May 18th, 2022
A Guide to a Healthy Green Garden

. What are Nematodes? (P41)

Making your lawn, garden and home a healthier place to live will benefit you and your community. Here’s how:

Natural lawn care

Healthy soil is the basis for a healthy lawn and garden. Caring for your lawn naturally can help to reduce the need for artificial inputs (watering, mowing), saving you time and money.

Increase length of grass – The green blade of grass creates food for the whole plant. The more blade surface, the more food production. Optimum length is 2.5 to 3" (~6-8 cm). Short grass blades encourage shallow root systems which are more prone to drying out and insect and disease attack.

Sharpen Mower Blades – A sharp cutting blade encourages a clean cut which is better able to seal out diseases. Never cut more than 1/3 of blade length as this shocks the plant and recuperation is slow.

Use Mulching Blades – Mulching blades chop up grass blades which helps clippings to decompose more quickly. Grass clippings provide food for earthworms and your soil.

Water Early – Apply water early in the morning or early in the evening. This reduces water wasted through evaporation.

Water Deeply – Water deeply (1”/2.5 cm) once a week. This encourages deep root systems which makes the plant better able to withstand drought conditions. Shallow watering encourages shallow roots systems. The roots are closer to the surface and dry out more easily.

Use Organic Fertilizers – Organic fertilizers help to build soil health, encouraging deep healthy root systems for your grass and all your other garden plants as well. Blood meal is a good source of nitrogen (for healthy leaf growth). Bone meal is a good source of phosphorous (for root growth). Potassium helps to build the overall health and strength of the grass and can be found in wood ashes. Fish emulsion is also good for the overall health of the plant.

Top Dress with Compost – A thin layer of compost (or composted manure) spread over the lawn provides a healthy mixture of nutrients. Chemical fertilizers feed the grass but starve the soil. Healthy soil grows healthy grass.

Try New Grass Varieties – Some grass varieties are better when grown in full sun, others are more adapted to shady conditions. Eco-lawn, a new slow-growing grass, rarely needs mowing. Choose the one best suited to your needs and the conditions of your lawn.

Encourage Birds – Birds such as flickers eat white grubs, and chickadees eat many lawn insects. By encouraging them into your garden you encourage chemical free pest control.

Don’t Worry About Weeds – Birds are attracted to areas with a variety of plant material, including lawns. A few broad-leaved plants in your lawn are healthy for the habitat. White dutch clover actually produces its own nitrogen providing a natural and free fertilizer to other plants.

Plant Alternative Groundcovers – Diversity in the lawn encourages healthy activity in the soil. Many groundcovers are attractive and offer things that typical grasses can’t. Thyme grows low and gives off a pleasant aroma when walked on. Wild strawberries provide blooms and berries for the birds. Wild yarrow provides interesting texture to the lawn.

Water conservation

Reducing the need for water in your garden and home reduces the demand for municipally treated water and or rural/water.

Install a Rainbarrel– Rain water is warmer and contains extra nutrients. It is free, and is the ideal pH for your plants.

Use Soaker Hoses – Soaker hoses, put the water directly where it is needed. Most sprinklers use about 1000 litres of water per day, and much of that water ends up on leaves, on the driveway, or sidewalks.

Sprinklers – Oscillating sprinklers lose as much as 50% to evaporation. Sprinklers which spray closer to the ground lose less and get the water where it is needed.

Water Efficiently – Grass needs to be watered about once a week, unless it rains. When your lawn needs watering, one inch (2.5 cm) of water is generally sufficient. Place a tin can on the lawn to measure accumulated water. During the hottest days of the summer the lawn goes dormant and shouldn’t be watered.

Timing– Water your lawn early in the morning or early evening to minimize evaporation losses.

Designing – Design a xeriscape garden or use native or non-invasive plant material which naturally requires less water. Also, reduce the size of your lawn. Grass requires a lot of water.

Mulch – Keeping bare soil covered helps to hold moisture, keeps roots cool, and reduces weed growth. Add mulch such as wood chips, straw, leaves, grass clippings or bark chips.

Energy conservation

Trees can reduce energy costs by blocking winter winds and shading summer sun. They also provide nesting and shelter for wildlife and

Deciduous Trees – Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of the home. These trees will shade the home during the summer, reducing the need for air conditioning by up to 50% in the home as well as watering requirements in the garden.

Coniferous Trees – Plant coniferous trees on the north and west sides of the home. These trees will provide shelter from winter winds, reducing heating demand by up to 25%.

Alternative Energy – If you have a pool or pond with pumps and heaters, install solar or wind powered devices to help reduce costs. You can also get a solar water heater for your roof and solar garden lights!


Variety in the yard and garden are the essentials for a healthy and sustainable landscape. Diverse landscapes provide habitat for wildlife, enhance the aesthetics of the community and reduce pollution by requiring fewer inputs for maintenance.

Choose Native or Non-Invasive Species – Native plants have adapted to local conditions and require less water once established. They are more attractive to wildlife as food sources and shelter. Native and non-invasive species are less susceptible to insect attack and disease.

Plant Wildflower, Butterfly Gardens – By welcoming wildflowers and wildlife back into your garden, you create a healthy environment and natural balance which is better able to resist disease and insect attack

Increase Garden Size, Reduce Lawn – By increasing your garden size and reducing the size of your lawn and, you increase habitat for wildlife, create a healthier environment and reduce the need for weekly watering of grass.

Plant More Trees/Shrubs – Trees and shrubs reduce the need for watering, encourage habitat restoration, absorb CO2 , save energy, and improve neighbourhood aesthetic. Birds such as juncos, nuthatches, woodpeckers and grosbeaks eat many bugs and beetles, keeping pest problems at bay.

Waste reduction

By composting or recycling kitchen and garden waste you can reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills by approximately 30%.

Compost – Compost contains many important nutrients which your plants, trees and grasses can make use of when applied as a top dressing, or incorporated into the soil.

Green Waste Pick-up – Make use of municipal collection of green waste if you are unable to compost.

Recycle – Use your blue box, think before you buy and choose items with no or little packaging and recycle other household waste through local re-use centres or repair shops.

Pesticides – Eliminate pesticide use. Take unused pesticides and fertilizers to your Household Hazardous Waste Depot.

Natural insect control

Install bat houses, toad houses, bird houses, feeders and baths. Birds, bats and toads eat many insects, including mosquitoes, grubs and earwigs.

Use Nematodes – Many lawns are attacked by grubs and chinch bugs every year. This is mainly due to over-fertilization and poor soil health. Nematodes are naturally occurring organisms which attack the grubs as well as other larvae such as those which attack birch trees. Apply by watering in spring and fall.

Encourage Lady Bugs & Other Beneficial Insects – Conserving and attracting beneficial insects, birds, and animals is one of the most economical ways to control pests. Beneficial insects can be purchased from mailorder sources.

Organic food garden

Organically grown vegetables may contain higher nutrition levels than conventionally grown vegetables. They are also pesticide-free, leaving us free from worry of toxicity levels.

Eliminate Pesticide Use – Pesticides are harmful to children, pets, birds, and other wildlife. Avoid using them by implementing other healthy gardening techniques. Healthy soils encourage healthy plants which are less susceptible to pest attack and diseases.

Use Organic Fertilizers – Bone meal, blood meal, wood ash, fish emulsion, egg shells, compost and leaves are examples of organic fertilizers. Using them will help to build the health of the soil.

Rotate Crops – Shifting crop locations from year to year helps to avoid crop specific diseases and pests. It also helps to balance soil nutrients and enhance soil structure.

Companion Plant – Pests thrive in monocultures (one type of plant). Companion plants (crops interplanted with other crops or plants) can distract, repel or confuse pests. Companion plants can also attract pest predators.

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