Typically, a conventional turfgrass yard includes a few large trees and some planting beds for flowers and shrubs around the foundation of the home. This type of yard often has a couple of existing irrigation valves for sprinkler irrigation. A conventional turfgrass landscape requires tremendous amounts of water to thrive in our region — a minimum of 40” (with an average of 50″-55”) of water per growing season, which is about three to five times more than what is provided by natural precipitation each year. This is why we do not consider a turfgrass yard a desert-friendly landscape.
Climate change is causing us to rethink our yards, and that includes yards with lawns. For a yard with a lawn to be truly desert-friendly, the amount and type of grass used must be considered. A desert-friendly turfscape should also have efficient sprinkler nozzles and pressure compensating sprinkler bodies to maximize the water that’s used to maintain the lawn.
We recommend that no more than 10% of your total yard is devoted to a lawn. Research from various universities in the Southwest and lawn seed producers (such as Pennington Seed) is now suggesting that New Mexico’s climate is no longer suitable for cool-season grasses to thrive. Instead, we need to make a shift to various warm-season grasses, which will grow well with significantly less water.
Cool-season and warm-season lawns are the two different categories of turfgrass lawns found in Albuquerque. Cool-season grasses (Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue) thrive between 65F and 75F degrees in the summer. They create a softer, darker green and lush-looking lawn. In Albuquerque, most lawns are composed of cool-season grasses that are cold-tolerant and green most of the year. They can withstand considerable amounts of foot traffic. One disadvantage is that they use a substantial amount of water in the summer months. Parkblend (a blend of cool season grasses) is the most common lawn in the Albuquerque metro area. It uses around 40” of water a year.
Warm-season grasses (Bermuda grass, blue grama, and buffalo grass), which thrive in 70F to 90F degrees, have been used in Albuquerque for many years. There are parts of town where they are quite prevalent. Warm-season grasses have a shorter growing season. They green up later and go dormant earlier than cool-season lawns. They are low maintenance and require less water than cool-season grasses.
Knowing what type of lawn or turfgrass is being installed or already being watered can make a significant difference in how much water should be applied. The key to choosing a turfgrass for a new area is to determine the one most suited to the specific needs of the landscape.
Water Budget (this includes 1,000 square feet of cool-season grass and a number of mature trees, shrubs and vines):
WINTER: 8,250 gallons/month SPRING: 13, 923 gallons/month SUMMER: 23,750 gallons/month AUTUMN: 10,900 gallons/month
Learn more here:
Basics about Turf Grasses for New Mexico
Pro tips for designing your Spray System
What are High efficiency rotary nozzles and why you should use them on your lawn?