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Gardening-with-nature

Sustainable gardening can help save the planet

Sustainable gardening

It seems to me not a day goes by without more terrifying statistics—stunning numbers on population growth coupled with a dangerously-low snow pack this year.

It really has me worried for this coming summer and beyond. What can we do? All of us can take small steps and make a difference. For instance, sustainable gardening has emerged as one way to combat the environmental challenges we face.

Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Sustainable gardening principles would involve elements such as organically enriching the soil, conserving water, celebrating diversity, using integrated pest management practices, composting kitchen and yard waste and community involvement in activities such as sharing seeds.

Sustainable gardening focuses on minimizing environmental harm while promoting biodiversity and conserving resources. The aim is to foster a harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.

• Soil health is a fundamental principle of sustainable gardening and a cornerstone of a successful garden. This includes using organic matter, compost, and natural fertilizers to promote soil structure and fertility while avoiding synthetic chemicals. By prioritizing soil health, sustainable gardeners contribute to long-term environmental stability and the vitality of the plants they grow.

• Water conservation is another key aspect of sustainable gardening. With water scarcity becoming a global concern, efficient water use in our gardens is crucial. Sustainable gardeners employ techniques such as drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting to reduce water consumption. Selecting drought-resistant plants suited to our Okanagan Valley’s semi-arid climate not only conserves water but also supports the resilience of our ecosystem. There are hundreds of such plants on our plant database, with detailed characteristics of each, at www.okanaganxeriscape.org

• Diversity is celebrated in sustainable gardens, both in terms of plant species and wildlife. On the other hand, monoculture—the practice of growing a single crop—often leads to imbalances in ecosystems and increased susceptibility to pests. Sustainable gardens embrace biodiversity, which can naturally deter pests and enhance the overall health of the garden. The inclusion of native plants supports local ecosystems while providing vital habitat and food for wildlife.

• Integrated pest management (IPM) is an approach favoured by sustainable gardeners with acceptance that not all bugs are bad. Rather than relying on chemical pesticides, which can harm beneficial insects and disrupt ecosystems, IPM involves understanding the natural predators of pests and promoting their presence in the garden. This approach minimizes the need for harmful chemicals while maintaining a healthy balance between pests and their natural adversaries.

• Composting is a key practice in sustainable gardening that is all about waste management. By turning kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich compost, gardeners close the loop on organic matter. Compost not only enriches the soil but also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. This simple yet effective technique exemplifies the circular nature of sustainable gardening practices—all while reducing trips to the local landfill.

• Community involvement is an often-overlooked aspect of sustainable gardening. Sharing knowledge, seeds, and produce with neighbours fosters a sense of community and contributes to a more sustainable local food system.

Consider attending Seedy Sunday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Parkinson Recreation Centre in Kelowna, to purchase seeds and pick up gardening tips from Master Gardeners.

You’ll also have a chance to see the latest on offer from a wide variety of vendors. Community gardens, where individuals collectively cultivate and share their harvest, exemplify the collaborative spirit of sustainable gardening.

Sustainable gardening is an approach that goes far beyond the simple act of growing plants. It is a personal commitment to vital environmental stewardship which focuses on both the conservation of resources and the promotion of biodiversity.

By adopting the principles of sustainability in our own gardens we can collectively cultivate a healthier planet for future generations.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a master gardener and executive-director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.





The water numbers don’t lie, and the news is good

Water use down

Outdoor residential water use in the Okanagan has been slashed in half, as a percentage of total water use in the valley, according to statistics from the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board’s pie chart illustrating water use in the valley was recently updated from an initial study done in 2006, and instead of 24% of total use, outdoor residential water use is now 12%. It’s still second only to the use of water for agriculture.

You can find more details and the updated charts on average annual water demand by use type here.

We have learned to make better choices about our outdoor water use, in part by learning about xeriscape through our Okanagan Xeriscape Association, and also due to the OBWB’s outreach and educational initiatives through its Make Water Work program. Information can also be found here.

A majority of that 12% of outdoor water is wasted on maintaining turf grass and other water-hungry plantings such as cedar hedges. We can still make better conservation choices by choosing plants suitable for our semi-arid climate.

There is a myth of abundance about our available water because so many of us have lake views from our homes or places of work, but it is an indisputable fact that here in the Okanagan Valley, we have less water available per person than anywhere else in Canada.

Osoyoos, to the south of us, is the one true desert in Canada. Unfortunately, we also have one of the highest uses of water per person in the nation, with the average household in the Okanagan using 1,032 litres per day.

This use, coupled with an increase in demand as our population explodes, is a recipe for potential disaster.

When Gwen Steele founded the Okanagan Xeriscape Association in 2009, the concept of xeriscape was little known, but we’ve come a long way through education.

I am increasingly approached by local government, schools, stratas boards, clubs and private organizations, wanting to learn more about the principles of xeriscape.

If the idea of xeriscape is still foreign to you, head to our website at www.okanaganxeriscape.org for more information and lots of beautiful examples of sustainable water-wise gardens.

As you look forward to spring and may be considering changes to your garden, I encourage you to find inspiration for your own garden on our website.

Don’t let the idea of a transition to xeriscape overwhelm you. Start small and learn as you go.

One of the easiest areas to xeriscape is that area I refer to as the “Hell strip”—that strip of property which exists between neighbouring driveways in most suburbs.

It’s not a huge area, so it’s not too daunting. The harsh conditions created by the reflected heat from the surrounding asphalt make it a perfect environment for many xeriscape plants.

•••

This year represents a momentous milestone for the Kelowna Garden Club as it celebrates its 100th anniversary.

To mark the occasion, the organization is hosting a day-long event Feb. 24 at Trinity Church in Kelowna, called Gardening into the Future.

There will be speakers, including myself, presenting on sustainable gardening, pest management, vegetable and container gardening, and there will be a trade show and demonstrations. Details can be found here.

Another date to mark on your calendar is March 10 when the Kelowna Master Gardeners will host the always-popular Seedy Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Parkinson Recreation Centre in Kelowna. Admission will be $2 for adults, but children may attend free of charge.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a master gardener and executive-director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



It’s easy to keep this New Year's resolution

Reduce water use in 2024

Forget the yearly cycle of New Year’s resolutions focussed on exercising more and eating less—a recipe for disaster.

We’ve all broken those ones within hours of the new year being welcomed in. Instead, resolve to use less, and conserve more, water, and, because it’s one of the largest consumers of water around your home, let’s begin on your landscape.

This is an achievable resolution. Simply educate yourself with all the content on our website at okanaganxeriscape.org and the Okanagan Basin Water Board’s site okanaganwaterwise.ca

I recently gave a presentation to a strata council board interested in transitioning to water-wise landscaping and found, to my surprise, about half of those on hand were not familiar with the Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s website.

It’s crammed full of inspiring information about conserving water on your landscape, even while creating lush, colourful gardens—and it comes complete with photos. Go ahead, take a look. There is a wealth of information you can use to make changes that will reduce your water consumption.

With 2023 holding the dubious record of being both the hottest and driest year on the planet, it is more imperative this year than ever we all work together to ensure we preserve our fresh water. Familiarize yourself with our blog, On the Dry Side, where you can learn about topics as diverse as gardening with native plants, proper shrub pruning and the best irrigation practices.

Check out our before and after pictures, which follow xeriscape conversions as water-thirsty turf grass is replaced by xeric trees, shrubs and perennials, selected to be both beautiful and beneficial to all manner of pollinators.

Make use of our extensive plant database which features hundreds of plants that have been trialed throughout our valley and selected for success to thrive in our specific ecosystem.

These plants can survive our punishing winters and scorching dry summers without missing a beat, and there’s a bonus—they require fewer resources and less maintenance, thus freeing up that all-important commodity, time.

Okanagan WaterWise is an education initiative of the Okanagan Basin Water Board to encourage water conservation. You can find a variety of tips on reducing your indoor water consumption, which represents 48% of all water used in the winter months.

You can reduce your water use by ensuring dishwashers and washing machines are full when run, by shortening your showers and by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.

These small changes can have a significant impact on your water bill—a bill that will only increase in future as more homes move to a metered system.

But you can also reduce your outdoor use of water, which is the second largest residential water consumer, and where you can make a huge difference. Moving to xeriscape is a significant move toward conserving this use of water.

In an era where more and more of us are experiencing climate angst, these changes can allow us to feel better about the daily choices we make.

100th anniversary

This year represents a momentous milestone for the Kelowna Garden Club, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary.

To mark the occasion the organization is hosting a day-long event on Feb. 24 at Trinity Church, called Gardening into the Future.

There will be speakers, including myself, presenting on sustainable gardening, pest management, vegetable and container gardening, and there will be a trade show and demonstrations.

Come, learn and dream about the spring—a perfect reprieve from the freezing winter weather currently gripping the Okanagan. Go to the KGC website for details at kelownagardenclub.ca

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a master gardener and executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.





Not a good sign as B.C. continues to dry out

Lack of snowpack in B.C.

From Whistler to Williams Lake there is no snow, where normally the ground is white at this time of year and recently, a bear was spotted in Glenmore, when bears normally would be curled up asleep at this time of year. Both are clear signs of climate change.

Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of staying with friends in Williams Lake. We had plans to snowshoe and go for a snowy winter sleigh ride, but the weather had other plans for us.

The plaid flannel shirts and big logging trucks were familiar but the landscape was just not right for the time of year. To add a historical perspective, my friends have lived there for more than 30 years and have never experienced a winter like this one.

Mount Timothy, the ski hill south of town, was closed because it had no snow to offer the setting for winter sports. I can’t imagine what next summer’s drought and wildfire season will be like if this continues.

The past year we suffered the most destructive wildfire season in B.C. history so it’s not surprising to hear a lot of talk about the FireSmart program right now.

I recently drove up Westside Road, alongside Okanagan Lake, to visit a friend who moved there and was stunned by the devastation from both the White Rock Lake Wildfire in 2021 and, more recently, by last summer’s McDougall Creek Wildfire.

It’s one thing to see it on the news or social media and another thing altogether to see it in person.

The apparent randomness of the destruction was heartbreaking, with one home left standing while all the neighbours’ homes were obliterated by the wildfire.

There are lots of simple, common-sense changes you can make to your home landscape that would help to make it FireSmart, including removing dead limbs from trees. These are called ladder fuels and they lead fire into the upper storey of a tree where the fire would burn hotter and higher. You can also use plant choices that are less flammable than, say, cedar hedges.

Many xeriscape plants are considered FireSmart plants because they are less flammable than others. In the case of the ubiquitous cedar hedge, it not only is a fire hazard, and can wick fire to your home if it grows adjacent to your house, it is also a heavy user of a scarce Okanagan resource—water.

There are a couple of very informative blogs on the Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s website on alternatives to that cedar hedge. Go to the website at: okanaganxeriscape.org and click on our blog, On the Dry Side, then click on hedging alternatives under xeriscape plants.

Xeriscape and FireSmart trees which are planted in our Xeriscape Demonstration Garden and can be included in your new landscape are Koelreuteria paniculata (Golden Raintree) and Gleditsia triacanthos (Honeylocust). The Koelreuteria is an excellent small tree reaching nine to 12 metres with yellow flowers in the spring followed by interesting rust-coloured pods.

The Gleditsia is larger, also reaching nine to 12 metres and provides dappled shade with bright yellow fall foliage. FiresSmart shrubs available for viewing at the garden are Caryopteris x clandonensis (Blue mist spirea) and Physocarpus opulifolius (Ninebark).

The Caryopteris is one of my favourite shrubs, as it offers late-season blue–purple blooms for pollinators and is an excellent colour contrast to so many of the warm fall shades.

The Physocarpus ‘Amber Jubilee’ is a relatively-new, smaller cultivar and features foliage which transitions from orange with yellow veining to deep purple in the fall.

We have a large number of FireSmart perennials for view in the garden in front of the H2O Aquatic Centre on Gordon Drive in Kelowna. Join us this spring to watch the seasons of beauty unfold there, and learn more about xeriscape plants by visiting our plant database at okanaganxeriscape.org.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a master gardener and executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

I inherited my passion for gardening from my Australian grandfather, a renowned rose breeder in New South Wales. My interest in water conservation started early after a childhood spent growing up in the desert of Saudi Arabia, when a day of rain was cause for a national holiday.

After meeting Gwen Steele, co-founder of the OXA through the master gardener program, I became passionate about promoting xeriscape. I joined the OXA board as a director in 2015 and became executive director in 2019.

When not promoting the principles of xeriscape and gardening for clients throughout the valley, I can be found on a rural property outside of Kelowna where I harvest thousands of litres of rainwater with which to water my own xeriscape gardens.

Connect with me at [email protected] or call 778-363-8360.

Visit the website at: www.okanaganxeriscape.org

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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