Tofino Gardening in August 2006
by Trina Mattson, Tofino
July was such a mix of weather who can tell what August will be, the first half of July was foggier that ever, the second half was so hot, you could've fried an egg on the sidewalk. Did anyone try?
With the latter half of July's heat wave that we had, people have been worried about the amounts of water that need to be used to keep their gardens alive. Your lawn for instance, unless it is new sod, will be just fine with no water, oh sure it will turn brown and crispy, and be great for scratching your back on, when it rains it will grow back nice and green, and if it doesn't come back in certain spots, just reseed. The garden on the other hand is a different story, plants need water to survive, now if it's an old enough tree or shrub, the roots will be fairly established and have a good hold down deep, a nice thick layer of mulch over the top of the soil and elimination of weeds that drink up any moisture as well, and you may only need to water once a week, newly planted areas, unfortunately will need more water on a regular basis, until they get established, which takes about one year. Perennials, need more water as well, as their root systems are not as deep, but again a good layer of mulch is beneficial. Bedding plants, planters, and hanging baskets need more water again, as they are quicker growing, and usually in smaller containers, so dry out faster.
For these there are products such as soil moist crystals, which look like pieces of gelatin, and as the soil dries out, they release moisture, for baskets and planters there is also a micro liner, which is a perforated liner that fits into planters and baskets that hold moisture in and instead of the water just running out, it releases it slower thru the perforations, so your plants benefit more. The cities are using them in their baskets and they have a 30% decrease in the amount of water needed, and I put them into Crystal Cove Beach Resorts baskets as well, time will tell, but with as inexpensive as they are under $2 per liner, I think it's a smart choice.
The other new product that you will be hearing more and more about in the future is coco fiber, it is being used as a peat moss substitute, as most well know, peat moss can take thousands of years to develop, and is quite literally a non renewable resource, many peat bogs are being stripped of there peat for gardens, but the coco fiber product is totally renewable, it holds more moisture than peat moss, and also doesn't change the acidity of your soil. I am going to be testing this product out over the summer for water retention, acidity levels, biodegradability, and volume, as it is only the size of a standard fire brick, when dried and compressed, we will see how much it expands in water, and will it make a good mulch, and does it stand up to our winter rains. I will keep you up to date.
Of course there is always the option of drought tolerant plants as well, favorites are lavenders, sedums, semperviviums, roses are fairly tough, and if you want a trouble free rose I can never spout enough about Rugosa roses, no problems with bugs, or black spot plus it will grow by the ocean side. Let's not forget the native species as well, although the salal lately was hit by blight that make it look fairly on the messy side, this was caused by too much moisture during spring.
Be sure that when you are out gardening, you put on suntan lotion, wear a hat and drink lots of fluids, over heating while gardening is easy to do, and hey who says you can't sit back and relax in the shade during the hottest part of the day and take a siesta?
Trina Mattson runs the Ordinary Corner Nursery in Tofino at 619 Tibbs Place Road.
Tofino gardening tips for August 2006 from Trina Mattson for Tofno Time Magazine.