The Three Essentials: food, shelter and water. Seed- and berry-producing shrubs feed and shelter birds. Provide a variety of food sources through the seasons by leaving seed heads on plants. A water feature (protected from cats and hawks) will attract many types of birds and animals.
Butterflies Boycott Pesticides.Feeding adults prefer certain plant species, but missing plants for caterpillars often restricts butterfly abundance. Plant poplar and willow, maintain areas of natural meadow, create a mud puddle, and tolerate some chewed leaves. Swallowtail caterpillars eat herbs with umbrella-like flowers including Spring Gold, Lomatiums, & Cow Parsnip. Some butterflies overwinter in the leaf litter that renews the soil. Plant tall sticks in sunny quiet spots for butterflies and dragonflies to rest.
Don’t Feed the Deer. Choose aromatic plants with spiny foliage to control deer browsing. Our region’s very high deer population will eat the following only as a last resort: Salal, Oregon Grape, Sword Fern, Woolly Sunflower, and Kinnikinnick. Deer avoid sheltered pots of bloodmeal, but fencing is a sure solution.
Let it Rot for Wildlife. Keep some dead tree trunks and dead branches on living trees for woodpeckers, allow logs to rot in place for salamanders, and build a brush pile for squirrels. Rock piles, patches of long grass, and leaf litter are good habitat elements too. Downed wood holds valuable summer moisture and becomes organic soil that lets groundcovers thrive.
Mulch from Leaves is the Best Soil Protection and fertilizer for native plants. Make a large wire leaf bin in the fall and then spread composted leaves around plants in the spring. Keep the pile moist and sprinkle with lime to speed composting. Fir cone mulch discourages digging cats, wood chips protect soil from compaction, and conifer needles make excellent pathway mulch. Fallen leaves and twigs are what fungi convert to soil; let nutrients recycle back to the plants that made them. Avoid peat moss: It is mined from bogs.
Lawns Consume the Most Effort, chemicals, and water of any landscape treatment. Reduce lawn area and top dress remaining turf with sifted compost in the early spring to promote healthy, spongy, drought tolerant soil. Compacted soil favours weeds and prevents water infiltration. Never drive vehicles on lawns or gardens during wet months.
Easily Convert Lawns to garden beds by covering grass with 3 layers of re-used cardboard under 10 cm (4 in) of mulch (leaf mould, wood chip, bark bits, etc.). Raid the cardboard bin of a local appliance/bicycle retailer and cover up your weed patches too. Plant right through the cardboard in late winter to maximize drought hardiness of new plants. Never use unbiodegradable black plastic cloth as a weed barrier.
Wildflower Meadows can be Mowed only after Seed Set - (July) to encourage blooms. Light mulching in late winter can help lily species (camas, onions, etc). compete with introduced grasses. Control weeds during the summer drought for maximum effect. Avoid weeding from Jan to July in Camas meadows.
Get Nursery-grown Stock - plants in the wild already have a job. Container-grown plants transplant well and grow faster. Your naturescape project will support the growing interest among residents and nurseries alike. Ask for plants sourced from Vancouver Island seed to ensure vigour and adaptability.
The Saanich Native Plant Salvage Program is a way for gardeners to rescue native plants from development sites. Lilies and ferns are easy to recover through authorized salvage opportunities.
When planting shrubs, make the hole larger than the root ball but keep the same depth as in the pot. To promote healthy growth, cut any roots that wrap around the root ball, and do not add soil amendments. Compact the soil around roots and mulch heavily without covering plant stems.
Fish and Frogs will Thank You - for cleaning up pet waste and preventing chemical fertilizer runoff from entering freshwater streams and wetlands. Green scum on ponds in summer is a sign of nutrient pollution. Shade ponds with trees to keep water cool and oxygen rich. Native shrub buffers protect stream banks and water quality while providing fish with insect food.
Kids Dig Gardens! Naturescapes are fun places for children to learn through play and observation. Children enjoy edible berries and fragrant flowers, hiding spots in thickets, high perches, forts, catwalks, and tunnels. Share with them the wonders of spider webs and birds eggs. Nature is the best teacher; foster childrens’ curiosity through experiences that enrich their lives with meaning.