Lets look at some Water Smart Gardening
We wouldn’t think it here in the lower mainland but our fresh water reserves are not endless. With an ever-increasing population and hotter, drier summers we need to conserve the existing water supplies we have. Of course this is not down to just us as gardeners but we can certainly do our bit to help.
We can look at the current way we garden and make changes that benefit the wider environment, working with it rather than against it.
Other parts of the world have been doing the same, such as Australia.
For many years down there, gardens were of a European style with lush green lawns and flowerbeds full of herbaceous perennials. This may look very nice and pretty and it certainly reminded new settlers of their ‘motherland’ but it definitely didn’t work with the Australian climate, especially in drier areas. Australians today are starting to utilize their own native flora and fauna in the garden, which is better suited and has evolved to grow in that environment. We don’t have to use just native plants but ones from areas that can handle drought much better and needing less use of fertilizers or pesticides.
In the lower mainland of B.C. we face the challenge of a long period of mild wet weather followed by a long, hot and increasingly dry summer. These extremes put a lot of stress on plants, and that is why we need to choose wisely and select the right plant for the right location. Lush green lawns are an obsession and we must blame the Europeans for that, like Australia, and here, people brought with them the same traditional gardening methods and the lawn is definitely one of them.
Rethinking Grass Lawns
Grass lawns here have a tendency to develop a soft cushion of moss within them. This is due to many soils in our area being poorly drained and having a slightly acidic p.H. These are ideal conditions for moss to thrive, which means in order for us to keep our lawns looking great it becomes a full time job fertilizing, raking, weed killing and liming. Maybe its time we started re-thinking our obsession with the grass lawn. Especially when watering bans are in effect during the summer and we have to view a big patch of brown grass out front.
It should be noted, however that although people don’t like to see their lawn turn yellow in the summer, leaving it to do this is perfectly fine. It is in fact the grass going dormant and is a way the grass protects its roots from dying completely. After the rains return in the fall; the grass will green up again. If no rain is expected for over a month the lawn can be watered once every two weeks with half an inch of water to prevent the grass from dying completely. You should always try avoid walking on the grass when it is dormant to avoid further damage.
Don’t pave over your lawn just yet!
Fear not however, you don’t have to pave over your lawn just yet, there are ways we can improve our lawns instead of ripping them out.
Many people are now looking at alternatives to grass such as ground covers or by using micro clover. Mixing clover seed into your existing lawn is a great idea to keep your lawn green during the summer drought and also deter the chafer beetle which has been slowly making its way east from Vancouver for many years now. Clover will also flower and attract pollinators.
Plants have adapted to deal with different climates in different ways. They may have thicker leaves to hold in moisture such as succulents (e.g. Sedums, Jewel of the Desert and Hens and Chicks), they may have rigid leaves with a thick waxy layer such as yuccas or they may contain high amounts of essential oils which help prevent foliage from drying out such as rosemary or lavender. Perennials such as Rudbeckia, Echinacea, certain grasses and Euphorbia are fantastic options that will reduce your summer water bill.
Mulching garden beds is also a good idea, anything that provides a covering over the soil is classed as a mulch so not just bark. You could use gravel or river rock as a way of trapping in moisture and also keeping down weeds.
Also, Check Out Our Article on Lawn Care