Is a perfect lawn all it’s cut out to be?

The grass isn’t always greener in the hot, dry summer months. With temperatures increasing due to climate change, perhaps it’s time to rethink lawn care.

Keeping lawns and gardens green is one reason water use nearly doubles this time of year.

York Region has imposed outdoor water use limitations to prevent water shortages, enforced through water use by-laws in each of the municipalities.

A steady water supply ensures drinking water reserves, adequate water pressure, and vital fire protection.

There is also an environmental benefit to reduced outdoor water use. Unfortunately, runoff from sprinklers and hoses can pick up pollutants as it enters storm sewers. This water flows untreated into Lake Ontario, harming our drinking water source and the home of thousands of plant and animal species.

In Stouffville, outdoor water use is permitted from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. to  10 p.m. Properties with even-numbered street addresses may water on even-numbered dates and those with odd-numbered addresses on odd-numbered dates.

It’s possible to prepare your lawn to withstand the hot, dry weather without excessive water use. Aeration, top-dressing with compost, overseeding, increasing the lawnmower blade height, and fertilizing achieve various benefits. Among them are improved water absorption, weed and disease minimization, improved nutrition, and the establishment of robust root systems.

Gloria Marsh, executive director of the York Region Environmental Alliance (YREA), sees the matter from a different perspective. She urges homeowners to consider a move to “decolonize the cookie cutter lawn because it has absolutely no benefit to anything or anybody.”

YREA recognizes that a shift in thinking from the need and desire to have a high-maintenance “monoculture” lawn requires education, sharing of information, and time. The organization encourages homeowners to consider growing a drought-friendly, low-maintenance pollinator meadow instead. By taking a non-intervention approach, shares Marsh, the area will naturalize and become a place for birds, bees, and butterflies to enjoy, rather than a “vast, useless lawn.”

If you prefer a conventional lawn, YREA offers some constructive suggestions. Grass turning brown from heat stress in the summer doesn’t mean it’s dead – it’s dormant and will rejuvenate in the cooler, damper fall weather. One inch of watering per week is all that’s necessary. And when cutting, leave the clippings as it nourishes the lawn with extra nitrogen.

YREA also suggests mixing clover seed into the grass seed mix when overseeding. It’s a pollinator-friendly option that adds one-third of the nitrogen needed for a strong and healthy lawn. Plus, it’s far more drought-resistant and stays green even when the grass turns brown. A grass seed mix that contains little or no Kentucky bluegrass seed is another benefit since Kentucky bluegrass has a shallow root system that is less drought-tolerant and more attractive to grubs.

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Photo: A pollinator meadow offers an environmentally-friendly, low-maintenance alternative to grass. (Photo courtesy of G. Marsh, YREA)



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