Planting a Native Garden

Beautiful native gardens enrich your surroundings while supporting local biodiversity - including pollinators and bird species. Since native plants are adapted to our local soils and climate conditions, they will also require less water and fertilizers.

There are many places to learn about planting a native garden, including nurseries that specialize in supplying plants that are native to BC.

Click on the map to be linked to an interactive version to find a local plant nursery that specializes in natives species.

Consider adding a rain garden to your yard, creating your own compost, and learn about what pesticides are particularly harmful.

Photo credit: Maria Catanzaro

Pesticides to Avoid

When chemical pesticides are applied to crops and gardens, they can get into the environment and adversely impact fish, pollinating insects, and other wildlife as well as human health. Pesticides can contaminate groundwater supplies, streams and soil and contribute to air pollution. If you use pesticides, including herbicides and fungicides, it is important consider the environmental impact, strictly follow application instructions, and minimize pesticide use through an integrated pest management plan.

Salmon Safe, whose mission is to transform land management practices so that Pacific Salmon can thrive, has complied a list of hazardous chemicals that are particularly harmful to salmon and aquatic species to avoid on your property.

Photo credit: CDC/ Dawn Arlotta

Plant a Rain Garden

A rain garden is a great example of a nature-based solution to reduce stormwater runoff from your property. Rain gardens are attractive landscaping features that are specially designed to treat runoff and allow water to infiltrate the soil and recharge ground water.

With a rain garden, runoff from roofs and other impermeable areas around the property are directed to a sunken area where water can pond and move through a mix of mulch and constructed organic soils planted with appropriate native species. Rain gardens allow natural bio-remediation processes of microorganisms, plants, and soils to take place, which prevents contaminants making it to stream and shore habitats.

The group 12,000 Rain Gardens in Puget Sound shares a wealth of knowledge on building rain gardens that is specifically relevant to the Pacific Northwest. See their comprehensive guide on building a rain garden, and watch their video demonstration linked below.

Additional Resources

Check out our partner Peninsula Streams Society's blog about three Rain Garden Demonstration Sites they have built at urban schools in the Capital Region. This project has built storm and drought resilience into local watersheds! Within the post are a number of helpful and informative links.

For professional assistance with designing and building a rain garden, search for landscape architect firms through the BC Society of Landscape Architects.

Photo credit: Maria Cantanzaro and Paul de Greeff

Composting

When organic materials, including kitchen scraps and garden waste are sent to landfills they break down anaerobically and produce the potent greenhouse gas methane.

By composting you avoid this and the finished product is great slow releasing fertilizer and soil improver for your garden. By following a few simple guidelines and having a place for your heap, you can easily get started with composting.

How to Compost

First, decide which method you would like to use - The simplest is to have a compost bin or a heap at the far end of the garden to fill and aerate on occasion, but you might want to learn about other methods, check out these fact sheets put together by the Compost Education Centre:

Get yourself set up - Bins can be purchased from gardening centres, home improvement stores or from community composting organizations like the Compost Education Centre in Victoria or the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Centre. You can also create a place for your heap using lumber and fencing material, or things you may already have on hand (check out this post for 35 ideas), or just have a free form pile.

When choosing your bin (or lack of one) you will want to consider the type of materials you plan to compost. For example, if it is just yard waste you plan to compost you don't necessarily need a solution that is pest proof, but you would want something pest proof if you do plan to include kitchen scraps.

Simple bins, like the one pictured on the left, are designed for new material to be added at the top by removing a pest resistant lid, and for finished compost to be harvested from a door in the bottom.

Making 'black gold' for your garden - As a general rule for producing healthy rich compost, alternate layers of 'brown' - or carbon rich materials - such as dry leaves, paper, straw, with layers of 'green' - or nitrogen rich materials - such as fresh grass clippings and kitchen scraps. You want the ratio of green to brown material to be about equal. Everything should be turned occasionally and kept moist to ensure proper conditions for the microbial breakdown process.

There are a few things that you should avoid putting in your heap so that it won't attract pests, create odour, spread weeds or result in a compost that would be unhealthy for including in a veggie garden. The table below shows what to compost, coded as as green or brown categories by text colour, and what not to compost.

Great for compostDo not compost
Fruit and vegetable scrapsMeat/bones
Tea bags and coffee groundsDairy products
Rinsed egg shellsBread or cooked food
Fallen LeavesWeeds that have gone to seed
Grass clippings (fresh/dry)Weeds that have rhizomes
General garden waste (fresh leaves/woody)Diseased plants
Shredded newspaper/cardboardCat and dog waste
Human or pet hair
Chicken, cow or horse manure
Untreated wood saw dust/chipped
Straw

Watch and learn - A introductory video about simple backyard composting made by City Farmer.

Alternative Solutions

If you don’t have the desire or space to compost on your property, you can:

Invest in a counter top compost device - If you are really short on space and time, there are now counter top compost devices such as Lomi, which accelerate the compost process through grinding and heating. These devices, which use electricity, can turn kitchen scraps into 'dirt' in a few hours.

Use your municipal composting – your green bin. Learn what can go in your green bin and see what happens to the contents of your green bin.

For More Information

Check out the Compost Education Centre in Victoria, their website contains all sorts of helpful educational fact sheets on different methods of composting and other tips for your garden. They also offer workshops.

Visit the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Centre and pick up a cheap backyard compost bin or worm composter

Photo credit: Eva Elijas from Pexels, Nicole Christiansen