Gary MacDougall turned his front yard into a garden, completely covering the grass five years ago. He’s inviting others to his front garden on Sunday at 1 p.m. to share ideas. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Trend to convert lawns to meadows and gardens reaches Oak Bay

Front yard ‘food production,’ a piece of the puzzle

Since smothering his front lawn with a layer of brown cardboard and six inches of soil in 2014, Gary MacDougall and family have grown so much food they often have to share, trade or give it away.

Even in December, two of the dozen rows in the front garden at the MacDougalls (Gary, Petra and their three children) are teeming with winter greens arugula, spinach, kale, chard and lettuces. Outside of the deer fence, near the road, is a prolific berm of garlic that goes untouched by Oak Bay’s favourite ungulates. In the backyard, the family keep chickens which lay plenty of eggs and contribute to the compost (which MacDougall installed inside the coop) to become part of the food production cycle.

READ ALSO: Ten year waits for communiuty allotment gardens in Oak Bay

For MacDougall, it’s more than a high-intensity urban farm that produces so much garlic he trades it for fruit with other Oak Bay residents. It’s a carbon sink, a use of the land that is a major piece of the puzzle in fighting the climate crisis.

He’s so excited about it, he’s invited anyone who wants to visit and talk about growing food to stop by at 1 p.m. on Sunday to his house at 961 Runnymede Pl.

“Look what we can do with grassroots,” MacDougall said. “We can restore lawns to natural habitat, grow food, and create carbon sinks. We have to move from being consumers, to producers. And it brings the community together.”

MacDougall is also a part of a growing movement in which residents are converting their lawns into native meadows, food producing gardens, or a mixture of both.

There aren’t a lot of front yards converted into food production in Oak Bay but there are a few. It’s a fast-growing part of the business that Kristen Miskelly, with her partner James, do with their company, Saanich Native Plants.

“There is a huge pickup on it, there is a tide-shift,” Miskelly said.

The couple started in 2013 at Haliburton Farm in Saanich and have added a nursery field in Cobble Hill. They run workshops on how to convert your lawn back into a native meadow and have taken on full conversion projects of big properties in Saanich and Oak Bay.

READ MORE: Matchmaking service connects gardeners with plots

“I’m hearing, ‘Of course you would convert your lawn,’ kind of language, so I expect a lot of lawn conversion to be happening, like it’s normal language,” Miskelly said. “There’s momentum there, whereas when we started these workshops a few years ago there wasn’t that much awareness in that way.”

The workshops start with how to approach removal of the lawn, and go from there.

“You can absolutely have a blend of year-round food production, with a small meadow, an orchard, as there are all sorts of ways to approach it,” Miskelly said. “Meadows are part of a traditional food system on the South Island such as nodding onion and camas that respects the thousands of years that these plants co-existed with the people here.”

There is an emerging urgency that grass is a wasted space, and that gardens and meadows are a piece of the puzzle when it comes to fighting climate change at home.

“For some, it’s a pollinator focus,” Miskelly said. “For some it’s esthetics, and for some it’s harvest. People need to think, the more of these meadows and gardens, the more bees and butterflies can go hop-scotching in urban settings from one patch of plant diversity to another.”

MacDougall said his Sunday gathering is about doing something good for the planet, a chance to talk about how your property can store Co2 and grow food.

“Nothing long, let’s meet for 40 minutes, an hour, get together and celebrate growing food and to communicate ideas of the climate,” he said.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Gary MacDougall turned his front yard into a garden, completely covering the grass five years ago. He’s inviting others to his front garden on Sunday at 1 p.m. to share ideas. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Just Posted

Kwick’kanum (Eric Pelkey), a hereditary chief of the Tsawout Nation, addressed the crowd that gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway reopens after rally supporting Mi’kmaq fishing rights

Supporters call on government to recognize Indigenous treaty rights

Sooke man Rik Downer spent two weeks in the Royal Jubilee Hospital after contracting flesh-eating bacteria. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Sooke man’s bumped knee leads to fight for life

Man unknowingly contracts case of rare flesh-eating disease

Const. Graham Walker of the Saanich Traffic Safety Unit recreates an incident involving a driver who police say attempted to film the scene of a crash while driving up Highway 17. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Police track down driver caught filming accident scene on Pat Bay Highway

Driver issued $368 ticket, points on their licence

The 21st annual Japanese Cultural Fair streams online Oct. 24 from noon to 3 p.m. (Facebook/Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society)
Esquimalt’s Japanese Cultural Fair takes tastes, experiences and cultures online

21st annual free event streams Saturday, Oct. 24 starting at noon

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Most Read