By Jessica Lovell
It has undeniably been a tough summer for gardens and lawns, but the city has a program that may be able to help rescue your yard from the withering clutches of drought.
Residents can simply call up the city to schedule a free half-hour visit from someone who can provide valuable advice about how to have a beautiful yard without using too much time, money and water.
The visits, a central part of the city’s four-year-old Healthy Landscape program, are available until Aug. 30.
“We do this to educate residents on how to have water efficient lawns and gardens,” says the city’s outdoor water efficiency technician Karen McKeown, on the purpose behind the program.
The golden lawns that made up the majority of front yards through most of this summer are a good indication that most Guelph residents are doing quite well when it comes to water efficiency, she says. Water efficiency has been particularly important this year.
“We’ve had a lot of people calling because they want advice on what to do in these conditions,” says McKeown.
McKeown’s team, made up mainly of University of Guelph graduates trained in horticulture and landscape design, have made around 400 property visits since May.
One common recommendation is rain barrels, which allow people to save up rainwater to water the gardens, so they don’t need to turn on the hose.
“You need more than one, especially in years like this,” says McKeown.
But the program’s advice includes not just tips for saving water, but tips on how to help gardens and lawns survive when the rain barrels are empty.
For example, people are advised to cut their lawns high to help the grass build up stronger root systems, and to leave clippings on the lawn to feed nutrients back into the grass, McKeown says.
“The healthier you keep the lawn, the more it will be able to stand up to drought and pests,” she says.
Though it does require using some water, McKeown says people should be watering their trees and shrubs to ensure their survival.
While the lawn will likely come back after a period without watering, trees “still need to be watered properly,” she says. Many people forget that when the lawn’s not getting a drink, neither are the trees.
The team also talks about strategic tree planting – to create shade so watering is less necessary – and different types of gardens and plants appropriate to residents’ specific landscape conditions.
“We give a lot of help in planting in hard-to-grow spots,” says McKeown.
As summer nears its end, residents may want to start talking about what they can do to prepare their gardens for fall so they’ll be healthy next spring.
The best way to do that is to set up a visit, says McKeown.
“It really helps when we can get on someone’s property, rather than trying to provide advice over the phone,” she says.
Monday to Thursday
Visits are available Monday to Thursday between 12 and 7 p.m. People can schedule a visit by calling 519-822-1260, ext. 2107 or sending an email to email@example.com.