Helping your Garden Cope with Drought

Garden Tips for Surviving the Drought -2015 (Printable PDF)

With the Sunshine Coast going to Stage 3 water use restrictions, we can only use hand-watering methods for our gardens. Stage 4 (which may soon follow) restricts all watering. While this is a very serious blow for gardeners, our gardens can survive the drought with care and ingenuity. Here are some suggestions compiled by members of the Sechelt Garden Club:

Conserve water:

  • Don’t let water run needlessly (e.g., while you are brushing your teeth).
    Reduce the volume of water used to a trickle.
  • When you take a shower turn the water on to get wet. Turn it off while you soap, and on again to rinse.
  • Don’t flush every time you use the toilet: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”
  • Let your laundry collect until you have a full load.

 Remember: it is the total demand per day that helps determine these restriction

Become a water collector in your house:

  • Start washing dishes by hand and save the dish water.
  • Keep a pail in the bathroom and one in the kitchen and collect (using a strainer as necessary):
    - The water you use to wash your hands.
    - Old water in the kettle. Unused tea from your teapot…and so forth…
    - Vegetable washing and cooking water.
    - The water that goes down the drain waiting for hot water to come to the sink or tub/shower.
  • Plug your bathtub and collect bath/shower water. Some people use a submersible pump to disperse the  bath water out to water barrels. Stay away from heavy bath oils now. Use small amounts of mild  shampoo/soap. An added advantage is that the soap helps deter many types of garden pests. You will  have the happiest tomatoes on the coast.

Taking care of your garden:

  • Identify the drought resistant plants in your garden. Avoid watering things that don’t need it.
  • You may not be able to save everything, so decide which of your plants most need attention.
  • Water susceptible plants deeply by watering can (Stage 3) or with collected water (Stage 4) in the  evening. Weed thoroughly first, then mulch to shade soil and slow evaporation. This can be any kind of  compost material, straw, spoiled hay, the clippings from plants, wood chips, bark mulch, etc. Free wood  chips are available from Sechelt Tree Service 604-885-6606 and Fleming Tree Experts 604-885 8733.
  • Create mini-reservoirs: collect plastic containers with lids, such as juice bottles. Poke holes in the  bottom, half-bury next to your plant, fill with water and cap.
  • Keep your gardens free of weeds as they compete with plants for water.
  • Reduce or stop any fertilizing as fertilizer stimulates growth and therefore plants will need more water.
  • Trim back plants that have become leggy or floppy. They will need less water and regrow compactly.
  • Prop umbrellas or other sun shades to shelter tender plants from midday sun.
  • Pay attention to your pots. They dry out very quickly.
  • If plants are struggling, cut the flowers to decorate the house to reduce stress on the plant. It is a good  idea to cut the flowers on hydrangeas and to cut the roses to lesson the stress on them.  When planting, amend sandy local soil with compost, composted manure, peat moss, or bagged soil to  improve water holding capacity.
  • Pay attention to any new plantings this year, and to trees and shrubs the first 2 years. If you have  landscape fabric pull it away from the center of the plant.
    Don’t forget to water your fruit trees, maples and other ornamentals. This is the perfect place to dump dish water.
  • Now is the time to take garden notes: what does best in the heat and lack of water? What is struggling  the most?

Many thanks to Sharon O’Brien, Bill Terry, Ruth Rodgers, Christi Blackman,
Laurie Creak, Dan Fivehouse and Gwen Steele of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

GUIDELINES FOR THE CULTURE OF DROUGHT-TOLERANT PLANTS:

SOIL – Well-drained, loose soil is essential to the survival of drought tolerant plants. The loose soil  structure allows their roots to grow deep down where the moisture is held. Many of these plants also  benefit from the addition of organic matter to the soil, which helps add nutrients and hold moisture. If  your soil is heavy, add small pebbles or coarse sand to improve drainage.

WATER – Even the most drought tolerant perennials require supplemental water until they are
established. The smaller the root system, the more water they’ll need, but the general rule is one inch of  water per week (including rain). Less frequent but deep watering is better for plants than more frequent  but light watering because it encourages them to send their roots down deeper into the soil. As the  plants begin to grow and thrive on their own, gradually decrease the amount of supplemental water.

MULCH – Mulch your drought tolerant perennials with about two inches of organic material such as  shredded bark or leaves. Do not use stone as a mulch–it holds heat and reflects light which can damage  the plants.

FERTILIZER – Use fertilizer sparingly on drought tolerant plants. If they begin to show signs of
decline or discoloration, then it’s time to fertilize.

DIVISION – Most drought tolerant perennials will perform admirably for years without being divided.  Exceptions include the most vigorous or prolific perennials such as daylilies, hostas, and tall bearded  irises.
[www.perennialresource.com]

DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANTS:

  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Aegopodium (Snow-on-the-Mountain)
  • Agastache (Anise Hyssop)
  • Ajuga (Bugleweed)
  • Alcea (Hollyhocks)
  • Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle)
  • Anthemis (Golden Marguerite)
  • Arabis (Rock Cress)
  • Arenaria (Mountain Sandwort)
  • Armeria (Common Thrift, Sea Pinks)
  • Artemisia (Wormwood, Silver Mound  Artemesia)
  • Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
  • Astilbe chinensis (Chinese Astilbe)
  • Aurinia (Basket-of-Gold, Perennial Alyssum)
  • Baptisia (False Indigo)
  • Belamcanda (Blackberry Lily)
  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
  • Calamagrostis (Feather Reed Grass)
  •  Calamintha (Calamint)
  • Caryopteris (Blue Mist Shrub)
  • Centaurea (Perennial Bachelor’s Button)
  • Centranthus (Red Valerian, Jupiter’s Beard)
  • Cerastium (Snow in Summer)
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed)
  • Cortaderia (Pampas Grass)
  • Delosperma (Ice Plant)
  • Dianthus (Pinks)
  • Digitalis (Foxglove)
  • Echinacea (Coneflower)
  • Echinops (Globe Thistle)
  • Erianthus (Ravenna Grass)
  • Euonymous (Purple Leaf Wintercreeper)
  • Euphorbia (Cushion Spurge)
  • Festuca (Blue Fescue)
  • Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Geranium sanguineum (Hardy Geranium, Cranesbill)
  • Gypsophila (Baby’s Breath)
  • Hedera (English Ivy)
  • Helictotrichon (Blue Oat Grass)
  • Helleborus (Lenten Rose)
  • Hemerocallis (Daylily)
  • Heuchera (Coral Bells)
  • Hosta
  • Iberis (Candytuft)
  • Incarvillea (Hardy Gloxinia)
  • Iris-Tall Bearded
  • Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
  • Lavandula (Lavender)
  • Liatris (Gayfeather, Blazing Star)
  • Linum (Flax)
  • Liriope (Lily-turf)
  • Malva (Hollyhock Mallow)
  • Miscanthus (Maiden Grass)
  • Nepeta (Catmint)
  • Oenothera (Sundrops, Evening  Primrose)
  • Pachysandra (Japanese Spurge)
  • Paeonia (Peony)
  • Panicum (Switch Grass)
  • Papaver (Poppy)
  • Pardancanda (Candylily)
  • Pennisetum (Fountain Grass)
  • Penstemon (Beardtongue)
  • Perovskia (Russian Sage)
  • Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox)
  • Pulmonaria (Lungwort, Bethlehem  Sage)
  • Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
  • Salvia (Perennial Salvia)
  • Saponaria (Rock Soapwort)
  •  Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem)
  • Sedum (Stonecrop)
  • Sempervivum (Hen & Chicks)
  • Stachys (Lamb’s Ear)
  • Stokesia (Stokes’ Aster)
  • Tanacetum (Painted Daisy)
  • Thymus (Creeping Thyme)
  • Verbascum (Mullein)
  • Vinca (Myrtle, Periwinkle)
  • Yucca (Adam’s Needle)

Garden Tips for Surviving the Drought -2015 (Printable PDF)

Gardening in Raised Beds

by Kate Gardner, Planet Natural. 

As you plan your garden for this year, think about building some raised beds. Raised bed gardening improves drainage, uses space more efficiently, increases yield, and simplifies the control of weeds and pests.

1. The soil is usually superior to that in row gardens in part because it never gets stepped on and is not  compacted. Filling beds usually becomes an opportunity to get high-quality soil and to fine-tune the mix of fertilizer and amendments.

2. You can mix the soil to your own specifications, creating a fine loam even where clay or sandy soil prevails.

3. A raised bed warms up more quickly than does the surrounding soil in spring, so it’s possible to plant in them earlier than in a flat bed. The light soil improves the movement of both water and air, and roots can spread out in search of nutrients more easily than in compacted dirt. It’s therefore possible to plant a raised bed more densely than one would the same amount of space in a traditional garden, which translates into higher yields.

4. The walls of most raised beds create at least a partial block to many blowing seeds and to most rhizomous plants. Where aggressive weeds are a problem, raised beds can be established on top of a layer of weed cloth, blocking roots out completely. When sequential planting and cover crops are used, ensuring that there is no bare dirt for weeds to colonize, weed problems drop off to almost nothing.

5. A good soil mix should eliminate the need for deep digging. To add nutrients, compost can be laid over the top of the bed in spring and fall; worms will do the mixing work. Slow release fertilizers can be mixed with the compost in fall or dug into the top few inches of soil in spring or between crops. Liquid fertilizers can also be applied as foliar sprays.

6. Water use in raised beds can be reduced by building a tight, solid structure lined with impermeable plastic, and by using drip hoses or similar systems rather than sprinklers. Drip systems put water where it’s needed, near the roots, which reduces loss through evaporation.Good watering practices also make a difference. These include watering only in early morning or evening, only when plants really need it, and always to a depth of six to ten inches.

Guests in the Garden

Even though it’s just November it’s not too early to become familiar with those guests in the garden—bugs and other critters. Not all insects are pests; some are beneficial and they’re actually on your side.

Slugs do some good by processing dead and decaying leaves and turning them back into organic material that enhances the soil. They are also food, in their infant form, to things like centipedes and ground beetles. If you want to get rid of them you can use enviro-friendly baits containing ferric phosphate, a natural compound found in soil. Look for Scott’s EcoSense Slug and Snail Bait or Safer’s Slug and Snail Bait, both toxic to mollusks but safe for humans, pets, birds and insects. You can also use copper barrier strips around plants which deters slugs by giving them a slight electric shock. You can also pour a small amount of beer into a container. Sink the container into the ground. Slugs are attracted by the smell of yeast and drink themselves to death.

Ground Beetles live under boards, stones and logs and eat caterpillars and other soft-bellied grubs, such as baby slugs and cutworms as well as some insects in leaf matter. Mostly nocturnal, ground beetles pop up during the day when accidentally disturbed. Rather than stomping on them, try to encourage them by putting down mulch or planting ground covers to protect the soil.

Centipedes are fast moving, can be aggressive, and not afraid to give you a nip. They will attack creatures far bigger than themselves, especially slugs, grubs and insects in their infancy. Centipedes have legs (about 30, not 100) sticking out at the sides. The millipede, by comparison, is a very different creature; more wormlike, slow moving with a habit of rolling into a ball for defense rather than running away. They do more good than harm.

Spittlebugs are tiny green creatures which live in a protective foamy substance sometimes called “cuckoo spit.” They do minor damage to plants by sucking sap from the leaf stems and causing growth to be stunted. Wait a few weeks and they will be done. If you have a lot of them, first try washing them off with a jet of water. If the problem persists, use insecticidal soap.

Earwigs are fast moving insects with a pair of pincer-like appendages at the tip of the abdomen. They nibble holes in flower petals, but also nosh on aphids, grubs and soft-bellied insects. You can trap them by stuffing crumpled newspaper into an upside down flower pot. Shake them into a bucket of soapy water to drown them, or relocate them.

Ladybugs are one of the gardener’s friends. The only reason they will leave is if your garden has not enough food. You can buy bags of ladybugs but the moment you release them they often fly to the neighbour’s garden where there is a better banquet. Ladybugs will eat all the aphids you can provide, unless you have ants stopping them.

Green lacewing gobbles up copious amounts of spider mites, leafhoppers, caterpillars and thrips. Lacewings are also known as aphid lions because of their voracious appetite. Attract them by planting flowers rich in pollen and nectar (feverfew, yarrow, daisies).

Aphids live in colonies and feed on the stems of plants, especially roses. They are often herded  by ants that milk them for their sweet secretions. Wash them off the plant with a jet of water from a hose. Once they hit the ground, they are unable to climb back up. Another solution is to attract beneficial predators, such as ladybugs, lacewings, aphid parasites (aphidius) and aphid midgets (aphidoletes) or spray with an insecticide soap.

Ants thrive in places where it is dry and there is rotting wood and plenty of leaf matter and where they can be left undisturbed. The key is to reduce the population to a tolerable number by finding the nest and killing the colony by pouring boiling water on it or by using an ant spray. In July, winged queen ants spill out of their nests to mate and form new colonies. There are various sprays and baits on the market. Some contain pyrethrum, the botanical insecticide found naturally in chrysanthemums. Others contain permethrin, a common synthetic chemical that kills ants on contact. Other ant-killers have D-Trans allethrin and benzisothiazolinone. Powder baits contain ant-killing dust such as carbaryl. The best solution is to keep reducing the populations to a tolerable size.

(Adapted from Steve Whysall, May 5, 2012)

Fall Clean-up

Fall clean up is a very important part of the yearly gardening cycle. By cleaning up the garden you are doing more than just making it look tidier, you are helping to reduce disease and pest problems for next year’s garden. 

As you go through your garden remove any diseased leaves, twigs and branches. It is best not to compost them, as our household compost does not usually get hot enough to kill off diseases like black spot or bacterial canker. Dispose of them in your household garbage or take them to Salish Soil. Also prune out any broken twigs and branches, as these can be entry points for several kinds of fungal and bacterial diseases. When pruning out diseased branches and twigs it is a good idea to dip your secateurs in a mild bleach solution or other household disinfectant frequently to prevent the spread of the disease. 

Any plant material that is not diseased should definitely be composted. All those leaves from your perennials make an excellent addition to your compost bin, as do fallen leaves. A tip for the tree leaves in your yard: if you want them to break down faster in the compost bin just pile them up, run them over with the lawn mower and voila, you have excellent mulch for your compost bin and your garden.  

When cutting back plants like peonies, lilies and hostas, mark them with a stake so you know where they are in early spring.  

Not all plants should be cut back in the fall. Leave the stalks of rudbeckia, echinacea, gaillardia and grasses like the pennisetums and miscanthus. They look absolutely beautiful in the fall and winter with frost outlining the stems. In addition, the stems help to protect the crown of the plants from frost and wet.  

Your rose bush is another plant that should not be pruned now. Wait until late February before you prune it back. If you prune it now it will send out new growth that will be damaged or killed in the first frost.  

Decide which dahlia tubers to dig up and which to leave in the ground. If you have well-drained soil or your dahlias are planted under an overhang, leave them in the ground and cover them with a layer of mulch. Those in heavy clay soils are prone to rotting so dig them up. After the first hard frost when dahlias go black, cut down the stalks and lift the tubers. Leave the soil around the dahlia tubers and dry off the clumps. Store them with the dried earth around them as an insulating layer in a burlap bag or lined box. Leave them in a cool dry garage for the winter.

From Bob Tuckey (The Natural Gardener) and Carolyn Herriot (A Year on the Garden Path)

Helping your Garden Cope with Drought

  • Install water barrels to catch water from your gutters.
  • Save and reuse household waste water including unwanted cold water from the hot tap and water used to prepare vegetables for cooking.
  • Increase the soil’s capacity to hold water by regularly digging in organic matter (compost, seaweed, manures).
  • Keep weeding down to a minimum. Hoeing or pulling weeds exposes moist soil from below the surface, and leads to further loss of moisture.
  • Leave lawns to go brown (they will recover); spiking lawns in early summer means that they can readily rehydrate when rains come.
  • Mulch to retain moisture, particularly in early spring, to reduce surface evaporation in summer.
  • Consider growing plants that are able to withstand periods of drought such as grey-leafed plants, Mediterranean, Australian and South African plants.
  • Group plants according to moisture requirements.
  • Plant shrubs and trees in the fall, when the soil is still warm, and take advantage of higher rainfall to encourage root development.
  • Buy young plants in small pots for planting out, as they will adapt more readily to changing soil water conditions than larger container-grown plants.
  • Target water onto the soil rather than letting it fall on foliage.
  • Water drought-susceptible plants thoroughly every few days rather than little and often.
  • Sink a cut-down plastic bottle upside-down into the soil next to recent plantings to direct water to the roots.
  • Group container plants together and provide a saucer to collect drainage water (empty water in the saucer back into the plant; watch for mosquitoes).
  • Remember that West Coast Natives are masters at surviving dry conditions.
  • If you want a hanging basket, consider using succulents to make one. They need very little moisture.

Companion Planting

Basil – Will improve vigour and flavour of tomatoes, planted side-by-side. Also good with asparagus, oregano, and peppers. Basil helps repel flies, mosquitoes, and thrips. 

Bush & Pole beans – All beans fix nitrogen in the soil. Plant with beets, brassicas, carrots, celery, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, peas, potatoes, radish, and strawberries. Avoid planting near chives, garlic, leeks, and onions. Pole beans and beets stunt each other’s growth. 

Beets – Beets add minerals to the soil. Plant with bush beans, brassicas, corn, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, and mint. Add cut mint leaves as a mulch for beets. Avoid planting beets near pole beans. 

Brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, turnip) – benefit from chamomile, dill, mint, rosemary, and sage. Avoid planting near eggplants, peppers, or tomatoes. 

Carrots – Plant with beans, brassicas, chives, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, pole beans, radish, rosemary, sage, and tomatoes. Avoid planting with dill, parsnips, and potatoes. 

Cucumber – Plant beside asparagus, beans, brassicas, celery, corn, dill, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion, peas, radish, and tomatoes. Avoid planting near potatoes and sage.  Dill will help cucumbers by attracting predatory insects, and nasturtiums will improve the flavour and growth of cucumbers. 

Leeks – Grow with beets, carrot, celery, onions, and spinach. Avoid planting near beans and peas. 

Lettuce – Good companions for beets, brassicas, carrot, celery, chervil, cucumbers, dill, garlic, onions, radish, spinach, squash, and strawberries. 

Marigold – French Marigolds (Tagetes patula) produce chemicals that kill nematodes and repel whitefly. Avoid planting them near beans. 

Peas – Superb companions for beans, carrots, celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant, parsley, peppers. potatoes, radish, spinach, strawberries and turnips. Avoid planting peas near onions. 

Peppers – Pepper plants make good neighbours for asparagus, basil, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, oregano, parsley, rosemary, squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. Never plant them next to beans, brassicas, or fennel. 

Radish – Plant near beans, beets, celeriac, chervil, cucumber, lettuce, mint, parsnip, peas, spinach, squash, and tomatoes. Avoid planting near agastache or potatoes. It is said that planting 3 or 4 icicle radishes around the mound where you plant squash, and allowing them to grow and bloom, will prevent most pests of squash and cucumber. 

Spinach – A good companion for brassicas, eggplants, leeks, lettuce, peas, radish, and strawberries. Particularly don’t plant spinach near potatoes. 

Squash – Companions: corn, lettuce, melons, peas, and radish. Avoid planting near brassicas or potatoes. Borage is said to improve the growth and flavour of squash. Marigolds and nasturtium repel numerous squash pest insects. 

Tomatoes – Another sensitive plant when it comes to companions, tomatoes benefit from asparagus, basil, beans, borage, carrots, celery, chives, collards, cucumber, garlic, lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, and peppers. Avoid planting alongside brassicas and dill.

Controlling Aphids

Now is the time to start thinking about getting aphids under control. Here are some ways to do that:

Squishing

If you don’t have a lot of plants or too much of a problem, don a pair of gloves and run your fingers up and down the stems of your plants squishing the aphids as you go. It is strangely satisfying.

Ladybugs

A tried and true method of aphid control. Pick up your ladybugs at The Natural Gardener or your local nursery and bring them home. Spray down the plants in the area where you want to release the ladybugs. The best time to release them is at dusk. If it is not too large an area, cover the plants with a sheet or tarp after releasing the ladybugs and leave on overnight. Usually, within one week of releasing the ladybugs the aphids should be under control

 (thanks to Bob Tuckey from The Natural Gardener)

Teas for Two and You

Teas for Two and You in Your Garden…

by Kathryn Ptacek

Winter is a good time to sit back with a steaming cup of tea and look through garden magazines and seed catalogues. Why not think about growing your very own tea garden. You can easily grow herbs in containers on your patio or deck  Here are a few suggestions: 

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)

Plant this hardy perennial, also known as cocklebur or sticklewort, in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil. Use the yellow flowers, leaves, and stems for a tea with a taste almost like apricot. Use caution because the plant is also used for medicinal purposes. Grows 3 to 5 feet. Zones 5-6.  

Anise (Pimpinella anisum)

This annual with small white flowers prefers full sun and a cultivated soil. Use the leaves and seeds for a tea with a licorice-like flavour. Grows to 2 feet. 

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Plant this hardy and mildew-resistant perennial (a favourite of humming birds and butterflies) in moist, fairly rich soil and sun or partial shade. The fragrant leaves make a minty tea. Grows to three feet. Zones 4-6. 

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Also known as catmint, this hardy perennial grows in full sun or partial shade and a moist, rich soil. Use the heart-shaped leaves for an aromatic tea with a slight minty flavour. You may need that relaxing tea, though, after fighting off neighbourhood cats for this herb (cats love to roll in the fragrant herb that acts as a feline intoxicant). Grows 2 to 3 feet. Zones 3-6. 

Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)

Perennial that likes sun or partial shade, but wants moist, well-drained soil. Chamomile releases an apple-like aroma when stepped on. Use the bright green leaves in a tea for more of that apple taste. Grows 3 to 12 inches. Zones 3-6. 

Lavender Vera (Lavendula vera)

Hardy perennial that demands full sun and a dry, well-drained soil. Use the flowers for a sweet tea. Grows to 3 or 4 feet. Zones 6. 

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Plant this hardy perennial in light, sandy soil. Lemon balm prefers full sun to partial shade. Pick the light green leaves before the plant flowers (June-September) to brew into a lemony tasting tea. Grows 2 to 4 feet. Zones 4-6. 

Mint (Mentha species)

Hardy perennial that prefers shade to full sun and a moist, rich soil. The three most common varieties are spearmint (Mentha viridis), peppermint(Mentha piperita), and penny royal (Mentha pulegium). Grows to 2 feet. Zones 3-6. 

Rose hips (Rosa species, especially rugosa)

Make an excellent tea. Rose hips are also packed with vitamins A, D, E, and espe-cially vitamin C. 

To brew tea: take one teaspoon of dried herbs or one tablespoon of fresh leaves (crush or bruise them to release the oils; similarly, chop up the rose hips) for each cup of hot water. Bring water to a boil, then pour into a pre-heated tea cup or tea pot. Use an infuser or tea ball for the herbs, and don’t depend on the colour of the liquid to decide if your brew is too strong or too weak. Taste it, and adjust to your liking. For a treat, try blending two or more kinds of tea leaves.

So Easy to Compost

by Elizabeth McNeill.

November is a good time to start composting as fallen leaves make excellent brown material for a compost pile. Mixed with green material (vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps) you can get a good mix of the required brown and green material needed. Add shredded paper (which is considered brown material).

Sometimes people are reluctant to have a compost pile because it can attract unwanted animals and insects. Don’t use meat, fish or seafood which would make your compost pile a buffet for critters. If you turn your compost often, animals will be even more discouraged. And by turning more frequently, you add more oxygen to the pile thereby creating top soil more quickly.

Many of our neighbours don’t know how to or don’t want to compost for a variety of reasons. If you compost, invite them to drop their fallen leaves into your compost pile. In that way, they won’t burn them, causing air pollution, or have them carried away in plastic bags to the land fill. What is garbage today is top soil tomorrow.

Some neighbours might be interested in composting but don’t know how to get started. Be a good neighbour (and a good gardener) and help them. By composting, we’re closer to zero waste, and we’re gaining lots of free top soil. 

These websites offer good composting information:

www.howtocompost.org

www.compostinstructions.com/

Unwelcome Raccoons in Your Yard?

Here’s a good way to get them to leave!

Many people trap raccoons to remove them from their property. However, trapping may have adverse affects. Raccoons are highly intelligent omnivores and, like bears, need to spend many months with their mother in order to learn how to survive. If the mother is trapped and relocated the offspring may not be able to find enough food to survive the winter. They also have the potential to carry a number of diseases and if moved to a new location can introduce these to resident raccoons. In Ontario it is illegal to move a raccoon more than 1km from where it was found.

In order to not disturb the family and keep our wildlife populations healthy you need to convince the raccoons that your yard is unpleasant. This will force them to choose a new location that is hopefully more suitable. You can try soaking a rag in ammonia and placing it in a plastic dish (i.e., empty yoghurt container) with holes punched in it. The smell is unpleasant to them. Replace it as needed until they are gone. They are also wary of humans and dogs. You can try gathering some hair from a salon or brushing a dog and gathering the fur and placing this around the area they are using as a latrine or around the edges of your yard to prevent them from choosing a new spot on your property. Urine is another great deterrent. You can buy wolf or coyote urine online, or use your own to save money.

Other deterrents include playing the radio nearby on a talk radio station. Be sure it’s quiet enough so it doesn’t disturb your neighbours. Raccoons have amazing hearing so it doesn’t have to be very loud and as an added bonus they get to listen to CBC all night. Sometimes rubber snakes work. You can look in the dollar store for some. They need to be moved frequently (once a day) or else the clever little bandits learn they’re fake.

Most importantly: REMOVE ALL FOOD from your yard. Raccoons are hanging around in the same spot for months because there is food. They will eat garbage, bird food, fruit trees, pet food, BBQ grease. Removing these items will also prevent bears from coming in as well. If there are attractants in your yard, trapping and relocating will only work in the short term as other animals will be attracted to the same food source and fill the open niche you have created.

These deterrents work for most wildlife, squirrels, skunks, otters, cats and are a humane way to work with wildlife and use their intelligence as a way of coexistence. It speaks to the animals in their own language and creates a relationship where urban wildlife can coexist with us. People often detest the animals that have adapted to living in human settlements but we could also appreciate their intelligence and adaptability.

Sara Stewart, Project Coordinator “Predator Friendly Farming”
West Coast Wildlife Conservation