Averaging 335 litres per household per day, Canadians' per capita water use is the second highest in the world and, in the summer, residential consumption rises by about 50 per cent. One reason? Our lawns and gardens. Canada, it's time to smarten up!
Start with a plan. Watch how water flows in your yard and place the thirstiest plants where they'll get natural runoff from slopes and downspouts.
Select the right plants. Pick plants that are drought tolerant, or opt for native plants, which suit the climate and are resistant to insects and disease.
Add compost. This improves the absorption and water-retention of sandy soils and improves drainage in clay. Compost also supplies nutrients that promote overall plant growth (some synthetic fertilizers promote top growth, instead, which increases the plants' need for moisture).
Mulch. Bark, clean straw, shredded leaves, wood chips and stones (the list goes on) all retain moisture in the soil by slowing evaporation. A 10-centimetre layer will keep roots cool and discourage weeds, and, as it decomposes, organic mulch enriches the soil.
Water wisely. To minimize evaporation, water lawns and flowerbeds early in the morning. To encourage deep root growth, water infrequently but thoroughly (use a sprinkler for lawns, a watering can or soaker hose for gardens). To prevent overwatering, consider installing a timer on your hose. Remember: Your lawn needs only 2.5 centimetres of water, weekly, and rainfall usually provides this.
Lessen your lawn. The average suburban lawn sucks up about 45,000 litres of water every summer. Replace at least some grass with drought-tolerant ground cover or shrubs, then overseed the lawn with drought-tolerant perennial ryegrass and fine fescue. Raise mower blades to about 7 centimetres above the ground and leave grass clippings on the lawn, so the roots stay cool and need less water.
Disconnect your downspout. Direct it into a rain barrel to provide fill-ups for your watering can.
Last year Canada had one of the warmest summers in years, and Ontario had one of the driest – the time to turn off the tap is today! Find more tips at www.cleanwaterfoundation.org.
• 8 steps to a healthy, eco-friendly lawn
• 10 ways to conserve water in your home
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