Earth Day, a day to raise awareness of environmental care and protection of our planet, is April 22. And according to the Canadian Climate Change Report released earlier this month claiming Canada’s warming at double the global average, Canadians need to step it up a notch. Regardless of whether you believe in global warming or not, each of us has a responsibility to protect the small part of the earth we inhabit. Here’s how gardeners can take action:

1) Once spring weather finally returns, don’t be too hasty with spring clean up or you may do more harm than good. Raking beds clean is not eco-wise. Decaying leaves left on gardens absorb moisture from thawing snow and spring rains, releasing moisture to plants when needed. Leaf mulch also insulates plant roots from cold snaps and shelters soil organisms that will ultimately help keep your garden healthy, as nature intended. So remove any excess leaf litter gradually as temperatures warm up enough to warrant it and look out for still hibernating ladybugs and other beneficial soil creatures while you do. Turn leaves into compost or leaf mould and add it to soil to help retain moisture.

2) Spring is an ideal time of year for homeowners to start a compost. Composting food scraps and yard waste diverts organic waste from landfills and becomes free fertilizer for your flowers, vegetables, and lawn without the carbon emissions made by municipal trucks. Though you’ll have to turn the pile now and then, nature does most of the work for you. Apartment dwellers can create smaller amounts indoors in a worm bin, which I promise you is really not as gross as it sounds.

3) More extreme weather is predicted with global warming and last year’s floods and intense heat are evidence of this. Rain gardens help homeowners with a yard deal with sudden downpours by channelling rainwater from impervious surfaces of the property like rooftops and driveways to a slightly, sunken garden on the property where stormwater runoff collects and is filtered of environmental pollutants as it drains gradually. Rather than overburdening sewer drains and polluting nearby lakes, rainwater stays on the land where it falls, replenishing underground aquifers. Rain gardens also beautify the landscape, adding monetary value to home landscapes.

4) Lawns require abundant water, fertilizer and mowing to keep looking healthy. Cutting grass high (7.5cm) and allowing clippings to decompose naturally on lawns will build stronger roots that resist droughts. Water lawns responsibly (only 2.5cm per week) and don’t bother watering in the peak of hot summers when brown and crunchy; dormant grass will return green and lush with cooler weather. Having less lawn makes the most eco-sense since it will decrease greenhouse gas-emitting mowers and overall maintenance.

5) Trees are vital in fighting climate change. They clean our air, recycle water, help regulate earth’s carbon balance, enrich soil with nutrients and prevent homes from overheating in summer, which in turn, decreases energy needs. Evergreen trees shield homes from winter winds and shelter wildlife. You don’t have to wait for the last frost date to plant a tree. They are cold hardy and can be planted as soon as soil is not too wet to work in. Pick native or disease-resistant varieties and avoid invasive Norway maple. If your space can’t accommodate a tree, fight for them.

Though gardeners are good stewards of the earth, human activity has already caused it irreversible damage; extremes in hot and cold weather and wacky precipitation patterns are our new normal. We each can prevent global warming from worsening, to make our planet livable for future generations, one small step at a time.

Elaine Sanders can be reached at

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