Natural Yards are Becoming Increasingly Popular in Edmonton!
Native plants (as opposed to garden cultivars) are being increasingly used in both City of Edmonton public spaces and on private properties.
What Is a Natural Yard?
A natural yard is an ecologically-based landscaping approach that uses a combination of native and non-native plant species in place of more conventional turf-dominated landscapes common to residential communities.
In developing natural yards, it is important to consider environmental impacts, water conservation and drainage solutions, and maintaining positive community standards.
Benefits of a natural yard
Yards containing a large number of natural elements or native plants have advantages over traditional gardens. They:
- Help to preserve Edmonton’s diminishing nature as suburbs grow
- Do a better job than lawns of soaking up rain that would otherwise contribute to street runoff and ultimately river pollution and flooding
- Require less water and fertilizer so they can be cheaper to maintain
- Do not need frequent mowing so less garden waste goes into the landfill each summer
It is important, however, that natural yards don’t appear unsightly or untidy (and become a nuisance property).
Natural Private Property Guidelines
- Urban naturalization can be a complex process that requires a significant amount of research.
- It is recommended that consultation with a recognized horticultural association occur before transforming a turf-oriented yard into a naturalized landscape to understand the interconnectivity and benefits of native and non-native plant species. Organizations, such as the Edmonton Horticultural Society and the Edmonton Native Plant Group, are valuable resources for citizens to increase awareness and understanding of urban naturalization.
Planning and Design
The careful planning and design of a naturalized yard not only helps to achieve environmental goals, but can also enhance the aesthetic nature of a property.
- Proper planning should include understanding yard conditions (sunny and shady, wet or dry areas), prioritizing landscaping needs, identifying locations of where to naturalize, selecting the right plant materials and creating a design through sketching and refinement as required.
- To enhance the appearance of a naturalized yard, it is recommended that a combination of trees, shrubs, groundcover, hard and soft landscaping, and native and non-native plants should be installed.
- Ensure plants that tend to spread are cut back or are contained so as not to become a nuisance to surrounding properties. As for all types of yards, do not allow plants to spread into neighbor's’ property, onto sidewalks or alleys, or interfere with any utilities.
- To maintain “good neighbour” relations, establish a border around your natural yard. This could be created by a strip of lawn or by other landscape materials.
Care and Maintenance
- Maintenance is still required to ensure that properties do not fall into a state of non-compliance.
- Turf areas should be mowed and maintained to create a strong visual contrast between naturalized and non-naturalized areas and to enhance the appearance of the yard. ‘Turf’ grass and weeds can not be more than 10 cm high.
- Removal of nuisance weeds ie. dandelions, stinkweed and quack grass.
- Removal of weed material that contains seeds or seed heads.
Weed Control Act
Property owners should
- Become knowledgeable about noxious and prohibited noxious weeds, as larger garden areas are more susceptible to invasive weed growth
- Control noxious weeds so they do not spread
- Remove and dispose of prohibited noxious weeds in the garbage or in the compost pile before they go to seed so they cannot spread
This Government of Alberta booklet contains useful information about which weeds are classified as noxious or prohibited noxious in our province.