By Terry Wallace
In order to grow a successful garden you must have moisture and up until June 20’s rain event, our only source of moisture was from a hose. As stated in “Record breaking rainfall hits Elk Valley” by Angela Treharne, June 20’s rainfall accounted for 101mm, smashing the previous record. It was enough to spiral Fernie back into a boil water advisory, force the evacuation of the communities along the Elk river and permanently alter its course to an unrecognizable meander. Prior to the rain I was caught saying “we need rain bad!” and it turns out we received a full months rainfall over the course of a few days.
The Elk Valley definitely has variable spring temperatures. This year has been a dry and warm spring, it’s been a treat for gardeners and their gardens. Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and the Garden Centre have all been busy as most people have been out shopping buying plants, lawn mowers and other landscaping items. You yourself probably even went out and bought yourself a brand new hose because your old one leaked or was kinked and if you are like me, as soon as you tightened down your new hose and turned on the faucet you expected flawless action, but in fact you ended up with that same unexplainable, mysterious leak.
Up until May 1 of this year I hadn’t had a yard to garden in for some time. However working in a garden centre and growing up gardening I knew that I had to be begin by gathering information about the climate to start a garden. I started by looking up the plant hardiness zone. Fernie is a 5a, but given its location and susceptibility to rare weather events I’d take the 5a with a grain of salt, as May 27 was a prime example of an unlikely yet likely snow event. Fernie’s hardiness means you can grow most veggies you buy at the grocery store; cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and corn but this is just a small list of what you can actually grow. By comparison the Okanagan is a 7, Calgary’s a 4 and Cambridge Ontario, the town I grew up in is a 6. The number refers to how many frost free days an area receives, Fernie’s in a good location.
It is important to be choosy about what and when you water as every plant requires different amounts of moisture. Also the locations in your garden(s) will each have their own drainage and sunlight characteristics. When you first plant those seeds give them a good shot of water to help them germinate. Don’t water them too much though as the seeds may rot. After the plant plan on watering in the mornings or evenings as less water will be wasted through evaporation.
If you want to be proactive about the environment and still water your garden and or lawn, start using a rain barrel. Fernie does not offer a rain barrel program but where I grew up and a lot of other towns across Canada, there are rain barrel programs. These programs are set up to either give rain barrels away to the public free of charge or in other cases for a small fee. Seeing as there isn’t a program you can always buy one from the local gardening store or if you are adventurous you can even try to make one yourself. Wasting water will only cost taxpayers money!
In the end we definitely needed the rain. Was it useful to our gardens? Maybe a little bit but that rain over a few weeks would have been more beneficial. I guess as new small-scale farmers the weather is everything. Too much is bad and not enough can be worse but this year we have been ok. So if it starts to rain as it did on June 20, get a hat and your rubber boots on and have a beer. If it doesn’t, keep an eye on your garden and prep your hose.