Drought Conditions This Season Put Our Landscape To The Test

Ontario’s dry weather threatens agriculture and greenspace investments.

Ontario’s unusually hot and dry summer is set to continue for the foreseeable future, much to the dismay of farmers, gardeners and landscapers.
Since early April all of Canada, but especially Ontario, has suffered through unseasonably hot and dry weather. Last Monday and Tuesday Environment Canada issued heat warnings for the region, with humidity topping 40°C —Wednesday, July 13th set records as the hottest day of the year.


The hot weather may be perfect for sunbathers, but it’s causing problems for turf and green spaces throughout the province. Twitter users from around Ontario have taken to Twitter to report on #ontariodrought and share pictures of their #sadgrass and #crunchygrass.

Ranging from brown or yellow patches to entire fields of dead, crunchy grass the turf across Ontario is unlikely to recover this season. Some tweets played up the lighthearted side of the #SadGrass hashtag, but there is nothing funny about the recent dry spell and impact on southern Ontario. Farmers are losing crops and the dry weather has threatened to repeat the economic hardships of 2012, when many farmers had to contend with huge losses.

According to Debra Pretty-Straathof, director of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) in an interview with the CBC, even if we get rain, it may not be enough unless it is sustained for a long period of time. How long? Long enough to “ruin your summer holiday,” she says. Ontario strawberries and corn (especially late summer corn) could both be hit exceptionally hard unless there is an immediate change in the weather.

Above-average Temperatures

By the end of June there were well over a dozen days above 30 degrees (generally there is an average of just four). This is particularly hot compared to last year when the weather didn’t exceed 30 degrees until mid-July. In some parts of the province average precipitation levels are below 100mm and overall much of the province has experienced 25-30% below average rainfall. According to Trevor Hawen, an agroclimate specialist interviewed by the National Post, “these conditions occur once every 10 years” and unfortunately Hawen doesn’t “see a whole lot of major relief anytime soon.”

Drought Landscaping Relies on Sound Planning

Unfortunately, heatwaves and droughts are part of life in southern Ontario and are likely to get worse over the coming years. Since we’re unable to predict exactly when the next drought will occur, responsible landscapers are always taking preventative steps to help the turf and other landscaped elements survive harsh weather. How can property owners, farmers and commercial property managers protect their investment during a drought?

Here’s how:

Irrigation systems
An automated irrigation system is designed to provide the right amount of water, at the right time of the day (ideally in the evening or early morning). Property owners recoup the cost of their irrigation systems by ensuring healthy, well-watered turf and plants year after year which can help prevent drought damage. Irrigation systems are the only way to prevent crunchy, dead turf when a long-standing dry spell does occur.

Mulch helps the soil retain what moisture there is; it also prevents the growth of weeds. Mulch will break down over time adding nutrients to the soil. If you have not made this investment in your gardens and tree circles, this would be a great preventative and relatively in-expensive action to take right away to help your landscape resist this weather.

Native Species
Cultivating species that are native to the area increases their likelihood of surviving harsh conditions. In Ontario we have unique seasons with hot summers and cold winters and our native plants are genetically better suited to withstand these weather extremes.

Prioritize Trees
Trees are more expensive to replace than any other plant, so when there is a drought you should consider them first. This attention includes ensuring trees get the water, mulch and overall attention they need throughout the year so they’re healthy and better able to survive a drought. Your landscaper should provide all of the services needed to manage your property through drought conditions. Contact them if you have concerns about your landscape’s ability to survive unforgiving weather.

With more hot, dry summers ahead it’s important to protect your property investment by using an experienced landscape company that designs greenspaces with droughts in mind. From irrigation systems that provide the proper amount of water to using native plants and trees, proper landscape design is the key to helping your property survive a drought.


Written by Paul Lammers

Paul Lammers is the vice-president of operations with Garden Grove Landscaping. Garden Grove provides Commercial Landscape Management Services across the Golden Horseshoe, GTA and Southwestern Ontario. Paul may be contacted at paul@gardengrovelandscaping.com or 1-866-996-1099.