Have a Heart…Water Smart
Tricky question for you today, fellow West Coast Gardeners, so think fast. You’re on a desert island and you can only bring three things with you...what would you bring? I’m sure a satellite phone, a boat and chocolate are probably top of that list! What about your garden? You may love it, but I doubt it would do so well on a broiling hot island in the middle of the Pacific.
However, sometimes it feels like that’s exactly where your garden is...especially when water restrictions kick in over the summer. How do we keep our beautiful flowers hydrated and avoid watching them wilt or turn ominously brown during these hotter months of the year? We’ve got some great answers for you (that don’t require anyone being voted off the island), so read on intrepid survivors!
Don’t we live in a rainforest?
While it’s true that BC is a rainforest coast, and that it has the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the world, most of our drinking water doesn’t actually come from that precipitation. Instead it begins as snow, farther up in elevations, which make up our watersheds for the lower BC areas. (Insert Canada snow joke here…)
However our watersheds get very, very low in the summer months and we all have to do our part to water smart and make sure we’re not using up all our drinking water on lawns, gardens or washing our cars. Instead we can be clever about our water use and still keep our gardens alive.
Water smart, not more
There’s no need to install a permanent life-like garden statuary of yourself holding the hose, just so you can get in a few more hours of watering in the garden. (Although you would make a very lovely garden accent.) Instead try hand watering your garden in the morning, before it gets hot, to allow your plants time to absorb the moisture before the sun hits them.
Watering after 4pm can mean leaving your plants wet all night, which encourages blight, fungus and rot. As well, make sure to water the soil, not the leaves. Keep the hose spray (or wand) watering below the leaves so the water goes directly into the soil rather than deflected by foliage.
Sunblock: Not just for people anymore
While slathering leaves in spf 40 probably won’t help them thrive (although that could make the ‘desert island’ list), you can create a natural sunblock for the soil in your garden by simply covering it up. Fill your garden snuggly, with a little space between plants, creating shade for the soil beneath and keeping the sun off of it.
For bare areas (especially around trees) use mulch and other natural materials to keep the water from evaporating. Starting your garden with a rich, organic soil will give you a leg-up on this technique.
Another way to block the sun is to keep your garden in the shade. Place taller trees, shrubs or plants strategically around your garden to block smaller, more delicate plants. This is especially helpful with your vegetable garden, as lettuce and other ground crops can scorch in no time.
A barrel full of fun! (And water)
It may not do you any good on that desert island (unless you can turn it into a raft), but a rain barrel can really help you out here in BC. These handy plastic barrels catch the water from your gutters and store it for you, so that you can use it for watering those tomatoes all summer! You’ll be surprised at how easily they fill up over night, even when it’s not pouring out.
There are numerous DIY instructions online if you don’t want to purchase one new. Not only will this help save the drinking water but it can also help you with your water bill! Some BC cities even offer a rebate for purchasing them, or selling them to residents at a substantial discount.
Get creative with your water
As kids we had no problem creating amazing slip-n-slide tracks in the backyard, ingeniously directing the water where we wanted it to go. We should put this creativity to good use in our garden. Drip systems are fantastic for the summer and eliminate so much time otherwise spent hand watering those plants. Although better installed in the spring, before your plants are established, there are ways to add them to your garden even now.
With drip watering (also known as low-flow watering or micro-irrigation) you can choose where the water goes, allowing more to flow towards heavy occupied regions of your yard, as well as keeping the moisture closer to the plant’s roots to be absorbed quicker. As well, think of all the time you’ll save! Instead of standing there with the hose, you could be lying back with a cold drink.
To find out what your water restrictions include, head over to the official city website. We’ve listed a few below for you.
Water restriction information for the City of Surrey
Watering information if you live in the Vancouver Area
Water restrictions for the City of Langley
With these tips and ideas your summer shouldn’t be ruined by pesky water restrictions, or stop you from enjoying all those beautiful blooms!