With climate change, drought are lush green lawns a thing of the past in Kamloops, Okanagan? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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With climate change, drought are lush green lawns a thing of the past in Kamloops, Okanagan?

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Drought risk, tighter water restrictions and increased wildfire risk are just a few reasons why some residents in the southern Interior are rethinking what their lawns and yards should look like.

A horticulturist in Kamloops, Danielle Greenstreet, said she has seen properties transform over the past decade of designing and tending them, particularly in the past two or three years. 

“It’s a bigger topic of conversation because the climate is changing, things are dry, it hasn’t rained much lately and we had a very mild, dry winter,” she said. “People are reconsidering how important their lawns really are.” 

While her clients’ preferences differ widely, Greenstreet said there is an increasing trend to move away from perfectly manicured lawns, with more residents considering other options such as xeriscaping, planting drought resistant plants and grasses, and replacing lawns with clover or more gardens. 

“Fewer people want to spend money caring for lawns and are going toward hardscape and lower maintenance plants where they don’t have to worry about how green their yard is.”

Now into her 10th year of landscaping, Greenstreet said xeriscaping is far more common. It requires less water and is low maintenance.

“Some people don’t like the look of it, they prefer lush green things, but there are many different rocks, drought resistant plants and succulents to choose from to get the look you like.”

More of Greenstreet’s clients are putting gardens in the place of front lawns, using available water to grow food instead of grass.

“Many residents are reserving water for fruit trees and gardens, no longer prioritizing watering their lawns,” she said. “Also, more are putting in garden boxes with a drip system set on a timer instead of having to use sprinklers.”

More people are talking about planting clover instead of lawns, for good reason.

“Clover doesn’t require as much water as grass and can be walked on with less wear and tear, even traffic from dogs, it just takes a beating better. It holds moisture, stays more green, and has lots of nitrogen.”

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All is not lost for residents choosing to maintain a lush, green lawn, and there are several ways to keep it healthy even during drought conditions.

Greenstreet said a good weekly watering is sufficient for a healthy lawn, just an inch or an inch-and-half of water promotes deeper root growth, which increases drought tolerance, and for those who are planting a new lawn, drought resistant grass seeds recommended for hot, dry climates are available.

To help maintain lawns during drought restrictions, Greenstreet recommends raising the lawn mower blade higher, as cutting grass super short can fry the lawn.

Other ways to help retain moisture is to mulch grass clippings, keeping an extra protective layer on the top.

“One thing some people don’t know is to avoid fertilizing,” she said. “As much as people think fertilizing will make greener lawns, it requires more water for the grass to digest and puts a strain on it during water restrictions.”

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The City of Kamloops outlined a new Water Use Restriction Plan in a media release and it applies to all residents using the city’s potable water system. The new restrictions are in effect year-round where they were previously in effect on a seasonal basis allowing residents to water on alternating days.

The plan makes room for additional restrictions that could be placed based on provincial drought levels.

Irrigating is permitted three days a week unless the restrictions are elevated and is not allowed between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.

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The City of Kelowna already operates under year-round restrictions with residents watering on three days of the week depending on the digits of their addresses, in order to reduce peaks in water usage, keep up with demands and store extra water in case of wildfires. 

Should further water restrictions be required in Kelowna, revised watering guidelines will be highlighted here.

Danielle Greenstreet is taking horticulture clients for the season and can be reached through email here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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