Harvesting Rainwater

Water is a precious resource essential to all life.

For millennia, people experiencing regular or periodic lack of water developed ingenious methods to harvest and store every drop of rainwater they could. With changing climate patterns, depletion of water tables, and water restrictions due to unprecedented periods of heat and drought, many BC residents now realize that an abundant water supply is not assured and are thinking about harvesting and conserving this precious resource.

What is Rainwater Harvesting?

Rainwater harvesting is another way to manage stormwater runoff with the added benefit of being able to put that excess water to use at a later date when water is in shorter supply. Harvesting rainwater typically involves collecting and storing rainwater that would otherwise run off a roof or other impermeable surface. During storms, this diversion of runoff can help prevent flooding and erosion. On the flip side, during dry periods, using the stored water can take pressure off our natural freshwater resources – lakes, streams, and groundwater that may be depleted.

How does rainwater harvesting benefit salmon?

It diverts stormwater runoff from impermeable surfaces which could otherwise contribute to habitat damage from flooding and erosion where spawning salmon lay their eggs and young salmon rear.

Using harvested rainwater takes off pressure on natural water resources during periods of drought, such as late summer and early fall when salmon need water in streams to migrate.

Stormwater runoff often contains pollutants that negatively impact the ecosystem, diverting this water can prevent pollution from entering sensitive environments.

Check out the runoff management article for more information on common contaminants, and other nature-based solutions to capture runoff: Nature-based Solutions to Manage Stormwater Runoff.

Here are a few more benefits of harvesting rainwater:
  • Reduce pollutants flowing into lakes, streams, oceans, and groundwater– redirecting and reducing stormwater by harvesting rainwater can minimize the pollutant loads that enter sensitive ecosystems. .
  • Depending on the setup, a system can contribute to groundwater recharge – using a system that filters and redirects water into the ground can recharge aquifers.
There are two main methods of rainwater harvesting

Rooftop rainwater harvesting involves collecting rainwater from the roofs of buildings and houses using gutters, pipes, filters, and tanks or rain barrels. The collected water can be used for various household needs, such as washing, gardening, and even cooking or drinking (depending on the type of roof and ability to purify). Rooftop rainwater harvesting can also recharge groundwater aquifers by diverting the excess water to wells, boreholes, or recharge pits. Here is a schematic of a typical rooftop rainwater harvesting:

Surface runoff harvesting involves collecting rainwater that flows over the ground using swales, ponds, rain gardens, reservoirs, in-ground tanks, and percolation through penetrable surfaces, like sand, gravel, and permeable pavements. Collected water can be used for irrigation and watering livestock. It can also recharge groundwater aquifers when water is directed to infiltration basins, trenches, or percolation tanks instead.

There is no one correct way to harvest rainwater. It depends upon the system's scale, budget, and purpose; however, the costs can vary widely depending on the solutions employed.

Rain Harvesting for Homeowners

Rooftop rain harvesting is the most common and least costly approach for household purposes. Rain barrels, the cost of which are subsidized by many local governments, receive rainwater from a downspout attached to the roof's gutter and provide easily accessible water for the garden and other outdoor purposes, typically having a faucet or hose attachment at the bottom. Multiple barrels can be interconnected via pipes to store a significant amount of water.

For small-scale harvesting for use in the garden, you can even DIY in an afternoon with items from a hardware store, see this example of step-by-step instructions from instructables.com.

For households that do not have a municipal water source or those with significant water needs for garden plots and livestock, a more elaborate system may be required.  There are large storage tanks that can hold thousands of gallons of water, which can be placed above or below ground. The tank can be connected to a pump and a filtration system to deliver clean water to different parts of the house or garden.

For large-scale harvesting and when you plan to use the water in your home, including for drinking water, it is best to seek the help of professionals.

Wondering how much you can harvest?

In this post about rainwater harvest ideas on morningchores.com, there is a rainwater harvest calculator. Simply put in the catchment area (the width and length (ft) of your roof you intend to capture water from) and the amount of rainfall (in) expected and it will tell you how many gallons you would receive.

If you wish to calculate it yourself (or prefer metric measurements), for every square metre of roof catchment area and millimetre of rainfall, one Litre of water will be produced. Based on that you can use the following formula will calculate your expected total:

Catchment area (m2) x annual local average rainfall (mm) = ____L

So, for a 10m x 10m (or 100m2) roof in Nanoose, which receives an average annual rainfall of 1086mm, there would be 108,600L (or 108.6m3) of rainwater. Note that the maximum efficiency of a typical harvest system would be between 75-80% of that total due to evaporation, periods of overflow etc.

Learn about rainwater harvesting in BC

In addition to, or instead of rooftop harvesting systems, simple surface runoff harvesting techniques, such as rain gardens and swales, are increasingly popular techniques to capture and filter rainwater.  These do not usually supply a readily available source of water for household use but do contribute to groundwater replenishment and natural purification, making water available to plants within the immediate vicinity while also serving to remove pollutants that could otherwise be swept into waterways.

Rainwater harvesting is an ancient and sustainable practice that can help conserve water, save money, improve plant health, and provide an emergency water supply, all of which improves the climate resiliency of our families and communities. By collecting and storing rainwater for later use, we can use a precious natural resource that would otherwise go to waste.

Additional Resources

For further information on rainwater harvesting, including ways to establish your own system, try these sites and resources:

Water Harvesting Basics (wateruseItwisely.com)

Water Harvesting - Definition, Importance, Methods, Limitations (geeksforgeeks.org)

23 Awesome DIY Rainwater Harvesting Systems You Can Build at Home (morningchores.com)

Rainwater Harvesting: A Beginner’s Guide (treehugger.com)

Beginner’s Guide to Rainwater Harvesting (familyhandyman.com)

Smith, J. (2010). Rainwater harvesting: Benefits and challenges. Journal of Environmental Science, 12(3), 45-56.

Photo credits: Ed Leszczynskl on Unsplash, Eiko Jones, Photo licensed under CC BY-NC, Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND Paul de Greeff, Nicole Christiansen, Illustration by Holly Sullivan

Green Gardening - Supporting Biodiversity and Conserving Water

More tips to make your green thumb a little greener!

There are so many conscious choices you can make in your garden to have a positive impact that we've made multiple Tool Kit posts on the subject of eco-friendly gardening! In this one we focus on how you can support pollinators, water efficiently, and embrace our local conditions for less net impact.

How does conserving water and supporting biodiversity benefit salmon?

Conserving water in the garden keeps more water in streams, which is particularly important during late summer and fall when Pacific salmon are returning to their natal rivers to spawn.

Land and water are connected. Diverse native plants and critters are what Pacific salmon have evolved with and rely on. Supporting biodiversity in your garden keeps that connection.

Here are some suggestions:

Opt for Native Plants

Choosing plants that are native to your region can help reduce your need for fertilizers, pesticides, and watering. Native plants are adapted for our climate and soil, and therefore require less input of nutrients and are suited for our wet winters and dry summers. They also support our local biodiversity by ensuring critters, including native birds and insect pollinators, have access to the plants they have evolved with and depend on.

When planning where and what native species to plant in your garden, consider the light and water conditions of the spot and select accordingly for the best chance for successful establishment and long-term low maintenance. Experts at nurseries can help you identify the perfect plant and how to care for it as it becomes established. Our Planting a Native Garden Tool Kit has a map of nurseries that specialize in native species.

Water Efficiently

When it comes to watering your garden, it is important to be mindful of water usage, while maintaining plant health. Here are some ways to improve the efficiency of your watering routine.

  • Water the roots, not the leaves. Drip irrigation systems can help you deliver the water exactly where you want it to go, and in the right amount in comparison to a traditional sprinkler system. Not only does this provide hydration efficiently, but by not soaking the entire plant, it causes less disease. A slow release of water also allows the soil to soak up water better, preventing runoff from the soil surface.

Check you this video from the Capital Regional District on how to install different irrigation systems:

Go for Summer Gold!

If you have a lawn, let it go gold in the summer! In our climate of warm dry summers, maintaining a green summer lawn requires a huge input of water, just when we should be adhering to watering restrictions. With climate change and increasing demands on our water supply - it is ever more important to conserve. Letting your lawn dry out is a great way to cut back on water usage.

Did you know that grass naturally hibernates during the summer? There is no harm in letting your lawn turn golden for the summer months, you are working with the natural cycle of your lawn, and you will see it bounce back with the fall rains! So, let your grass have a rest over the summer and save water and you'll also save your self mowing in the summer heat! Check out this info sheet from the Capital Regional District for more Water Wise Lawn Care.

Support Pollinators with a Meadow Lawn

You may have heard of the slogan 'No-Mow May', but this pledge to stop mowing your lawn for the summer is an oversimplified solution and may cause more harm than good, as this article from Rewilding explains. In BC, non-native plant species are abundant, and the chances are that if you leave your lawn to grow over a few weeks, all that will come up will be non-native weedy species like dandelions and white clover. While you may notice that some bees do visit these flowers, they are not the best food sources for native pollinators. Did you know that dandelion pollen is actually a protein deficient food source, and can lead colonies of bees to feed on their own eggs to supplement their diets? Native flower pollen, on the other hand, offers balanced nutrients to sustain native pollinators, since the plants and pollinators would have evolved in the local ecosystem together. While the No-Mow May movement encourages the notion that messy lawns, rather than curated golf greens, are beautiful, we need to take this a step further to ensure that we are supporting our native pollinators. Rather, consider converting your lawn to a meadow!

Instead of a stark golf course lawn, why not use the space to support pollinators, fix nitrogen, manage runoff, and maintain diversity? West Coast Seeds offers different seed blends that you can try as a lawn alternative, including clovers, tall fescue, and even beautiful wildflowers. Watch your lawn space come alive with colour, texture and native bees and butterflies! Check out our Native Plants Tool Kit to learn more, and visit Satinflower Nurseries for more info about meadow-making.

Bonus Fun Tip!

Solar lights

Your green garden can be bright and event-worthy, without adding to your energy bill! There are lots of options for solar powered lights to brighten up your patio space in the evening.

Photo credits: Mina-Marie Michell on Pexels; .Daniel Johnson on Pexels; Devolk on Pixabay.

Green Gardening - Managing Pests and Soil

If we treat our gardens as a natural, functioning system, we can avoid the use of harmful chemicals and still have healthy, thriving plants. Here are some tips on how to make your green thumb greener!

In this Tool Kit we offer suggestions that will help you avoid unnecessary pesticides and fertilizers, along with natural ways to maintain healthy soils.

How does managing garden pests and soil naturally benefit salmon?

Pesticides are often made up of toxic chemicals that can make their way to aquatic environments and directly affect the health of salmon. Avoiding them makes streams and salmon healthier.

Pesticides can indiscriminately kill insects that are not harmful garden pests but are an important part of the ecosystem and a vital food source for salmon.

Maintaining healthy soils without the use of excessive fertilizers helps keep waterways clean and healthy for salmon. Fertilizers contribute to eutrophication and algal blooms which can rob the water of oxygen and lead to fish kills.

Natural Pest Management

Insects are part of a healthy ecosystem – but in our gardens, we would prefer that some insects don’t snack on the broccoli and kale that we have grown for our dinner!

Integrated Pest Management is a holistic approach to pest management that focuses on pest prevention and treating the garden as a system. Remember that insects are a part of this system, so some level of pest damage should be acceptable. Crop rotation is an important principle of pest management, as it helps prevent pests from building up in the soil. Monitoring for pests is crucial. Notice where and how the pest is attacking the plant early on, then correctly identify the culprit. This will help pair the most appropriate treatment for the pest. For example, if you have a group of aphids on the leaves of a plant, a simple spray of the hose can wash them away. Biological controls are a good option before turning to chemical treatments. Biological control can involve the introduction of other insects or even animals! Chickens, for instance, can make quick work of a soil bed with wire worm. You can also include specific plants in your garden to attract beneficial insects. More on this below!

Companion Planting for Pest Control

Include plants that encourage helpful critters like lady bugs. Beneficial insects can be predatory – like green lacewings, ladybugs and hover flies, parasitoid – like certain kinds of wasps, or pollinating – like bees! And don’t forget spiders! Arachnids are especially helpful to have around in the summer time to keep your garden party mosquito-free!

There are many plants that can help attract these critters to your garden community. Nasturtiums, for example, are easy to grow, and produce brightly coloured edible flowers that attract pollinators. If you are having an issue with aphids, beetles or weevils in your veggie garden, consider planting nasturtiums as a companion plant – they attract those pest insects, distracting them and saving your precious kale and broccoli! Other plants that attract beneficial insects include: clover, chamomile, and sunflowers. Read more about supporting and attracting beneficial insects in your garden in this publication from Oregon State University, and check out West Coast Seeds’ Guide to Companion Planting.

Allelopathy is the phenomenon where naturally occurring chemicals in one plant prevent the growth of other particular plants nearby, and/or deter certain insects from coming near it. By planting potent herbs like catmint, chives or dill nearby your garden plots, you can deter many insect pests from coming anywhere near your crops! Borage specifically repels cabbageworm and tomato hornworm, so plant these brilliant purple flowers near your tomatoes and brassicas (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc.) to add a natural layer of protection from these pests – not to mention, the bees will love it!

Opt for Natural Pesticides

Pesticides can be incredibly harmful. They can harm beneficial insects or wash off your property and impact insect life in streams which is a critical food source for salmon and other aquatic species. You can try these alternative solutions for managing common garden pests:

Be sure to apply this concoction in the evening, rather than during the day so your soap spray does not evaporate in the sun. Applying the spray in the evening also helps to avoid impacting beneficial insects like pollinators, since they will be less active in the evening. Soap sprays effectively suffocate insect pests, working by coating their bodies, blocking the pores through which they breathe.

Visit this article by TreeHugger.com for more ideas of natural concoctions you can make at home to help deter unwanted insects in your garden. Plus, steer clear of chemical pesticides! Check out our Pesticides to Avoid Tool Kit article to learn more about which chemical pesticides should be avoided at all costs due to their impacts on salmon and other aquatic life.

Keeping out Larger Pests

Sometimes the pests are bigger and require other strategies for protection.

You can make your garden deer proof by surrounding individual shrubs and young trees with deer fencing, or install an angled (45 degrees) fence at least 6 feet high around your entire garden to keep deer out. A simple, inexpensive option is to string up deer netting around your yard, making sure to add flagging on the netting to prevent deer from walking into the nets and becoming entangled. Check out this article from the BC SPCA to learn more about fencing options to keep deer out of your garden. You can also choose garden plants with strong scents or fuzzy or prickly foliage that are naturally not as tasty to deer!

Fencing can also be effective for rabbits and rodents if the mesh is small enough. Another option is a deterrent spray to keep them off of the tender shoots in your garden.  You can use cayenne pepper spray on the plants rabbit seem to enjoy most to help keep them away. Thankfully, this method also works at preventing deer from munching on your plants as well.

Deterrent cayenne Pepper Spray: Mix 2 tsps of cayenne powder or other hot pepper and combine that with 6-8oz of water. You can also add garlic powder in there for added benefit. Spray this around your garden on the plants you want to keep rabbits away from.

Check out this article from Seeds and Grains for more clever tricks to deter rabbits, including setting up motion activated sprinklers to spook them out of your garden.

Optimize Soil Health, the Natural Way

Use Crop Rotation to Manage Pests and Balance Soil Nutrients

Crop rotation, or the practice of changing the plant family growing in your garden plot each season, is a natural method to reduce issues with pests and balance the nutrient budget of your soil. Many veggie garden plants come from a few ‘families’ (e.g. closely related) and share common characteristics like rooting depth, soil pH preference, nutrient requirements, and specific pest and disease susceptibility. When a given family is planted in the same plot year after year, it depletes the soil of the nutrients it needs, leading to an imbalance in soil nutrients that would need to be remedied by the application of fertilizers. Switching up plant families allows the soil to recover and stay balanced in its nutrient composition. Some of the most common plant families in gardening and agriculture can be found in the pictures below.

Common veggie garden families:

One common plant family is the Brassicas – or 'the cabbage family', which includes kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower and cabbage. This family is a heavy feeder (requires lots of nutrients) and susceptible to cabbage root maggot, so after planting a bed of Brassicas one year, rotate to Legumes, which are not susceptible to the pest and have a symbiotic bacteria that fixes nitrogen around the roots to replenish the soil, then plant Alliums (onions and garlic) and Solunums (peppers, tomatoes) in that plot, then Umbellifers (carrots, parsley) and squash the next year. This is just one example of a four year crop rotation, but there are many other families to play around with to suit the size of your garden and tastes. The important factor is to make sure the same family of plants does not occupy the same space more than once every three or four years. Learn more about how to plan your garden with crop rotation in the Old Farmer’s Almanac Guide to Crop Rotation. To learn more about the different plant families and organic gardening, check out this book: Backyard Bounty: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest by Linda Gilkeson.

Protect Your Soil All Seasons

Looking after your soil will help you reduce the need for fertilizers and help your plants reach their full potential.

Use Cover Crops in the Off-Season

Don’t forget to plant a cover crop to protect your soil over the winter time! Cover crops are plants that are grown in the off seasons of agricultural crops, and are often hardy plants throughout the winter.

Try out red clover or fall rhye in your garden! Many cover crops like fava beans (a legume) and hairy vetch have the added benefit of fixing nitrogen into the soil, so come spring, you can turn that cover crop into the soil and plant your seeds directly in the nourished soil. Not only do cover crops prevent weeds from taking over your garden box in the absence of crops over winter, they are a key element in maintaining soil health over time. Cover crops can also attract pollinators and provide excellent habitat for beneficial insects like ground beetles.


Another option to protect your soil over winter is to cover it with mulch. Mulch adds good organic material without much hassle. You can even use your plants as mulch! Once they are done for the season, pull them out of the soil and leave them on top – this provides nice cover to the soil, but only do so if the plants are not diseased! If there are deciduous trees on your property, consider making use of the leaves that fall from those trees in autumn by either leaving them on top of the grass, or using them as mulch in your garden beds to cover the soil over winter.

The benefits of mulching your garden beds with leaves:

  • protects the soil from the heavy rains throughout the winter
  • provides insect habitat and food source 
  • helps suppress weedy species
  • improves soil fertility by decomposing on site 
  • prevents compaction
  • helps regulate soil temperature (and warmer soil leads to increased microbial activity)
Fertilizers to Use
Avoid runoff of fertilizers

While agricultural crops often benefit from soil nourishment, chemical fertilizers are not ideal, as they are often applied in excess, and can easily leach out of the soil and into nearby waterways. Eutrophication occurs when excess nutrients enter a waterbody – often through runoff of fertilizers – fueling an overgrowth of algae. That algal growth takes over the habitat, then when it completes its life cycle, the dead algae decomposes within that water body – a process which uses up oxygen in the water, making the environment inhospitable for fish and other aquatic life. Don’t contribute to eutrophication in your community, be smart about fertilizer application!

Bonus Fun Tip!

Saving Seeds

Did you have an excellent crop of tomatoes this year? Consider saving the seeds to grow the same variety next year. Seed saving is an age old process. It helps us be more self sufficient and develop seed sovereignty where we are less reliant on commercial seeds. Not to mentioned, saving seeds from your garden can help with maintenance of diversity.

When choosing your plants, consider buying heirloom and open-pollinated varieties. Buy your starts or seeds from local farmers and nurseries that carry varieties that are open-pollinated and adapted to your local environment. Some of the larger commercial seed producers only offer patented seeds where you must repurchase them each year. Many communities have Seedy Saturday events where you can purchase local, open-pollinated varieties. Find an event in your area, and stop by to start your seed saving practice today!

Not sure where to start? Many organizations like the Organic Seed Alliance have made seed saving guides like this one freely available and ready for download.

Photo Credits: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash; Eiko Jones; Erik Kartis on Pexels; Maylee on Unsplash; Flash Dantz on Unsplash; Trung Thanh on Unsplash; Sam Forson on Pexels; Greta Hoffman on Pexels; Arnaldo Aldana on Unsplash; Mick Haupt on Unsplash; Marina Yalanska on Unsplash; Steffi Pereira on Unsplash; Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash., Eco Warrior Princess on Unsplash.

Planting a Native Garden

Beautiful native gardens enrich your surroundings while supporting local biodiversity - including pollinators and bird species.

Native plants are adapted to our local soils and climate conditions. If native species are planted in the right spots, they will be very low maintenance and require less water and fertilizers.

How does having a garden of native plants help salmon?

Keeping native plants in your garden supports the broader ecosystem including salmon, birds, insects, and terrestrial animals which have all evolved together and are dependent on each other.

Native plants are adapted to local soils and climatic conditions and therefore require less resources such as water and fertilizers which keeps streams healthy for salmon.

So, if you are thinking about starting a native garden, let’s jump in to learn more about the benefits of native plants, and how you can include native species on your property!

The Many Benefits of Native Species

There are a number of benefits to having native species in your garden. Generally:

Getting Started

Before planting native species in your garden, you may want to take an inventory of the species that are already there. You may find that you already have some native species that you would like to conserve, or you may have some exotic plants or even invasives that would be beneficial to remove so that your native garden can flourish.

Removing invasive species 

Species with invasive tendencies can out-compete native species that are more beneficial to local organisms, deplete soils of nutrients, and can reduce the biodiversity of the ecosystem overall.

Step 1: Identify

It important to correctly identify the species first so that we can choose the most appropriate method for removal. There are a number of resources you can access to help you name that plant:

Here are some common invasive species you may find in your garden:

You might be surprised to know that even some of the most common garden flowers are not native, and have invasive tendencies. Butterfly bush, for instance, is not an ideal garden flower since it produces a large amount of seeds, which helps it spread to open areas like roadsides and forest edges.

Instead, opt for California lilac (pictured on the left) or a Red-flowering currant. Not only are these species beautiful and fragrant, they are also suited to local conditions and will attract native pollinators. Fortunately, there are many native plants that serve the same function (e.g. attracting pollinators, stabilizing slopes) and have a similar aesthetic as common exotic species. Check out this Grow Me Instead resource the BC Invasive Species Council to find alternatives to common invasive plants, tailored to BC gardens!

Even if a particular non-native plant is not actively taking over your garden, they can outcompete native varieties and cause havoc in systems outside of your property. Yellow flag Iris, for one, has become an extremely problematic species in the estuaries of BC. These brilliant yellow flowers were originally brought over from Europe and western Asia as a beautiful garden variety. However, their resilient seed pods have been carried down streams and into our estuaries where they have made a stamp in the marsh ecosystems. It is important to consider the impacts of the plants we choose in our garden, because often those impacts are much further-reaching than we would expect.

Step 2: Remove

Removing invasive species is hard work, but by doing so you are helping reduce the spread, and offering a sanctuary where diverse native plants can grow.

Plant Lists and Guides

Now, for the fun stuff! Selecting suitable species and planning your beautiful garden!

Be(e) Pollinator Friendly

Tips for building your native plant garden with pollinators, such as beautiful native swallowtail butterflies, bees and even birds in mind:

  • In terms of flowering plants, select a variety of colours, shapes and types of flowers to attract a broad range of pollinators.
  • To help support native pollinators, and reduce your water consumption, opt for a lawn that is made up of native meadow species. A meadow lawn is beautiful, and turns golf green lawns into species rich habitats. Not to mention, by using native species, you will eliminate the need for inputs like fertilizers, herbicides and excess irrigation. Contact Satinflower Nurseries today for a consultation about meadowscaping your yard.

Some Native Shrubs and Trees to Consider for your garden

Big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)

This deciduous tree has so much to offer! Nesting habitat, shade, plus it supports the growth of other smaller species upon it (these are called epiphytes) such as club moss (Selaginella oregano), and lichens (Cladonia, Nephroma, and Crocynia spp.). Not to mention, when the leaves fall in the autumn, you can use them as mulch in your garden beds.

Arbutus or Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)

If you are looking to have lovely green foliage all year, Arbutus in the only native broad leaf evergreen tree in Canada! It thrives in dry coastal areas around the Strait of Georgia.

Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttalii)

Known for their spring show of flowers (which are actually modified leaves), Dogwood is the floral emblem of BC and a protected species. The trees are wonderful showy garden additions.

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

Salal makes a great riparian buffer. It loves growing near the coast, is salt-tolerant, and provides berries that are a historically important staple food in the diet of many Coastal First Nations. Other native berries you could consider adding to your garden are huckleberry, Oregon grape and salmon berry.

Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)

Everyone loves roses, why not grow our beautiful wild roses!

Native ferns

Ferns, which are typically under story plants, make excellent additions to the shady parts of a garden. Native species, such as the pictured Deer fern (Blechnum spicant) or Sword fern (Ploystichum munitum) are green all year.

Hardhack/ steeplebush / rose spirea (Spiraea douglasii)

Perfect for your native plant rain garden, as it loves swamps and moist soils! Its beautiful pink/purple clustered blossoms will bring a nice fragrance to your yard in the spring.

Broad-leaved stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium)

Need a hardy little ground cover for a sunny rocky spot? Try a native succulent such as the Broad-leaved stonecrop which produces stocks of yellow flowers in early summer and their leaves form cute fleshy rosettes.

Okay, I’ve chosen my native plant species! Now, where do I buy them?

There are many places to learn about planting a native garden, including nurseries that specialize in supplying plants that are native to BC. Native plants are often available at other nurseries, but native plant nurseries will have a focus on providing not only native species, but plants that were grown locally.

Click on the map to be linked to an interactive version to find a local plant nursery that specializes in natives species. Visit these nurseries to source your plants. Do not harvest native plants from parks or other areas so as not to disturb natural areas. Do you own a local native plant nursery business? Get in touch so we can add you to this map! Email ksheehan@psf.ca with your business info.

Why stop at native plants?

There are lots of things you can do to make your garden greener! Consider adding a rain garden to your yard, creating your own compost, and learn about what pesticides are particularly harmful. Also check out our Green Gardening Tool Kit article for other ways to support biodiverity and conserve water.

Photo credit: Maria Catanzaro, Nicole Christiansen, Ando Shev on Unsplash, Madison Inouye on Pexels, Lum3n on Pexels, Kyla Sheehan, Crystal Jo on Unsplash, Noah Boyer on Unsplash

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.

How does avoiding certain pesticides benefit salmon?

Pesticides are often made up of toxic chemicals that can make their way to aquatic environments and directly affect the health of salmon.

Pesticides indiscriminately kill insects that are not harmful garden pests but are an important part of the ecosystem and a vital food source for salmon.

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.

How does a rain garden benefit salmon?

A rain garden treats runoff from around your property to reduce the amount of pollutants that enter streams and coastal areas, keeping these habitats healthy for salmon.

Rain gardens encourage what would otherwise be runoff to soak in and replenish groundwater. This helps prevent erosion during wet times and helps maintain stream baseflows during dry times to help migrating salmon.

How rain gardens work

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.

Also check out the Rain Gardens for Headwaters: Online Design Symposium hosted by Kyle Armstrong with Peninsula Streams & Shorelines. Kyle is joined by speakers Deborah Jones, Cougar Creek Streamkeepers, Kristen Miskelly, Satinflower Nurseries, Brianne Tenk, Stormwater Management Specialist, City of Victoria, and Scott Murdoch, Landscape Architect, Murdoch De Greeff Inc. You will learn about lessons learned and “do’s and don’ts” from constructing rain garden designs, the importance and benefits of utilizing native plants in rain gardens, green stormwater infrastructure, and much more!

As mentioned in the talk by Brianne Tenk, The City of Victoria has an incentive program for managing rainwater sustainably, such as receiving credits and rebates for incorporating pervious pavers, rain barrels and rain gardens on your properties! To learn more about the City of Victoria’s Rainwater Rewards Program for rainwater harvesting and management, see here!

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


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 does composting benefit salmon?

Composting prevents food and garden waste breaking down into methane, which is a potent green house gas, thereby reducing your carbon footprint and subsequently climate change pressures that salmon face.

Incorporating compost in your garden promotes healthy rich soil that holds on to moisture better and reduces the need for fertilizers, reducing the impact of your garden on nearby aquatic environments.

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

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