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Archive for the ‘irrigation’ Category

The canopy cover in Seattle now is about 23%.  What this means is that 23% of our city streets have a lovely canopy of tree branches.  Those of us, fortunate enough to fly in and out of Sea-Tac, see this every time we fly over Seattle. img_5618
Seattle’s goal, established in 2007, is to reach 30% canopy cover in 30 years. The data from the recent study is exciting because it provides critical information about recent canopy changes across the city as well as within different land uses, neighborhoods, and watersheds. This information allows the City to better plan and manage Seattle’s urban forest.” (Quote from Seattle reLeaf)

Aside from just being a pleasant presence, trees provide many benefits to our city environment.  Among those benefits are absorption of carbon dioxide; helping thwart flood water from affecting our streets and gardens; shading buildings thereby lessening the need for air conditioning; the roots help filter rain runoff, refreshing the water going into our streams and waterways; those roots also hold the soil in which they reside; and most certainly it offers relief to all of us in the form of shade!

Here at Horizon House our garden spaces have always had trees, still do.  When we had the reconstruction project that impacted our garden sites over the past year and a half, a number of our trees were removed.  There were a few reasons for that.

  • One was that the trees had actually become root-bound.  They lived in large planters, and eventually over the course of 10 plus years, their roots filled the space.  When that happens the planters can crack.  It also makes it impossible for the gardeners to dig and care for their plants.
  • Another reason was that the planters needed to be cleaned up, relined, and provided with irrigation pipes.

But now, that is all done.  We are awaiting replanting of trees in our spaces.  It is important for that to happen.  Sure, their roots will again fill those planters, but we will have benefited in the meantime.

Earlier this week, HH planned a trip for us, through “Spotlight On Seattle”. img_5605 We visited the Seattle Waterfront, and quite a few viewpoints. img_5615 img_5638img_5644 On the trip we came very close to the area where Seattle suffered a huge “clear cut“.  The folks responsible felt the view was beautiful, and the trees were interfering with their view, so they just cut down the trees!  A VERY BAD IDEA!  They have been sued by the city, as well they should.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-11-49-18-am

Seattle Times

Not only did they destroy the trees, they made the hill on which the trees lived very vulnerable to “slides” since the roots of the trees held the soil during rains.

At any rate, I hope Horizon House remembers all of this when they are choosing to replant our trees.  We need those trees.  The city wants and needs those trees.  The residents here are anxious to have the shade and gentle noises of waving leaves back.

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What requirements does a plant have to have in order to be considered “drought tolerant”?

It’s interesting because sometimes you can tell a drought tolerant plant by just looking at it.  Maybe the leaves are almost nonexistent, as in an evergreen with it’s oh, so narrow leaves (needles).  Some evergreens also have a pine-359845__180waxy substance that helps keep the moisture from being lost.

You’ll notice that there are plants, like silver sage, whose leaves are covered with tiny little hairs.  Those hairs grasp moisture and hold onto it.  sageOr how about plants with very deep root systems?  They dig deep to  find moisture well below the surface of the soil.  Or on the opposite side of the spectrum, those plants with roots very close to the surface to grab all the barest of rain drops.

Generally, plants that are native to dryer climates like the Mediterranean, the American West, central Asia, and southern Africa will do quite well.  A number of our herbs, used in Italian cooking are from that area and hence do well in drought condition gardens.  Think about Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Sage.

But, there are other things to remember about drought tolerance. 37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-view Even a drought tolerant plant needs to have plenty of water as it is planted and trying to establish itself.  Do not ignore any newly placed plant.  Those little rootlets will dry out very quickly, and stunt, or kill your plant.  Keep any new plant well hydrated until it’s well established.  Also, we have to remember that although the plants are drought TOLERANT, that doesn’t say they are able to live through extended periods of severe drought.  If that happens, even the most drought tolerant of plants will need a little drink.  Here is a site that will help you deal with an extended period of drought.

These plants should have well drained, and organic rich soil.  img_5553This is a wonderful advantage we have here at Horizon House.  We have raised beds, with wonderful, rich soil and good drainage (especially after our new drainage systems have been installed).

One of the most important things you can do to support your plants is to provide as much mulch as possible.  It will keep the ground cool and hold that moisture in.  It will also reduce the number of weeds that will compete for water.  In our garden beds, weeds are not a huge problem, but it is worth thinking about.

Our drip irrigation system is wonderful.  It provides water to the roots, rather than to the air where it dries out too quickly.  It also is activated in the early morning, which is the very best time, as the heat of the day(which might dry it out) has not been reached as yet.

Here’s a connection to my old blog (North Country Maturing Gardener) from New Hampshire that talks about Xeriscaping or the use of drought tolerant landscaping.  It talks about many of the ideas we are dealing with here today.

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Oh, my!  Why didn’t I know about this method of gardening about 40 years ago???

When our log cabin was built in New Hampshire, the builder cleared an entire meadow stacking the branches, logs, soil, grass, etc. in a huge pile at the back of a meadow.  I pretty much ignored it!  Sure, it grew wild flowers and plants.  Blackberries loved it, and so did the snakes, bees and other critters, but, since it was in a shady and out of the way place, I essentially ignored it.

Hugelkultur (or hugel) is a pile of logs, branches, wood chips, (etc.) covered with soil and planted!!!  It generates it’s own nutrients; stays moist; and because it is breaking down, it stays warmer generating a longer growing period.

Here is a link showing all the details of hugelkultur17 hugelkultur_bed I have included here a photograph taken from that page to show you how pretty they can actually be.  This one is small compared to what I might have had in New Hampshire!

It is such an obvious, good plan.  Where have I been???

I must admit, I did have a pile of chips (awaiting use as mulch) that I called my “nursery”.  I used that pile for inserting little trees, plants and shrubs I didn’t have time, or a location decided on yet.  It was wonderful.  The little plants grew so happily with little or no extra fuss.  They were warm and happy.  The pile was in the shade too.  I think that actually worked to the advantage of the newly planted orphans because they didn’t have to worry about sun scald, or the drying complications of too much sunshine.   That pile however, did not have any soil, which kept the plants from growing too rapidly.  It was kind of a “holding” technique.  I also have to say, that NH gets more inches of rain than our Pacific Northwest climate affords.  I think the plants might dry out here, using that technique.  From that standpoint, I’m sure the shade also helped.

I wish now that I’d included something about that huge pile, or the nursery, in my book…but I didn’t.  There’s lots more to read there however.  Aside from the calendar, there are tons of vignettes about my gardening adventures in New Hampshire.  🙂

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We have struggled with water needs over the last few months in our HH garden beds and levels; we have been seeing the Environmental Group’s concerns “Living Dangerously” documentaries; we have been “enjoying” red sunsets caused by smoke from fires in Canada, mostly exacerbated by drought; and we have read articles about climate changing and global warming.  But, what can WE do about that?
Well, we CAN do our little bit.  In our apartments we are trying very hard to separate our trash, turn off lights, conserve water, etc.  But, how about in our gardens?  Are we being water conscious there?
Perhaps the next time you decide to purchase a plant for your garden, you should get one that is DROUGHT TOLERANT.  I have found a wonderful article from Washington State University Extension Service that addresses just that issue.  I will give you the link here.  It is for a PDF.  The flowering shrubs, vines and ground covers start on about page 13, but these are plants that would happily grow in your HH garden, with a lot less need for water. Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 8.22.32 AM Think seriously about the purchase of one of these next time you go to the nursery for plant replenishment!
I received an advertisement from Molbak’s this past week.  They are having a sale on “Hens & Chicks”.  They are lovely little, drought resistant plants that would love a spot in your garden!
This PDF also shares many good tips, mostly targeting large gardens…but many of the techniques can be tailored to our little beds.  Give it a try.  Read it seriously, and see if you can’t make your little piece of paradise a little less dependent on so much water!

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Succulents!  If you are concerned (which you SHOULD be) about use of water in your garden…think about planting some succulents.Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 1.55.07 PMThe picture I have here is of what I call “Hens & Chicks”.  I had these guys planted in many corners of my garden!  They were in stones, by the sides of steps, in gravel, in places where nothing else would grow.

Here is a picture of some Hens & Chicks where you can see the little chicks peeking out from within  the fleshy leaves of the mother plant.   Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 2.09.55 PMI would just gently pull these little guys out and stick their rootlets into the soil where I wanted them, and voila, before I knew it, I had a new “Hen” making her own “Chicks”!

Succulents are plants that have evolved into what is called “Xerophytic”.  What that means is that they do not need much moisture at all in order to grow.  Their roots are extremely shallow, which allows them to  take advantage of very light rainfalls.  Their leaves absorb that liquid, creating the “fleshy” leaves, the liquid of which can be drawn on during extended periods of drought.

Succulents can be indoor plants as well as outdoor plants.  They are easy to grow, because of their seemingly total disregard for water.  This makes for a GREAT (indoor OR outdoor) plant for a new gardener !

In this age of concern for use of water, there could not be a better choice!  TRY them…you’ll LIKE them!

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Almost all our problems here at the Horizon House gardens involve water…in one way or another.IMG_0371

There’s a leak creating a flood; the hose has popped rendering water unavailable; the hose nozzle is broken; a spray emits from the sprayer going in the wrong direction, creating a very wet gardener; there’s water leaking across the deck under the planters creating a slippery spot, which is NOT good in a retirement community where some folks are challenged with walking; we need more folks to water pots and planters that are not individually cared for by an assigned gardener; there is the usual vacationer who either forgets, or neglects to get their garden cared for in their absence.  The list goes on and on.  All the gardeners know JUST what I’m talking about.

So, we can’t do without it, and yet sometimes we just get too much…or we get it in the wrong place.  WATER   We can’t live without it, and sometimes we can’t live with it.  Our plants?  Well, they need it, but administered correctly!

Why do they need it?  If they don’t have it, the little rootlets will dry up, no sustenance will get to the leaves, stems and trunk, and then?  A dead plant.

Here is a wonderful site that explains all the why’s and hows of water and your plants.  It comes from the University of Arizona Extension Service.

It tells about mulch.  It tells about over, and under watering, and the effects those will have on your plants.  It explains WHERE to water, and how much.  It’s worth a visit.

WATER is SO CRITICAL to every growing thing.  Without it, our gardens would be very sad places.  There certainly are plants that don’t require very much hydration.  Those are the ones we should try to get into our gardens.  Water is something we seem to be squandering.    It is important that our families have enough drinking water…but it is also important that we have food.  Every thing we consume is loaded with water.  So, almost everything in and  on our planet needs it.  It behooves us to use it sparingly, yet in such a way that it supports life-ours AND that of our plants.

I address water in my book as well.  It appears in the calendar section as well as in numerous stories.  It’s a very important aspect of gardening.  The book also addresses snow and ice and it’s affects on your garden.  Of course, in Seattle, we are not troubled too much with ice and snow, but it’s all part of the big picture.

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It happens everywhere.  NO WATER!  This time it’s not a drought, it’s broken, or leaking pipes; it’s the construction work interfering on our gardening levels; it’s hoses malfunctioning; and even vacations happening for a few weeks at a time during the growing season.  It’s frustrating as a gardener, to see our gardens wilting and not being able to help.  But, isn’t that part of what it means to be a gardener?  We have to learn to deal with all kinds of adversity.  Lack of hydration, OR too much water; bugs; disease; inconsiderate people; the list continues.  We know it all, but what can we do?

This week the big issue is the water being turned off due to a leak that must be repaired in a pipe leading to our gardens.  AAARRRGGGHHH!  It doesn’t help that the weather has turned hot and dry.  For Seattle, that’s also a bit frustrating.

So, what do we do?  We wait patiently for the pipe to be repaired.  In the meantime, our plants are drooping.  Perhaps it’s time for drastic actions:

  • carry water from the closest, functioning tap.
  • MULCH-lay mulch around the plants.  It will keep the soil cool, and keep the moisture from evaporating out of the soil so quickly.  (If you click the link, it will take you to a grand definition of Mulch!)
  • You could even try laying wet newspaper around the plants.  It may not look very pretty, but it may also help.  It is a form of mulch.
  • (I removed the idea of crystal polymer beads, due to the many drawbacks.)

So, there are some suggestions that might help.  Other than getting the pipe functioning again…just using these techniques might help your garden “in general” anyway!

Good luck, and happy gardening!

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