Guelph steers residents toward low-maintenance lawns, gardens

Guelph's free Healthy Landscapes program is guiding residents to conserve water and promote lower yard maintenance by showing how to convert existing lawns and landscaping into self-sustaining gardens.

Healthy Landscapes program offers free consultation visits by the yard

Alison Maxwell, an adviser for Healthy Landscapes recommends adding something that will help retain moisture to your lawn or gardens. (Shauna Powers/CBC)

The recent dry weather has left a lot of people wondering how they can keep their lawn and gardens healthy.

The City of Guelph has made this process easier with its Healthy Landscapes program, offering free 45-minute consultation visits to people's homes to answer any questions or concerns people may have on their lawns or gardens and to suggest alternatives to traditional high-maintenance landscaping.

"Issues with people not being able to grow things is one thing that I get a lot," said Alison Maxwell, an advisor for Guelph's Healthy Landscapes.

She commonly visits new homeowners that aren't sure how to tend to the gardens they have inherited and also visits homeowners that would like to make space for a new garden but aren't sure how to do it.

"I have seen a difference in the amount of interest in gardens," Maxwell said. "A couple of years ago I was getting a lot more lawn questions...and now I see a lot of people converting more lawn space into gardens."

Moisturize your lawn

Because it has been a dry summer, Maxwell recommends adding landscaping elements to a lawn or garden that will retain more moisture, such as: 

  • Top dressing with a centimetre of compost for your lawn. This will help the soil retain more moisture while providing "a fluffier soil for grass roots to grow."
  • Mulch for your garden. This will help add some protection to your plants while retaining moisture to help them grow.

Water conservation

"We are fortunate that we are on ground water," said Karen McKeown, an outdoor water efficiency technician for the City of Guelph. "We need to protect it, that's why we have a strong water conservation program."

That's partly why the Healthy Landscapes program emphasizes finding ways to conserve water.

Maxwell says conservation is all about choosing the right plants for the right place to reduce the amount of water needed. For example, planting drought-tolerant plants in exposed, sunny areas where soil can dry out more quickly.

Planning landscaping around the use of rainwater is also a conservation and sustainability measure, she said.

Water harvested in rain barrels and having "rain gardens" where runoff water is directed into the garden from the roof during rainstorms are other ways that can help reduce the need to use the municipal water supply for yard maintenance, she added.