How to - Lawn Care

Water-smart lawn care

Stephen Westcott-Gratton

Tips to have the blades of glory you want without wasting water

Across Canada, the state of one’s lawn is fast becoming tantamount to a public political treatise on one’s stance on “Issues Environmental.” We’ve all seen grass that looks suspiciously lush, low-cropped and weed-free—and I hope that we all shudder, wag our fingers and shake our heads; but by the same token, the opposite extreme—a neglected, weedy, disease-ridden lawn is equally wince-inducing. Surely there has to be a happy medium.

Here are ways to reduce water use yet keep your lawn lush.

  • Dethatch and aerate your lawn every year to make it easier for water to reach the turfgrass root zone.
  • To hell with Kentucky bluegrass! Overseed with one of the new drought-tolerant fescue turf mixes, such as Enviro-Turf or Eco-lawn.
  • Turfgrass only needs 2.5 centimetres of water per week to remain green and healthy; overwatering can lead to disease. For heavy soil, irrigate only once per week; sandy soil, twice.
  • Buy an inexpensive rain gauge (available at most garden centres and hardware stores) and remember to include rainfall when you calculate your 2.5-centimetre maximum per week.
  • Purchase rain barrels for all your down­spouts; what you don’t use for your containers and beds can be used on the lawn.
  • Always irrigate early (between 4 and 9 a.m.) so water isn’t lost to evaporation. Avoid fan sprinklers that shoot water high into the air (where it’s subject to wind and evaporation); impulse sprinklers that deliver water close to ground level are more efficient.
  • Set your mower blades to 7.5 centimetres high. Taller grass yields deeper, more drought-tolerant roots, and longer shoots provide shade at ground level, helping to retain soil moisture.
  • For large lawns, use a mulch mower, and leave the finely chopped grass clippings where they lie to add nitrogen to the soil as they decompose, shade out weeds and conserve moisture.
  • For smaller lawns, use a reel, or push, mower. Make sure to roll over each row twice—a double pass—to further chop up clippings. (Added benefit: no loud noise or air pollution.)
  • Whether your region experiences a wet or dry summer will be the ultimate arbiter of your lawn’s appearance. Keep in mind that during times of drought, having straw-coloured turfgrass is a badge of honour.

Read more in How to and Lawn Care

  • Page 1: Keep your lawn lush

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