Taking Root #27

Water, Water, Everywhere! Not Anymore!

The topic of water shortage is on everyone’s minds lately, and slips easily into conversations. California’s drought has been in the news throughout the winter, and their recent torrential downpours have barely been a drop in the proverbial bucket.

But, California isn’t alone with water worries. Oregon has had one of the driest winters in recorded history. Have you seen the water levels of our dams?

Today, I’m talking about how to curb water usage in your garden, and also list some drought-tolerant plants that do well here. I think we all know that drip systems, soaker hoses, and the like are preferable to overhead watering. Less water waste for sure, but the bonus is healthier plants too.

Weston Miller, Community and Urban Horticulturist for OSU Extension offers tips to help conserve water and keep the landscape looking good. He suggests watering deeply and eliminating the need to water often. You can cut down watering from 3-4 times a week to one or two doing this. With little or no water during the summer, lawns will survive, go brown, and then green up in the fall when the rains start again.

Miller also suggests choosing drought-tolerant turf grass for new lawns such as tall fescue which is hardy, wide-bladed and deep-rooted. Perennial ryegrass and creeping fescue can also tolerate some dryness. Or, consider reseeding with an ecolawn mix of turf-grass seed mixed with broad-leaf plant seeds such as yarrow, clovers, English daisies and more.

Mulching is critical because it improves soil structure, helps retain water in the ground, and reduces weeds. Use compost-based mulches for vegetables and woody mulches for ornamental plants. Spread the mulch about two to three inches thick on the soil around the garden. Oh, and water early in the morning before the day heats up.

Drought tolerant plants should be considered when putting in new landscaping, refurbishing old beds or just sprucing up the place. Don’t be surprised if, at some point, water rationing invades our little corner of the world. It’s now common practice in many places.

A rule of thumb regarding a plant’s ability to thrive during a drought year is to consider the origin. If a plant’s origin is in a hot and dry climate, it’s unlikely to do well in other weather conditions. Now, apply that same principal to the rest of your landscaping. Plants that are more likely to survive, and even thrive in warm, dry, drought conditions originate in the Mediterranean, central Asia, southern Africa and the American west.

Gail Gredler, horticulturist with OSU Extension offers suggestions for drought-tolerant plants that will look great year ‘round. Mediterranean herbs are naturally drought-tolerant, attractive and useful in the kitchen. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, lavender and their relatives have both ornamental and culinary value. Most are perennial in much of Oregon.

Tough annuals such as California poppies, Clarkias, Shirley poppies, moss rose, blanket flower and sweet alyssum provide bright patches of color. Drought-resistant summer perennials include those for sun and those for shade.

Sun lovers include yarrow, butterfly weed, coreopsis, purple coneflower, globe thistle, snow-in-summer, red-hot poker, Russian sage, blanket flower, gayfeather or blazing star, flax, four o’clock, penstemon, evening primrose, sedum, bunch grasses including red and Idaho fescue, Muhlenbergia and needle and thread grass.

For shadier areas plant Japanese anemone, bleeding heart, hellebore, Jupiter’s Beard or Red Valerian, Mexican daisy, yellow corydalis and many types of thyme. Incorporating some of these ideas into your landscaping can contribute to conserving our precious water at home and in our communities.

Thursday Market, June 4

Beginning June 4, the Calapooia Food Alliance will be holding its farmer’s market on Thursday. This change offers easier access to fresh, local produce for busy families and working folks who may find their Saturdays filled with other commitments. The CFA invites you to Main and Park streets between 3 p.m. and 7p.m. every Thursday through October.


Munch Night, Friday, May 29

This month’s Munch Night will be held on May 29 at 7 p.m. Join the CFA for “Quiche and Salad Night” and an inspiring film followed by a lively discussion. A $10 donation is appreciated. As always, bring your own place settings.

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