Water Wise gardening in Zone 3a

Discussion in 'Gardening for Water Conservation' started by lhuget, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    Calgary, Alberta, Canada Zone 3a
    Here is Calgary's efforts in this area. Our 2007 project is planned to be completed next spring. You will find our plant list and fact sheet if you scroll down to the bottom. I'm hoping other's will share their community projects and experience.
    http://www.calhort.org/gardening/waterwise.aspx

    Les
     
  2. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member

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    Victoria Australia [cool temperate]
    Thankyou Les, just have some more possibilities for my replanting.

    I am still trying to get my head around the fact you have a drought. What happens to the snow and the run off from that. Or has there been no snow. Do the houses use water tanks to harvest rain/snow run off? Where does the drinking water come from? Is grey water recycled on properties?

    This is becoming the norm down here except snow part. Water tanks are back with a vengence in all sorts of shapes and colours and designs for the smallest to the largest applications. There are many things afoot re architecture and water farming too.

    Liz
     
  3. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    Liz the drinking water for the city of Calgary comes from the Bow and Elbow Rivers. The smaller communities to the east use well water but some have an unnaturally high mineral contain so cannot be used on gardens. Most in Calgary have rain barrels to use on their gardens. Some of us were collecting water from roof run off until it was discovered that the roofing materials contain alot of toxins so I for one stopped. Grey water recycling isn't being down but then to be honest Calgary is outrageously behind the times in recycling in my opinion. We have depots but no curb side pick up. The last effort to introduce it was to charge the recylers not those with too much garbage as the City of Vancouver does. Sadly we've had little snow for the last 5 years. We get rain in the month of June but that's about it. The drought has discouraged alot of gardeners especially when we lose alot of plants to chinooks and hail in normal conditions. But there is a avid (some might say nuts LOL) Horticultural society. We have alot of workshops and all do our part to ensure new gardeners get established drougth tolerant divisions and seed. I for one give away about 75% of the seed I collect. We are now promoting a return to more native plants in our gardens and heirloom vegetables. Although the heirlooms are late producers, they are more drought tolerant. I'm writing an article right now on "Messy Gardening" which is a movement to do no fall or spring clean up. I've being doing this for 6 years now and it has made an incredible difference in moisture retention in the winter as well as soil conditioning.
     
  4. abgardeneer

    abgardeneer Active Member

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    Errr, just a comment or two about some of the statements being made here. Groundwater that is high in minerals is not "unnatural" - in fact it is perfectly natural for this area. As well, it's the water that deep-rooted species draw from.
    Also, to make the general proclamation that roofing materials are toxic and thus that rainwater should not be collected from roofs is highly misleading. (If you have had rainwater from your roof tested at a certified laboratory (of which there are several in Calgary, by the way) and found it to contain toxic levels of whatever, providing this information and the nature of your roofing material might be useful information, but general statements such as you've made are not helpful.) Please, if your aim is to encourage Calgarians to be "water wise", let's not confuse and discourage them with misleading information.
     
  5. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    abgardener many of us have had our water tested and I also consulted a roof contractor to find out what was in my roofing materials. I made a personal choice not to use it or share it but I'm certainly not making a blanket statement on the use of roof run off. Sorry if that was misleading.

    Les
     
  6. abgardeneer

    abgardeneer Active Member

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    Les,
    I am not meaning to be rude when I say the following, but, even with the information you have added, your statement remains anecdotal in nature, which makes it very difficult for one to know what to make of it. If, by bringing this up on a public forum, you mean to inform the public of something you think is important, it would be helpful to describe the nature of the testing (which standard suites or specific compounds were tested for?) and of your roofing material, and to actually state which elements or compounds were found to occur at levels harmful to plant life in your roof-runoff rainwater, if that is what was found. Along with this, some assurance of the qualification of the lab and particularly of the qualification of the opinion on which your decision was based would be equally important.

    In a discussion on the topic of gray water usage, the environmental hydrogeologist whom I work with made the observation that the usage of treated water versus grey water is equivalent with respect to the amount of water returned to the groundwater cycle... and I can't argue with that. (To put a finer point on it, reduction in the amount of water we use is the place where gains can be made that would benefit the water cycle, rather than in the use of gray water.) Also, on the broader topic, to install a secondary water transmission system for the usage of gray water would be a huge expense, not to mention a tremendous expenditure of energy and resources... for essentially no positive impact from a "water wisdom" viewpoint, if my hydrogeologist colleague is right.

    Despite the large membership in the horticulture club, I have to say that Calgary's response to "water wise" gardening has not been overwhelming. But then this is far from a gardening hotspot by any means, so perhaps that's not surprising. (It reminds me of the "joke" I read on Garden Rant... "Do you own a garden?" "No, but I watch one on TV!") I live a few blocks from the house in the article posted by Les. The hort club volunteers produced a nice "water wise" front yard for the owners, but unfortunately, it appeared that the owners interpreted "low maintenance" as "no maintenance". Very sadly, minimal effort appeared to be put into weeding through the years on the parts of the owners. Even at the end, it would have only taken a day of concentrated effort to clean it up (my hand itched for a dandelion weeder every time I saw the place, LOL!), but that didn't happen. When the house was sold last summer, the first thing done was to tear out the "water wise" front yard in the fall. I assume it has been or will likely be replaced by lawn. People think that lawn is low maintenance... and who can argue that? It's true - a bad lawn IS low maintenance... but a good lawn is very high maintenance. Oh well.

    Our entire yard is planted with perennials, shrubs and trees (no lawn), and we do the minimum of watering that we feel we can (mainly to keep the trees healthy); most of our beds are underlain with soaker hoses for this purpose. We collect rain water using a system of 3 140-gallon horse troughs; as well as for plant watering, the collected water is the sole water source for raising various species of tropical fish in our summer greenhouse. (DH trades the vast resulting numbers of offspring and adults to pet stores for supplies.) We've had hundreds of enquiries as to "how to do that"... but, after many years now, I don't see anyone else in the neighborhood doing it! And I know why.... it just looks like "too much work" (again, refer to my quote above about bad lawns...)
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2008
  7. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada Zone 3a
    oh boy do I feel sorry for you abgardeneer. There are 2600 members of the Calgary Horticultural society plus a strong memberships in the Calgary Alpine Society and the Calgsary Rose Society and others that I can't speak to. Add this to the local seeder groups and the garden/seed/native plant suppliers I would suggest that you are really out of the loop on Calgary gardening. I'm sorry that you live in this much isolation. If you really want to change your attitude, the snow angel iniative is a good start. It basically involves shoveling snow (when/if it ever happens) off seniors sidewalks and paths onto their garden beds. Most of us in Calgary are more into sharing and helping rather than being critical. Hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2008

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