Sustainable Practices

Sustainability is the capacity to endure.  It is a long-term commitment to stewardship of the environment, responsible use of resources, and economic prudence.

We support sustainable practices.  We support a reduction in non-essential use pesticides.  We favour prevention and sanitation methods to control a pest population before it becomes damaging to the plants.

Sustainability refers to the ability to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

- Bruntland, G. 1987 “Our Common Future:
The World Commission on Environmental and Development”, Oxford University

Compost and Compost Tea

Composting is the biological decomposition of organic waste under controlled conditions, brought about by the growth of microorganisms and invertebrates.
(Agricultural Composting Handbook, 1996, BC Ministry of Agriculture)

Moisture, temperature and aeration must be monitored and maintained during the composting process.  Usually, three phases occur during composting:

  1. An initial hot phase of 1 or 2 days, during which the smaller material is rapidly degraded.
  2. A period of many weeks when temperatures reach 45 to 65°C and most microbes are killed.
  3. A final curing phase when temperature declines and the material is re-colonized by microbes.

Materials properly composted will reach the hot temperatures required to kill pathogens, insects and weeds.  However, materials not composted properly may still contain plant pathogens.  If kept wet for too long, the materials may trigger root and stem diseases.  The curing phase is important for natural disease suppression.  After reaching peak heat, different micro-organisms naturally colonize the piles.  They include many parasites of root rot pathogens, such as Bacillus, Flavobacterium, Streptomyces and Trichoderma.

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  • Resources from our company:

    Compost Preparation and Use
    An 8-page article that reviews basic procedures for preparation of “good” compost.
    Copy of text

    Preparation and Use of Composts to Prevent Plant Diseases
    An article published in 2007 in “BC Organic Grower”, the magazine of Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia.
    Copy of text

    Compost Tea: An Introduction
    A review of key points when preparing compost tea.
    Published in 2007 in the magazine “BC Organic Grower”.
    Copy of text

    Brewing Aerated Compost Tea
    Microbial Content of Compost Tea After Variations of Ingredients or Procedures
    (copy of poster) presentation at the 1st World Congress on the use of Biostimulants in Agriculture, held in 2012 in France

Soils to Conserve Water

The formation and maintenance of a high degree of soil aggregation is one of the most difficult task of soil management, yet it is also one of the most important, since it is a potent means of influencing ecosystem function.
(The Nature and Properties of Soils, 1999, Prentice Hall Publisher)

Organic matter indirectly affects the amount of water available to plants through its influence on soil structure and total pore space.  For example, organic matter stimulates the formation of soil aggregates.  These aggregates are important reservoirs of water.

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  • Resources from our company:

    Using Organic Matter for Water Conservation
    A slide presentation that reviews important concepts on this topic. Presented at a workshop organized in 2010 by the Okanagan Xeriscape Association.
    Copy of talk (large file)

    Using Mycorrhizal Fungi for Water Conservation
    A slide presentation that reviews important concepts on this topic. Presented at a workshop organized in 2010 by the Okanagan Xeriscape Association.
    Copy of talk (large file)

    Soil Amendments at the Time of Planting to Conserve Water
    A report from a workshop directed by James Urban.
    Held in 2009 in Oregon City, Oregon.
    Copy of report

 Mycorrhizal Fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi are specialized micro-organisms that live on plant roots in a mutually beneficial relationship.  The host plant supplies carbohydrates produced during photosynthesis.  In return, the fungus grows an extensive network into the soil, transferring and nutrients to the plant roots.

Plants colonized by mycorrhizal fungi have higher tolerance to various stress factors, including drought, cold temperatures, and soil conditions such as high pH or high salt content.

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  • Resources from our company:

    Mycorrhizal Fungi: Trials in Nursery Production
    A 12-page text presenting results of trials by our company in propagation and container production.
    Presented in 2006 at the Western Region meeting of the IPPS (International Plant Propagator’s Society).
    Copy of text

    Mycorrhizal Fungi: Benefits for Arborists

    A review of key points on the benefits of these soil microbes when inoculated on street planted trees.
    Presented in 2003 at the annual meeting of the Prairie Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture in Medicine Hat, AB.
    Copy of text

    Mycorrhizal Fungi: Trials in Urban Landscapes
    A slide presentation that reviews trials by our company.
    Presented in 2004 at the Canadian Urban Forest Conference in Kelowna, BC.
    Copy of talk (large file)

Pest Management Without Pesticides

“Integrated Pest Management (IPM) should be a fundamental part of any sustainable winegrowing program. It is cost-effective, flexible and resilient.”
(A Practical Guide to Sustainable Winegrape Growing, 2011, The Wine Appreciation Guild)

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an ecosytem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage.  The approach uses a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties.  Pesticides are used only when required and based on recognized safety practices.

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  • Resources from our company:

    Lawn Care Without Pesticides
    A 2-page article reporting on a public meeting of lawn care companies held in Toronto in 2010, discussing new programs following the provincial legislation restricting pesticide use for cosmetic purposes.
    Published in 2010 in “HortWest” magazine.
    Copy of article

    Weed Control Without Pesticides in Urban Areas
    A one-page article on chemical-free management of weeds.
    Published in May 2009 in “HortWest”, the magazine of B.C. Landscape Nursery Association.
    Copy of article

    Pest Management in Backyards
    A series of 6 pamphlets on common pest problems for education of home owners. Prepared by our company in 2009 for the City of Kelowna. The brochures print back-to-back and fold in a 3-panel flyer.

    - Managing aphids in your yard (copy of brochure)
    - Managing powdery mildew (copy of brochure)
    - Managing pests of fruit trees (copy of brochure)
    - Managing your lawn (copy of brochure)
    - Managing weeds in your yard (copy of brochure)
    - Managing pests in your yard (copy of brochure)

 Biological Control

Biological control is the use of living natural enemies to supress pest populations.
(Heinz, Van Driesche and Parrella, 2004, BioControl in Protected Culture, Ball Publishing)

Biocontrol can be applied in different ways:

  • Conservation of naturally-occurring natural enemies with flowering plants, access to water and limitations in pesticide sprays
  • Augmentation through release of commercially-available natural enemies, a method commonly used in greenhouse production
  • Importation into an environment of a new agent from a different location, for example biocontrol agents released in British Columbia for control of noxious weeds

Diversified Plant Selection

The benefits of plant diversity is by no means a new discovery by modern ecologists. It was the intuitive agricultural practice of numerous “primitive” cultures, and today it is a basic tenet of the organic or biological agricultural movement.
(Common-Sense Pest Control, 1991, The Taunton Press)

Developing this ecosystem perspective has many aspects:

  • The garden should have a diversity of flowering and fruit plants that are suited to the climate and the soils.
  • The soil should be protected with mulch, ground covers or cover crops to reduce problems caused by weeds and foot compaction.
  • Organic matter is regularly added to the site to encourage a variety of desirable microbes and soil dwelling insects.
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  • Resources from our company:

    Tree Selection for the Okanagan
    A 4-page table with suggestions for urban tree selection in the B.C. Interior region.
    Presented in 2009 at the annual training meeting of the ISA-PNW (Pacific NorthWest chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture).
    Copy of document

    Sustainable Landscape Practices
    A 2-page summary of presentations at the “FarWest Seminars”.
    Held in 2009 in Portland, Oregon.
    Copy of report

    Planting Practices for Urban Plantings
    A 4-page report on the international conference “The Landscape Below Ground”.
    Held in 2008 in Illinois.
    Copy of report

More technical documents are available for download at the Technical Information page.