Earth Day evokes images of people hugging the planet and saving this big blue and green globe we call home through large-scale environmental efforts. Ending plastic pollution. Stopping deforestation. That sort of thing.
But being good to the world can start small. It can start in your own backyard.
Spring is here and gardeners are marking their calendars for the bevy of plant sales happening over the next several weeks. What they choose to put in their gardens can make a difference.
Erika Johnson coordinates the local Master Gardener Program through Washington State University Extension.
The first rule of gardening, she said, is putting the right plant in the right place. Simply listening to where a plant tag says it’ll do best can ward off pest and disease problems down the road that might require harsh pesticides or herbicides, Johnson said. For instance, a Camas lily thrives in a much different environment than a sword fern. Some basic soil care, such as leaving leaves on the ground or spreading wood chips, can prevent weeds and help build up soil nutrients. Soil microbes — beneficial fungi, bacteria and invertebrates — are the “unsung heroes” of the garden, Johnson said.
Minimizing grass can be beneficial for wildlife and rewarding for people who don’t need large lawns. Grass is limited in the group of organisms it supports, Johnson said. She squared off sections of her yard and over time added plants until eventually there wasn’t any grass left.
Checklist for an Earth-friendly garden:
• Get rid of invasive plants.
• Incorporate native plants.
• Limit or avoid pesticides, herbicides and insecticides.
• Consider minimizing grass.
• Care for the soil.
Johnson also recommends incorporating native plants into the landscape, such as red flowering currant, a colorful shrub that attracts hummingbirds, or Oregon grape, which is loved by birds and bees.
“You’re providing food and shelter for the animals that have evolved in this area,” Johnson said.
Meredith Hardin, president of NatureScaping of Southwest Washington, also praised the benefits of native plants. (This week is Washington’s Native Plant Appreciation Week, by the way.)
“Native plants use less water. They have acclimated to our rainy winters and dry, hot summers, so they’re not going to need as much water during the dry, hot summer,” she said.
NatureScaping, which has 10 themed demonstration gardens in Brush Prairie, is working on a new garden that will feature drought-tolerant plants and a rain garden. People can find inspiration by browsing the labeled plants at NatureScaping. Everything there is meant to be wildlife-friendly, that is friendly primarily to birds, butterflies and reptiles. Hardin noted that birds like thickets and hiding areas, a design feature used heavily at NatureScaping.
NatureScaping’s sale, happening April 28-29, is “really our only fundraiser,” Hardin said. The sale helps support the gardens, along with gardening classes and other educational programs.
She said people can check out the sale next door at the Center for Agriculture, Science, and Environmental Education, or CASEE, whose students will be selling native plants they cultivated.
Some native plants can be found at the Master Gardener Foundation’s popular Mother’s Day weekend sale. Even though last year was rainy and muddy, a lot of people still turned out for the sale, which benefits horticulture programs throughout the county.
“You can’t keep gardeners from a plant sale,” quipped Julie Carlsen, a master gardener.
She said shoppers can find native bleeding heart, fringecup, foamflower and sword fern if they’re looking to incorporate some natives into their gardens. Volunteers will be available to answer questions about the plants for sale.
To Learn More
Have a gardening question?
• Contact the Master Gardener answer clinic at 360-397-6060, ext. 5711, or MGanswerclinic@clark.wa.gov. Otherwise, visit the clinic at 78th Street Heritage Farm, located at 1919 N.E. 78th St., between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, or 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays.
Want to volunteer?
• Plant flowers in Propstra Square in Esther Short Park, 605 Esther St., from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 19. Bring gloves, kneeling pads and trowels. Lunch will be provided. Volunteers will meet at the southwest corner of the park.
Looking for inspiration? Visit a demonstration garden.
• Pacific Community Park at Northeast 18th Street and Northeast 172nd Avenue, Vancouver.
• NatureScaping Wildlife Botanical Gardens at 11000 N.E. 149th St., Brush Prairie.
Want to learn more about native plants?
• Clark College’s Native Plant Propagation Center will host a talk, “Why Native Plants?”, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. May 3 in Room 201 at Anna Pechanec Hall at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way. Erin Harwood will offer planting tips and talk about why native plants are important for the wild ecosystems.
Or, people can call the Master Gardener answer clinic for gardening-related questions or problems. Volunteers at the clinic can help diagnose issues and help gardeners avoid using sprays. Some people, for instance, may think a bad bug is munching away at a plant when really it’s a beneficial caterpillar trying to eat all the nutrients it needs to turn into a butterfly.
List of Plant Sales
Master Gardener Foundation
• What: Hanging baskets, ornamental trees and shrubs, edibles, perennial and annual flowers, and house plants priced between $1.25 and $20. Sales support the Master Gardener Program and horticulture education in Clark County. MasterCard, Visa, cash and checks accepted.
• When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 12, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 13.
• Where: 78th Street Heritage Farm, 1919 N.E. 78th St., Vancouver.
• Info: www.mgfcc.com
NatureScaping of SW Washington and CASEE
• What: Bare-root trees, shrubs and perennial sales support NatureScaping gardens and classes. Perennials start at $1, shrubs start at $5 and trees are $10 or more. MasterCard, Visa, cash and checks accepted. Next door, the Center for Agriculture, Science and Environmental Education sells Northwest native plants priced at $3, $5 and $10. Cash or check only.
• When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 28-29.
• Where: Wildlife Botanical Gardens, 11000 N.E. 149th St. and CASEE, 11104 N.E. 149th St., Brush Prairie.
• Info: www.naturescaping.org or 360-737-1160.
• What: Sales of vegetables, houseplants and garden gifts benefit the therapeutic garden program at Stephen’s Place, an assisted living facility for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
• When: 10 a.m. to noon May 5.
• Where: Stephen’s Place, 501 S.E. Ellsworth Road, Vancouver.
Two Rivers Heritage Museum
• What: The Camas-Washougal Historical Society hosts its annual plant fair, featuring native Camas lilies, Canterbury bells and hybridized irises, along with other local plant starts, flowers and berries. Proceeds help cover the museum’s operating costs. Cash or checks only.
• When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 19, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 10.
• Where: 1 Durgan St., Washougal.
All school sales accept cash or checks only.
Battle Ground High School
• What: More than 15,000 plants for sale, including hanging baskets, perennial flowers, bedding plants, vegetables, berry plants and nursery stock. Sales benefit the district’s horticulture, welding and FFA programs. Customers can also check out the school’s demonstration garden that includes aquaculture, tissue culture, hydroponics, trellised fruit trees and several perennial fruits.
• When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 5-6.
• Where: Greenhouses at 300 W. Main St., Battle Ground.
Clark College Environmental Field Studies
• What: Native shrubs, perennials and trees such as Camas, buttercup, blanket flower, snowberry, red flowering currant and nodding onion. All proceeds go toward field-based science experiences for Clark College students.
• When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 4, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 5.
• Where: Greenhouse at southeast corner of Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way. Park in Orange 2 lot near East Reserve Street and McLoughlin Boulevard.
Columbia River High School
• What: For sale are annuals, perennials, vegetable plants, herbs, house plants, native plants and hanging baskets that are grown in a no-spray greenhouse that uses all-organic soil. Proceeds help students participate in FFA competitions; this year Columbia River will compete in the state convention.
• When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 28, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 30-May 4.
• Where: Greenhouses at 800 N.W. 99th St., Vancouver.
• Info: email@example.com
Fort Vancouver High School
• What: The sale includes annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, sedums, succulents, houseplants, orchids, fruit plants and native plants, as well as vegetables, including organic, heirloom and hybrid tomato varieties. Prices range from $1 to $20, with most being $1 or $3. Proceeds benefit the FAA club and next year’s plant sale.
• When: 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 2-4.
• Where: Next to the track at 5700 E. 18th St., Vancouver.
• Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hudson’s Bay High School
• What: Many varieties of fruits, herbs, veggies and native trees ranging from $1 to $15. Proceeds go toward the school’s natural resources classes and FFA program.
• When: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 2-3, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 4.
• Where: Greenhouses on the east side of the school, 1601 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver.
Mountain View High School
• What: Vegetables, herbs, flowers ($1.50), four-pack vegetables ($2.50), one-gallon geraniums and annuals ($3), and hanging baskets (one for $16, two for $30). Sale benefits the school’s horticulture program.
• When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 2-4.
• Where: Greenhouse behind the 100 building, 1500 S.E. Blairmont Drive, Vancouver.
Prairie High School
• What: Sales of hanging baskets, vegetables, flowers, grasses, herbs and succulents benefit the district’s horticulture, welding and FFA programs. Visit www.facebook.com/prairieffagreenhouse to see photos of what will be available at the sale.
• When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 5.
• Where: Greenhouse at 11311 N.E. 119th St., Brush Prairie.
Vancouver Flex Academy
• What: Students sell veggies, herbs, tender and hardy succulents, sun and shade hanging baskets and some landscape plants to benefit the academy’s horticulture program and launch an FFA program.
• When: 4:30 to 7 p.m. May 10-11, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 12.
• Where: 2901 General Anderson Ave., Vancouver.
• Info: email@example.com
Woodland High School
• What: Florticulture and horticulture science students sell organically grown plants, including hanging baskets, geraniums, petunias and succulents. The sale also features more than 30 varieties of tomatoes and 15 varieties of peppers, along with squash, zucchini, pumpkins, broccoli and kale.
• When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 4, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 5.
• Where: 1500 Dike Access Road, Woodland.
Camas Plant and Garden Fair
• What: Plants, trees, garden art and supplies.
• When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 12.
• Where: downtown Camas.
• Info: cwplantfair.org
Clark Public Utilities Home & Garden Idea Fair
• What: Plant sale, home and garden businesses, landscaping displays and farmers market vendors. Parking is $6.
• When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 29.
• Where: Clark County Events Center at the Fairgrounds, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.