In Terrace, B.C., tree bags are used to conserve water

"I’m kind of a stickler for not wasting water," says the city's new head gardener

Chantale Maheux and Eric Lennert can be found in Terrace sprucing up the city greenery.

For Terrace’s new head gardener, this season’s tree watering schedule is in the bag.

Literally.

About 30 big, green, rubber bags are now cocooning the bases of the younger trees lining the Grand Truck Pathway, aka the Millennium Trail, thanks to a suggestion from the Terrace Beautification Society and the manpower of the city’s head gardener Eric Lennert and his co-worker Chantale Maheux.

“When trees don’t get water, they’re not healthy and they’re really susceptible to infestations,” he said, noting that some trees, especially those at the west end of the popular trail, were pretty dry.

The new system will not only keep the trees hydrated in the midst of what has so far been a dry spring but it will save water and watering time in the long run, and keep the young trees protected.

It works like this: the 55-litre bags are wrapped around the base of the tree. Once every several days, they are filled with water and, because of the tiny holes along the bottom, it takes about nine hours for the water to slowly seep deep into the ground, drawing the roots with it – kind of like a sponge that’s concentrating water in one direction.

That’s important because the goal is to get the roots of the tree to grow down into the soil and not just stay spread out along the surface.

Soil, of course, dries from the surface down, “so if you can get the roots down and established in the lower horizons of the soil then you’ll be able to take the bag out and you shouldn’t have to water the tree excessively for the rest of its life,” said Lennert.

Lennert said that he’d noticed the trees irrigation system needed help, so he approached the Terrace Beautification Society.

One of its member’s told him about the bags and he did a bit of online research to find out that they’re used in many municipalities.

In Thunder Bay, for example, they line many of the boulevards and residents take it upon themselves to fill them up.

Terrace’s gardeners have also pulled the grass back from around the trees – grass is a big water stealer – and have been laying down bark mulch. Those modifications plus the bags should protect the trees from mechanical damage – another issue as lawnmowers and weed-whippers were grazing the bottoms of the trees.

“It’s kind of a combo of getting water to the trees and stopping mechanical damage,” said Lennert of his approach.

Lennert has been focused on improving the efficiency of Terrace’s irrigation system since he began the job in March. He’s monitored the sprinkler systems and beds to figure out where the weak or wasteful spots are and begun using soaker hoses in many of the beds.

“It’s the most efficient way to water anything – you’re not spraying water into the atmosphere where it can just evaporate, it’s not going into the street or the sidewalks, it’s applied directly to where you need it,” he said. “I’m kind of a stickler for not wasting water.”