signs of “fertilizer burn.”. This may manifest as dry, crunchy grass or yellowing grass.

Water every three days throughout the hot summer months. Water your lawn either very early in the morning or in the evening just before sunset. This reduces evaporation, thereby conserving water.

Mow your lawn once a week. Adjust your mower blades to maintain a height of 1 1/2 to 2 inches of grass. Allow the grass clippings to spread onto the lawn as you mow, as these will act as mulch, protecting the topsoil.

In late September, cut Bermuda grass to 1 inch in height. This prepares it for thatch removal and rye grass seeding.

Remove the thatch from your lawn in late September or early October. Thatch is an excess build-up of decaying organic matter such as clippings, twigs and insects. Use a metal-tined rake to rake the lawn, pulling up the thatch. Place the thatch in your compost bin or dispose of it.

Add rye grass seed to your lawn in October. At this time, the Bermuda grass lawn will begin to show signs of dying out. The Bermuda grass is not dying; it is going into dormancy. The rye grass will serve as your winter lawn, protecting the “sleeping” lawn. Rye grass also adds nutrients to the topsoil when it dies out in the spring.

Water the newly seeded lawn daily with a light spray until the seed sprouts. Reduce the watering to once a week as the temperatures begin to cool.

Mow your lawn less frequently, allowing the rye grass to maintain a height of approximately 3 inches during the winter.

Aerate your lawn in early March in preparation of reseeding with Bermuda grass. The rye grass will begin to die out as temperatures climb. Aerating your lawn turns the rye grass into the soil and encourages growth of the Bermuda grass, now coming out of dormancy. Add Bermuda grass seed to your lawn in mid to late March.


Things You Will Need

  • Bermuda grass seed
  • Fertilizer
  • Lawn Mower
  • Rye grass seed


  • If your Bermuda grass comes back thick in the spring, you need not reseed.
  • Do not remove thatch down to the soil. Leave 1/8 to 1/4 inch of thatch to act as mulch.

About the Author


Shelly McRae is a freelance writer residing in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned an associate degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. McRae has written articles for multiple websites, drawing on her experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.