Water Efficient Landscaping
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You don’t require a lot of water to build a healthy, vibrant green space. Follow these lawn and garden care practices to save water, promote growth, and control weeds.
- Water in the morning to prevent evaporation. Night watering can leave the grass wet for long periods, which can promote fungal disease.
- Don’t overwater. Watering deeply, once a week for clay soil and twice a week for sandy soil, encourages deep, strong roots.
- Consider using a rain gauge to measure how much water has fallen. Lawns only need approximately 2.5 cm (1 in.) of water a week.
- If your soil is no longer absorbing water, it may be compacted. Aerate to help rain reach the roots.
- If you have an irrigation system, set your system to come on once or twice a week, or install rain sensors.
- Fix leaky garden hoses and connections.
- Mow when the grass is dry. This will prevent wet clippings from creating clumps, which can damage your lawn and clog the mower.
- Grass grows less quickly during dry spells and the summer. Mow less during these times.
- Set the mower to cut 6-7.5 cm (2.5-3 in.). Mowing high helps to strengthen the roots and retain water and nutrients.
- Use your grass clippings. Made up of 80% water, clippings can help prevent moisture loss, add important nutrients and control weeds.
- Sharpen the blades of your mower to prevent the grass from tearing. This should be done twice a season, or every eight to 10 hours of use.
- Native plants and trees adapt to local climate and soils, which makes them low maintenance and naturally drought-tolerant.
- These plants are also resistant to pests and disease, eliminating the need for pesticides, and provide shelter and food for pollinators, such as birds, bees and butterflies.
- To find the best native plants for your garden, consult with your local nursery, or visit Evergreen and the North American Native Plant Society.
- Aerating involves removing small plugs of soil in your lawn to help rain, air and nutrients reach the roots.
- The best time to aerate is when the ground is slightly moist, either in the spring or fall.
- You can rent or purchase an aerator at most garden centres or equipment rental locations.
- Adding compost to your lawn is a great way to add nutrients, promote growth and help improve your lawn’s capacity to hold water.
- For best results, apply a 1.5 cm (½ in.) layer of compost to the surface of your lawn in the spring or fall.
- Get free compost at a City of Toronto Community Environment Day near you.
- Mulch is a great way to keep moisture in the soil, control weeds, even out soil temperature and insulate roots from heat stress.
- There are many different types of mulch:
- Straw is an inexpensive mulch and will decay at the end of the season, adding organic material to the soil.
- Leaves, especially if they are chopped or partially decomposed.
- Biodegradable plastic mulch made from corn is an environmentally-friendly option, and can be useful for vegetables that like extra heat, such as tomatoes, pepper and eggplant.
- When planning your garden, group vegetables and herbs according to their moisture needs:
- Perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb do not need frequent watering.
- Herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, winter savory and thyme improve in flavour in hot, dry conditions. No extra water needed.
- Prepare your garden on flat soil to reduce run-off and ensure rain stays near the roots.
- For plants such as tomatoes, peppers and squash, add mulch to keep fruit dry and prevent spoilage.
- Vegetables prefer rainwater. Use a rain barrel under your downspout to capture rain flowing from your roof.
- Add 2.5 cm (1 in.) of water one or two days a week to encourage deep root growth. Use a rain gauge to keep track.
- Avoid using sprinklers to water vegetables. They tend to wet the leaves, which can promote disease, especially in plants such as tomatoes, squash, zucchini and cucumbers.
- Vegetables should be watered close to the root of the plant. The best way to do this is by hand, using a soaker hose, or installing a drip irrigation system.
Learn more about how to grow your own food.