How to - Gardening Basics

Eco-friendly gardening on a brand new lot

Helen Racanelli

Tend your yard in an environmentally sensitive way with tips from an Okotoks, Alberta gardener

Dig holes the right depth
Trees are an eco-friendly addition to any new lot, offering shade and incomparable beauty. But they need to be carefully planted to give them a healthy start. “I would ensure any areas that would be for shrubs or perennials would be deep enough to support their growth,” says Unger. “Usually 600 millimetres is enough.” (However, she also warns against over-excavating holes for shrubs and perennial beds, as this will create a water-logged clay “dish” underneath.) “When planting trees always ensure that the diameter of the hole is at least twice as large as the rootball going in,” she adds.

Conserve water
Realistically, in a new yard you won’t be able to eliminate water usage unless you have a particularly rainy growing season, but you can intelligently manage how you use water. “Water conservation is of paramount importance here in Okotoks and surrounding areas,” Unger says. A number of measures, which you can easily undertake, too, are in place in various Canadian municipalities to help homeowners do just that. Okotoks encourages the use of drip irrigation, rain barrels, mulch around shrub and tree beds, and choosing drought-tolerant species wherever possible. As a new homeowner, you can implement many of these conservation efforts at a minimal extra cost. Plus, many new homes have water meters, so saving water by buying a rainbarrel at a nominal cost from your municipality, or installing a drip irrigation system means you’ll save money in the long-run.

Deal with animals
Keep in mind animals, such as rabbits and deer, have been nibbling vegetation near your land for longer than you’ve been living there. “If you’re in an area adjacent to a natural area you will always have these challenges, so plant enough of whatever you like the most, knowing that if a pest comes and damages some of it there will still be some left over for you to enjoy,” suggests Unger. “Dealing with urban deer is really difficult because they have become so conditioned to dealing with the human invasion of their territory,” she says. One trick is to place temporary fencing around a tree and remove it once it gets a good start, she says. Community veggie gardens in Okotoks, for instance, have an eight-foot fence around them. “If deer and rabbits are a problem for a vegetable garden, the only way to keep them out is a fence. Not so pretty perhaps, but effective nonetheless,” she says. Some folksy methods Unger has heard of include using human urine and hair to deter animals, using motion sensors that trigger music instead of light, and hanging strips of mirror from cloths. She hasn’t tried them, but for repeat visitors of the four-legged kind, these are relatively gentle, eco-friendly strategies that might be worth a try.

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