Community garden workshop to focus on water conservation amid drought

Cowichan Lake Community Garden hosting three workshops this summer.

With Stage Three water restrictions coming into effect last week, and the limits its put on lawn and garden maintenance, some local green thumbs have found themselves in a bind. However, an upcoming workshop hosted by Cowichan Green Community is set to demonstrate how gardeners can keep their patches green amidst the harsh draught.

“Water Conservation Gardening,” the first free workshop in a series of three planned for this summer, is taking place at the Cowichan Lake Community Garden this Saturday (July 18) from 9 to 11 a.m.

Cowichan Green Community project coordinator Erin Ward said that the Cowichan Lake Community Garden is the ideal place to demonstrate terrace gardening techniques. The large dirt mound on-site will be fitted with logs and stakes to create a vertical garden that uses water more efficiently and decreases soil erosion, a valuable quality when water is limited but sunlight is not.

The workshop will also demonstrate “hugelkultur,” raised beds that use branches, leaves and grass clippings to fertilize soil from underneath. Unlike terraces, hugelkultur can be implemented in gardens without a slope. Proper mulching techniques, which Ward said are invaluable for soil upkeep in these dry conditions, will also be covered.

“Gardening under [Stage Three] water restrictions is a huge challenge, especially if you’re growing food,” Ward said. “If you have a hugelkultur bed and you maintain your mulch you’ll be a lot better off during a drought. It’s less of a challenge if you’re prepared.”

Horticultural therapist Christine Pollard will be at the Cowichan Lake Community Garden on August 1 for the second workshop, “Therapeutic Gardening for Everyone.” Pollard will demonstrate the techniques of therapeutic gardening, which are intended to provide both physical and emotional benefits.

The third workshop, “Edible Garden Plant Identification Tour,” is scheduled for August 15. Participants will be given a crash course on how to identify species while touring the garden and training their eyes for botanical features.

The three free workshops are part of a grant provided by Island Health.