British Columbia

Xeriscaping gardening techniques save time and water

Egan Davis, a UBC horticulturist, suggests how to prepare a garden that requires little or no watering.

UBC horticulturist says gardening without watering is a matter of choosing the right plants

Egan Davis, horticulture training program instructor at UBC Botanical Garden, opens up the root systems on plants before putting them in the ground. (UBC Botanical Garden)

What if not watering didn't kill your garden, but was part of the plan for your plants to thrive?

"I really believe that this is the direction that gardening needs to go in," says Egan Davis, an instructor at UBC's Botanical Garden.

As the population continues to grow and the climate continues to change, building gardens that require little or no watering is an option that could keep green thumbs and the environment happy.

"It's astonishing when you actually factor in how much water gardening takes and it doesn't need to be that way," he notes.

That's why Davis is promoting Xeriscaping — a method of gardening that uses plants requiring little or no water.

"I would really like very much in the next three to five years for everyone to know that it is possible to garden without water."

It all starts with choosing the right plants, and planting them properly.

Davis points to lavender, rosemary and thyme as plants that do better when you don't water them. Mediterranean plants also do well under dry conditions, as do scented geraniums if a pop of colour is desired.

How and when you plant is just as crucial, he adds.

"When you're planting it is such a critical opportunity to open the roots up in such a way that they really grow."

Davis suggested buying plants with roots visible at the edge of their pots, because a tight root ball can make it difficult for roots to establish themselves in the ground.

He recommends gardeners open up a plant's ball of roots before planting to increase its chances of survival.

"Growing the roots is really as important as picking the right plant in terms of growing plants without water," said Davis.

Removing excess potting mix from plants before they are planted and making sure you are planting into deep soil, are other tips Davis shared.

The horticulturalist also prefers planting be done in the spring or fall, when hot weather does not stress plants.

With files from Margaret Gallagher

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled Tips on how to build a water-wise garden with UBC horticulturalist, Egan Davis