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.

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.

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.

Mulching

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; 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.

Using Green Shores Nature-based Solutions

As a homeowner, you have an opportunity to enroll your site in Green Shores® for Homes and work with qualified professionals (biologists, coastal engineers, and environmental specialists) to develop and apply a nature-based shoreline design on your property.

Green Shores® is a program of the non-profit Stewardship Centre for British Columbia (SCBC) that offers a framework of best practices, training, and technical support to property owners interested in applying nature-based solutions on their property.

Applying nature-based solutions along shoreline properties comes with a number of environmental, social and economic benefits. For example, nature-based solutions, such as beach nourishment and native plantings, improves resiliency to sea level rise and climate change by allowing for dynamically coastal processes adjust to changing levels whilst also providing habitat complexity for the ecosystem. Implementing upland solutions, such as rain gardens or rainwater harvesting, can reduce runoff and contaminated water flowing to the shore, thereby minimizing erosion and harmful toxins entering the environment. Truly a 'win-win', nature-based solutions are also typically lower cost than static engineered shoreline property protection measures such as seawalls and they create a naturally beautiful shoreline for everyone to enjoy.

Learn more about Green Shores and continue reading below to learn how to enroll, and about the benefits and assistance you can receive.

A Green Shores for Homes - certified project site in Parksville, Vancouver Island. The shoreline project included a hybrid design and extensive planting of native vegetation with retention of large woody debris, providing resiliency to erosion, and enhanced aesthetics and access to the shoreline. Photo credit: Kelly Loch

Getting started with Green Shores for Homes

As one Green Shores for Homes homeowner said:

'Becoming involved, reading and learning about the benefits of Green Shores through this project has been enlightening….and fun.  Thank you to the Green Shores team for sharing your knowledge and passion for the program. We look forward to enjoying the garden maturing and evolving with the hope of it being an inspiration for neighbouring waterfront owners. Best of all the birds love it!’Green Shores for Homes Gold Project Homeowner, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Follow the steps below to get started:
  1. Visit the Green Shores website, review the resources available, and explore existing Green Shores Case Studies on completed projects to learn more about how the Green Shores process was applied and see the results. If you have any questions, contact the Stewardship Centre for BC at info@stewardshipcentrebc.ca.

Currently, there is no cost to the homeowner for Green Shores for Homes as grant funding covers the cost of project enrollment, support and verification.  Larger scale projects, for example a park or commercial site, follow a similar process to the above but use the Green Shores for Shoreline Development guide. There are fees associated with enrollment and verification of Green Shores for Shoreline Development projects. Contact the Stewardship Centre for more information.

Why get Green Shores certified?

By enrolling in Green Shores for Homes, homeowners benefit from project assistance, training and verification at no cost. As well, Green Shores projects located on Vancouver Island can potentially use the Expedited Permit Checklist for nature-based projects to expedite provincial permitting in the foreshore. This process provides the homeowner with time and cost savings. By using Green Shores guidance, homeowners are able to design a successful custom nature-based approach that works for the site and their needs.

In addition, once the Green Shores project is certified, the property value might be enhanced, and maintenance costs reduced, making it a valuable investment for homeowners. Green Shores certified sites are also a source of pride to the homeowner, and a great inspiration to neighbouring shoreline owners.  In this way, shoreline owners work together to support the environment and promote nature-based solutions in their communities.

“We are proud recipients of Green Shores certification for keeping the shoreline natural at our new home in Bowser, BC! “ – 2019 Green Shores for Homes homeowner, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Photo by the Stewardship Centre for BC.

Additional resources

Green Shores Website

Green Shores Downloadable Guides and Resources

Green Shores Approved Professionals

Green Shores Training

Green Shores Webinars

Saving Electricity

Earth’s resources are important to manage and conserve, and electricity is a resource that should be used wisely.

In British Columbia more than 90% of BC Hydro’s power is generated from hydroelectricity. While it is a clean source of energy with low carbon footprint, hydroelectricity projects affect our watersheds and disrupt river systems that are important salmon habitats. Therefore, it is still important to conserve energy to reduce pressure on the grid, which collectively can help minimize the need for future hydroelectric projects.

The following sections contain energy saving tips that will save you money on your BC Hydro bill and reduce your impact on the environment. You may also want to learn more about green sources of energy for your home, such as solar panels, or switching to renewable natural gas to further reduce your impact.

Learn how much you use

Understanding your personal energy consumption is a great place to start on the path to reducing electricity use. If you are a BC Hydro customer, you can track your electricity consumption down to the hour, by the day or on a monthly or yearly basis. Simply create an account with BC Hydro with the following tool: Track and manage your electricity use online.

Products like the Rainforest EMU-2™ Energy Monitoring Unit could help you track your household’s energy usage, as well as the estimated cost of the energy you are currently using (learn more from BC Hydro by clicking here).

Once you are tracking yourself, you can check your usage against the average BC energy consumption or similar houses in your neighbourhood. You can even compare yourself against your past self and see how implementing some of the tips below are making a difference!

Things you can do

Switch off and unplug:
Upgrade:
  • Upgrade your windows to energy efficient ones. Windows, being less well insulated than walls, are responsible for significant heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. Modern double-glazed windows can reduce heat loss by 30% over single pane glass. The window type and frame can also impact how energy efficient it is.
Simple energy saving tips:

In winter

Click here to find more tips from BC Hydro to keep your home warm in winter.

In summer

  • Close window coverings and blinds during a hot day to reduce the amount of heat coming through the window.
  • Promote natural ventilation to moderate the temperature of your home, open windows on opposite sides of the house to encourage the flow through of cool air in the evenings and mornings.
  • Line dry your laundry whenever possible. Did you know that on average 12% of home electricity consumption is from the clothes dryer? Hanging laundry on a line or rack outside to dry not only saved you electricity, it will extend the life of your clothes and reduce microplastic pollution.
  • Avoid the oven, which will heat up your kitchen and use the BBQ or have a salad for dinner.
  • Use a fan to keep cool rather than air conditioning when possible.

Click here to find more tips from BC Hydro for keeping cool in summer.

All year-round

Click here to find even more tips from BC Hydro on ways to save electricity.

Incentives:

Taking the steps outlined above will help save you money on your electricity bill, and you may be able to save even more money through rebates and incentives. Take advantage of government and BC Hydro rebates programs to take on bigger projects with greater up-front costs, such as improving your home’s insulation or upgrading a major appliance.

If you can reduce your electricity use by 10% over 12 months, BC Hydro will pay you $50. Join BC Hydro’s Team Power Smart Energy Challenge through Team Power Smart.  Simply start by logging in to your online account.

We can all make choices that help to save electricity.  Let’s all work towards this for today's and future generations.

Photo credits: Anete Lusina from Pexels, Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels, Nicole Christiansen, Maria Catanzaro, Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Nature-based Solutions for the Shoreline

Rather than coastal armouring structures such as seawalls and riprap, which degrade over time, disrupt natural shoreline processes, deflect wave energy, and are vulnerable to sea level rise, nature-based solutions can be used to protect our shorelines and the communities along them.

Coastlines are naturally dynamic systems and this can be a good thing for adapting to climate change if we understand and respect the natural processes at play. By working with nature, we can increase our resiliency to the impacts of climate change while also supporting and protecting biodiversity and human well-being.

Compared to traditional hard-armouring (left), nature-based solutions (right) can offer better protection from storm surge and sea level rise while maintaining high value habitat. Illustration by Holly Sullivan.

Here, we share a number of considerations and nature-based strategies for protecting our shorelines and communities.

Protecting the Upland

Protecting healthy and functioning coastal ecosystems starts with attention to the areas above the high tide mark, or the ‘upland’. By managing what happens on the upland, shorelines can be protected from excessive run‑off, contaminants, and erosion that would otherwise contribute to shoreline degradation. Here are a few suggestions:

Retain trees and snags – Avoid clearing of trees and shrubs along the shoreline as these provide important functions, for example as a food source, for shading, and riparian zone stabilization.

Practice eco-friendly gardening – Remove invasive species and encourage native species, and avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Reduce and treat run‑off – Use strategies such as rain gardens, permeable pavers and rainwater capture systems to minimize run-off from your property which can help reduce surface erosion and prevent contaminants from flowing into the aquatic environment.

Protect the riparian zone – A healthy riparian zone is key to the health of the shoreline as it acts as a buffer between the upland and the foreshore. The first step it to protect what is there:  but if the backshore vegetation has been cleared in the past, try to replant it with native species. Below is a table of suitable species for our local coastal riparian zones you can source from a native plant nursery.

TreesShrubsGrass & Wild Flowers
ArbutusNootka rosebeach wild-rye grass
Douglas-firoceansprayred fescue
Sitka sprucered flowering currantentire-leaved gumweed
shore pinesnowberrylarge-leaved lupine
red aldermock-orangeseashore lupine
big-leaf maplesweet galebeach pea
Pacific willowsalalsilvery burweed
cascaraOregon-grapebeach strawberry
Hooker's willowthimbleberrysea-watch
Douglas maplesalmonberrycow-parsnip
Scouler's willowIndian-plumCooley's hedge-nettle
Pacific crab appleblack twinberrycommon yarrow
vine maplekinnickinnickwooly sunflower
western red cedarPacific ninebark
Table adapted from tables included in Your Marine Waterfront (pg 37-39) and Green Shores Credits and Ratings Guide for Homes (pg 130).

Plan for sea level rise

Sea levels are rising – how a given area will be impacted will depend on the region and a number of other factors such as erosion and deposition rates, and geological factors like uplift and plate tectonics. In British Columbia, sea level rise is projected to be greatest on the north coast, the Fraser Lowland and southern Vancouver Island. See this map which shows vulnerability to sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Sea level rise will increase tide levels and how far seawater reaches onto land, influence the duration and frequency of inundation, exacerbate coastal erosion, and even cause the loss of nearshore habitat. Coastal modifications can exacerbate these impacts. To adapt we will need to:

Avoid further development directly on shorelines – Protect and preserve the natural areas we still have. Preserving shorelines in their natural state helps ensure important habitats are available to support biodiverse ecosystems and our coastal food web.

Accommodate for sea level rise – Increase setbacks, move infrastructure back if possible, and build any new structures further back from the shore. There is often a required regulatory setback that is established by local government regulations and this may vary by area. A safe setback distance that accounts for local sea level rise should be calculated based on site conditions by a qualified professional, whom would also ensure regulatory conditions are met.

Remove existing seawalls, riprap or other modifications to the shoreline – These structures, which are built with the intention to protect coastal infrastructure, actually disrupt coastal processes and are not an effective long-term solution for adapting to sea level rise. A shoreline is most resilient when it can function as an intact ecosystem.  

Undertake Restoration and Implement Nature-based Solutions

Successful restoration that improves ecosystem function and protects shoreline infrastructure requires a complete understanding of the dynamics of the area of shoreline you are working on. Enlisting qualified professionals (coastal geomorphologists/engineers, landscape architects, environmental consultants and biologists) is a critical step and will help you confidently design and plan a solution that considers natural coastal processes, shoreline erosion risk, and the dynamics of the ecosystem as a whole. The Stewardship Centre for BC has compiled a list of Green Shores Approved Professionals  that have the skills and experience for such projects.

Depending on the site being restored some nature-based solutions that may be recommended include:

Recontour the beach profile Recontouring can create great habitat benefits and provide shoreline protection. The aim of recontouring is to alter the slope of a beach so that it has a gentle gradient that will naturally dissipate wave energy. The process involves large machinery removing sediment from some areas and adding it to others to create the desired effect. Depending on the dynamics of a site, it may require maintenance over time to preserve the slope profile.

Beach nourishment – Sediment that is lost through erosion and not replenished by natural coastal processes can be replaced through a process called beach nourishment. Coastal modifications, such as groynes, jetties and breakwaters, disrupt longshore drift, which is responsible for maintaining the sand on beaches. Without natural replenishment, beaches that were once sandy or gravelly, may be stripped to cobble stones or bedrock. Having the right types of sediments on beaches is vital for forage fish, which spawn along the high tide line. To ensure the best habitat outcome, consult with a shoreline professional with expertise in coastal processes and forage fish requirements. They may suggest a ‘forage fish’ sediment mix that is specially formulated to suit the needs of species like Pacific sand lance, Pacific herring and surf smelt.

Incorporate large woody debris – Drift wood logs and other large woody debris can be placed along upper beaches and backshore, typically beyond the reach of the waves, to stabilize the shoreline and provide micro‑habitat for vegetation and animals. Depending on where they are placed, the natural untreated logs that are brought in may need to be anchored, either by partial burial or placing between rocks, to ensure they will not float away on the next high tide. Ideally, the logs will include intact roots or branches and be Douglas fir or western red cedar as they are naturally rot resistant. Once in place, the logs can help reduce erosion and accrete additional sediment on which dune grass and other shoreline plants may establish, further stabilizing and building up the beach.

Stabilize the shoreline with vegetation – Planting the riparian zone will stabilize sediment and prevent erosion along the shoreline. Having intact vegetation along the shoreline will also increase biodiversity, support marine food web linkages, and create incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. Besides planting native plant seedlings, there is another common method of revegetation, known as live staking, which involves sustainably harvesting cuttings from specific native species near by (e.g. red alder, snowberry, and Scouler willow) and staking them into the sediment and for them to eventually re-grow and stabilize the bank. Here is a photo from a marine riparian restoration on Thetis Island by SeaChange Marine Conservation Society, led by Dave Polster.

Case Study: Weaverling Spit Restoration Projects

A great example where all of these methods were utilized is the Weaverling Spit Restoration Projects by Samish Nation and Coastal Geologic Services, in Samish Territory, Anacortes, Washington. The project involved multiple phases of restoration along the shoreline including a long-term plan for managed retreat on Tribal Lands to allow for landward habitat migration. Below you will see how the shoreline was re-graded and restored and the benefits that have been achieved.

Prior to the restoration (left) Fidalgo Bay Resort was vulnerable to storm surges and experienced flooding and infrastructure damage. After regrading the shoreline and supplementing sediment (right), the site is more protected.

Weaverling Spit was experiencing erosion and, with lawn extending to the shoreline, there was no habitat connectivity (left) prior to recontouring the beach and planting riparian vegetation (right). The site is now more resilient to storm events and provides valuable habitat again. Large woody debris has naturally recruited and brought with it additional habitat and shoreline stabilization benefits described above. The beach was nourished with a forage fish sediment mix and, incredibly, they found surf smelt spawning the very next day!

Considering a project involving some or all of the above strategies?

Check out these helpful resources for additional information:

Put together for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and adapted by the Stewardship Centre for British Columbia, Your Marine Waterfront Canadian Edition provides ways to promote healthy shorelines while protecting waterfront properties. Included are guidelines for site assessments and design techniques to plan and restore your shoreline and other helpful resources for shoreline property owners.

The Washington State Aquatic Habitat Guidelines Program has created Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines as comprehensive guide of shoreline assessment and management techniques. This guide provides detailed methods for site assessments, implementation of the nature-based solutions outlined above, and considerations and techniques for removal of coastal armouring.

You can take your project a step further and enroll your project with Green Shores  and go through Green Shores® accreditation process. Find out more from the SCBC website (Green Shores for Homes and Green Shores for Shoreline Development) and this Green Shores for Homes Credits and Ratings Guide.

Photo credits: Kelly Loch, Maria Catanzaro, Weaverling Spit Restoration 'before' photos courtesy of Todd Woodard, Samish Nation Natural Resources, after photos by Maria Catanzaro

Greening Your Wardrobe

The key to having an environmentally friendly wardrobe is to buy new products less often – and to refrain from participating in the wasteful fast-fashion industry.

Many of us feel the urge to revamp our wardrobe from time to time, but buying new clothes and getting rid of unwanted items doesn’t have to be wasteful! Most clothing brands negatively impact the environment – from harmful dyes to overuse of water to microplastic pollution. Did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions? This number could increase if the industry carries on its excessive trend in production. Not to mention that many clothing producers are not socially responsible – continuing to operate their factories under unsafe conditions, and underpaying workers in developing countries to cut production costs.

The fast-fashion industry, where clothing items are made cheaply to keep up with trends and be affordable for the average consumer, is a huge problem, and is relatively new. There has been a radical increase in the production of clothing since 2000 – in fact, production has nearly doubled! Although there are many avenues to donate, reuse or recycle clothing items, approximately 85% of all garments produced end up in the landfill. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can help reduce these shocking figures! Learn more about the impacts of the fashion industry in this Business Insider article. Check out these tips for making your spring, summer, fall or even winter cleaning more eco-conscious, and maybe even profitable!

Contribute to the circular economy

Do some good

Donate your used clothing, bedding, kitchen ware, and sports equipment to a thrift store. Most thrift stores raise money for local hospitals, shelters, and other positive causes, so your donations to or purchases from thrift stores will help out a worthy cause.

You can also donate the clothes directly to a shelter or a donation drop off bin around your community.

Not to mention, shopping at thrift stores provides fun opportunities to find unique, affordable items.

Make some extra cash

Have high quality clothing items that you just don’t reach for? Consider consignment!

Consignment stores like Turn About simplify selling quality garments. Through these shops, you can sell your used clothing without the extra steps of taking photos of the garments and managing requests and questions about the items. This is a great option if you have high value items that you need help selling. Through consignment, you can make some extra cash by receiving a portion of the sales of your items, or by having the buyer offer you a price for your items on the spot. Often, these stores are particular about which brands, materials or styles they accept – but make an appointment or stop by and speak with their buyers to find out how each store works.

Use apps/websites to help circulate quality used items within your community! Varage Sale (aptly named because it is like holding a garage sale, virtually) and Facebook Marketplace are great tools to help you sell any items that you no longer need - from furniture to shoes to handmade items! Simply upload photos and add the details of your item(s), set the price, and watch the messages come flooding in!

Online platforms are especially helpful for families. Kids grow out of clothing and shoes so quickly, so opting for second-hand items is a great move to reduce your environmental impact, as well as the impact on your wallet.

Shop thoughtfully

Invest for the long haul

If you need to purchase a new item, make it a thoughtful purchase. Do some research, and maybe save up to invest in key pieces that are well made and will last a long time.

Many tried and true staple brands such as Levi’s are committed to making quality items that last, and on improving their standards of production. In 2021, Levi’s launch their campaign “Buy Better, Wear Longer,” emphasizing their brand messaging that Levi’s denim products are meant to be worn throughout a person’s life, not just for a season.

Support brands doing the right thing

Levi's has also committed to using new innovations to reduce their water consumption during the processesing of their products. Read more about the brand’s commitments to being eco-conscious in this Branding Forum article.

Want to find out about the eco-consciousness of other brands that you love? Try out the Good on You app or website to explore the ethical and environmental ratings of thousands of clothing producers. Plus, get tips on building your wardrobe with staples from the most highly rated brands with the lowest environmental impacts, and read about current issues like how fashion trends are leading consumers to support fast fashion. 

Don’t forget to buy products made from natural materials like cotton, linen, and leather since they are durable and do not contribute to microplastic pollution in your laundry.

Make the most out of what you already have

Another simple way to reduce your contribution to textiles waste is by making your clothing last longer. Do some garments like socks have a hole in them? You can easily stitch it up to get some more life out of that pair.

Larger holes in jeans can be patched up using fun coloured or patterned fabrics. You can stitch by hand, or use one or two simple stitches on a sewing machine. Get creative with your mending – get inspired, and learn some tips and tricks for every kind of hole or tear!

Fast-fashion garments that are typically made with synthetic materials also tend to break down faster, and the cheap production means these pieces tend to fall apart after a few washes – which means more stitching for you! The lives of these garments are short, and their low value means you will be less likely to resell these items. When you invest in well made garments made from natural materials, they are much more likely to last.

Find more tips on Metro Vancouver's Think Thrice page, including how to repair or recycle your tired clothes and advice on investing in quality pieces.

Photo credits: Ksenia Chrnaya from Pexels, Tom Fisk from Pexels, Antoni Shkraba from Pexels, Filipe Vieira on Unsplash, and Reuben Kim 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.

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

Reduce Microplastics Pollution from Your Laundry

Microplastics, defined as plastic particles less than 5 mm in length, are everywhere. Although they are tiny, microplastics are a growing concern as an environmental pollutant, especially in marine ecosystems.

Microplastics can contain harmful chemicals that may leach into the environment and be adsorbed into body tissues. It is not just a problem for a few filter feeding critters, alarmingly, microplastics are making their way through the entire marine food web all the way to our dinner plates!

To our shoreline neighbours like forage fish, killer whales and sea birds, microplastics disrupt feeding and growth patterns by physically filling the stomachs of these animals and reducing the amount of nutrients they absorb. Added chemicals that alter the flexibility, durability or colour of plastics can also impact these animals by building up as toxins in their tissues, a process known as bioaccumulation.

Did you know that a large portion of microplastic pollution comes from laundering our clothes – over 35%, in fact! Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon shed tiny plastic fibers every time they are washed. A single load of laundry can release roughly 700,000 bits of microplastic! These particles are so small that they often escape waste water treatment facilities and end up in our waterways and the ocean.

It is critical that we do our part to prevent microplastics from entering the marine environment, because once they are there, they are impossible to clean up.

Luckily, we can reduce microplastic pollution by making some conscious changes to how we do laundry.

What can you do?
  • Opt for natural fabrics that biodegrade - whether you are buying new or second-hand clothing items, select natural materials such as cotton, linen, wool, silk and rayon. These natural, plant or animal-derived materials will still contribute microfibers to your wash water, but those fibres will biodegrade in the environment. If you have only natural fabrics in your load you can even compost your dryer lint!
  • Avoid synthetic materials - such as nylon, polyester, acrylic and spandex/lycra. These are materials that are commonly used for fitness clothing like leggings, shorts and lightweight jackets. For shedding, the worst offender is fuzzy polyester fleece.
  • Wash sparingly - consider if you can wear your clothes another time before washing. Try to spot clean a spill rather than wash the entire garment. Limiting the frequency of washing will reduce the overall amount of shed fibers (and help your clothes last longer!).
  • Invest in a microfiber filter - such as the one above by PlanetCare or the one on the left by Filtrol for your washing machine to prevent plastics from entering your waste water. These clever little devices make a big impact in helping reduce your household input of microplastics into our coastal waters.
  • Use cold water - for your washes. The warm water settings will break down fabrics faster, compared to cold water washes.
  • Avoid the gentle cycle - and other settings that increase the washing time of laundry loads. Fabrics will break down more the longer they are being tossed around in your washing machine.
  • Choose a front loader - when selecting a washer, , which are gentler and do not cause as much shedding as top loaders.
  • Hang your laundry to dry - when you can to avoid the heat and friction of the dyer, which can also break down fabrics prematurely (also a great way to save electricity). 
  • Use mesh laundry bags - for your synthetic clothing, such as the Guppyfriend bag, to capture microplastics. Remember, when you clean the bag out the fibres should be thrown away with your garbage and not washed down the drain.
  • Try the Cora Ball - as another option to add to your laundry machine. It is an engineered ball that helps reduce the amount of fibres that break off of our clothes as they tumble, and collects any fibres that do into fuzz that clings to the ball.
  • Choose your detergent carefully! It’s tough to make a good choice:

Powdered detergents generate more friction during a wash cycle, and may cause more fibers to break off of fabrics; detergent pods and detergent sheets contain polyvinyl alcohol a type of dissolvable plastic (liquid polymer) that is not easily removed by wastewater treatment plants; liquid detergents are typically packaged in plastic jugs that, if not disposed of properly, can also contribute to the plastic problem; and, some detergents may even have tiny added microplastic beads!

Read more about how to choose a microplastic free detergent in this article from the Ethical Consumer and see how different detergents compare for environmental safety with the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Cleaning Guide.

The best option is to purchase liquid detergent from zero waste stores that sell soaps and detergents in bulk. You can then bring your own container and refill it again and again! Next best is to source environmentally safe liquid detergent in jugs that are made up of recycled content and/or are easily recyclable (check out our Tool Kit on Decoding Eco Labels).

Learn more:

CBC Article: Your laundry and plastic pollution — which fabrics shed the most microplastics

Oceanwise: Microplastics and home laundry

Follow blue land on Instagram for incredible educational content about the impacts of conventional cleaning products, and what we can choose instead.

Photo credits: Washing machine, Engin Akyurt onPexels; Waves, Ivan Bandura on Unsplash; PlanetCare; Filtrol; Cora Ball; Detergent refill, Sarah Chai on Pexels

Salmon Friendly Docks

Shallow coastal habitats are critical for Pacific Salmon, especially when juveniles first migrate to saltwater. They use shallow nearshore areas for refuge and finding food, and during this period, healthy eelgrass meadows and complex habitat are vital.

Under traditional docks and overwater structures, however, it can be dark and barren – eelgrass can not thrive, nor can all the critters that depend on it. The lack of light also impacts salmon behaviour, as they naturally avoid dark areas and end up using deeper waters where they are more exposed to predators and don’t have the food resources they need. To learn more about these impacts, see our post on Salmon and Shoreline Modification you can also learn how to protect eelgrass habitats while you are boating in this post.

Fortunately, with a few considerations, there are ways we can build docks that that minimize their impact to the coastal environment and to Pacific salmon.

The best way to protect the shallow coastal habitat is to avoid building docks in the first place.

If you are thinking about building a personal dock, consider if you can store your boat at a marina or at home on land. Could you share a dock with your neighbours? After all, it is a large endeavour to have a dock built. It requires authorization and there are regulations for building and compensation for habitat damage, especially when vital habitat like eelgrass is present. Along with reducing your footprint, sharing a dock also reduces costs and maintenance!

If you must build a dock, make it salmon friendly. Here’s how:

Keep it non-toxic – Do not use creosoted or chemically treated footings, which are highly toxic! If retrofitting an existing structure, remove any treated pilings.

Allow the light to make it through – rather than using solid decking, use grating that allows light penetration to the water. This is a relatively simple fix that can even be applied to existing docks by swapping out sections of decking.

Reduce the number of pilings – make the dock span more like a bridge, and keep the bottom of the dock’s deck at least half a metre above the high-water mark. This will also allow more light to shine through and reduces the amount of submerged artificial structures in shallow areas.

Be considerate at night – don’t leave your lights on overnight. Lights at night can affect natural circadian rhythms and expose fish to nocturnal predators. 

To learn more about better docks for salmon, check out this post on the subject by Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed.

Photo Credits: Joey Genovese Unsplash, Meritt Thomas Unsplash

Protecting Eelgrass When Boating

There are simple steps boaters can take to minimize harm to vital marine habitats such as eelgrass. By practicing mindful anchoring and mooring, slowing down, reducing wakes and avoiding running motors in shallow coastal areas, we can protect critical eelgrass habitat and all the life it supports.

Healthy eelgrass meadows increase the resilience of nearshore habitats and also build resilience in coastal communities. Not only is eelgrass an important nursery ground and refuge area for Pacific salmon and forage fish, it also buffers wave energy, reduces shorelines erosion, stabilizes sediment, improves water quality, and sequesters carbon.

One of key threats to eelgrass is careless anchoring. When anchoring, boaters typically seek out calm bays – which, are also the prime location for eelgrass.  Anchoring can scour and damage eelgrass resulting in a reduction in density and extent, and fragmented habitat. It also suspends sediment in the water column that can smother eelgrass reducing its ability to thrive.

To avoid this damage:

Anchor Deeper

Eelgrass only grows in shallow areas, therefore, damage to eelgrass can be avoided by simply anchoring in depths beyond 7 meters.

Avoid known eelgrass habitat

On some Gulf Islands you may find signs, such as the one on the left that delineate eelgrass habitat. You can also mark locations on your GPS for eelgrass beds to avoid them in the future. Plan your boating and check out the following map of sensitive nearshore habitat to avoid in the Strait of Georgia. The green shows where eelgrass is and the brown shows where kelp forests are.

Use Environmentally Friendly Moorings (mid-line float)

Traditional moorings, which consist of heavy chains and anchors, drag and scour the seafloor as the tide ebbs and flows. This scouring of the seafloor leaves circular scars where eelgrass has been scraped away as can be seen in the picture on the right of San Francisco Bay (Kelly et al. 2019).

Instead, environmentally-friendly moorings contain a mid-line float that holds a rope above the seafloor, and therefore will not scour or damage eelgrass. Mooring buoys can be repurposed, but it is best to contact professionals for advice (have your local tidal information and boat specifications when you call). Trotac Marine in Victoria, BC sell parts to create an environmentally-friendly mooring – keep in mind you need a strong cement block to attach it to. See the diagram below of a recommended mooring design provided by Trotac Marine for additional considerations. Even if you’re anchoring away from eelgrass habitat, these moorings help reduce drag and suspended sediment in the water column.

Mind Voluntary No-Anchor Zones

Voluntary No- Anchor Zones have been implemented in Jefferson County, Washington State, USA, with the aim to reduce boat traffic and reduce damage to sensitive habitats. They have experienced a 98% compliance rate! And now you can look for these marker buoys in Canada – it is now a collaborative transboundary initiative! The first ones have been placed around an eelgrass restoration site on Bowen Island, with the help and input by local community members and SeaChange Marine Conservation Society.

Learn More About Restoring Eelgrass

Photo credits: Jeff Skinner, (Kelly et al. 2019) Coastal Photography Studio.