Lawns and Gardens
To take advantage of your yard as an effective greenspace, it’s a good idea to take some time and prepare a strategy before committing to anything long-term. Use the Grow Green Guide to decide which plants you want to grow and where. The guide takes important information like shading prevalence, space availability, and personal preferences into account to provide a recommended plan tailored to your needs.
For those who choose to grow a lawn in their front or back yard, remember that conventional lawns are very demanding of water, energy, and time; all for a largely aesthetic purpose. Consider planting a low maintenance lawn instead. They provide the open greenspace needed for recreational activities without the high costs.
If you decide that growing plants is a better use of your yard space, then Great Plant Picks is a good resource to help you decide what you should be planting. Remember that invasive plant species are very damaging to the Lower Mainland’s natural ecosystems, and though they may seem contained on your property, they are often able to escape and proliferate under natural conditions. Because invasive species present such a significant risk to the natural and built environments of Maple Ridge, we encourage you to plant species native to the Lower Mainland, in order to prevent an outbreak.
Native plants are an essential part of our natural ecosystems. They convert solar energy into food, retain water, and provide shelter to small animals. Native plant populations are maintained by climatic, insect, and animal controls, so they rarely grow to the point where they damage the ecosystem’s health. To learn more about growing native species that support and promote environmental health, check out the Native Plant Society of BC website or the Plantwise 'Grow Me Instead' guide from the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia.
Outdoor water use on lawns and gardens is one of the major reasons why water consumption increases dramatically in the summer months. Unfortunately, this increased water usage coincides with warmer temperatures and drier summer conditions, making the region highly prone to drought. This trend is only expected to get worse in the coming years as the climate warms. Though Metro Vancouver’s fresh water is supplied by yearly alpine snowmelt, it is important to conserve where possible, so as to prevent droughts from worsening as the summer progresses.
Reducing the amount of water we use on our lawns and gardens goes a long way towards maintaining the levels of our freshwater reservoirs. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website offers tips to save water for a variety of backyard greenspace designs. Likewise, Metro Vancouver offers a Waterwise lawn care schedule that provides actions you can take throughout the year to grow a healthy, beautiful lawn, without wasting water.
Just as a lack of water can be damaging to human and natural systems, so too can an overabundance of water cause harm. Particularly as greenhouse gases cause our climate to change, the Metro Vancouver region receives heavy amounts of rain throughout the spring, fall, and winter months of the year. A major effect of this rainfall is the increased risk of flooding in urban environments. During a rainstorm, paved surfaces like concrete and asphalt are impervious to the falling water, causing it to run off and accumulate in other places. This rainwater runoff often gathers sediment and contaminants from the hardscapes and transports it. This means that is heavily developed areas with lots of pavement, if stormwater accumulation is not causing flooding, then it is likely polluting nearby waterways.
Like other types of greenspace, and unlike hardscapes, lawns and gardens absorb water and retain it in their soils, decreasing the amount of runoff. This reduces the risk of your home flooding during a rainstorm, and helps prevent pollution of our aquatic ecosystems. To improve the ability of your yard to capture and retain rainwater, consider installing a rain garden, or browse through CMHC’s Collecting Rainwater Guide. You can also watch this video about different ways to capture stormwater on your property.
‘Pollinators’ is a term used to describe a group of animals that intentionally or unintentionally transport pollen from one plant to another. This is an important step for plants to sexually reproduce, as the movement of pollen combines genetic material from two plants in separate locations. There are many different types of pollinators, including birds and mammals, but many of the most important are invertebrates. Different species of bees are often the most common example, but many butterflies also act as major pollinators. You can learn more about the different species of pollinators here.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors including habitat destruction, climate change, genetically modified crops (GMOs), and increased pesticide use; many pollinators are now at risk of extinction. This is particularly bad because many of our food crops need pollinators for reproduction. According to some estimates, one out of every three bites of food we take is dependent on pollinators.
Your garden can help play a big role in bringing these species back from the brink. Because different animals are attracted to different types of plants, you can choose to plant species that will support different populations of pollinators. Whether you choose to create a bee-friendly garden, a butterfly garden, or a combination of the two, your pollinators will thank you by bringing a warm, happy buzz to your residential greenspace.