How to Maintain a Green Lawn in the Arid Southwest

How to Maintain a Green Lawn in the Arid Southwest

Maintaining a green lawn in the arid southwest can be challenging due to the hot and dry climate. Water conservation concerns and the desire to have a thick, grassy lawn often feel at odds with each other. However, with proper care and maintenance, it is possible to have a healthy and vibrant lawn. Self-education, research, and the willingness to apply more conservation-friendly techniques can produce a beautiful garden in nearly any desert environment. Here are some tips to help you maintain a green lawn in the arid southwest:

Choose the Right Grass Type

It is essential to choose the correct type of grass if you want to have a thriving lawn. Select a grass type that is well-suited to the arid, hot climate of the southwest. Choices such as Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, or buffalo grass are often good options as they can tolerate drought conditions and have good heat resistance. The best option is often a drought-tolerant grass seed blend that is specifically designed for the arid southwest. Blends are good options because they combine different grasses which each have certain desirable qualities. These different grasses can compensate for the negative aspects of each other, such as a blend that combines a hot-season grass with a cool-weather type for a longer green season. Check with local garden centers or consult with a turf expert to find the best grass seed varieties for your specific region within the southwest.

Provide Proper Soil Amendments

The soil in the arid southwest is often sandy or hard clay and usually has a low organic content. These types of soils can lead to poor water retention, hardpan, runoff, and poor nutrient absorption. Improve your soil’s water-holding capacity, drainage, and nutrient content by adding organic matter such as compost, peat moss, or well-rotted manure. These amendments help retain moisture and provide essential nutrients to the grass roots.

In addition to organic amendments, you should also consider fertilizing regularly to compensate for the low nutrient levels in your soil. Use a slow-release organic lawn fertilizer and apply it according to the directions. If you fertilize too often it can cause complications by creating a situation of heavy growth which requires more water, so follow the recommendations on the package.

Implement Xeriscaping Principles

The best way to reduce the amount of water your lawn needs is by simply reducing the size of your lawn. Consider using Xeriscaping methods to help reduce the amount of grass that you have. Xeriscaping is a landscaping approach that focuses on water conservation by using native, drought-tolerant plants.  Many beautiful plants including trees, shrubs, and perennials are more drought-tolerant than grass because they have deep roots and other water-saving adaptations. Incorporate xeriscaping principles into your lawn maintenance by reducing the size of your grassy areas and replacing them with native desert plants, rocks, or mulch. Not only will this reduce the water demand of your landscaping but it also looks lovely and provides a varied, attractive outdoor area to enjoy.

Water Deeply and Infrequently

It is important to irrigate your grass enough to keep it green and alive without watering it too often. You should water your lawn deeply but infrequently, which will encourage the roots to grow deeper, making them more resilient to drought. Watering deeply once or twice a week is usually sufficient, depending on the specific grass type and the weather conditions. If you water too often your plants will have shallow roots that cannot endure a dry period and will die or go dormant in the heat of summer.

Practice Proper Irrigation Techniques

Watering properly and using conservative techniques can help to keep your lawn looking its best while also supporting the ecosystem and your community. Use efficient irrigation methods such as drip irrigation or soaker hoses to minimize water waste. Avoid overhead sprinklers, as they can lead to significant evaporation loss. Make sure your irrigation system is properly maintained and adjusted to avoid overwatering or underwatering. If you do use sprinklers, make sure that they are not shooting water higher than necessary and that you aren’t accidentally watering unneeded areas such as landscaping, sidewalks, and driveways. You should also limit your watering to morning or evening hours when the temperature is cool and water won’t be lost to evaporation.

Mulch Grass Clippings

Mulching can help your lawn be healthier and help you save water. Leave grass clippings on the lawn after mowing, as they act as natural mulch, retaining moisture and providing nutrients to the soil. This reduces the need for additional fertilizers and reduces watering needs. Make sure that you mow often so that the lawn clippings aren’t too thick, as this can smother the grass and keep light from reaching it.

Control Weeds

Make sure that you are minimizing weeds and monitoring often so you can stay on top of any potential infestations. Weeds compete with the grass for water and nutrients and increase the amount of irrigation and fertilization that your lawn needs. Regularly inspect your lawn for weeds and promptly remove them by pulling, digging, or spot-treating with herbicides. Use natural or chemical weed control methods as necessary, following the instructions carefully.

Adjust Mower Blade Height

You should make sure that you aren’t cutting your grass shorter than necessary. Set your lawn mower blade at the highest recommended setting for your grass type. Taller grass shades the soil, reducing water evaporation and weed growth. It also encourages deeper root growth and helps decrease the need for frequent mowing.

Provide Adequate Shade

If possible, create some shade in your yard using trees, windbreaks, fences, umbrellas, or other structures. Shade can help reduce water evaporation and keep the grass cooler during the hot summer months. If you plant trees, choose fast-growing species or use temporary shade structures while you wait for them to grow. Other options include tall shrubs and barrier plants such as a row of bamboo.


Remember that maintaining a green lawn in an arid region requires a balance between water conservation and providing adequate care. It’s important to be mindful of water usage and adapt your strategies to your location, the weather, and your lawn’s needs. Make sure that you stay on top of maintenance requirements as healthy lawns require less attention and water compared to struggling or sickly lawns. Finally, remember that the best way to reduce the amount of water your lawn needs is by reducing the amount of grass you have. Converting part of your lawn to landscaping, flowerbeds, gravel paths, and other features can be the best way to save water.