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Three simple changes to save water and money on your lawn and garden

save-water-carsonI was recently asked at a speaking event why I’ve been so vocal about not liking grass in the yard. The reason I’m not a fan of grass is not the plant, but the homeowners that care for it. Grass requires more time, money and resources than anything else we can have in our outdoor spaces. Especially when it comes to water.

Carson Arthur

Carson Arthur

According to The Conference Board of Canada (Jan, 2013), Canadians are at the bottom of a global ranking for water usage per person, just above the U.S. On a daily basis, Canadians use up to 327 litres of water per person and our water use increases by almost 40 per cent in spring due to the watering of lawns and gardens. Most Canadians live in areas that get regular rainfall and drought really doesn’t happen that often (except this year!) so it’s hard for the average person to buy into the idea that there is a shortage. We have lots, and it’s cheap so we use it without any real concern. We see a brown lawn or a dried out plant and the first thing any homeowner does is grab the sprinkler.

I had hoped that rain barrels would be an amazing way for homeowners to take advantage of free water. While a lot of rain barrels were sold nationally, the practical side of hauling water around the yard to feed the plants wasn’t very attractive for most of us. Now the rain barrels are in the yards, full of water and only get used occasionally.

Here are three ways that you can save money and save water without having to make a big change in your lifestyle.

1. Invest in a simple rain gauge. If you don’t know how much water your outdoor spaces are getting, then how can you know how much more you should give them? A good rule of thumb is to check your rain gauge every Sunday morning. If the collected water in the gauge is less than 1” for the week, its time to get the hose out. Water until you have 1” in the gauge, turn off the sprinkler; empty the reservoir and you’re done until next Sunday when you check the gauge again.

2. Top-dress your lawn with one of the newest drought saving types of grass. My personal favourite is RTF Water Saver grass seed ( I love this grass because it can grow roots up to 6’ deep, allowing it to naturally harvest more water from the soil below. I tell homeowners that they don’t need to get rid of their existing lawns; they just need to add some RTF into the mix. One small 2 kg bag of seed mixed with a 40lb bag of topsoil spread over the lawn seems to do the trick for problem areas. Sun or shade, it will naturally spread, enhancing the remainder of your outdoor space.

3. Replace your ‘fine mist’ sprinklers with ones that create larger water droplets. It’s a simple fact that a fine mist evaporates in the summer sun a lot faster than a bigger droplet. In this case, bigger is better! Look for sprinklers that have deflection plates. These plates are best for directing the water to where you need it and for creating larger droplets.

These three simple changes can make a big difference in our water consumption. Remember, every single drop means something. Just because we have the lion’s share of the fresh water in the world, doesn’t mean we need to waste it.



-Landscape designer Carson Arthur is host of HGTV’s new Home to Win show. He is also the outdoor expert with City TV’s Cityline and wrote the sell-out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living in 2015. More at
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