Drought in BC

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Margaret, Aug 24, 2015.

  1. Margaret

    Margaret Active Member 10 Years

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    My area of the Sunshine Coast is at level 4 water restrictions ie no outside use of tap water. I cannot collect enough household grey water to keep my whole garden alive so now am restricted to watering only select vegetables. I have some very large lavenders etc which I grow both because I love them but also for the pollinators. My question is about whether or not to prune honeysuckle, bergamont, lavender, rosemary and other pollinator friendly perennials to increase their chances of survival?

    We have a chance of showers on Friday and Saturday and if it comes every water-bearing object I own will be outside! I recently acquired some large barrels which had formerly held caustic soda from a local brewery. They assured me that there was no trace left of the chemicals and that they were safe to store water in. Any comments?

    Thanks.
    Margaret
     
  2. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Drought, heat, fires. Nature is giving the human species a final warning. It is up to us if we will heed it or not. Most likely not.
    It is like a sunny day looked like yesterday (and looks today) in my area in the Kootenays. Yes, sunny! You can see the Sun in the center of the picture if you look very closely. For days already everything around here is enveloped in thick smoke from the nearby fires.

    My heat tender perennials – Delphiniums, Campanula and others disappeared already a few weeks ago, hope the roots are surviving and they will come back in spring.
    Plants that you mention are more drought and heat resistant, I think they will survive. They are still alive at the end of August, it is a good sign. Days are already much shorter and there is hope for cooler weather and some rain, at least there where you live. I would not prune them, I think the tops will die down by themselves when they are no longer beneficial to the plant as a whole.
    As for the barrels, I would trust the brewery people, why not?
     

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  3. Margaret

    Margaret Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks Sundrop for the suggestions about the perennials.

    It is heartbreaking to see the devastation of nature caused by humankind and all the more so because only those of us directly effected seem willing to take steps to slow it down. The colour of the sky caused by the Sechelt fire still haunts me and I know that you in the Kootenays and other areas have been more effected. I think that the Coast is better off than the Kootenays also because at least we usually get heavy dews probably because we are on the coast.

    I plan on using lots of straw and other mulches next year and am also looking at Lea Valley's fabric covers which promise to cut down on evaporation and excessive sun and heat exposure in the veggie garden. I am also looking for flowers and shrubs which are drought resistant while also being attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects. l will also have to look at trying to protect my big dogwood, cherry, apple and plum trees. Any other suggestions re plants and conservation measures would be most welcome.

    I hope that your sunshine becomes rain (without lightening) and that after that you see the sun.

    Margaret
     
  4. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Here in Nanoose Bay, we are still allowed to hand water but it's a drop in the bucket to provide what many plants really need - a slow, deep soak. People I know recently had a drip irrigation system installed . . . $10,000 . . . so I have reconciled myself to hand watering, supplemented with select watering with grey water. This feels a bit like Sophie's choice for us who love all our plants. It's not enough though to simply keep plants alive; we want our gardens to look beautiful too! I'm making a list of the plants in my garden that are doing fairly well with minimal watering and will use more of them to replace those that are collapsing. At the same time, I will start to make up containers with plants that can no longer survive in the ground. Quite a challenge, that's for sure!
     
  5. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Hello Margaret,

    Straw and other organic mulches are great. They help prevent loss of moisture, keep soil cool and, what is even more important, they supply food and shelter for the soil organisms. Soil organisms produce healthy food for plants (I call it micro-manure), improve soil tilth and make soil fertile.
    Well fed plants, growing in healthy soil are much better prepared to withstand heat, drought, diseases and insect attacks.

    As for the Lee Valley's fabric covers I am not sure if you know that they are made of plastic (high-density polyethylene), I would not use them in the garden. I would use something natural like, for example, burlap.
    To better understand what plastic does to the Planet see this movie Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Here is a link to the trailer: plastic paradise

    As for drought resistant plants I recommend using Thyme as a ground cover. It will take extreme drought, heat, sandy or even gravely soil, it will grow anywhere and happily support all kinds of insects.
    I am in the process of establishing nice cover of Thyme on part of my lawn (see pic). I simply love it and so do honey bees.

    Do you have rain today where you live? Here we are still immersed in heavy smoke. The weather forecast says it is a cloudy day but no rain here.
     

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  6. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    I have always used mulches extensively in my gardens because of the many benefits they provide. It took me 2 years to get rid of the plastic former owners had laid everywhere over the garden (as many did in the 1970s.) First they put down a thick black plastic, covered it with about a foot of soil, then put another layer of plastic on top and covered the whole thing with a few inches of river rock. Quite the sandwich.

    Would you believe it is so dry here, the thyme is dying and the soil (where I haven't watered) now repels water. Unlike the lower mainland, we haven't had any rain yet and I'm hoping that when and if we do, it will fall slowly enough for the soil to absorb it and not wash away.

    Having the air filled with smoke just adds to the misery . . . we had a few days a few weeks ago from the fire is Sechelt but none since.
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Any pruning that might result in new growth will make the plants more vulnerable to drought.
     
  8. TheScarletPrince

    TheScarletPrince Member

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    What if they are receiving regular watering (I live outside of the city, on a well with a 3k gl water tank)? I recently deadheaded some Zinnia's which encouraged new growth (although there was already new growth) and covered the ground with the remains. Helps to shade the ground a bit more and encourage the nitrogen process in the soil.

    This thread is really nice, good discussion, informative and detailed.
    I recommend you all look into Shade cloths to cover your gardens ... if I could I'd put it over my entire yard, BOOM instant 10F drop in temp. Sadly I don't have those kind of resources.
     
  9. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Margot for your remark about Thyme. I see, it will not grow that happily in any kind of soil. Looks like you have clayey soil that gets very compacted in drought conditions. On my loose, sandy soil Thyme is thriving in heat and drought. This example of Thyme is a good illustration how important it is to know the plant soil and climate requirements for successful growing.

    What you write about plastic in your garden sounds terrible, I am wondering what the previous owners of the garden could have in mind to do such a thing?

    There is a heavy rain warning for Vancouver, have you got some as well?

    Here where I live we are used to drought conditions, what is new is this awful heat we have been experiencing all the summer and the drought is not our normal drought, this year it is extreme.

    And we are not alone. According to the Global Drought Information System already by the end of July, 2015 "In Europe, drought conditions intensified over the majority of the continent . . . In Asia, drought continues to be focused in the Southeast as well as around the Caspian Sea. Indonesia is warning about the potential for failed crop harvests . . . In Africa, drought intensified and expanded in the equatorial region and in the North. Due to the drought, South African maize production is down an estimated 32%. In North America, . . conditions in the northwest part of the continent intensified. In the United States, wildfire has burned nearly 5.5 million acres this season, nearly twice the 3.5 million acre average. In South America, drought remains entrenched in Brazil and the Southern Andes and while not expanding much in area, has intensified in many locations. . . . In Australia . . . the Southwest is experiencing drought expansion. The ongoing dry conditions have led to a large liquidation of the beef herd."
    The situation is quite alarming, but all I hear from the media is about LNG and collapsing money markets in China. Not a word about global warming. Unfortunately, we can't drink or water our plants with LNG nor we can eat the money.
     
  10. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    hi Margaret (OP) - I even emailed the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) thru their own website to ask if they have food-safe rain barrels for sale (like most local gov'ts do in BC) because I could not find any info on their own website ---- (and phoning their office tends to end up in a game of tag)

    and I have NEVER heard back from them (it's been 2 weeks now) - so it makes one wonder about their water Stage 4 panic and how serious they are about helping the citizens re: water use.

    Do you know if any of the other local gov'ts on the Sunshine Coast have rain barrels for sale? (food-safe plastic - attractive looking incl color (ie no bright blue or orange or some other garish color) - easy to use.)

    City of Richmond has nice ones (see the other thread on this board) but I'm not usually in that part of metro-Vancouver.
     
  11. Margaret

    Margaret Active Member 10 Years

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    Many thanks to everyone for their advice. Sadly even my thymes, which are dotted around in the flower gardens, are only just alive.It has been very interesting to see which plants are surviving. Asparagus and fennel have seeded themselves widely and are doing quite well. The roses are also hanging in there. My gardening style is very much that of an English country garden which is not well disciplined so perhaps the plants have acclimatized to a bit of benign neglect. I cut back the flower stalks on the lavenders but other than that have decided not to prune anything else.

    We have had come pretty heavy rains spread over a few days and the water is now soaking in rather than running off. The scarlet runners, peas and cabbages were struggling to survive on grey water but with the rain are now growing rapidly. I am also in the annual process of picking apples which are much larger than usual and the grapes which primarily used to shade the sw facing side of the house. No one is allowed to visit us without taking away a large quantity of fruit and the food bank will be visited tomorrow. There are only so many ways of preserving and using the surplus.

    We were not able to locate the rain barrels in their permanent places before the rains but left them on the driveway with cut milk jugs as funnels in the lids. Amazing the amount of water we captured in a couple of days. As I mentioned before I got a couple of barrels from a brewery in Powell River. They were delivered to us on the South Sunshine Coast as part of the beer run. They will require a pump to work really well but any water saved is a plus. We are still at level 4.

    Hope everyone in the fire zones is safe. I am trusting that our Old Sechelt Mine fire will eventually have burnt itself out and that the rain will extinguish any remaining smoldering material. It came within 6km of us - very scary.

    Margaret
     
  12. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Another insect-friendly ground cover that does very well in my sandy soil in drought and excessive heat is Sedum. Here is Sedum Sieboldii (I believe) in my rock garden, literally covered with honey bees. Could be wild ones since I don't know of anybody having beehives around here.
    And the plant looks beautiful, too.
     

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  13. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Hello Sundrop - I neglected to reply to your comment on August 29th and thought you'd still be interested to know that my soil is anything but clay-like but is, in actual fact, it is quite sandy, shallow and well-drained. My Thymus praecox 'Elfin' has a rough 'time' this year even though it is not growing in full sun so I do give it some water now and then. I do agree with the concept of 'right plant, right place' but finding that right place is not always as easy as it may seem.
     
  14. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Hi Margot, Drought and heat tolerance may be quite different for different species and varieties/cultivars.

    I have three kinds of Thyme growing in my sandy soil, and all three did very well this year in drought and excessive heat :
    Thymus pseudolanuginosus - Woolly Thyme
    Thymus praecox - White Moss Thyme and
    Thymus praecox (pic in my August 28th post #5) – not sure of the variety but it fits description in Wiki ;-) "This thyme species (and Thymus serpyllum) has escaped cultivation in North America, and is a weed or invasive species in some habitats in the United States" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thymus_praecox#Cultivation. Indeed it spreads slowly in part of my 1 ½ acre lawn. Thanks God for some of the invasives! I haven't seen many other plants so attractive to beneficials who otherwise are quickly losing their food sources.

    By the way, are you sure that 'Elfin' is a cultivar of Thymus praecox?
     
  15. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Hello SC Margaret (OP) -
    I think somewhere in this thread you or someone else asked for drought tolerant -

    I have just plain old purple asters (blooming now at coast) - and they are easy care, not too invasive, trim back in winter and bloom again next year

    salal goes well with them - my salal at coast is approx 15 inches tall. easy care, no bugs, drought worry etc ---- and I would think reasonably fire safe (wildfire firesmart) at this size.

    sword ferns

    vine maples (acer circinatum) - big fan of that tree-shrub at coast. Nice fall color (Manning Park and Pacific Spirit Park UBC)

    my lily flower pots (Stargazers etc) are very easy care and this past summer at coast did not take as much water as on might imagine they would need. I am a very casual gardener (ie if it lives, that's great) - and it amazed me how little water the lilies needed. Easy to grow, feed, water, enjoy, trim back after winter die-off. I find they work best if left in same pot for many years.
     
  16. Matt Park

    Matt Park New Member

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    I recently became of a BC company that is marketing a decidedly low-tech water wise garden irrigation system for small plots. A specially designed Terracotta pot called an "Oya" which you bury in the ground a fill with water. Might make your grey water go a little further.

    Quote from there website ...

    "Planting an Oya in your garden makes it easy to save water up to 70% over surface irrigation. Roots connect with the Oya underground and take the water they need and only what they need. They drink slowly and steadily at the root level meaning no more binge drinking and a drastic reduction in evaporation and runoff. And you don’t even need to think about it, your plants conserve water for you. All you need to do is fill your Oyas every 5-10 days."

    GrowOya | Save water. Grow easy.
     
  17. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Oyas are an intriguing concept but their use is limited depending on your budget, the size and layout of your garden and the type of soil. Someone I know made her own by inverting one terracotta pot over another and gluing them together but oyas are expensive, whether homemade or purchased. The website (GrowOya | Save water. Grow easy.) shows US prices of $40 for large, $30 medium and $25 for small sizes. Another quote from the website that caught my eye also suggests that oyas do not work too well in all garden layouts: "That means you should plant around your Oya in a circular configuration to make the most of the Oya’s watering abilities. Think concentric circles instead of uniform rows." Finally, I don't think you could expect an Oya to perform as well in sandy soil as in a more-moisture retentive one.
     
  18. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    i was recently in western oregon (Willamette Valley area) - and viewed various rain-barrel set-ups (one needed someone with experience / know-how of a plumber engineer!) One thing I don't fully understand - is if one is collecting off roof - aren't you also collecting bits of asphalt or cedar roofing ---- accumulated dust and other pollution --- etc - and this is before it all goes on your veggie patch. I understand collecting from a clean metal or tile roof (think old time Mexico) --- and collecting for my geraniums and other non-eating plants --- but how do people reconcile collecting our type of run-off for their veggies here in Greater Vanc.? (this is not to say that I disagree with collecting rain water for gardens)
     
  19. Margaret

    Margaret Active Member 10 Years

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    Update.

    Have just taken delivery of 2 1000 liter water totes. I too was worried about the purity of roof runoff so have decided to add a filter which will help to take out the larger bits. There are also filters which allow the first little amounts of water, where most of the junk is, from each rain to be diverted from the tank. There are so many accessories for water collection but unless one has very deep pockets the usual systems do not produce potable water.

    I heard a long range weather forecast today which anticipates a wetter summer - hope that they are right.

    My garden is at least a month further on than usual. I find very worrying that some do not seem to register what is happening and why. Apparently some members of the BC Climate Change Commission (incorrect title) are asking the provincial powers to be why their recommendations are not being implemented.

    Margaret
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2016

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