Invasive Matters Column

Native plants are a great landscaping option as they are low maintenance, require less water and attract local birds and insects.

Native plants are a great landscaping option as they are low maintenance, require less water and attract local birds and insects.

Much of my work with invasive species deals with plants and animals that have already made their way to the Okanagan-Similkameen and unfortunately are here to stay. In this situation, our efforts focus on reducing their spread to new locations and protecting areas and habitats where they have not yet established.

But collectively we need to work towards taking actions to prevent species from ever being introduced. This is the most effective strategy against invasive species. Preventative measures typically offer the most cost-effective means to minimize or eliminate environmental and economic impacts. Prevention relies on a diverse set of tools and methods, including education.

When it comes to preventing invasive plant establishment, one of the most important considerations is retaining natural habitats whenever possible. Retaining a functionally diverse community of trees, shrubs, perennial grasses and forbs in their natural state helps to create a resilient habitat where invasive plants are less likely to get a foothold.

Any regular readers of my column should know how important it is to limit soil disturbances, as this is where the invaders want to move in. But there are times when the soil must be disturbed, such as when we install new irrigation lines, extend the patio or build a fence. This is when we need to think about replanting or seeding those soils as soon as possible.

Mulch or layer of rock can also help suppress invasive plants that may be lying in wait. However, be wary of your sources of such material, as the last thing you want to do is important mulch, rock or gravel onto your property that is contaminated with invasive plants.

It’s equally important to choose plants wisely. Invasive ornamental plants are available through catalogues, online distributors, local plant sales and through sharing amongst gardeners. Generally we encourage gardeners to be wary of plants promoted as fast spreaders or vigorous self-seeders.

Thanks to a grant from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund and with support from the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, we are in the process of developing a handout that outlines best management practices to avoid and minimize invasive plant impacts during construction, development and landscaping. The document will be available by mid-October.

Additionally, on Oct. 1 and 2 we are offering “Invasive-Free Certification” workshops for landscapers, horticulturalists and earth-moving companies. The workshops will promote and integrate targeted invasive plant prevention and management into the practices of horticulture and landscape companies serving the South Okanagan.

The workshops aim to improve participants’ knowledge of invasive plant recognition, control and disposal methods, and provide recommendations for alternative plantings.

These companies will be publicly acknowledged for their participation in the workshop. For more information or to register for one of the workshops email oasiss@shaw.ca or phone 250-404-0115.

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