The following are notes from the Drought Gardening Panel Discussion held at the Botanical Garden on July 13, 2015
Mary Blockberger, Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Manager,
Sheila Watkins, Master Gardener and volunteer at SCBG,
Perry Schmitt, District of Sechelt Parks Supervisor,
Dave Crosby, SDRD Utilities Services Manager
Moderator – Gerry Latham, Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden President
Wise Words from our panelists and audience:
WATER HARVESTING & STORING
- Collect rain water from roof via downspouts leading to barrels or tanks, even garbage cans.
- Cover collected water with screen or mesh to prevent mosquito larvae.
- Collect grey water from kitchen and laundry sink or washing machine. Keep a rain barrel near the door for storing the grey water or wasted cold water.
- Shower in the bath to make it easier to collect and re-use the water.
- For better grey water, go easy on detergents, shampoos, etc, and select gentler ones.
- Use tree bags to water slowly – for recently planted shrubs or trees.
- Well-watered rhododendrons can go as long as 10 days between soakings. The roots are shallow and as wide as the crown. Use a two-inch mulch, not a deep one.
- Water metering is very expensive to install, but could save 20% of water used.
- Water seldom but deep!
- Insert a chopstick into soil to assess soil moisture. Moist soil will stick to the chopstick.
IN THE GARDEN
- Mulch (especially after watering) keeps the moisture from evaporating. Overly dry soil at roots can put plants under stress, weakening them. Weakened plants are more likely to have pests or diseases.
- Mulches may be wood chips (hold in moisture very well), fine bark mulch (attractive), alfalfa or straw on vegetable garden (available in bales from Mason Bluff Farm or Quality Farm), fine gravel, or green mulch – the leaves or stems from weeds or other sources. All will help retain moisture longer, and help build the soil’s structure.
- If soil is crusted from drought, use garden fork or chopstick to make little holes to let the water sink in rather than sit on top of soil or run off.
- For plants on a slope, make a little trough on the high side, and only add more water as the water in the trough is absorbed.
- Make adjustments to watering routines, water-wise plantings, rain barrels, etc long before drought hits.
- Use mini water reservoirs such as a wine bottle inserted in soil at an angle so water seeps. Or a plastic 2-litre pop bottle, with the bottom removed, can act as a funnel to send the water deeper.
- When planting vegetables, sink a plastic pot beside the plant, and fill it to get roots to look for water in deeper soil.
- Think now about next summer!
- Plants wilting? Cover during day with an umbrella, and spot-water the soil near the roots.
PLANNING FOR FUTURE
- Summer blooming bulbs (such as lilies, allium, liatris, or crocosmia need little or no watering. Plant in autumn or early spring.
- Over time, replace dry-intolerant plants with more drought-tolerant ones. Grey-leafed plants are generally more drought-tolerant, and many of our native plants are too. Select the best plants for your situation!
- Plant trees or shrubs in fall, winter or early spring when they will be deeply watered by rain.
- Many plants require the most water in the first 2 or 3 summers.
- Group plants by their watering needs so water can be targeted.
- Wet-loving plants can go into a bio-swale, a ditch or depression where rainwater collects.
- Lay mulches anytime soil is deeply moist, such as winter or early spring Install drip irrigation with zones.
- Consider underground cisterns or standing storage tanks to store more winter/spring water for summer use, and collect whatever rain comes during summer.
- Plan cisterns under any newly constructed garages, sheds, decks, etc.
- A large buried sink (such as old laundry tub) would create a subterranean well for plant roots to access.
TIPS FROM THE AUDIENCE:
Reducing Use of Potable Water:
Have supplementary hot water heaters so you don’t have to run the water so long to get hot water. – Karen Dyck
Shower with a friend. Don’t shower every day. – Jane Redhead
Why shower? Have a sponge bath. Great exercise getting one foot at a time into the sink! Do not empty the water, use to wash your hands after weeding, or even save for the next day. – June Meyer
Place your shower hose in a pail as the water runs to your liking. Wash your body from that water pail then hose your body down.
Use saucers under your pots instead of feet. – Laurie Rolland
Water Collection and Re-use:
Collect water from kitchen sink & use to flush the toilet. – Susan Quinn
Look for underground springs on property to tap. – Karon
We have an outdoor shower and I shower with a bucket between my feet which collects it while I shower.
Remove [window] screen near upstairs bath and run the hose as a siphon – it’s enough water for the garden below. – Janey
Put hose from washing machine in a bucket to collect the grey water. – Gail Reichert
Fill empty wine bottles, invert them into the ground on a slight angle. (learned in Kutunda village in Africa.) – Janey
Use a soil moisture metre before you water, or use the finger test. If the soil sticks to a finger pressed into it, water it later. Dry soil doesn’t stick to the finger. – Woods
Wet a bale of peat moss in a wheelbarrow, then work it into the soil around the crown of the plant.
The soil will retain water. Water well when watering the plants. – Christi
A few drought-tolerant flowering plants for summer colour…
Allium spaerocephalum (drumstick allium)
Liatris spicata (gayfeather)
Cistus (rock rose)
Phygelius recta (cape fuchsia)
Agastache (anise hyssop)
Aster frikartii ‘Monch’
Echinacea (purple coneflower)
Eryngium (sea holly)
Malva moschata (musk mallow)
Romneya coulteri (California tree poppy)
Sanguisorba (great burnet)