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In the interest of water savings, it's time to rethink overseeding

This is the time of year when Coachella Valley residents can count on pleasant temperatures, the return of tourists and seasonal residents and…   the overseeding of lawns.

In October and November, gardeners and homeowners across the Valley   begin scalping summer Bermuda and reseeding with cool-weather rye so   grass is green and lush for winter. With that practice comes a noticeable   spike in water usage as we kick up irrigation to three times a day or more   to spur germination of the ryegrass.

 A Sept. 26 story in the Desert Sun focused on golf course overseeding,   but plenty of homeowners are also fond of this fall ritual, which requires   copious amounts of water.

With California’s historic, five-year drought still fresh in our minds, it is time to rethink the practice of overseeding. Let us not forget the mandatory cutbacks, permanent prohibitions on water waste imposed by state regulators, and the governor’s call to make conservation a way of life. Plus there is the uncertainty of what this coming winter will bring.

Perhaps it is time to stop striving for verdant yards that are uncharacteristic of our desert climate. Not overseeding would save more than 8,000 gallons of water for every 1,000 square feet of grass each season. By contrast, dormant, golden Bermuda needs to be watered only once a month from November to February, and less if it rains, to thrive again in spring.

Overseeding doesn’t just use a scarce resource, it also costs homeowners who will pay higher rates for exceeding their assigned water budget.

In the interest of water savings, overseeding is a fall tradition we can – and should – do without. Skipping the extra seed saves water, money and time! Better yet, take advantage of outdoor rebates offered by the Indio Water Authority for switching from grass to desert-appropriate landscaping.

For home gardeners who insist on an emerald carpet of grass this winter, there are ways to do it wisely:

  • Wait to overseed until mid-November, when temperatures are cooler and less water is needed for germinating seed.
  • Consider overseeding a small area of your yard, instead of the entire lawn.
  • Cover seeds with grass clippings to protect them from sun and prevent evaporation.
  • Water just enough to keep seeds moist, not soaked. Breaking up irrigation time into more frequent two- or three-minute cycles will also reduce the chances of wasteful runoff.
  • Reduce irrigation frequency once seeds sprout.
  • Check coverage of sprinklers and repair leaks.

The greatest opportunity for savings is outdoors, where 70 percent of our total use is concentrated. It is incumbent on all of us to conserve water whenever possible, so it will be there when we need it. 

Desert Horticultural Society Guide to Overseeding