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Horticulture seminar provides water conservation tips to Airdrie residents

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  |  Posted: Thursday, Jun 26, 2014 11:13 am

Horticulture expert and founder of Riparia, Bernie Amells speaks to Airdrie residents about tips that can reduce cost and increase the life-cycle of gardens on June 18 at the Airdrie Agriculture Centre.
Horticulture expert and founder of Riparia, Bernie Amells speaks to Airdrie residents about tips that can reduce cost and increase the life-cycle of gardens on June 18 at the Airdrie Agriculture Centre.
Andrew Szekeres/RVP

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The Airdrie Horticultural Society hosted Environmental Designer and Landscape Architect Bernie Amell on June 18 at the Airdrie Agricultural Centre. Amell spoke on the importance of water conservation and utilizing stormwater for local parks and residential backyards.

About 10 people attended the free event.

“When you’re living in a subdivision with just six inches of soil, you get thinking that things are harder than they actually are,” Amell said.

Amell is the founder of the Calgary-based environmental design firm, Riparia, that focuses on various projects and studies for environmental spaces in Alberta. Some of the group’s projects include the restoration of Nose Creek near Stoney Trail to Airdrie.

In the seminar, Amell spoke about how residents of Airdrie can utilize stormwater to help create low-maintenance, longer-lasting gardens.

“Sometimes we are wasting a lot of water in one area,” Amell said. “We need to distribute the water to the garden, but still keep the water as close to the location where it fell to the ground.”

The focus of most of the discussion was on how sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS) can be used to improve gardens and green spaces.

“SUDS landscape uses roofs and paving to put water back into the soil,” Amell said.

Amell showed examples of how positioning downspouts and plants to receive stormwater improved the environment of his residential garden in Calgary.

“By using rain gardens, biofilter beds, swales and absorbent landscaping in your garden, you can create a resilient artificial landscape that serves as a source control for stormwater run-off,” Amell said.

When it comes to soil, Amell suggests using unscreened loam – or topsoil, instead of screened loam. Unscreened loam is taken as is from the ground, while screened loam is manufactured to remove debris in the dirt.

“It breaks up the fine structures to the soil,” Amell said. “When you put water on it, it cakes and remains moist.”

Airdrie resident, Ivy Boschman, said that she’s tried various options for her garden to retain water.

“It doesn’t support anything,” Boschman said. “The water flows back to the house, it’s not designed to support any garden beds.”

Boschman said she’s tried using containers to retain water, but found them too difficult to constantly move around her garden. After Amell’s presentation, she said she had a few ideas on what she might be able to do.

“If I could take just one downspout off the garage and just get it somewhere it can be a benefit, without digging up my garden,” Boschman said.

Amell said residents who live on areas such as slopes or have yards near roads could use a terrace-like system to help the water flow. Rocks can also be placed on the property division to limit the escaped stormwater.

Amell’s next projects will include creating green space for the new Rocky Ridge C-Train station in Calgary, but said residential horticulture is a passion of his.

“This is my passion,” Amell said. “I do these talks about three to four times a year, and it’s to get people to know how they can use water more efficiently.”


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