Water smart lawn care

Choose the right grass or groundcover

When starting a new lawn consider soil, sun and intended use. Kentucky blue grass, perennial rye and fine fescues work well in Guelph. Reduce maintenance and water use even more by planting alternative groundcover plants; they’re great for shaded, dry or difficult areas.

Only water one inch a week

A weekly soak is better than a daily sprinkle. Lawns typically need 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) of water a week. If it hasn’t rained in the last week, use a container or rain gauge near the sprinkler and stop watering when the container is one inch full. This encourages deeper roots that can handle dry conditions.

Over watering is bad for lawns – even new ones

Too much water can encourage diseases and pests. Allowing water to pool or runoff on paved surfaces is prohibited at all times under the Outside Water Use Bylaw and could result in a violation.

Automated sprinklers and irrigation systems

Improperly designed, installed or maintained sprinkler systems may cause over-watering, excessive water consumption, and property damage. If you’re planning to install an automatic irrigation system, choose a Certified Irrigation Association professional, and choose an efficient system (drip irrigation and pressure regulated sprinklers) with a smart controller, rain sensor or soil moisture sensor.

Brown means dormant, not dead

Letting a lawn go dormant is ok. A lawn can usually be dormant for 5-6 weeks without damaging the grass. Stay off it, stop mowing and fertilizing and your lawn will likely bounce back on its own.

Don’t mow too low

Set your lawn mower height to 7.5 centimetres (3 inches) and mow when the overall lawn height reaches 11 centimetres (4.5 in). This will encourage deep, healthy roots. Never mow more than one third of grass height.

Leave grass clippings and mulched leaves on the lawn—they are free and excellent food for your lawn and soil.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn

Leaving your grass clippings on the lawn—grasscycling—is easier for you, better for the environment and saves you money.

Grasscycling helps your lawn hold water so you don’t have to water as often. The clippings add nutrients to your lawn, so you won’t need as much fertilizer either.

  • You can use any mower, mulching mowers do the best job
  • Mow your lawn when it is dry – mowing wet grass can leave clumps
  • Take two passes or use a rake to break up any clumps

The City of Guelph does not accept grass clippings in the green cart or during spring and fall yard waste collection. You can drop off grass clippings at the Waste Resource Innovation Centre free of charge.

Use leaves to fertilize your lawn and garden

Stay sharp

Keep your mower blade sharp. Dull blades tear and stress grass, increasing the chance of disease.

Aerate, over seed and feed your lawn each fall.

Aerating helps water, air and nutrients get to your lawn’s roots, breaks up thatch, and helps prevent weeds and pests. After you aerate, thicken your lawn by overseeding. Keep seeds and seedlings moist but not overly wet until they are established. Use compost to improve soil quality and to add fertility to the soil.

When to over seed your lawn

The best time to over seed is September; fewer weeds are germinating and temperatures are cooler.

Kentucky bluegrass takes up to 30 days to germinate so it needs the cool weather and precipitation in the fall.

You can overseed with perennial ryegrass throughout the season – any time there’s rain in the forecast. Perennial ryegrass can germinate in three to five days so it is great for filling in bare spots, but it tends to clump, so you should overseed often.

How to overseed your lawn

Rake to expose as much soil as you can.

Sprinkle topsoil or compost so seeds can contact soil.

Sunny areas: use a blend of about 60 per cent Kentucky Blue, 20 per cent Perennial Rye and 20 per cent Red Fescue seed.

Shady areas: use a blend of 20 per cent Kentucky Blue, 20 per cent Perennial Rye and 60 per cent Fine Fescues. Be aware that chinch bugs prefer fescue grass.

Lightly sprinkle some grass seed over bare areas or the entire lawn. You may have to do this every other day for about a week, depending on the size of the area and if the birds are enjoying your seed.

Keep the top few centimetres of soil moist with a light sprinkling of water. Be careful not to wash the seeds away.

Place burlap over seeded areas to keep birds away and to keep soil moist for faster germination.