How can you keep your lawn healthy when it’s hot and dry? If you want a green lawn when the weather is hot and dry, it is going be tough, as you are fighting Mother Nature. You see, in northern climates, including Southern Ontario, turf is composed of cool season grasses such as Kentucky Blue Grass, Fescues and Perennial Ryes. Their most active growing periods are in the spring and fall when temperatures are moderate and precipitation events are more frequent. These species have their dormancy period during the hot and dry summer months and over the winter.

Lawns in northern climates naturally go dormant when the weather gets hot.

So, our turf is smart; it knows when the best times of the year are to grow and which ones are not. When it gets hot and dry, the grass begins to go dormant to protect itself from stress, damage and possible death. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, healthy cool season turf grass can survive up to six weeks without rain during the summer.

If your grass goes into dormancy (turns yellow), and then you decide to water it, you can cause a lot of stress. Consider being woken from a sleep with a bucket of cold water, it would be a bit of shock. However, grass can get up and run after the culprit…

Keeping your grass green and lush during a hot dry summer will take work and a LOT of water. You will have to continue to water your lawn throughout the summer to prevent the grass from ever going into dormancy. It may mean a fabulous looking green lawn, but you are breaking the turf’s natural tendency to go into dormancy. You will also be wasting drinking water, water that has to be pumped, purified and delivered to your tap by your local municipality. That takes a lot of energy, energy that causes carbon emissions, contributing to smog and poor air quality. And then you get your water bill… Although we don’t pay a lot for water in Canada, it still adds up.

Basically you have three options for your lawn;

Option 1: Let it go into dormancy. Stay off it at this time and monitor for chinch bugs, which may take advantage of your sleeping lawn. (see http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/08-019.htm  for details)

The benefits:

  • You won’t have to mow your lawn so often.
  • Less money spent on your water bill.
  • More time to spend doing fun things with your friend and family, instead of worrying about your lawn.
  • You be reducing the demand on municipal water systems and air quality.
  • No more wrestling with the hose.
  • You are helping the environment by doing absolutely nothing.

Option 2: Be that guy and spend your free time, energy and money fighting Mother Nature to keep your lawn from going dormant. You may have the best looking green lawn on the block, but you may end up being the oddball on the block.  Across Canada, almost half of the population no longer waters their lawns, less than 20% water their lawns on a regular basis.

A green lawn that will need a LOT of water!

The benefits:

  • A green lawn that stands out. Neighbours will walk by and comment on how your lawn is one of the few on the block with a green lawn.
  • The time spent watering and mowing your lawn means you will have less time to spend with your in-laws.
  • Who know what fabulous ideas you will come up with while you spend hours mindlessly watering and mowing the lawn?

Option 3: Consider alternatives to turf. Typically you see suggestions to get rid of your lawn and plant a garden. Healthy turf can go six weeks without water. If you are replacing your lawn with a garden, make sure the garden won’t need more water and maintenance than the lawn would have. Consider sedums, succulents, decorative stonework, mulched areas, larger deck and outdoor living areas or more tree and shrubs (with mulch, good soil and the right species, an established shrub bed can last weeks in a dry spell). You could also try a clover lawn, which stays green in the summer and fixes its own nitorgen, eliminating the need for fertlizer!

The benefits:

  • A trendy, easy to care for alternative to the suburban lawn.
  • Better looking landscape in a drought.
  • NO MORE MOWING.
  • More livable space to spend all the extra time you will have with your loved ones.
  • Better curb appeal for your home.

Some ideas:

A lawn alternative idea for a sunny spot. From www.gardensnob.com

Lawn alternative for shade. From www.richlanddesign.com

A little bit of grass in this one… but you get the idea. From http://www.alonsolandscapeservice.com

Here is a link to another blog with some nice ideas for lawn alternatives: http://jocelynsgarden.blogspot.com/2011/08/garden-designers-roundtable-lawn.html (it is from down south, but use the concepts, they still work up north).

It’s your choice folks.

Happy gardening….

Aileen

The qualities of Lavender seem endless; it is used for aromatherapy, antibacterial properties, cooking, insect resistance and many other uses. My preferred use is in my garden as one of my favorite focal points. It’s long lasting blooms and tough “I don’t need no water” attitude make it a perfect resident for a full sun, well drained, drought tolerant garden.

The perfect plant for a hot, sunny location

In the spring, it may look a little ragged. Feel free to cut it back a bit, or do as I do, just ignore it and wait for the new growth to cover up any ugly old growth. When it flowers you can cut off a few of the flowers spikes, tie them together and let them dry for an all-natural air freshener.

When out and about in your garden, try rubbing a few of the leaves into your hands for a nice aromatic scent while you weed, read or enjoy some wine. Lavender is reported to help you relax, so with some wine, you will no doubt feel great in your garden.

Even the butterflies love Lavender…

The technical info:

Blooms: From June through to end of summer/early fall

Exposure: Full sunColour: Lavender (yes, I get the irony)

Water: Lavender likes it hot and dry, the conditions it adapted to in its native climate of the Mediterranean and Africa.

Combination ideas: The greyish coloured leaves and light purple flowers go great with white, pink or dark purple colours. Avoid combining with plants with reddish or brown undertones. Try it with Salvia, Blazing star, Little Blue Stem, Catmint, or Shasta Daisies. Another option is to use lavender as a small hedge or border.

Shopping:  A very common plant, easily found in most garden centres. Make sure you get the English Lavender, which is hardy to zone 5.

Portulaca (Moss Rose) Portulaca Grandifolia

Annuals are a popular choice for gardens because they provide colour, all summer long.  There is a cost for all those colourful flowers; when a plant produces a flower, it’s like growing lots of little babies; it takes extra nutrients, water and sunshine to fuel the production of the flowers. The longer they are in bloom, the more resources they need. This means you will likely have to spend more time fertilizing and watering annuals to keep them going through the summer. There a few annuals that are a bit more efficient with their resources, saving you time. My favourite is the Portulaca.

These easy annuals come in a variety of colours.

I grew up with a front garden full of Portulaca’s that my Dad planted for my Mum, they were one of her favorites. I had no idea about plant biology, water conservation or gardening back then, but I loved the playing with their paper-like flowers and seed pods. Perhaps my love of gardening is “rooted” in my days playing with Portulaca’s in the sun?

Portulaca’s are a fleshy, succulent annual that love sunny, dry areas. Their multi-coloured blooms come out in the sunshine and then close up when the sun sets. They are great for containers, sunny rock gardens or hanging baskets.

Using these on your containers means a lot less watering needed.

The technical info:

Blooms: Daytime in the sun. Blooms from after the last spring frost through to the first fall frost.

Exposure: Full sun

Colour: White, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Coral

Water: How you use them will dictate how often you need to water. When planted in your garden, they may go all summer with no water. In a container, I have seen them last two weeks without water. In a hanging basket, they will survive a day or two without water once the soil has gone dry.

Combination ideas: I use these as a filler plant for my water efficient containers. They are also great as a border or in a rock garden to full any spaces between your perennials. They will go with many types of plants, but keep in mind that they often bloom in multiple colours, so adding them to an arrangement with a lot of different colours, may look a little busy. You can find them in single colour cell-packs, allowing you to work with a single colour.

Using Portulaca as a filler in your water efficient containers. (with Sedum “Angelina”, Coral Bells, Blazing Star, Creeping Jenny and Common Thrift)

Shopping: You may have to look a little harder for them at the garden centre as they are not as popular as the other annuals such as petunias or marigolds. They may not look like much in the cell pack, but they will grow and flower quickly once planted. Bradford Greenhouses had a four pack on sale for $0.79 last week!

 

Note: If you spend most of your time in the garden in the evenings, this may not be the plant for you, as you will miss the bright coloured blooms that only come out in the sunshine.