Saving Water Outdoors

Practical Turf Areas: A Little Goes a Long Way

Whether it’s because you grew up in the midwest or because you like walking barefoot in your yard to feel cool grass between your toes, you love your lush, green lawn. Fear not! Grass (often called turf) may be a desired component in a well-designed Xeriscape yard. It is one of the best plants to handle foot traffic and it provides a softer surface for kids’ sports or dogs’ paws. But grass is water-intensive, so when planning your landscape, a little goes a long way. We have many resources to help you keep your grass looking its best, and with up to 70 percent of your water use occurring outdoors, the ideal lawn is one that will grow in our desert environment using water as efficiently as possible.

10 Reasons Why Artificial Turf May Not Be What You’re Looking For

It seems like the perfect solution. Replace thirsty lawns with something that plays the part yet is perfectly (un)dead and therefore requires no water, no maintenance, and no sweat. But the story of artificial turf is not as simple as it sounds, and most of that has to do with the “no sweat” part of it. We’ll explain – Find Out More.

Select A Low-Water Use Turf

In the low deserts of Arizona, like Phoenix and Tucson, common or hybrid Bermuda grass is by far the best at conserving water and is the most heat and drought resistant. Where you have areas with more shade, you can consider St. Augustine grass or even a non-grass cover like Dicondra. Ask your cooperative extension or garden center which cultivars are most appropriate for your lawn. Keep in mind that Bermuda grass will turn brown in the winter, so including shrubs, evergreen trees, and cool-season flowering plants will help enhance the appearance of your landscape year-round.

Keep your grass even more water-efficient with tips from this University of Arizona Desert Lawn Care Guide. Here are our favorite tips:

  • Prepare and enhance the soil properly at planting.
  • Use a mulching mower and leave clippings in place to enrich the soil.
  • Mow high to help develop a deeper root system.

Reduce or Give Up Your Grass Addiction


A Little Green Goes a Long Way

Lawns that stretch from property line to property line just don’t make much sense these days. Besides requiring a lot of fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides – chemicals that often end up in our water supplies – large lawns with conventional spray irrigation waste one of our most precious resources: drinking water.


Cut back Your Grass

Cutting back your grass doesn’t mean giving up your lawn. Instead of thinking of grass as the focal point of your yard, think of it as having a function: a play area, for example, or a visual frame for a larger natural setting. Remember that grass uses 50-75% more water than areas planted with desert-adapted plants.


Reclaim Your Landscape, One Patch at a Time

Start by giving up turf areas that don’t get much use, such as those near foundations, along medians, or on steep slopes. Replace these turf areas with groundcover, flower gardens, ornamental shrubs and shade trees that are water-wise and drought-resistant. Be careful adding impervious surfaces, such as concrete walkways and patios. They increase runoff and may cause drainage problems. In the end, your water-wise yard will look far more interesting than it ever did with plain old turf.

Get expert tips with these University of Arizona Cooperative Extension publications and articles:

Mowing Turfgrasses in the Desert
Overseeding Winter Grasses into Bermudagrass Turf

Overseeding Bermudagrass Lawns with Annual Ryegrass – Rick Gibson, Pinal County Extension Agent
Cooperative Extension Turf Tip Articles – Dave Kopec, Extension Specialist Turf/Pasture Grass
These Grass Lawn Options Work Well in Arizona’s Climate – Kai Umeda, Maricopa County Extension Agent
Converting Turf to a Xeriscape Landscape (by Eliminating Bermudagrass) – Jack J. Kelly, UofA Cooperative Extension

Turf/Grass Alternatives

In truth, it isn’t easy growing a beautiful lawn in the desert. Not only does it take a lot of water, but also time and energy to fertilize, mow, overseed (if you do so), and more. Oh, and please see our last bullet if you’re thinking about installing artificial turf!

Good Reasons to Take Out Your Grass (also en Español) – AMWUA
Rebates for removing turf are offered by many cities. Find out if your city is on the list. – AMWUA
Xeriscape: Landscaping with Style in the Arizona Desert – ADWR/AMWUA
Removing grass? Know the Basics Before You Start – AMWUA
Choose desert-adapted plants instead of turf – AMWUA