The horticulture program includes the establishment and maintenance of floral and shrub displays on designated Town properties, including parks, Town facilities and boulevards.
Maintaining Whitby’s Green Spaces
Our green spaces – parks, sports fields and boulevards – are an important part of the community.
To continue to provide healthy green spaces the Town follows a 16-day grass cutting schedule for most parks and does not use pesticides, mainly due to the provincial ban on cosmetic pesticides and herbicides (such as those used to control dandelions) introduced nearly a decade ago. Sports fields and high-use areas are cut once every seven days. The schedule pertaining to boulevards is accelerated to once every 12 days during the late spring and early summer, when grass and weeds, like dandelions, grow more quickly. This helps to prevent the spread of weeds.
While some may find dandelions a nuisance – the benefits of dandelions are starting to be celebrated. Dandelions are non-toxic, and have no impact on people, pets or the ecosystem. They also provide a valuable, easily available food source for bees, butterflies and birds.
Grass Cutting Schedules
Public Works Grounds Maintenance staff work hard every year to maintain turf areas for the enjoyment of park users and residents. Growth rates of grass in the spring can be quite fast, and staff does their best to keep up.
High profile parks and buildings, as well as sports fields are cut once every eight calendar days.
The remaining parks and boulevards in the town are cut once every sixteen days. Boulevard grass cutting is increased to once every twelve days for the first four cuts in the spring.
Sometimes when we experience a particularly cool or wet spring, growth rates spike and schedules are impacted. Never fear, as we will do our best to catch up, and inevitably the rate of growth will slow down as we enter the hot dry summer months.
Maintaining a Healthy Lawn without Pesticides
Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticide Ban took effect in April of 2009. Many pesticides are banned from use for cosmetic purposes, and turf areas in parks and on boulevards are not exempt from this ban. For a healthy lawn, and to control weed and insect infestations, use the following practices that Town of Whitby Parks staff use on our high profile park areas and sports fields:
- Aerate – in spring and fall, to alleviate compacted soil, and to allow deeper penetration of air, water and nutrients. Aeration promotes deeper, healthier roots to sustain turf in times of drought, which in turn produces thick, healthy grass above ground.
- Top Dress and Over-seed – in early fall, to improve soil quality and introduce drought resistant and insect resistant grass mixes. A thick, healthy lawn shades out weed seeds and prevents them from germinating.
- Mow Regularly – to a height of 6 to 8 centimetres (3 inches), taking no, more than one third of the height off at a time.
- Fertilize – with a slow release fertilizer, specially formulated for turf, in the spring, summer and fall, to promote health root growth and a thicker, greener lawn. Follow guidelines for timing and application rates.
- Water – only during extreme drought, or to establish a new lawn. Water deeply to supplement rainfall to 3 centimetres (1 inch), once per week. Healthy lawns can go dormant during extended dry periods, surviving 4 to 6 weeks with limited water.
- Control Weeds and Insects – with proper maintenance practices. Healthy, thick lawns prevent germination of weed seeds, and can withstand mild insect infestations. Hand pull perennial weeds, and over-seed with grass mixes that help limit insect infestations, like perennial rye grass. For more serious infestations, use bio pesticides when necessary.
For more information on maintaining a healthy lawn, please visit the Landscape Ontario website.
The Humble Dandelion
Dandelions are becoming a more common sight in the landscape. Their cheery bright yellow blooms cover turf areas for a few weeks in the spring, and then flowers appear sporadically throughout the remainder of the season. While many people find these weeds a nuisance, the benefits of the humble dandelion are starting to be celebrated.
Dandelions are non-toxic, and have no impact on people, pets or ecology. They provide a valuable, easily available food source for bees, butterflies, moths and beetles in the early spring, when these pollinators are emerging from hibernation, looking for a quick and abundant food source. Each dandelion flower head contains up to 100 florets, each of which contains nectar and pollen – a tasty meal for a hungry pollinator, and birds, including Goldfinch and House Sparrows feast on their prolific seeds.
The Town of Whitby does not use pesticides to control dandelions in parks and along boulevards in town. Flowering is most prolific for a few weeks in early spring, followed, of course, by the seed heads that fascinated us as children. Grass cutting will knock back flowers and seeds to some degree, but the best remedy after a long winter is to enjoy their bright blooms while they last, as they will soon disappear until next year!
For more information on the Ontario Pesticide Ban please visit Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticides Ban.
Seed Day and Plant Exchange
The Horticulture section holds a Seed Day and Plant Exchange annually at Rotary Centennial Park, which is located at Brock St. S and Burns St. This is open to the public and residents are encouraged to bring in seeds or extra perennials for trading with other gardeners.
During this event, you can meet Town of Whitby Horticulture Staff who will answer questions and share information on what's growing in Whitby.
Details on the 2020 Seed and Plant Exchange are still being determined.