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Gardening for the Good

trilliums smallerBy Sarah Herr — The cold and wild weather this past week makes the thought of Spring especially welcoming.

For many, the joy of Spring is planning and planting a garden. Who doesn’t love seeing those bright and beautiful blooms emerge from the soil, and the whites and greys of Winter replaced with vibrant shades of green? We all want our yard spaces to look nice, but gardening can be about more than simple aesthetics. What if we started gardening to help the environment? Here are a few ideas on how to get started on making your garden a little “greener”.

Avoid Invasive Species. Most of us love less maintenance in the garden, but planting invasive species can threaten biodiversity. Check out this great list called, “Grow Me Instead” for Southern Ontario gardeners:

It offers beautiful native plant species suggestions in lieu of invasive plant species, such as replacing the invasive Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) with Starry Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum stellatum), or replacing invasive Daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) with Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida).

Plant native species. Native plant species have adapted to grow well in their native environment. Instead of fighting to keep alive a flower or tree rated Zone 8 (mild winters, long growing season), why not consult your local garden centre for native species options. It can mean less maintenance, less watering and provide more food and shelter for a more diverse group of pollinators, birds, and small animals.

Leave those trees or plant more trees. It may be tempting to cut down trees for a better view of Lake Simcoe or for more sunlight, but those trees are doing us a great service by growing near our homes and shorelines. Trees can help to prevent erosion, they help filter water, provide natural cooling to our homes that can save energy and so much more. Some native trees like Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Basswood (Tilia americana) or Red Maple (Acer rubrum) can attract pollinators to your garden. Unless it is posing a danger, leave those trees or better yet, plant more!

Reconsider pesticide/herbicide and fertilizer use. Our intentions to get rid of pesky insects and diseases and the desire for the greenest lawn on the block may be good, but the consequences for Lake Simcoe, our local watersheds, pollinators, and other plant and animal species can be devastating. Start a small yard composter that will build healthy soils. Encourage dragonflies, bats, and other pest-eaters by putting in plants with blooms that attract them, or by adding shelters for them, such as a bat house or bee hotel.

Harvest the rain. Try planting a rain garden or start harvesting rainwater by collecting it in a rain barrel. Why? Clean, free water for your gardens is actually better for your plants than treated municipal water. Also, by using the rainwater that falls on your house, you reduce the amount of water that flows onto the streets, into the drains, and ultimately ends up polluting our beautiful Lake Simcoe. Living Green Barrie is hosting its second annual rain barrel/composter fundraiser starting at the end of March that offers delivery of repurposed food-grade barrels, so no new plastic is created.

This may seem like a daunting list. Start with one or two of these suggestions. When we garden, we alter the natural environment. You can make choices that alter it for the good of the environment.

Blog and photo by Sarah Herr, Living Green Barrie Project Assistant, B.A. in Geography, University of Guelph, Ontario Master Naturalist, Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.

Living Green Barrie’s mission is to guide citizens, businesses and local leaders toward actions that foster sustainability and resilience in our community. Let’s get gardening for more than just the outdoor decor. Let’s garden for the good of our local watersheds, the pollinators, the wildlife, and the good of the planet.

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Early signs of Spring all around us
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