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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Worm composting - In small ventilated bins, red wrigglers (not ordinary earth worms) turn your kitchen scraps into compost. There are a few extra rules to keep your worms happy and productive, but this method is a great for smaller spaces and is a fantastic learning experience for children.
Trenching - Simply digging in kitchen scraps directly into your garden. By burying scraps at least 30cm deep you should avoid pest problems and the nutrients from the scraps will be right where they are needed, in the root zone.
Hot composting - With some effort you can create the ideal environment for microbes and your pile will heat up (55-60°C) and create more compost faster.
Tumbler composting - Tumbler style bins make mixing and aerating your compost easier since you can turn your compost over within the rotating bin. While tumblers are convenient and may have a smaller footprint, they tend to be more expensive and not hold as much material as other bins.
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 compost
Do not compost
Fruit and vegetable scraps
Tea bags and coffee grounds
Rinsed egg shells
Bread or cooked food
Weeds that have gone to seed
Grass clippings (fresh/dry)
Weeds that have rhizomes
General garden waste (fresh leaves/woody)
Cat and dog waste
Human or pet hair
Chicken, cow or horse manure
Untreated wood saw dust/chipped
Watch and learn - A introductory video about simple backyard composting made by City Farmer.
If you don’t have the desire or space to compost on your property, you can:
Invest in acounter 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.
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.