Steele: Is your garden water-wise?

Almost any style of landscaping can be water-wise, it's how you set it up.

If I were walking by your place, how might I recognize that you have a water-wise/xeriscape garden?

It wouldn’t be by the style, as almost any style of landscaping can be water-wise.

The first clue would be that you had mulch spread over all the bare soil.

Mulch is a layer of material such as Glenmore Grow, Nature’s Gold, compost (your own or perhaps some from Classic Compost).

Mulch holds moisture, feeds your plants and soil microorganisms as it breaks down, and drastically reduces weed growth.

It prevents a hard crust from forming on the soil surface so if weeds do grow, they are easy to pull out. Every garden, no matter what is in it, will need less water and likely no additional fertilizer, if it is mulched.

The second clue would be that the plants were grouped by water needs so that those that need little water were together, not mixed with high water users.

One way to find out if plants in your present garden are water-wise is to see if they are in the plant database at

If you do have a mixture of high and low water users, you might want to create a new garden bed to begin separating them or you could water using a drip system to just water the water-thirsty plants.

A third clue would be that your plants were healthy, growing in their desired conditions.

They would not have crispy leaves from getting too much sun or be lanky and leaning toward the sun because they were in too much shade.

They would likely be compact and sturdy.

Plants that get too much water or fertilizer tend to grow too fast and have weak juicy growth that needs to be staked.

That juicy growth is candy to an aphid and other insect pests.

Watch for more clues next week.


Last Saturday, the Okanagan Xeriscape Association held a very successful, enjoyable xeriscape plant sale.

Thanks go to all the volunteers who maintain the garden, to those who helped propagate the plants and prepare for the sale, and the able volunteers at the sale.

Thanks also to all who came out to buy plants.

Watch for our sale again next spring.

The OXA is a not-for-profit organization.

Every year since it was formed in 2009, OXA has been supported by funds from the Okanagan Basin Water Board’s Water Quality Improvement Grants, for which we are very grateful.

Each year we work toward being more self-supporting.

The money raised at the plant sale, plus sale of OXA memberships, is used to help maintain and upgrade the unH2O Garden and the OXA website and plant database.

It also enables OXA to provide free presentations to groups and school classes and guided tours of the garden, as well as written articles such as this weekly column.

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