Caring for your lawn and landscaping with lawn alternatives

bee on clover
Bee friendly lawns stay green even in drought, are less work (no need to apply fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides), save money and are beautiful as well. Image: Radu Privantu

Nurturing the soil

Boulevard Garden by Claudia West
Choose plants that will thrive in the soil you have and feed your soil, not your plants. Image: Claudia West

Creating edible landscapes

Edibles and herbs
Edible landscapes are beautiful, biodiverse and good to eat.

Designing your garden

Landscaping with trees and shrubs

Woodland gardens are a beautiful alternative to lawns
  • Recommended Urban Trees from Cornell University will help you assess your site and choose the right tree for the right place. It has nice visuals of the mature shape for each tree and its soil moisture needs. There are a few trees to avoid that are marginal in our planting zone and watch for the invasives they list (Amur maple).
  • Choosing the right tree in Peterborough is a useful guide to trees that will also thrive here in Kingston. Includes a section on trees for a changing climate.
  • Struggling to keep the deer from eating your plants? Try some of the varities suggested in this Michigan State University Extension Bulletin on deer-resistant plants. Or plant a hedgerow bordering your property to district them.
  • “Wander, ponder; and prune.” PlantAmnesty’s guide to pruning is a short, useful summary of the do’s, don’ts and how’s of pruning.
  • Interested in creating a hedgerow for biodiversity, privacy, wildlife habitat, and foraging? Choose species from this list of trees, shrubs, and vines native to the northeast.
  • Shade tree list for the Region of Waterloo to discover new species of trees from the Carolinian Forest that may adapt well to the Kingston region as our climate changes. Also ranks trees by their ability to tolerate high winds.
  • Interested in learning about the forgotten wisdom of trees? Check out Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s Call of the Forest website for short videos on how to collect tree seeds, choose the right tree for your location, plant a tree or start a tree from seed.

Increasing biodiversity and attracting wildlife to your yard

Your garden can help save the birds and the bees. Image: Melinda Young Stuart
  • Learn more about our ecoregion (Manitoulin-Lake Simcoe) and use this plant selection tool published by to choose plants that help our pollinators. 
  • Credit Valley Conservation has several fantastic publications that outline which native plants are most valuable for attracting and supporting breeding birdsmigrating birds, and pollinators.
  • Instead of invasive plants, consider choosing native alternatives. This list of native alternatives, ranked by contribution to biodiversity, gives you lots to choose from.
  • Interested in growing a living fence full of fruits and berries for yourself and wildlife? This list of hedgerow plants has some excellent suggestions of trees, shrubs and vines to consider.
  • Interested in learning more about what you can do to increase biodiversity and preserve our native flora and fauna? The City of Toronto’s biodiversity series offers guides on bees, butterflies, spiders, fishes and mammals. Each guide has a bit of history, a list of species and the threats they’re facing and suggests ways you can help. Not listed but also in the series are Trees, Shrubs & Vines of Toronto, Mushrooms of Toronto and Birds of Toronto.
  • Keen on learning to ID the native plants in your neighbourhood? The Toronto Region Conservation Authority has a very useful guide on native tree and shrub monitoring with a section on identifying native shrubs and trees.
  • And if you want to convet a adopt a piece of public land and turn it into a pollinator garden, this Roadside Guide for Creating a Pollinator Patch tells you how.

Keeping your garden healthy

Ladybugs are one of the many beneficial insects that help keep your garden healthy. Image: Jutta M. Jenning
  • Start by sourcing regionally adapted, healthy plants from reputable sources.
  • Take the lazy approach in fall and leave your leaves and other garden debris where they fall. They’ll feed your soil, insulate your plants, provide habitat for beneficial insects and provide nesting material for birds in the spring.
  • Mother nature abors bare soil – mulch it. Mulch feeds the soil microbes, which in turn help improve the nutrient and water holding capacity of the soil – leading to healthy plants. Wood chips (not bark chips), leaves, and compost are all good mulch choices. Or better yet, plant densely enough to create a living mulch.
  • Manage your garden as an ecosystem. That means avoiding chemicals as they harm the beneficial insects that are your allies in keeping bad bugs from harming your plants. Instead, create the right habitat to lure beneficials to your garden.
  • For practical tips on organical garden care for a healthy garden, this ebook by the Society for Urban Land Care (SOUL) will help you see and do things differently.
  • And if you’re keen to bring organic and regenerative practices to your municipality, check out A Step-by-Step Guide for Community Members Working to Change Municipal Policies for a Greener Future.