Steele: Celebrating World Water Week

With this being World Water Week and spring officially arriving on Thursday, today seems an ideal time to write my first  Gardening with Nature column for 2014.

On Monday, I attended the award-winning film Watermark, presented by the Okanagan Basin Water Board and Fresh Outlook Foundation.

The film included photos of the parched desert of the Colorado River delta, an area that was rich in water and life only a few decades ago.

Up river in dry areas of Nevada, California and Arizona, the water has been dammed and diverted for agriculture and cities.

Much more has been taken than could naturally be replenished.

Water reservoirs such as Lake Mead, in Nevada, are very low. There is no extra to accommodate a drought year, let alone release adequate water to restore the delta and provide water to people downstream.

I was shocked by the pictures and the realization that something similar could happen here.

We are living in a semi-desert and could experience the same water shortages if we use more water than is replenished by the 11 to 15 inches annual precipitation.

These days we are bombarded by so many life-changing events that feel out of our control, however, we can make a difference by how we personally use water.

Outdoor residential use accounts for 24 per cent of all water used in the valley. We can lead by example and reduce water use in our residential landscapes.

Spring is a good time to begin.


The Okanagan Xeriscape Association website  has many resources to help you makes changes to your garden:

• a searchable plant database of over 400 water-wise plants with 23 search categories

• a photo gallery of before and after stories

• details of the making of our unH20 Xeriscape Demonstration Garden

• slides shows of the five theme gardens

• a resources page of books and gardens to visit

• web links and information on events and classes

I also invite everyone to attend my two-night ‘Introduction to the Seven Principles of Xeriscape’ class.

There is practical information for making changes to an existing landscape or creating a new landscape, and for those who are new to gardening in the Okanagan.

I use photos to illustrate the principles of design and planning, soil improvement, practical turf areas, efficient irrigation, use of mulch, good maintenance, and appropriate plant selection.

The class dates are Monday, April 7 and 14, or Wednesday, April 16 and 23, from 7 to 9 p.m.  Details and registration information are on the Classes page or call 250-762-6018.

I will also teach ‘Creating a Water-Wise Perennial Garden’ on Saturday, April 12, 10 a.m. to noon, through Kelowna Community Recreation.

To register, call 250 469-8800.

Class includes selecting perennials best suited for your garden conditions to create four season colour and interest; tips on bed location, size, shape, maintenance, and soil preparation; and a photo presentation of perennials for the Okanagan.


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