If the current drought has your garden looking a little worse for wear or has you thinking about alternatives to grass, the city’s Healthy Landscape program could help get your lawn and garden back on track.
Since 2008, the popular City of Guelph program has been offering advice through 45 minute visits to local residents and businesses who request appointments on how to create an attractive, low-maintenance lawn and garden.
Healthy Landscape Program Advisors are experienced professionals who are able to advise and answer questions on a host of issues, from lawn care and soil recommendations to garden design and ideal plant combinations.
“Many of our visits are for residents that have recently moved into a new home and need help figuring out how best to maintain or design their space,” says Alison Maxwell, one of the program’s two advisors.
“We often help homeowners choose and locate plant material such as perennial beds or trees. Other visits are often about fixing chronic outdoor issues such as problems with grass, areas of prolonged wetness or challenges in establishing successful gardens.”
Participants receive a personalized action plan at the end of the visit, as well as a Guelph gardening book highlighting native plants, relevant fact sheets and a garden design booklet.
“Drought times are not the most appropriate times to be planting new gardens or lawns, or fixing chronic issues,” says Maxwell. “This is a great time to plan and prepare new garden beds, plan changes to maintenance regimes, install a rain barrel or passive rain watering systems, add compost and mulch to your existing gardens or read about gardening in the Guelph area,” Maxwell says.
Advisors receive specific water-wise garden training upon hire at Water Services. The main goal of the Healthy Landscape visits is to reduce outdoor water use by promoting water-efficient landscaping practices. Maxwell says this can be as simple as choosing the right plant for the right place to re-directing or storing rainwater for irrigation and amending soil conditions with compost and mulches to decrease water loss.
Maxwell says she’s seen a growing acceptance to lawn alternatives in recent years as more homeowners switch or supplement their grass with white clover or creeping potentilla.
“If you … see green lawns in full sun areas around Guelph, take a closer look because they are likely made of lawn alternatives instead of traditional grasses,” she says. “These groundcovers are hardier and more drought resistant than grass; they need less soil maintenance, and would need to be cut far less often during the growing season.”
Despite the drought, the Healthy Landscape team have had an increasing amount of inquiries by residents seeking advice on how to build a rain garden which allows for rainwater runoff to be absorbed by the garden’s specific design and plant selection.
Other growing trends include how to integrate growing food in traditional gardens, as well as boulevard gardening.
Healthy Landscapes visits are available by appointment May through August, and offer approximately 450 available visits, Monday to Thursday, with four times available per day. Sign up at http://guelph.ca/living/house-and-home/healthy-landscapes/healthy-landscape-visits/ .