Tips for Conserving Water Outside of Your Home

Lawn Care

Lawns need more than water to be healthy. By planning ahead in the fall and winter months, you can save water and time during the dry summer. Use our Fall Maintenance Guide to get ready for the spring. Mark lawn care steps and the Stage 1 Watering Schedule in your calendar. Overseed in April to easily keep seeds moist for two to three weeks before the watering schedule is in place. Consider what your lawn is used for - does it need to withstand heavy foot traffic or could a low maintenance alternative like clover or thyme provide an alternative. These steps can create a healthy lawn while using less water.

Top Tips

  • Gold is the New Green – Let your lawn go golden. Lawns naturally go dormant in the summer and will bounce back to green with the fall rains.gaugeongrass
  • Just Takes 1 – Green lawns only need one inch (2.5cm) of water per week, including rain, even in the driest conditions. Longer, infrequent watering will help develop healthier roots and minimize washing away beneficial nutrients. Place an empty tuna can or watering gauge in your yard to determine how long your sprinkler system takes to deliver an inch of water to the lawn. Visit CRD at either 625 Fisgard Street or 479 Island Highway to collect a free lawn watering gauge.
  • Cycle and Soak – Irrigate in three short bursts to allow water to seep into the soil, reducing runoff and water waste while also promoting strong roots. Divide the time it takes your irrigation system to deliver one inch (2.5cm) of water by three. Water for that length of time, turn off your irrigation system for an hour, and repeat two more times. Irrigation controllers can be adjusted for this cycle and soak method, learn more here.

Lawn Care Best Practices

Know When You Mow

Set your mower height to leave five to six centimeters (about two inches) and cut no more than the top third of the grass length. Longer grass encourages stronger, deeper roots, and can help shade the soil to reduce evaporation. Leave grass clippings to decompose (grasscycling); they act as mini-mulch to reduce evaporation and add nutrients. Keep mower blades sharp to avoid tearing the grass. Don’t cut wet grass.

Check out more mowing tips in this video.

Remove Thatch

Thatch is the layer of dead matted grass and organic matter that forms between the blades of grass and the soil. A thin layer of thatch can be beneficial, preventing evaporation. Too much thatch (more than 1.5 cm) can be harmful and rob the roots of oxygen and water. Remove thatch from your lawn at least once a year, using a rake, a thatching attachment on your mower or a thatching machine.

Aerate Your Lawn

Aerating improves nutrient uptake by the grass by increasing water absorption, reducing compaction, and helping oxygen and organic matter reach the roots. Aerate by puncturing the lawn with a gardening fork or by renting a powered aerator. If you have an underground irrigation system, identify the location of lines before aerating to avoid punctures. After aeration, overseed and dress your lawn with a thin layer of compost to help soil hold water and nutrients. See how to aerate and top dress with this video.


Overseed with a low-maintenance lawn seed mixture such as micro clover, fescues and perennial rye grasses for a drought-tolerant and weed-repellant lawn. Plan to overseed at least a month before the start of watering schedule (May 1).

Efficient Irrigation

Lawns only need one inch (2.5 cm) of water per week including rainfall, even in the driest conditions. Deep, infrequent watering encourages strong root systems. Using too much water causes nutrient runoff, promotes shallow rooting and contributes to the buildup of thatch. After a day of heavy rain, consider skipping watering until the following week or install a rain shut-off device onto your irrigation system that will automatically turn your system off when it is raining.

To reduce evaporation and scorching of leaves from the sun, water in the early morning from 4 - 10am or the evening from 7 - 10pm according to the Stage 1 Watering Schedule. Make sure your irrigation system is watering the lawn and not hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks. Fix leaks and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Check out this video for more efficient irrigation tips.

Weed and Soil Maintenance

Weeding prevents roots from establishing and draining resources from your lawn. Top-dress damaged areas with sand or soil and overseed before weeds can re-establish. Be sure to handle invasive species properly.

Healthy soil will help keep your lawn green as well as keep away weeds and pests. Test the pH of your soil – if found to be acidic, apply lime. A neutral pH helps protect grass from heat and drought. Local garden centres have tools for proper pH measuring and lime application. Learn more about applying lime with this video.

Soil composition will impact how often your lawn needs to be watered. Soils with lots of clay will retain moisture better than more sandy soils. A well-balanced soil that is properly watered should not need fertilizer.

Lawn Alternatives

Replace some areas of lawn with low-growing ground covers like clover or herbs, native plants or vegetable gardens. Native plants and vegetable gardens use significantly less water compared to lawns. Another alternative is to cover parts of your garden with permeable paving made from natural or synthetic materials, such as flat rocks, flagstones, concrete, asphalt or compact gravel that allow rainfall to infiltrate into the ground.