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Using Water Outdoors

Create your garden oasis

Your yard in an extension of your home. It should be a place where you can unwind at the end of the day, play with the kids or spend time relaxing with family and friends – a private retreat from the demands of the day.

Realizing your dream landscape might seem like an impossible task. It isn’t. Fusion landscaping, an innovative trend in landscape design, makes realizing your dream easy and affordable. Fusion landscaping combines elements of traditional design in new and innovative ways to create beautiful, contemporary, eco-friendly landscapes for every budget. By locating the right plant in the right location to make the most of their colour, size and texture, and using hardscape surfaces such as wood and stone in innovative ways, gardening novices and experts alike can achieve their own fusion garden retreat.

Hosta and bleeding heart plants with wood chip mulch
Hosta and bleeding heart plants with wood chip mulch

There are many plant varieties available as annuals, perennials, herbs, bulbs, trees, and shrubs, which not only have the ‘look’ you want, but also require only rainfall once they become established. Once complete, Fusion gardening is less work! For example, covering soil with mulch (such as wood chips) helps to retain moisture and deter weed growth. For more beautiful garden ideas, see the Fusion Landscaping Guide for Home Owners (PDF).

Caring for your lawn

If you are creating a new area of lawn, be sure to improve the soil before seeding the grass. Water regularly after seeding until the grass is established. The same applies if you lay sod, but be sure to over-seed the sod with good grass seed mix. A good mix contains perennial rye grasses, fine fescues and a smaller quantity of Kentucky Blue grass. If the lawn area already exists, remember to top-dress the lawn every year.

Fertilizing, aerating, top-dressing and over-seeding lawns

Fertilizing each year in early spring will ensure deep roots and denser growth which means your lawn will crowd out weeds, be more resistant to disease and better able to cope with hot weather stress. Fertilizers are identified by three numbers usually visible on the front of the container. Look for a 15-9-9 mix, which indicates 15 per cent nitrogen, nine per cent phosphorous and nine per cent potassium. This mix is ideal for lawns and there are many natural sources available such as cow manure, bloodmeal, fish emulsion, bone meal, dried poultry manure and mixed organic fertilizers. Aerating the lawn gives soil a fresh start by reducing compaction and helping oxygen and nutrients reach grass roots. Aerating before fertilizing or before top-dressing and over-seeding is helpful. Top-dressing and over-seeding are best done in the fall when the soil is still warm but the sun is not as hot and drying as it is in the spring. Simply apply compost or triple mix to your lawn to a maximum depth of 15 mm and use a seed spreader or hand sow seeds over the top-dressing. Keep the newly seeded area moist until the grass takes hold. Remember; always use a seed mixture that contains perennial rye grasses, fine fescues and a smaller quantity of Kentucky Blue grass.

  • Mowing – One of the most harmful things you can do to your lawn is mow too often and cut the grass too short. To ensure your lawn’s optimum health, mow grass to a height of six to eight cm (2.5 to 3 inches) and never cut more than one-third of the grass length each time you mow.
  • Watering lawns and gardens – Overwatering is a major cause of plant disease and poor health. By keeping grass area to a minimum and planting the right plant in the right location, watering will only be needed during protracted periods of hot, dry weather. Even then, minimum watering is recommended to ensure deep root growth. When there has been no rain and the soil is dry, apply about 2.5 cm (one inch) of water to the area once a week. Use an empty tuna can or rain gauge to keep track of how much water collects weekly from rainfall and watering. Water early in the morning before the main heat of the day when the hot sun can burn wet plant leaves and grass.

Odd-even day lawn watering

Odd-even day lawn watering is mandatory during the months of May through September under the Regional Water System By-law.

Odd-even day lawn watering means you should water only on odd calendar days if your house number is an odd number, or, if your house number is even, water only on even calendar days. Durham Residents have done a great job of practicing odd-even day lawn watering. Thank you for helping to keep the summer peak down.

Tune-ups for irrigation systems

Automatic irrigation systems are convenient because they water your property automatically. All this convenience can come with a cost in the form of water waste and a high water bill. There are a number of steps you can take to tune up your system so that it does a better job of keeping your lawn and gardens healthy, while improving the system’s efficiency. Here is an irrigation system checklist:

  • Consider a weather-based controller to avoid watering when it rains.
  • Consider adding either a rain sensor or soil moisture sensor to avoid overwatering.
  • Use pressure reducing valves or pressure regulated sprinklers to ensure water pressure is correct.
  • High water pressure leads to misting and wasted water! Reducing pressures under 50 PSI can cut water use by 30 per cent.
  • Do not mix spray heads and rotor heads; spray heads work best 30 PSI and rotor heads work best at 45 Pounds per Square Inch (PSI). Rotor heads dispense an average of 6mm per hour. Spray heads dispense and average of 25 mm per hour.
  • Move sprinkler heads that become obstructed by plants.
  • Set the controller to water a maximum of 2.5 cm per week including rainfall.

For more information…

Field testing water and energy efficiency

(i) Demonstration community (2004 – 2007)

The Water and Energy Efficient Demonstration Community was located in the Tribute Communities’ Hamlet development in the Town of Ajax. The objective of the community was to demonstrate how to make new homes more water and energy efficient. This project was a partnership between Durham Region, Tribute Communities, Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Natural Resources Canada.

There were 176 homes involved in the study; half of the homes were equipped with water-efficient toilets (3/6 litre, four litre and six litre) and improved showerheads. The dishwashers, fridges and washing machines were all ENERGY STAR®. The homes also included a drought-resistant garden. The other half of the homes had builder standard fixtures and appliances.

The water and energy usage in the ‘efficient homes’ was measured and compared to the ‘standard homes’. The goal of the project was to calculate cost-benefit analyses for each change to illustrate to homeowners and homebuilders which changes made the most environmental and economic sense.

The average water, electricity, natural gas, and CO2 savings achieved by the Study homes in this research project were significant.

  • Water Savings: 132 L/day per household (22.3%)
  • Electricity Savings: 2.6 kWh/day per household (13%)
  • Natural Gas Savings: 0.59 m3/day per household (9.1%)
  • CO2 reduction: 1.19 tonnes / year per household (10.7%)

While savings directly related to the use of efficient fixtures and appliances was expected and achieved, a significant portion of the savings identified in this study was related to homeowners practicing efficient water and energy use habits.

The annual utility cost savings for the Study homes was projected to be slightly more than $200 per year, and the payback period associated with providing the upgraded package was calculated as only 3.4 years.

This study shows that it is both cost-effective and environmentally responsible for new home builders to begin including only water-efficient fixtures, appliances, and landscape packages in their new home designs – the homeowner, the community and the environment all win!

(ii) Priority Green Clarington (2013 – Present)

The Region of Durham is supporting the Municipality of Clarington’s exciting new project, PRIORITY GREEN Clarington.

Through the program, Clarington and Durham are working with three new home builders (Brookfield, Halminen and Jeffrey) to implement above-standard water and energy conservation technologies in new neighbourhoods in Bowmanville and Courtice.

In addition to encouraging builders to exceed building code expectations through municipal policies and incentives, PRIORITY GREEN Clarington is also testing six new homes to determine the environmental, social and economic benefits of implementing technologies that help to conserve water and energy.

Some of the technologies featured in these homes are:

  • Greywater systems, which reuse shower water to flush toilets
  • Three-litre per flush toilets
  • Smart thermostats
  • Drain water heat recovery from bath and shower water
  • Hot water re-circulation
  • Permeable walkways
  • Advanced wall framing using less wood and more insulation
  • Energy Star Most Efficient clothes washers
  • High-efficiency bathroom fans
  • Air leakage testing

The six field-test homes are being monitored for changes in water, electricity and natural gas use. Monitoring has been designed to be unobtrusive to the home owners. Payback periods will be calculated for the conservation features. The field test will be completed next spring. Preliminary results show the homes performing beyond 15% more water and energy efficient compared to homes built to the Ontario Building Code. Watch for the results in the Spring 2015 issue of the Durham Works newsletter!

PRIORITY GREEN Clarington is also supported by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (Showcasing Water Innovation Fund) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund (Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan program).

For more information on this program, visit prioritygreenclarington.wordpress.com.

Picture of a house

PDFs