FLOW & GROW WORKSHOP: “Plants will adapt to either over-watering or under-watering,” reports Ken Salvail, horticulturalist and co-host of Grower Coach garden show
Note to Reader:
The Flow & Grow Workshop program s structured as four modules and is cascading – from high-level visioning to ground-level applications. Module B is titled Is Irrigation the Elephant in the Room? Four speakers, including Ken Salvail, will present a diversity of perspectives. Serving the Okanagan region, he runs a full service landscape-company and co-hosts a weekly radio show on Saturday mornings.
A passionate gardener since the early ‘80’s, Ken cut his teeth in landscaping at an early age. He quickly went on to growing of tropical plants, hot house cucumbers and tomatoes, poinsettia production, tree and shrub propagation, wholesale perennial production all while developing over 2500 landscape designs.
What are the Social Benefits of Landscapes & Is Irrigation Important to Maintain these Values?
The Okanagan Region is heavily dependent on irrigation to nourish crops and maintain greenspace throughout a parched region. The region is a key part of the provincial food security initiative while at the same time it is undergoing substantial development pressure for residential land use. Module B addresses this question: How will agriculture production be sustained in the region when there are competing priorities for water, in particular that for landscape irrigation?
Moving Towards Water Balance Management
“Ken Salvail provides great insights into the nature and needs of residential landscape irrigation,” reports Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. “His wisdom helps describe the case for a fundamental shift in water balance management at the community and regional scales. The shift starts with an understanding of soil and plants, and their relationship with water.”
“For the past decade and a half, the Partnership has championed the importance of the ‘soil sponge’ in achieving desired Water Balance outcomes. We have emphasized that a well-designed landscape with healthy topsoil helps communities through both wet and dry times. Now, the experienced perspective provided by Ken Salvail should open eyes and minds regarding the HOW.”
“An absorbent topsoil layer has emerged as a fundamental building block for achieving water sustainability goals through implementation of green infrastructure practices. In this case, the targeted water sustainability outcomes are: less irrigation water use; and reduced rainwater runoff.”
“The changing climate is a driver for a fundamental shift in how we view the Water Balance, and what we can do to better manage the seasonal distribution. Wetter, warmer winters mean less snowpack and a diminished water storage reservoir. Longer, drier summers mean that the available volume in storage must be stretched by using less.”
“Ken Salvail’s experience is that people in the Okanagan use more water than is needed. This results from a lack of understanding of how much water is enough. Ken’s conclusions about over-watering versus under-watering are, in my judgment, a classical application of what once would have been described as sound engineering, and that is : observation and deduction,” concludes Kim Stephens.
How Much Water is Enough?
“It has become a mentality to over-water in the Okanagan, yet in nature plants dry out between waterings,” states Ken Salvail. “We are training plants to live with a steady supply of water rather than training for long periods without water.” The title of his presentation at FLOW & GROW is What are the Social Benefits of Landscapes & Is Irrigation Important to Maintain these Values?
“We can take almost any plant and wean it over time to live without water by stretching the time between waterings, weaning it gradually. Plants will adapt to either over-watering or under watering. When watering all the time, however, plants develop roots that are specialized to living in water and often develop health issues or diseases.”
“The solution is to start with quality soil that can hold water but dry out and help develop wiry drought resistant root systems. Homeowners need to move toward soil-moisture monitoring systems that are set at right depth of root zone so that water use is more accurate and water is available when it is needed”
“We can use less water to sustain plants, BUT how will we change people behaviour? That is the real question that we need to tackle,” concludes Ken Salvail.