The high demand coupled with periods of low rainfall can cause some municipalities to declare restrictions on lawn and garden watering. But, by using a few simple tips, your lawn and garden can cope with dry conditions and you can minimize water wastage.
Many people tend to over-water which results in significant water wastage due to evaporation and run-off. With excessive watering, your lawn can become waterlogged and may turn yellow and develop fungus and diseases. Too much watering can also lead to thatch and fertilizer leaching. So, before you water, always take into account the amount of rainfall your lawn and garden has received in the previous week.
Although newly seeded or sodded lawns will have greater water demands, established lawns generally only require about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water per week to thrive. To determine how much water to apply, place an empty tuna can on your lawn as you water evenly across the surface. When the water level reaches the top of the can, you’ve applied about 2.5 cm of water, which is all your lawn needs. You can time how long it takes to reach this level, then set the timer on your sprinkler.
During periods of low rainfall, your grass may start to turn brown, but don’t worry, this doesn’t mean it is dead — it’s simply dormant. An established lawn will recover and become green shortly after sufficient rainfall returns.
You can save a lot of water by choosing an efficient irrigation system. For example, a soaker hose is a good choice for trees, shrubs and flower or vegetable gardens because it directs water to the root system. The hose is placed at the base of plants on the ground and applies water to the soil where it is needed — rather than to the leaves — and reduces evaporation.
Drip or trickle irrigation systems are highly efficient because they deliver water slowly and directly to the roots under the soil surface. This promotes deeper roots, which improve a plant’s drought resiliency.
More water saving tips:
- A thick, vigorous lawn is the best prevention against weed invasions and can better withstand heat and dryness. Keep your lawn healthy by applying nutrients, for example topdressing with compost.
- Don’t cut your lawn too short. Set the blade on your lawn mower to cut no lower than six to eight cm so that the roots are shaded and better able to hold water.
- Aerate your lawn once a year in the early spring or fall to improve water penetration.
- Water slowly to avoid run-off and to ensure the soil absorbs the water. Deep watering is better than frequent shallow watering because it encourages deep roots. Water in the early morning, before 9 a.m., to reduce evaporation.
- Consider planting a low-maintenance lawn. Look for low-maintenance lawn seed mixes at your garden centre.
- When selecting new trees, shrubs, perennials and other plants, choose species that are drought tolerant and well suited to your property’s conditions, such as sunlight, soil type and moisture.
- Apply a layer of mulch around garden plants, shrubs and trees to retain moisture, moderate soil temperature, control erosion and suppress weeds.
To help you learn more about keeping your lawn and garden green while conserving water, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) has about your house fact sheets called water-saving tips for your lawn and garden and low-maintenance lawns. Download your free copies at www.cmhc.ca or call 1-800-668-2642.
Mark Salerno is the corporate representative for the Greater Toronto Area at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. You can reach him at 416-218-3479 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.