Warm, sunny, summer weather has most of us spending more time than ever outdoors in our yards and gardens.
But it’s important to remember that what we do at home can directly impact the natural environment around us.
The good news is that some simple steps can help save water, prevent pollution and help native plants and animals thrive.
And even more good news: these steps can help save time and money too! Here are a few ideas to help you make your yard or garden an environmentally friendly space for kids, pets, wildlife and local waterways this summer:
1. Use water wisely
During summer, water demand almost doubles, primarily from non-essential uses like outdoor watering. As climate change brings longer spells without water, like we’ve seen this year, the winter water that replenishes the reservoir for use over the entire year will need to last longer. Using water wisely will help ensure enough water is available year-round for essentials like drinking water, fire protection and fish and ecosystem support.
- ’Cycle and soak’ when watering your flower or vegetable garden – water in short cycles with a break in-between to allow water to soak into the soil.
- Mulch around plants to keep moisture in the soil, helping reduce evaporation, keep soil cool, reduce weeds and add nutrients. Leave leaf clippings on your lawn as mulch.
- Deep, infrequent watering encourages strong root systems and healthier plants. Skip watering after heavy rain.
- Only water things that need it — avoid accidentally watering driveways and sidewalks.
2. Gold is the new green
Let your lawn go golden. Lawns naturally go dormant in the summer and will return to green with fall rains. If you do choose to water, green lawns only need an inch – or 2.5 cm – of water per week in the driest conditions. Longer, infrequent watering and following the ‘cycle and soak’ method (above), will help lawns develop healthier roots and reduce the beneficial nutrients washed away.
3. Plant native species
Planting native species is a great way to help animals, birds and pollinators thrive, while also reducing invasive species. Once established in the right location, native plants also need less water as they’re already adapted to our environment, and can help save time and money through reduced maintenance.
4. Stop the spread of harmful invasive species
Beyond adding native plants, it’s important to reduce invasive species, which can out-compete native species for available resources like water and nutrients. In fact, after habitat loss, invasive species are considered the second-greatest threat to global biological diversity. Learn more about local invasive species – including how you can identify and safely dispose of them – here.
5. Prevent pollution
What we do at home can impact the health of creeks, rivers and the ocean. Runoff from sidewalks and roofs, for example, can wash chemicals, metals, dirt and oils into waterways via our stormwater system. Instead of power washing, sweep sidewalks and driveways. If you do power wash, sweep the surface first and use absorbents on oil spots, avoid cleaning compounds whenever possible. Identify the nearest storm drain, and prevent surface runoff from entering.
Remember that all paints, solvents and adhesives contain chemicals harmful to aquatic life and must never enter storm drains. The same is true for pesticides and fertilizers and pool or spa chemicals. To limit water entering storm drains, direct water from downspouts into a properly designed rain barrel or rain garden, or replace impervious surfaces with grass, gravel or other permeable options.
No matter how big your yard or balcony is, living green this summer can help support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems across our region. Learn more at www.crd.bc.ca/livegreen.