When and How to Plant Winter Grass in Arizona

If you live in Arizona and want to maintain a lush, green lawn year-round, planting winter grass is the way to go. While summer grasses thrive in the hot summer months, they struggle to survive the cold spells that come in late fall.

This is where planting winter grass comes in – it allows you to maintain a green lawn throughout the year.

Overseeding with winter grass is a popular tradition in Arizona, and with the right knowledge and tips, it’s easy to do it yourself. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about planting winter grass in Arizona, from choosing the best seeds to fertilizing your lawn in the winter. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or prefer to hire a lawn care professional, this guide has got you covered.

Winter Overseeding in Arizona

If you want to keep your lawn green and lush during the winter months in Arizona, overseeding is a popular solution. Overseeding involves spreading grass seed over an existing warm-season grass lawn, such as Bermudagrass, which is the most common grass variety in Arizona due to its drought, heat, and traffic tolerance.

Bermudagrass lawns typically go dormant and turn brownish by November, leaving homeowners with an unattractive lawn during the winter months. To maintain a green lawn, Arizonans typically overseed with cool-season grasses, such as ryegrass, in the fall.

Overseeding is a simple process that involves preparing the lawn by mowing it short, removing debris, and aerating the soil. Then, the cool-season grass seeds are spread evenly over the lawn, and the lawn is watered frequently until the seeds germinate and establish.

It’s important to note that overseeding should only be done on lawns that are in good health and have good traffic tolerance. It’s also crucial to avoid overseeding too early or too late in the season, as this can affect the success of the overseeding process.

Overall, overseeding is a popular and effective way to maintain a green lawn during the winter months in Arizona.

When to Plant Winter Grass

Planting winter grass in Arizona can be a bit tricky as it requires the right timing to ensure a healthy lawn. The best time to plant winter grass is during the cooler months, specifically in the early fall when nighttime temperatures consistently drop below 65°F. This usually happens between mid-September and mid-October in the Apache State.

However, planting winter grass too early in the fall can result in slower and thinner growth as Bermuda grass is still thriving and competing for nutrients. On the other hand, overseeding in late October or November can expose the seedlings to low temperatures too soon, leading to damaged grass. It’s crucial to find the right balance and plant winter grass at the optimal time for a lush and healthy lawn.

Best Seeds for Winter Grass in Arizona

If you’re looking for a grass seed that can withstand Arizona’s alkaline soils and drought, ryegrass is your best bet. It’s highly valued for its fast germination and seedling growth. Ryegrass is low-maintenance and recovers well from foot traffic, making it perfect for home lawns, golf courses, and athletic fields.

Late September or early October is the best time to spread ryegrass seeds. By mid-November, your yard will be covered in a thick, lovely mass of green. Winter ryegrass dies in late May or early June, making room for Bermuda to grow again.

Ryegrass seed is available in both annual and perennial varieties. Other cool-season grasses that do well in Arizona include fescue, bluegrass, and tall fescue. However, perennial ryegrass is the most popular choice for overseeding in Arizona due to its adaptability to the state’s climate.

St. Augustinegrass, buffalograss, and zoysiagrass are warm-season grasses that thrive in Arizona’s hot summers. However, they are not suitable for overseeding in the winter.

In conclusion, ryegrass is the best seed for winter grass in Arizona. It’s low-maintenance, recovers well from foot traffic, and adapts well to Arizona’s climate.

Three Steps to Overseed Like a Pro

Overseeding your lawn is a simple process that can help keep your lawn green and healthy throughout the winter months. Here are three steps to follow to overseed like a pro:

Get the Time Right

Timing is key when it comes to overseeding your lawn. The best time to overseed is in October when the temperature drops below 65°F for a few nights. This is when you should spread rye seeds on your lawn.

Prepare the Lawn for Overseeding

The goal of preparing your lawn for overseeding is to ensure that the ryegrass seeds reach the soil and have the best conditions to germinate and grow healthy seedlings. Follow these steps to prepare your lawn:

  • Cut the Bermudagrass shorter: At the beginning of October, your lawn still has some tall and green Bermuda cover, which you must thin. Bring it to ¼ or ½ inches tall by slowly lowering the lawn mower blades during the last two to three weeks before overseeding.
  • Get the grass clippings off the lawn: You need the soil accessible to seeds. Add the clippings to your compost bin to make the most of their valuable nutrients.
  • Reduce watering: It will help Bermuda go into dormancy faster.
  • Dethatch the lawn: Sometimes thatch needs more than a manual rake. If so, rent a power rake from the local home improvement store to loosen and remove the thatch layer. Work in one direction, then perpendicular, and rake up all the debris.

Before overseeding, your lawn should be mostly brown, with ¼ to ½ inches tall stubble and “runners” spreading across the yard in a network. Here and there, you should see bare soil.

Buy the Seeds and Spread on the Lawn

Arizona nurseries typically sell two main types of ryegrass: perennial ryegrass and annual ryegrass. Most homeowners go for the perennial rye for their lawns. It has finer and darker green blades that grow thick and dense, often making the winter lawn look better than the summer one.

Annual rye grows equally fast but has a lighter green color. It is also less expensive and dies earlier in the spring, making the transition to Bermuda easier. Choose whichever you like most for your lawn.

To determine how much grass seed to buy, the average amount is 12 to 15 pounds of seeds per 1000 square feet of lawn or 1.2 to 1.5 pounds per 100 sq. ft. It depends on the lawn quality you expect and the mowing height you keep. To be more specific, you need the following:

  • 12 pounds per 1000 sq. ft. if you plan to keep the rye 1 to 2 inches tall.
  • 15 pounds per 1000 sq. ft. for home lawns maintained at 0.5 to 1 inch tall.

It is essential to spread the grass seed uniformly throughout the lawn. While you can do this manually, we recommend using a broadcast spreader and making two applications:

  • Split the seed amount in half.
  • Load one half and make the first application going forward and back on the lawn.
  • Load the other half and spread perpendicularly to the first application.

By following these three steps, you can overseed your lawn like a pro and enjoy a beautiful green lawn throughout the winter months.

How to Maintain the Winter Lawn After Overseeding

After overseeding your lawn, it is essential to maintain it properly to ensure healthy growth and a lush green lawn. Here are some tips to maintain your winter lawn after overseeding:

Apply a Starter Fertilizer

Applying a starter fertilizer is crucial to provide the necessary nutrients for the new grass to grow. The best fertilizers for Arizona grasses are 6-20-20 and 15-15-15. Follow the instructions on the package carefully and apply the fertilizer uniformly with a spreader.

Cover With a ⅛ to ¼ Inch Layer of Mulch

Covering the seeded lawn with a ⅛ to ¼ inch layer of organic mulch can help retain moisture in the soil, keeping it warm and speeding up germination. This becomes essential if your irrigation system is broken, and you can’t water the lawn often enough during seed germination, or if fall temperatures are lower than expected.

Keep the Seedbed Moist Until Germination

Grass seeds need constant moisture, not soaking, for seven to ten days to germinate. In the dry Arizona climate, you need to water the lawn three to five times daily during the first seven to ten days. Apply water for two to five minutes each time or long enough to wet the top 1 inch of soil. Water mainly in the morning and evening, and watch out for puddles. After the grass is about ¾ to 1 inch tall, reduce watering to 2 to 3 times a day. After another two weeks, start watering once a day. Slowly reduce watering within the next two weeks to once every two days, then once every three days. When the lawn is established, set a watering schedule to irrigate once every 5 to 7 days.

Mow When Ryegrass Is About Three Inches Tall

Wait until the grass reaches about three inches in height before mowing the new lawn. Cut the grass about 2 ½ inches tall. Keep ryegrass at 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches throughout winter and cut a maximum of ⅓ from its height each time. You’ll need to mow the lawn once every other week or even less during winter. But even so, you can consider hiring a pro to get this chore out of your hair.

Fertilize Established Turf Every 6 to 8 Weeks

A healthy lawn needs nutrients to thrive. Continue fertilizing the lawn every 6 to 8 weeks to keep the root system strong and the blades green and thick. Use a regular fertilizer with slow-release nitrogen and iron to ensure a healthy and green lawn.

By following these tips, you can maintain a healthy and green winter lawn that will be the envy of your neighbors.


If you’re looking to seed your lawn with winter grass in Arizona, perennial ryegrass is the best option. It has a darker green color than annual ryegrass, which gives your lawn a golf-course-like appearance.

To keep your winter grass healthy, green, and thick, you should fertilize it every 6 to 8 weeks during the cool season. This will help it grow well and look great throughout the winter season.

When it comes to watering your winter grass, set your sprinkler system to water the ryegrass lawn about once a week during the cold season and early spring. However, in April, stop watering to allow ryegrass to die off before Bermuda grows back.

It takes approximately a month for your winter grass to grow in Arizona. Seeds need seven to ten days to germinate, and seedlings require another ten to fourteen days to grow to their regular mowing height.

If you’re looking for plants that can survive both the intense summer heat and the cold desert winters of Arizona, your best bet is to go for Arizona native plants. They are adapted to the local climate and can thrive in the state’s unique environment. Check out our list of the best plants for Arizona heat to find several local native species that will do well in your garden.

Get Your Arizona Lawn in Shape For the Cold Season Today!

As the warm season comes to an end, it’s time to start thinking about getting your Arizona lawn ready for the colder months. One way to keep your yard looking lush and green all winter is to overseed with ryegrass. To ensure your lawn is in top shape, consider hiring a lawn care professional from HavasuLandscaping.

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Sinziana Spiridon

Sinziana Spiridon is an experienced blogger with a passion for organic gardening. Her blog covers everything from soil health to pest control, making it a great resource for any Arizona lawn owner. Follow her blog to learn more about keeping your lawn healthy all year round.

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