It's that time of year again, and many of you with a green thumb will be looking for somewhere to dispose of your garden green waste.
I can dump my garden clippings and lawn trimmings over my back fence, right? Aren't I just feeding it back into the ecosystem where it will decompose and turn into dirt? And aren't I being extra green reducing my carbon footprint by saving a trip to the dump?
Unfortunately, disposing of garden waste over the fence or into the nearby forest, is one of the main ways that invasive plants are dispersed and spread, creating a heap of problems bigger than the waste you tossed.
Many of the pretty plants growing in your yard are non-native, exotic species planted for landscaping purposes.
Plants in gardens and yards are often chosen for their resilience to environmental conditions, fast growth, or ability to climb up fences or cover large areas of exposed ground.
The characteristics that make them attractive to gardeners are also what allow them to invade and negatively impact our natural ecosystems.
Japanese Knotweed is a fast growing plant that aggressively invades ecosystems by shading and outcompeting native species. It causes erosion and damages foundations and infrastructure with its aggressive root system. Knotweed is found throughout Squamish residential areas, and is able to sprout from a tiny piece of stem or root the size of your fingernail.
Tossing a bag of garden waste containing even the smallest of fragments can cause a new infestation.
Yellow Lamium is found in many planters and hanging baskets. It spreads by runner and rhizome, and plant clippings easily take root when dumped onto the ground.
Many trails and parks behind residential areas in the Sea to Sky have been taken over by Lamium, which creeps across the forest floor, smothering the native plant understory.
Highly tolerant of shade, its growth knows no limit.
The Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council field crews and volunteers work hard all summer removing invasive plants like Lamium and Knotweed that are causing problems just beyond our backyards. Many of these infestations originated from a mound of old garden waste.
Not only is the dumping of garden waste environmentally damaging, it is also illegal. Bylaws in Squamish, Whistler, and Pemberton all prohibit the action and are enforceable with fines.
So, what should I do with my garden waste?
• Go to ssisc.info to learn which plants in your garden are invasive;
• Sort your garden waste, placing the invasive plant material into a sealed garbage bag, to prevent any seeds or plant fragments from escaping during transport;
• Take the waste to your local transfer station. Any invasive plant material should be placed in the dedicated invasive species bins at the Squamish landfill and Callaghan transfer station, whilst general yard waste can go in the organics bin. A bit of effort goes a long way to help stop the spread!
• Whistler's free fall waste drop off is from Oct. 16 to 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Property owners can drop off their yard waste for free in an area adjacent to the Nesters Waste Depot.
• Garden debris burning is Oct. 15 to 30. Homeowners must obtain a fire permit in person at municipal hall.
The Whistler Naturalists are a non-profit volunteer group dedicated to increasing local knowledge of the natural world in the Whistler area. For more information, or to get involved, please visit WhistlerNaturalists.ca.
Call for volunteers —The Naturalists are looking for volunteers to help organize upcoming events and write "NatureSpeak" articles. For more information please contact Kristina at firstname.lastname@example.org.