Could gardeners build back a better Leaside?

We’ve learned some important lessons going through this pandemic and a big one for Leasiders, was to realize how essential our greenspaces are to us. Be it from our own gardens, a local park or a nearby forest, connecting to nature has proven to be vital to our well-being.

But how is the well-being of our environment?

By now we’ve all heard the catch-phrase ‘Building Back Better’ (BBB) and it’s a good strategy for risk reduction and sustainable development. But this got me thinking about the sudden and extreme developments going on in Leaside and how these changes will ultimately impact the health of our environment.

What home additions, parking pads and new condo developments have in common is the removal of natural growing space. This produces more heat, more air pollution and creates a greater risk of flooding. It also means whatever vegetation is left (including our trees) need to work even harder to compensate for the loss.

Could Leaside gardeners help to build back better?

Now, more than ever before, every garden, every balcony and every single planter has an important role to play in helping Leaside become more environmentally healthy and more resilient too.

But it’s not just that we garden, it’s HOW we garden that will make the biggest difference. And I think Leaside gardeners are up to the challenge.

Victoria Day Weekend is still weeks away and though we use this as our unofficial frost-free planting date for summer crops, this early spring has many of us ready get started. And our local garden centres, grocery stores and fruit markets are overflowing with racks upon racks of colourful blooms to get us motivated to plant.

But if you want to help Leaside build back better with your garden, here are some things to think about before you dig in.

Instead of trying to alter your soil to accommodate unsuitable plants, choose plants that work with the soil and conditions you have. Whether it be sand, loam or clay, sun or shade, there is a good perennial plant that will thrive in almost any site. Look to natives first.

Resist exotic annuals that require too much water, fertilizers and a peat-based soil, such as impatiens, petunias, geraniums and begonias. We might think these colourful blooms attract bees and butterflies (and they can) but they are all non-natives that provide little or no nourishment at all for our essential pollinators. Worse, many are still treated with neonics!

Buy less but buy better. That means choosing native plants, perennials that are neonic-free and organic plants and seeds, especially if you grow food. This will send a clear message to growers and retailers to become more environmental responsible too.

Think seriously about waste. From countless plastic flower pots (most are not recycled) to abusing our essential resources (water and peat moss) gardeners are often unaware of the amount of waste that comes from unsustainable gardening.

Face it, when it comes to gardening, our personal preferences are not always good ecological choices and we need to change our perception of beauty in order to garden in a more restorative way. That doesn’t mean turning every yard into a meadow. By adding even one or two native plants to every garden, collectively we can help restore this once rich and biodiverse ecosystem. Then we can watch Leaside regrow back to the ecological masterpiece it was. This will be great for us, the environment and for future generations to come!

We’re already off to a good start as so many Leaside gardeners have been embracing natural gardening for some time now. We just need a lot more to join in.

For more information and inspiration, check out In the Zone – Gardens (www.inthezonegardens.ca) where you can learn everything you need to know on how to get your building back better garden started.

Happy (healthy) planting!

About Debora Kuchme 40 Articles
After a 30-year career as a fashion designer, Debora worked at Horticultural Design for over a decade. Now with her concerns about climate change, she hopes to help local gardeners find positive solutions for a greener and healthier neighbourhood. As a board member of the Bayview Leaside BIA, she created the Bayview Pixies, a volunteer group introducing sustainable gardening practice to Bayview.