Residential water burden can be reduced

I feel so fortunate to live in this bountiful valley.

I feel so fortunate to live in this bountiful valley.

This week, as I canned peaches and made peach salsa, I was thinking how very dry it is with the end of summer heat wave.

Gardens are as thirsty now as in mid-summer.

This is the time of year when water supplies can become very depleted.

The farmers must have water for their crops to mature.

If we want to continue to enjoy bountiful harvests in the valley, we need to be water-wise in our gardens.

Recently, the Okanagan Basin Water Board released the results of the Okanagan Water Supply and Demand Study.

Of all water used in the valley, the study found  55 per cent is used for agriculture, seven per cent for indoor residential, and a whopping 24 per cent for outdoor residential.

That 24 per cent mostly goes to keep lawns green and thirsty ornamentals in peak condition, neither of which feed us.

This set me to thinking of easy ways to reduce water consumption in our present landscapes.

1) Cut back on watering lawn. It won’t die. In most cities it is illegal to water lawns during the dry season. As soon as we get a good rainfall the grass will green up again.

2) Remove weeds from gardens as they compete with plants for water.

3) Water only in the cool, late night or early morning when there is much less loss due to evaporation.

4) Avoid overhead watering when it is windy.

5) Mulch all exposed soil. This really holds soil moisture, feeds the plants and reduces weed growth. Mulch is a layer of organic material laid one to two inches deep. Be sure to remove all weeds first and soak the ground well before applying. Straw is once again available and is a good mulch in vegetable gardens.  I use it around my ornamental grasses and in the hidden parts of the perennial garden. Dean Dack (Classic Compost), who donated two yards of compost as the early bird draw prize for our xeriscape garden contest, has lots of excellent compost mulch available.

6) Water plants with a watering wand so only plants that need it get water. I find this a very meditative practice. I get to enjoy my plants up close, observe the amazing variety of pollinators, and listen to the busy songbirds. The sunflower and Cosmos seeds are attracting many delightful Goldfinches.


This fall I will be teaching two night classes: Introduction to Xeriscape beginning Oct. 4 and 5.

It provides practical information and examples for those who want to make changes to a current landscape as well as for those new to gardening in the Okanagan and for people creating a new landscape. For more information check the OXA web site below.

Sept. 24 will be our next free guided tour in the unH2O Xeriscape Garden.

Gwen Steele is executive director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Learn more about Gardening with Nature and plants for the Okanagan online at


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