Sometimes what we consider to be weeds and pests are what many wildlife species consider to be food and shelter. The substances used to remove pests and weeds can pollute the water sources we depend on and the habitats many wildlife species call home. There are ways to care for your lawn and garden that minimize impacts to the wildlife around us.

Plant native species and use local soils and fills.
Native vegetation is naturally adapted, does not require fertilizers or pesticides, and is drought resistant. Planting native species around your property helps to maintain the natural biodiversity of the area, provides wildlife with food and shelter, and reduces the chances of introducing invasive alien species. Native flowers attract local butterfly and bird species in the summer and provide seeds and berries throughout the fall and winter. Ask for native plants at garden centers and confirm that they are genetically native to your area.

Reduce or eliminate your lawn. Keep it well away from lakes and wetlands.
Lake shoreline properties without lawns are your best bet. If you feel a lawn is necessary try to keep it on the side of the house away from the lake. If your lawn currently ends at the lake shoreline, try to encourage the growth of natural vegetation by leaving the grass uncut and allowing native vegetation to return. This will save time and money. If this sounds like a big task, start slowly and leave a couple meters each year to revert back to natural vegetation.

Practice lawn care techniques that reduce water use and discourage weed growth.
Grass that is cut to a height of 7-8 cm (3 inches) is less prone to pests, disease, and drought. Watering less often allows the top of the soil to dry out and will help prevent the growth of “weedy” plants.

Limit or eliminate chemical fertilizer use.
Instead, try using compost made from your kitchen scraps (in an animal proof compost bin). Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora species are found in low nutrient, high disturbance areas where other plant species cannot grow. The addition of nutrients shifts this balance and encourages the growth of plants that push out these species. Fertilizers increase the level of nitrogen and phosphorus in the environment and can create large, smelly algal blooms. This reduces the amount of light and available oxygen in the water and can choke out other aquatic plants and animals. It also makes activities such as swimming and boating unpleasant due to water discolouration and clogged boat motors - things we all want to avoid!

Eliminate pesticide and herbicide use and keep your family and environment healthy.
Chemical free gardens contain a diversity of natural predators that will keep down most insect outbreaks. Pesticides have many unforeseen impacts and can kill beneficial insects, amphibians, and other wildlife. Pesticides and fertilizer runoff from lawns and gardens expose our family, pets, and wildlife to chemicals, and can end up in the water we rely on to drink. Eliminate the need for these products by practicing natural pest management techniques (see Resources below).

Pesticide Free….A Guide to Natural Lawn and Garden Care
Provides tips on lawn and garden care and natural pest management techniques. Prepared by the City of Toronto. Search the title in a search engine to view and download a pdf.