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)

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

 

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)

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

A building in the 300-block of Mary Street sustained significant damage Saturday night after a suspicious fire was started. Police arrested an arson suspect Sunday. (Courtesy of Victoria Fire Department)
Arson suspect arrested following Vic West structure fire

Building in 300-block of Mary Street sustained significant damage Saturday night

The Victoria International Airport saw its revenues plummet in 2020. Officials hope a proposed warehouse will be a significant revenue generator. (Black Press Media file photo)
Head of Victoria Airport Authority makes economic pitch for Sidney warehouse project

Geoff Dickson said Sidney stands to earn $325,000 in annual taxes

The City of Victoria hopes to improve its cultural spaces this year and it wants non-profits to help. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Grants up to $125,000 open to Victoria non-profit arts and cultural organizations

Victoria Cultural Infrastructure Grant applications close at the end of May

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Cadboro Bay teen meets with minister after advocacy against Coastal GasLink

15-year-old Claremont student and George Heyman discussed the project for about 30 minutes

Participants take part in a previous Walk for Alzheimer’s. This year’s event is being held virtually and participants are asked to set a walking or fitness challenge during May. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria residents invited to set fitness challenge for Alzheimer’s

IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s goes virtual during the month of May

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read