Rethink that winter lawn and skip overseeding for multiple benefits

Published Sep 12, 2023

It’s the time of year when many homeowners start planning to seed a winter lawn. Yet many cities are promoting the benefits of forgoing that winter grass by skipping overseeding. The bottom line is it will save you substantial water, time, effort, and money.

When you opt out of planting a winter lawn, the savings will surprise you . Overseeding is a very water-intensive practice. It is estimated that overseeding requires 8,000 gallons of water for 1,000 square feet of winter grass throughout the season, while a dormant lawn uses only 500 gallons. That is a significant amount of savings. Additionally, you won’t have to spend money on grass seed, fertilizer, and maintenance, which all add up.

Another reason not to plant a winter lawn is that overseeding isn’t healthy for your Bermuda grass, so giving it the rest it needs will provide you with a more vibrant spring renewal. In the fall, scalping the summer grass before dormancy doesn't allow adequate energy storage in the roots. In the spring, the rye competes with Bermuda, and customers often withhold water to transition from winter to summer grass, which is also stressful for Bermuda grass.

Skipping overseeding is a growing trend for our communities as we continue to battle historic drought and water challenges. That is why many of the AMWUA cities are leading by example by not planting winter grass in areas of their communities this fall. They also continue to engage with HOAs to encourage them to limit or forego overseeding non-essential grass areas. One HOA in the City of Scottsdale conducted a trial by not overseeding in 2021 and saved 1.5 million gallons of water and thousands of dollars in winter grass seed. This further proves how impactful the practice of skipping overseeding can be.

While Bermuda grass naturally goes dormant in the cold months, there is a way you can extend the length of its growing season, and keeping a lush green appearance well into winter is possible without overseeding. The University of Arizona turf specialists recommend multiple applications of iron (2-4 oz of actual iron per 1000 square feet). Apply the first application around October 1, then follow up with another application after ten days. Do not apply nitrogen fertilizers. Remember that even dormant Bermuda needs ½ inch of water per month during the winter (from U of A Turf Tips ).

Taking actions to reduce water consumption are more vital than ever. When we are all more efficient with our water, especially outdoors, water providers can maximize and stretch their water supplies. So, skipping that winter lawn can help save millions of gallons of water to benefit you and your community's future.

You can significantly reduce your outdoor water use for the long term with a desert-adapted landscape. Drought-tolerant plants and trees require less maintenance and water than lawns , especially when irrigated correctly. To learn more about transforming your yard, visit our landscape web pages .

For over 50 years, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has helped protect our member cities' ability to provide their communities with assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies. For more information, visit .