Gardening on Pender, Saturna, and the Southern Gulf Islands

Ornamental garden on Saturna Island

The Southern Gulf Islands are known for their 'cool Mediterranean' climate where grapes and olives can be grown. This region of BC, Canada offers unique benefits and challenges for gardeners.

The Southern Gulf Islands are mild, generally warmer in the winter than most of the rest of Canada, and cooler in the summers than many parts of Southern Canada. While the Southern Gulf Islands such as Pender and Saturna get a lot of rainfall over the fall, winter, and spring, the summertime is usually quite dry. The summer dry spell requires some Southern Gulf Island gardeners to get smart with water, particularly if they depend on wells and there is no rainfall in sight for weeks or sometimes even months. Creative solutions can include extra water storage through accessory catchment systems during the rainy seasons, mulching, and well-designed irrigation plans. For decorative gardening many Southern Gulf Islanders use native or drought resistant species for low-maintenance and beautiful landscapes.

While this could make gardening on the Southern Gulf Islands sound daunting, it's important to note that successful gardeners of fruits, vegetables and herbs as well as flowers and ornamentals abound here! Not only can you grow almost any standard fruit or vegetable here that you would be able to grow throughout southern Canada or much of the US, you'd be surprised by some of the things grown on the Southern Gulf Islands such as Grapes, Kiwis, Figs, even Palm and Banana Trees. While our dryer summers may mean -depending on your property and water availability- that you have to plan well for irrigation or efficient water use for your gardens, our mild winters mean that some plants that could never survive winters elsewhere in Canada can thrive very well on the Southern Gulf islands. In fact it's not all that uncommon for people to eat some edibles from their gardens year-round such as various healthy greens and numerous savory herbs.

The other thing that grows well on the Southern Gulf Islands is fruit trees. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, once again kiwis and figs. People grow hazelnut and walnut trees on the Southern Gulf Islands too! There are no shortage of exquisite floral gardens on the Southern Gulf Islands. Once you get used to gardening in our unique climate you'll find you can have blooms in a variety of colours for a very large chunk of the year.

Here are some resources for further reading:

Examples of vegetables you can grow on the Gulf Islands, from 2 companies that sell seeds and starter plants

Natural Drought-Resistant Planting Guide From the CRD