Now that the nights are cooler and days are shorter, good planting conditions have returned.
Fall is the ideal time to plant xeriscape gardens.
Plants keep growing until frost and begin again as soon as the ground thaws. By summer they have a bigger, more drought-resistant root system than if they were planted next spring.
All plants need water, for at least the first year, to get their roots established.
However, if you have a hard to water area, choose plants that are extremely drought-tolerant and plant in the fall so little or no supplemental water will be needed next summer.
Search for extremely drought-tolerant plants suited to our climate on the plant database at www.okanaganxeriscape.org. In the water category, select ‘dry.’
It’s also time to plant spring bulbs to ensure an early, cheery start to the garden. From early March to May, order of bloom in the water-wise garden is snowdrops and winter aconite, snow crocus, grape hyacinth, scilla, and early, mid and late season tulips and narcissus.
If you want an ever increasing show, choose bulbs that naturalize (as indicated on the packaging).
Grape hyacinth naturalizes very well. They are excellent for showing off white or yellow narcissus and some tulips. I love to see them with very fragrant Thalia narcissus or dwarf ‘Red Riding Hood’ tulips.
If you have regular deer visitors don’t bother with tulips—they are deer candy, as opposed to Narcissus, that will not be eaten by anything.
Remember to add some of the many species of Allium bulbs. They are deer-proof and extremely drought-tolerant.
Allium moly (short and yellow) and drumstick allium (tall and purple) are two that self-seed and spread readily.
To avoid excessive seeding (unless desirable), research varieties before purchasing.
Allium giganteum is 48 inches tall with a large dense purple flower.
It’s best grown through another plant that will bloom later as, like most alliums, its foliage dies off and looks ugly before the flower opens.
If you need turf in your yard for children or pets or specific activities such as bocce ball, this is a good time to seed a new lawn. Turf is the highest maintenance, most water-thirsty landscape choice, so plant only what you need. Don’t plant lawn on slopes, under trees, on fast-draining soil, in very hot or dry places, or in hard to mow or hard to water areas.
Look for seed that is a mixture of long-rooted fescue grasses, which are far more drought-tolerant than traditional Kentucky bluegrass. They are low-water, low-mow and low-grow thus saving a lot of work and money.
A minimum of six inches of good topsoil is needed. Check www.bluestem.ca (Enviro-Turf Lawn) for seeds and instructions.. For local, drought-tolerant turf, look for EcoSmartBlend at www.ecoturffarms.com.
Gwen Steele is executive director of Okanagan Xeriscape Association.