I’ve been in a thick of wildfire smoke this summer.
With a garden struggling with yet another season of drought and wildfire smoke.
Truth is I lost my gardening and homesteading mojo this summer. It disappeared when the wildfire smoke got so bad that we couldn’t go outside.
We spent the last few weeks of summer with some of the worst air quality in the world.
Staying at the 10+ risk for air quality for many weeks takes away your summer (not to mention restless kids!). Beautiful British Columbia summers are no longer the same as they used to be.
My gardening also changed.
This is the 3rd summer in a row where we’ve had very bad wildfires.
Drought has increased in many places. B.C. Canada is where we live, and it’s been terrible for a few years now. In the U.S. California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington and other states are also dealing with drought and wildfires all summer long. Other places of the world have been dealing with drought for much longer.
Drought here is a new feeling, I grew up here and don’t recall summers being like this. B.C. Canada has always been known for rich forests, rain or snow and biodiversity. For a couple summers in a row, we haven’t been able to go camping, enjoy as many beach days or enjoy outdoor adventures as frequently. That’s why we moved back to the mountains, to enjoy all of those things.
A couple years ago we had a fire right behind our home. Adrian Wager studio caught the time lapse of it here.
Wildfires and drought are bad for gardening and homesteading (and general life!) for many reasons:
- The smoke blocks out the sun reducing the heat that many summer veggies need to ripen.
- Drought causes a lot of plant stress so many garden veggies and flowers. Some are more drought tolerant like our wildflowers.
- With drought comes water restrictions reducing your ability to water your garden. Sometimes a vegetables garden is still permitted, or hand watering at certain times.
- Not being able to go outside means the weeds take over very quickly. This reduces space for your garden crops to grow and means a lot of catch up work once you can finally get into the garden.
- It’s depressing. Not being to enjoy the summer is a serious downer. Here in Canada, we’re used to being down for the last stretch of winter. Experiencing this feeling during summer sucks! The sun getting blocked out also creates a really ‘eerie’ feeling, it’s cold and dark during the day which feels strange.
- Pollination suffers depending on when the wildfires start, often the smoke makes bees lethargic. I grew a lot of flowers for the bees this summer and luckily our garden had a lot, but I did notice reduced squash and pumpkin pollination.
ONE nice thing? The sun and moons are extra red so it’s neat to look at. This isn’t worth all the cons (obviously!).
What’s a garden lover to do?
Having dealt with this for many summers in a row, will I change my garden planning next year?
Most likely. The heat loving crops definitely suffer. I’ll need to consider mulching a lot more to suppress weeds when I can’t get into the garden. Things like drip irrigation or ollas (Lovely greens shows you how to make some!) might be worth looking into.
Permaculture News shows you a step by step infographic on making your own ollas with clay pots.
Tree Davis has these tips for your home
Plant choices for drought from Time Space Design
Have you dealt with gardening in wildfires or drought?
What changes have you had to make?
My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.