Gardening in Langley: More water worries

Send garden questions to her via amarrison@shaw.ca It helps if you can add the name of your city or region.

Dear Anne,

I usually clean my fruit and vegetables in water to which I add a few drops (sometimes a dash) of white vinegar. The water is Metro Vancouver tap water. I wonder if such water could be used to water the plants in my backyard or in planters.

Jean Munier, Burnaby

Dear Jean,

Water containing a drop or dash of white vinegar shouldn’t be a problem. But it is best if the ratio of vinegar to water is overwhelmingly in favour of water. I’d suggest about a quart of water to dilute your drop or dash of vinegar.

Acid-loving plants would enjoy the hint of vinegar much more than those that need alkalinity. If you have rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas or blueberries, I suggest you focus on those because all are shallow-rooted, acid-loving and among the first to suffer from drought.

Other plants that like acidic soil include primroses, calla lilies, ferns, alyssum and lupins. Heathers can also handle acidity, but don’t need priority because they’re very well-adapted to drought.

Dianthus, heuchera, hellebores, cranesbills, clematis and yarrow prefer alkaline soil and wouldn’t appreciate vinegar water much. But right now a weak solution of vinegar water for them would be better than the alternative of not having water at all.

Dear Anne,

This year I lost my entire raspberry crop. In June, the leaves were turning brown and shriveling up. The berries dried up before they ripened. I watered the bushes about once a week. In spring I put on year-old compost from my bin.

Did I over-fertilize, or was this some sort of blight? The raspberries are about 20 years old. I have dug up most of the roots: just left about 10 new shoots. Should I buy new plants and put them in the same place? Could there be something wrong with the soil? Or is it just from the heat?

Jean Konda-Witte, Abbotsford

Dear Jean,

It’s the lack of rain and hot sun that’s ruined your raspberries.

Twenty years is about the age when blight and viral infections happen – but the key to your problems is when you report that the leaves turned brown as well.

It might be a good idea to buy some new plants – but frankly if next year’s weather is like this, you could have the same problem again. It might be best to wait and see how your new shoots do.

If they do poorly, then you could buy new roots and plant these in another site. If your present raspberry site is in full sun, try a more shaded spot for the new plantings.

Next year, you could try Sea Soil as an amendment or mulch (or both). Home compost is excellent, but Sea Soil has an additional advantage in drought – it holds onto water very well.

Grass clippings are a nutritious and water-saving mulch which is all the more valuable for being absolutely free. With raspberries, you can pile grass mulch thickly. Make sure the mulch layer is thinner right against the canes. The reason for this is because thick, fresh grass layers get hot enough to burn delicate plant tissues (and unprotected human skin).

 

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