Slow drip irrigation workshop aims to help thirsty gardens during droughts

Conventional watering is too wasteful during periods when water is scarce

Ian Griffiths illustrating a drip irrigation system. Submitted photo.
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Reported by Kurtis Gregory

Gardens without water-saving systems will suffer the most during water shortages.

During Stage 3 water restrictions in Vancouver in the summer of 2015 — the first in 12 years — gardeners had to use drip irrigation or water by hand. Irrigation systems can be installed in small and medium sized gardens and deliver water directly onto or near the root system to control water use and keep gardens green during drought conditions. Lee Valley Tools on Marine Drive will hold an irrigation workshop on March 23.

“At Stage 3, when it comes to any watering hook ups, you’re not allowed to use any soaker hoses, you’re not allowed to use garden sprinklers. So if you have a proper irrigation system set up to a drip type system, you’re good to go,” said Griffiths, a long time gardener who teaches the workshop.

Community gardens affected

Jody Baker, a member of the Strathcona Community Gardens, remembers when the Stage 3 water restrictions went into place and the city shut off the gardens’ water supply.

“Everyone was affected, it wasn’t just us,” Baker said. “It wasn’t that long, it was just a couple of weeks as I recall. I think some stuff died, things kind of went sideways.”

Egan Davis, a horticulturalist at UBC, says conventional watering methods can be wasteful if not done properly.

“If you’ve got a hose and a wand and it’s on full blast, then in half an hour you can use 1,500 litres of water,” Davis said.

Inexperienced gardeners may need help

According to Davis, drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water plants, but can be difficult to install without prior knowledge.

The system, a free-drip and low-flow irrigation set-up, that Griffiths teaches in his workshop can be made to drip anywhere from four litres an hour to around a 100 litres an hour.

“That’s an awful lot of water,” said Laura Doheny, store manager at Hunters Garden Centre in Vancouver. Depending on the number of hoses and valves that are set up in the system, where each valve is dropping 10 litres per hour, she said it could easily exceed 100 litres per hour.

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