Tag Archives: compost tea

Saskatoon’s Watering Restrictions

This summer I bought and then blended the idea combination of grass seed for my drive way.  We have a large tree right in the middle of it which means paving it, putting in paving stones or really doing anything with it isn’t going to happen.  Instead I decided to copy my neighbour across the street, bring the grass into the driveway along the sides and the middle leaving two gravel paths to drive in on, something like an English pathway.

To give the grass seed something to grow on, I put down a combination of topsoil, peat moss and compost and seeded away.  Then the city came out with it’s mandatory water restrictions due to record high levels on the South Saskatchewan River and the resulting silt problems at the water treatment plant.  Eventually they loosened them up and I could water from 9 p.m. to midnight on newly seeded grass.  It was early enough in the seeding and hot enough during the day that I knew that wasn’t going to work so I left it to mother nature and some seed made it (due to some timely showers).

The South Saskatchewan River at the Weir

What has been interesting in all of this is that when we moved into our house 12 years ago, the lawn was horrible and there was no topsoil to speak of at all.  Our boulevards were worse.  Water would just run off them like you were watering concrete.  The grass was horrible and think, fertilizer and weed and feed did nothing and because of the abandoned lot in behind us, I have always had a hard time with noxious weeds (that Killex doesn’t kill).

If I had more sense and money, I should have rototilled the entire lawn and put down truckloads of compost and soil but I didn’t.  Instead what I did:

  • I stopped picking up the grass with the mower and mulched instead.  This saved me some time, energy and most importantly, gave some organic matter back to the soil (as well as saved me on watering).
  • We compost everything.  Some things compost better than others (corn cobs, pumpkins don’t break down very quickly) and something I regret putting in there.  We compost most of our food scraps and we do some grass although I tend to let it dry out first and use it as brown matter rather than green.  It eliminates the smell.  When we stopped putting grass clippings in there, it actually decomposes faster than we can fill it. 
  • After the compost is ready, it gets spread on the lawn to give it some more organic matter to use.  I will also purchase some compost as well as some renewable peat moss to put out on it.
  • We have started to make and use compost tea after seeing a segment on This Old House on it’s impact at Harvard University.  Harvard’s maintenance department has a great website on how they make and use compost tea.
  • Following some advice from the owner of the Spiritwood Golf Club, I started to buy grass seed from Early’s Farm and Garden Centre.  It’s local seeds, clearly labelled for how it’s grown and what it will look like when mature, and what kind of care it needs.  Partly because I have two boys and 1.3 dogs running around the lawn, I have gone with a hardier grass seed when seeding.

The end result was interesting to look at during the water rationing.  The areas that had compost and organic matter spread out on them did quite well.  While the mast couple of days have been hot and they have been scorched a little bit, they still were doing fine.  The boulevards looked okay as well, especially the one that I put a lot of effort into bringing back (it had a footpath worn through it when we moved in and that has grown back and has disappeared).  The only are that has taken a beating is actually a design flaw of the yard (my fault) and I have all of the foot traffic from the deck/patio area hits this spot as you move to the yard.  If it isn’t watered and/fertilized, it starts to deteriorate.  I to pull the sod out and put a proper path in that transition area.

We have a lot of lawn.  We have a small house on a double-wide corner lot.  I like my lawn but this has shown me that with some proper techniques, it can survive a couple of weeks without watering and do okay (we did get some rain during that time).

Melbourne, Australia has been in a drought since 1970.  They even have a website that updates the public on the status of their water storage.  On their water conservation website, they have a series of tips on how to save water in your lawn and garden.

Add plenty of organic matter such as compost and manure to the soil to improve water retention, plant health and soil structure. This is one of the most important steps in making your garden drought-tolerant. Remember, the healthier your plants are, the more likely they are to withstand drought conditions.

Remove weeds regularly from garden beds because weeds compete with other plants for water.

Before planting a new garden bed, condition clay soils with powdered or liquid gypsum to improve water penetration.

I know living on a river we don’t think that much about water supply and drought but I was shocked at how much less a city like Melbourne, a city with a similar economic profile as Saskatoon does uses per capita.  Canadians rank second only to the United States in terms of highest per capita water use in the developed world while Melbourne uses a fraction of what we do.  There is room for us to improve.

You may also want to check out the report on water conservation presented to the City of Saskatoon which actually recommends that the city adopt a full time outdoor watering schedule.  It’s a good first step.  Now since I am an odd numbered house, I am off to do a bit of watering under my one of my maples that doesn’t allow a lot of rain water to penetrate under.