Did you know that landscaping irrigation in the average Kelowna home accounts for 55 per cent of the city’s total annual water use? This means that, during the summer, we’re using around 72 million litres of water on average for our lawns and gardens! We can lower this number by designing our yards and gardens with water conservation in mind. Chose climate appropriate plant material and an appropriate/sufficient growing medium, and install an efficient irrigation system.
The foundation of a Water Smart landscape is your soil or growing medium; not all soils are ideal for water retention and most will require some amending. Compost and mulch are great for gardens. Both can act as a protective cover for plants, keeping the soil cool and moist and discouraging weed growth. Our OgoGrow and GlenGrow composts are ideal for this purpose.
The next step is to carefully select plant material. More people are choosing plants that are native to the area and have adapted to local conditions. Check out the plant database at okanaganxeriscape.org and find a local nursery that carries plant material suited to our semi-arid (dry) climate.
Download our Landscape & Irrigation Guide to Water Efficiency and learn more about landscape design below.
The following tips will help you build Water Smart landscape:
- Choose climate appropriate plant material and consider the purpose for your plants before you purchase them. Plants can provide seasonal colour, attract butterflies or offer shade once established, for instance.
- Organize landscape into hydrozones: no-water zones, or areas with low-to-high-water needs. Make sure your design appropriately uses plant material with similar water demand within hydrozones .
- Maximize the percentage of landscape area that is unirrigated/unwatered area.
- Maximize retention or replanting of vegetation with low water-use requirements after the establishment period - e.g. retained or planted native plants, wildflower meadow, rough grass or xeriscape plant species (strive for a minimum of 25 per cent of the total landscape area)
- Minimize mown turf areas that are high water use areas (strive for a maximum of 25-50 per cent of the total landscape area, with lower percentages preferable). Substitute with areas of lower water use treatments. Formal turf is best suited to active use areas and there are low water use turf options available.
- Ensure growing medium depth and quality to provide water storage and plant health
- Provide mulch cover to shrub and groundcover areas to reduce evaporation from soil
- Use recirculated water systems for any water features, such as pools and fountains
How a landscape is designed affects water use. The design process considers three things at the design concept stage and again when the design details are completed:
- Water conservation
- Site use
Your water conservation efforts won’t be successful if you’re only thinking about them at the point of irrigation design. To meet the required targets, it’s necessary to plan for water conservation as you think about landscape ideas and treatments, at the earliest stages of design and site planning.
Our design case study video takes you through the design process and shows you how to integrate landscape design concepts and the water savings calculator. The site in the video is a private residence, and the landscape job is a front lawn replacement. This is a small landscape job in Coastal B.C., but the work performed at this this site, and the lessons learned, apply equally to most landscape developments across B.C.
Xeriscaping is a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semi-arid climates that utilizes water conserving techniques. By adopting xeriscape principles in landscape planning and planting you will use less water and save money.
Xeriscape landscapes use 30 to 100 per cent less water than traditionally styled landscapes and result in landscapes that are more resilient to drought and the pressures of pests and disease. Plants growing in their ideal conditions thrive with less water and less maintenance, and there’s no need for pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
The Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s (OXA) website is an excellent place to learn about this landscaping style. To learn more about the colourful range of plants that are adapted to growing in the near-desert natural conditions of the Okanagan Valley, browse through OXA's extensive plant database, which includes colour photos of hundreds of xeriscape plants suitable for our climate and can be searched by flower colour, blooming time, size, light requirements and more.
In 2010, OXA created a demonstration garden - the unH2O Xeriscape Garden - in front of the H2O Aquatic Centre at 4075 Gordon Drive. Visit its six themed gardens in any season to get inspiration for using xeriscape plants in your own landscape.