Rethinking the Urban Lawn through Community Education

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Friends of Summerland Research Station Gardens

Project Description:

One of the key environmental challenges facing Okanagan Valley residents relates to issues surrounding water security and water scarcity. This is especially pronounced in the summer months where the available water supplies are at their lowest and demand is highest. Peak water demand combined with excessive outdoor water use in landscapes by Okanagan residents (24% of our water supply) has created “a disaster waiting to happen” scenario for times of drought. The biggest culprit in this outdoor domestic water use story is the widespread planting and maintenance of the traditional urban lawn which sucks up large amounts of water while providing no contribution to biodiversity and can contribute to harmful chemical pollutants entering our waterways. Hence making smart and informed choices about water wise landscaping will help to mitigate this problem by improving water use efficiency and helping curb “restriction shock” when drought occurs.

Our project will teach the following best practices principles:

  • show better ways to plant a lawn using the prescribed amount of soil depth and the right soil mixture
  • better ways to water a lawn using the least amount of water and incorporating best practices for irrigation
  • better ways to maintain a lawn without chemicals by keeping the grass blades longer and aerating and top dressing with compost
  • using alternate Eco-Lawn grass seed mixes or drought tolerant perennial mixes (lawn tapestries) instead of planting a traditional Kentucky Bluegrass lawn.
  • removing the lawn or a section of it and replacing it with xeriscape plant material.

Many public gardens feature Xeriscape landscapes but there are few publicly accessible demonstrations of alternative lawns in the Okanagan. By focusing on the best practices related to lawns and lawn alternatives, FOG will provide the community with the information and tools needed to make wiser landscaping choices thus better preparing residents for difficult times of water restrictions. Our project will highlight the OBWB’s water conservation platform Make Water Work and messaging through this project with particular focus on the contents of the MWW Pledge campaign.

The specific project goals of this project are:

GOAL 1. Building the capacity of residents to better understand climate trends, projections, impacts and demonstrating opportunities to increase resilience.

GOAL 2. Meeting a critical information gap by delivering educational water conservation programming and building new water conservation demonstration models related to the “urban lawn”

GOAL 3. Work alongside strategic partners to coordinate coherent and consistent messaging related to drought management planning and improving water use efficiency to encourage resilient landscaping best practices through educational programming.

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