“Blue” gardens are designed with water in mind

October 4th, 2017

By Heather Ray, GreenUP Manager of Water Programs

Peterborough is home to a number of beautiful gardens that boast a number of benefits: offering pollinator habitat, food production, curb appeal, and improvements to physical and mental health. While water is necessary for a garden to grow, gardens also play an important role in protecting and preserving water.

Over the last two years our community has experienced conditions of both drought, and flooding. From one extreme to the other, gardens that are designed with water in mind can offer resilient solutions.

There are a number of similarities and differences between a garden designed for flood mitigation (a rain garden), and a garden designed for drought mitigation (a water wise garden). While you may see many of the same native and drought tolerant plant species in each of these garden-types, the difference is most apparent in the shape and function of the garden.

This year we have experienced large amounts of rainfall, resulting in isolated flooding events throughout the City of Peterborough. This phenomena of more extreme weather patterns is predicted to be more common, due to changes in the climate.

During heavy rain events, water can quickly overwhelm traditional stormwater systems like storm drains, since increasingly paved and impermeable surfaces leave very few natural places for water to go. A rain garden can offer water a natural route through urban centres, diverting water away from aging pipe systems and back into its natural water cycle.

Peterborough residents David Marshall and Barbara Moffat next to a rain garden they installed in their back yard after being inspired by a GreenUP workshop. They have transformed their entire property by installing many water-wise features including rain barrels, a smart irrigation system, and by de-lawning the entire property to replace grass with native plants and wildflowers.

A rain garden is ready for rain due to its shallow bowl shaped design, which allows rainwater to temporarily be captured before it is slowly absorbed and filtered into the ground, leaving the garden commonly dry between rain events. A depression in the garden is a key identifying feature of any rain garden.

GreenUP supported residents create eight new rain gardens in the city to help mitigate ongoing isolated flooding events and inspire others to soak up rain on their properties.

While a rain garden is a green solution for flood mitigation, a water wise garden offers water conservation solutions. According to Environment Canada, domestic water consumption can increase up to 50% during the summer months when many people water their lawns and gardens. It can be easy to see why outdoor water use increases by such a large amount when, according to Statistics Canada, six out of every ten households water their lawns in Ontario.

You can significantly reduce the amount of water used outdoors by transitioning away from lawns and thirsty grass species like Kentucky bluegrass, towards the planting of a water wise garden. Water wise gardening methods can be utilized in almost any garden to help reduce water use, so it is never too late to start taking water wise steps in your garden. Drought tolerant plants are a key part of any water wise garden, along with the use of groundcover, 2-3 inches of quality mulch, and a rain barrel.

The Water Wise Landscape Recognition Program is recognizing front yard gardens within the City of Peterborough. These are gardens where water wise steps are being taken to reduce water use. Recognized gardens can be found by looking for blue rain drop lawn signs around the City! If you know a water wise front yard garden that should be recognized, or for more information, please visit https://www.greenup.on.ca/water-wise.

Have you been thinking about moving from lawn to landscape and taking more water wise steps in your own garden? Fall is a great time to start redesigning your current garden. Planting in the fall can allow plants to develop a sound root structure before being exposed to drought conditions in the following year.

Posted in conservation, Peterborough, water


Peterborough Utilities Group

Peterborough Utilities Group

GreenUP is grateful for our long-standing partnership with the Peterborough Utilities Group. GreenUP and the Peterborough Utilities Group are both committed to reducing the amount of water and energy being consumed at home, at work, and at school.

For more than 20 years, the Peterborough Utilities Group has generously provided GreenUP with essential funding that d...

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Peterborough Utilities Water Wise Landscaping Recognition Program

Peterborough Utilities Water Wise Landscaping Recognition Program