Green Neighbors Program

The Clark County Green Neighbors Program was developed and is maintained by Clark County Solid Waste and Environmental Outreach to assist citizens with developing more sustainable lifestyles and building a strong environmental community in Clark County. Solid waste regional planning and programs are a cooperative effort of Battle Ground, Camas, Clark County, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal, and Yacolt. Funding for this project provided by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Clark County makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information provided on this web site. However, due to the possibility of transmission errors, HTML browser capabilities, changes made since the last update to the site, etc., neither Clark County, nor any agency, officer, or employee of Clark County warrants the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any information published by this system, nor endorses any content, viewpoints, products, or services linked from this system, and shall not be held liable for any losses caused by reliance on the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of such information. Portions of such information may be incorrect or not current. Any person or entity that relies on any information obtained from this system does so at his or her own risk.

In offering information on the Web, Clark County seeks to balance our requirement for public access with the privacy needs of individual citizens. Information that appears on the Clark County Web site is part of the public record. By law, it is available for public access, whether by telephone request, visiting county offices, or through other means.

This site contains links to other websites. Clark County is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content, accuracy or opinions expressed on such websites, and such websites are not investigated, monitored or checked by us for accuracy or completeness. Inclusion of any linked website on our site does not imply approval or endorsement of the linked website by us.

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Contact Details

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(360) 397-2121 x4352

Gardening

  • Holiday Waste Reduction

    It’s easy to be green no matter what holiday it is —
    Here are some tips you can use all year long

    Read more

     

    Related articles: Waste Reduction Home Assessment | Thoughtful Consumption

    holiday waste reduction article

  • You can help

    We all play a role in keeping those waters clean in our everyday actions at home, work, school and play. Simple stewardship actions can help keep pollution from reaching our waterways. In Clark County, our stormwater drains go directly to stormwater facilities or the creeks themselves. It is important to realize what could get into a storm drain, besides rain water. Learn more to make sure your everyday actions are protecting our watershed. 

    Read more

    clean water help article

    Pick up pet waste

    Pet waste left on the ground can be washed into storm drains that lead directly to our streams and wetlands. This waste carries harmful bacteria, which can affect the health of aquatic wildlife, ourselves and our children.

    More resources

    Fix auto leaks

    If you see discoloration (like a rainbow) in the water running down the street during a rainstorm, there is pollution up stream. Check your vehicle for leaks and get it fixed. When your car leaks fluids, it is often a sign of a larger problem that can lead to major engine damage and possibly an expensive repair bill.

    Oil and other vehicle fluids from cars are toxic. Fix your leak so that vehicle fluids don’t end up in puddles where kids and pets like to play!

    Vehicles drip millions of quarts of motor oil into the Columbia River basin every year. Oil and other petroleum products can harm wildlife and habitat. When it rains, stormwater runoff carries pollution to creeks, streams and rivers.

    Only rain down the drain

    In your neighborhood, streets drain downhill to a storm drain. These drains are connected to pipes that carry the water to a local creek, stream or river. It is important to remember that we need to keep all contaminants and pollution OUT of the storm drains.

    Make sure you properly dispose of waste materials like paint or motor oil. Many of these items can be recycled or reused. Also keep soaps, herbicides and pesticides out of water by following directions on the product labels and not using on hard surfaces that can wash to the drain.

    Help educate your neighbors by volunteering to mark a message on your neighborhood’s drain “Protect Water – Only Rain in Drain.” Clark County loans out stencil kits for free! These are a great community service, school or scout project.

    Water wise farms

    If you are a small acreage or farm property owner, there are number of steps you can take to protect the health of your property and your watershed. Our partner at WSU Extension hosts workshops on topics to benefit your property, such as understand your soils, managing stormwater runoff and tips for healthy animals.

    Your landscape is part of the solution

    Everyone loves a lush lawn, beautiful plants and a healthy hard for you to call home. There are lots of great ideas to help you protect stormwater runoff from pollution while creating your dream landscape. Learn about Grasscycling, use of native plants, healthy plant care, gardening tips, and water conservation techniques.

  • Compost Consultations

    Are you interested in setting up a better composting system at your community garden?

    The Master Composter Recycler Program offers FREE Composting Consultations for community gardens in Clark County, WA. A Master Composter Recycler Ambassador will come to your garden with resources, tips and tricks to guide you to composting success.

    Read more

     

    mcr compost consults article

    How does this program work?

    Is my garden eligible?

    Any school, church, or community garden can participate in the program. The application will help provide us the details we need to know how to help you best.

    What can I expect from my compost consultation site visit?

    A Master Composter Recycler ambassador will come out to your garden to provide you resources and advice (where to site a bin, what style of bin will work best, what to compost and not compost, how to manage your compost pile, etc.) to help you set up a successful composting system. The visit will take 30 – 60 minutes. At the end of the visit, we’ll leave you with a packet of resources to guide you and fellow gardeners on your own. You are always welcome to reach out to us with additional questions.

    What happens after my site visit?

    You will be responsible for obtaining any necessary supplies to construct your composting system and manage your pile(s). However, your ambassador will be available for additional visits to help you set up your system, check up on your progress, ensure things are working properly, and troubleshoot problems.

    So how do I get started?

    If you are interested in a Master Composter Recycler ambassador coming to your garden for a consult, please call (360) 397-2121 ext. 4352 or email us at mcr@clark.wa.gov and ask to set up a visit. All we need is some basic contact information and few details on your current composting set up, or lack thereof. This will help us determine what resources we can provide to best meet your needs.

    Please spread the word! This is a new service that we are proud to offer the community for free. If you know someone who works in a community garden space, ask if they have heard of this opportunity.

  • Community Gardens

    There are two community gardens managed by Clark County. The Heritage Farm Community Garden (Hazel Dell) has 80 plots and the Florence Wager Community Garden at Pacific Park (E Vancouver) has 16 plots. All of these plots are rented out annually.

    Both of these gardens are full for the 2016 season. Please check back to this site in late 2016 for information about the 2017 gardening season. For more information or with questions, you can email communitygarden@clark.wa.gov.

     

    Related articles: Natural Garden Tours | Composting

    community gardens pacific park article
  • Fact Sheets

    Clark County offers a multitude of fact sheets and booklets that provide ways you can actively help reduce pollution in our waters.

  • Demonstration gardens

     

    The Natural Gardens at Pacific Community Park provide an opportunity to view natural gardening techniques in action, see native plants in the landscape and take inspiration home to your own garden.

    Pacific Community Park is located at 1515 NE 164th Street in Vancouver, WA. The demonstration gardens are meant to show homeowners different ways to practice earth-friendly techniques at home.  Natural gardening reduces the use of synthetic chemicals in order to increase beneficial organism activity, enhances habitat and wildlife areas, and contributes to the overall health of the community. There are eight beautiful backyard examples that fit any yard size or preference.

    Pacific Community ParkEdibles and Herbs:   Naturally growing your own food puts you in control of what you put in your body and can also save money on grocery bills. Growing edibles, including varieties you might not find at the grocery store, promotes a healthier lifestyle by allowing you to eliminate harmful pesticides and enjoy fresh produce in season. Growing your own is not only more sustainable, but it can also be fun and rewarding! Brochure for Edibles and Herbs Garden can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Wildlife Gardening:   Wildlife gardening refers to creating an environment that is inviting to various forms of local wildlife. These landscapes usually provide food, shelter and water for wildlife, and offer a mixture of meadow, woods and wet areas. By creating a garden that attracts stunning wildlife, you will be helping to restore habitat and biodiversity in commercial and residential areas. Wildlife gardens act both as a benefit to the wider environment and as a source of natural biological pest control in your garden. Brochure for Wildlife Garden can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Pacific Community ParkBeneficial Insects and Compost:   Attracting beneficial insects to your yard will help naturally combat pests and encourage the pollination of plants. The addition of certain plants to your garden will help to attract a healthy population of these insects and reduce the need for chemical pesticides. Compost can reduce the need for chemicals as well, as it is a great way to organically fertilize your plants and ward off weeds. Composting also decreases the amount of solid waste we produce, promotes healthy plant growth, and restores nutrients in the soil. Brochure for Compost and Insects Garden can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Native Plants:   Native plants are adapted to our environment, so once established they are pest and disease-resistant and require little extra water and maintenance. Gardening with native plants helps to lower water bills and time commitments, as well as provide erosion and flooding control. Since they’ve spent thousands of years getting used to regional conditions, they will thrive without much care and contribute positively to the environment. Brochure for Native Plants Garden can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Pacific Community ParkDog Friendly:   Creating a dog-friendly garden means using plants that are safe for your pet to ingest and building a landscape that accommodates its needs. Keep in mind that dogs require some shelter and space to run. Filling your yard with hearty plants that are also non-toxic to dogs is lower maintenance for you, and safer for your pet. Brochure for Dog-Friendly Garden can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Lawn Alternatives:   Alternatives to a traditional lawn can create a more varied and productive landscape that does not require the same level of maintenance as grass turf. Decking, ornamental grasses, and various rocks are low maintenance choices that are practical and still aesthetically appealing. Consider your growing conditions and whether the area will need to tolerate foot traffic when selecting appropriate varieties. Brochure for Lawn Alternatives Garden can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Xeriscaping:   Xeriscaping refers to gardening and landscaping which does not need additional watering. This self-sustaining yard option stays attractive year around and does not require supplemental irrigation. Xeriscaped yards can save money, and there is a variety of interesting plants that can be incorporated such as succulents, native wildflowers, ornamental grasses and rock garden plants. Brochure for Xeriscaping Garden can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Pacific Community ParkRain Garden and Vegetated Bioswale:   In nature, soil and plants store, filter and release rain water into local waterways. You can model this natural process and reduce the amount of pollutants coming from your property by creating a rain garden. Reducing pollution, attracting wildlife, easing flooding, and helping to restore the aquifer are just some of the benefits from this eye-catching garden. Consider how water drains on your property when selecting the best location for a rain garden, and use a variety of plants that have appropriate water needs. Brochure for Rain Garden can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Clark County Public Health oversees this site and relies upon volunteers to assist with maintenance and improvements. If you'd like to help out, please email info@clarkgreenneighbors.org for more information.

    For even more ideas, visit the City of Vancouver's Backyard Wildlife Garden located at the Water Resources Education Center. You can discover many new ideas and see a lot of wildlife!

    You might also enjoy visiting the Wildlife Botanical Gardens in Brush Prairie. Naturescaping of Southwest Washington is a non-profit, all volunteer group dedicated to educating and encouraging homeowners to create wildlife sanctuaries in their own backyards.

  • Compost Demo Sites

    Visit a Compost Demo Site

    The Master Composter Recycler program operates two composting demonstration sites in Clark County where visitors can view different bins, compost systems, and see compost being made on a backyard scale. These sites are open to the public daily during daylight hours. The locations are:

    CASEE

    Center for Agriculture Science and Environmental Education, 11104 NE 149th, Brush Prairie. Demonstration site is located at the west end of the NatureScaping Wildlife Botanical Gardens.

    Learn more about NatureScaping gardens

    Heritage Farm

    78th St Heritage Farm, 1919 NE 78th St, Vancouver. Demonstration site is walking distance from the parking lot, north of the orchard and west of the community garden.

    mcr compost demo site article
  • Inviting Habitat

    We want wildlife in our backyards because, as was said in Episode 9 of Yard Talk, “A beautiful backyard without wildlife is like a stage without actors”.

    By creating good habitat, we become good stewards of the land and we help care for the ecosystem of which we are part. With a little observation, research, patience and tolerance we can woo wildlife into our residential landscapes.

    Read more

    nbb attracting beneficials article

    This is what wildlife needs:

    Food

    We mostly think of birds when we consider feeding wildlife. Bird feeders are a great way to supply mostly seeds for birds; be sure to keep feeders clean. But many birds eat insects, and many more birds feed their young almost exclusively insects. See a list of insects birds eat at How to Attract Bug-eating Birds. Other critters also eat insects, including other insects. The best way to attract insects to your yard is to have native plants. Interestingly, very many insects larval stage can only consume one or a handful of very specific plants. And quite often, those plants must be natives. Adding even a few native plants to your landscape can help wildlife, specifically birds and insects, feel at home.

    Water

    Of course, birds, pollinators and other critters are used to natural water sources. But because most of us in residential situations don’t have natural water on-site, we need to go to plan B. Ponds are great, but expensive and can require a lot of maintenance. Moving water is very attractive to many birds so waterfall features are desirable. But again, they can be expensive to install and maintain. Birdbaths and smaller recirculating water features can be just the ticket. But whatever you choose, your water feature should have at least one side or area that is a very gently sloping so that very small birds and insects have a way to get out if they get in over their head. Be sure to keep any water features clean.

    Shelter

    Critters need safety from predators, a place to perch, and a place to raise young. Most people think of birdhouses as shelter. But wildlife is more than just birds, and birds, insects and other types of wildlife will happily take up residence in brush piles, tree snags, and even rock piles.

    Space

    All living things need space to thrive. Humans encroach more and more into areas that were the sole domain of wildlife. We can compensate just a little bit by reducing the size of our lawns and utilizing some native plants in our residential landscapes.

    Learn more

    Explore the entire Information Archive

  • Naturally Beautiful Backyards

    Naturally Beautiful Backyards (NBB) is a program that can help you be as green in your yard as you are in your house. There are things you do in your indoor life to be green, likewise, there are things you can do in your yard to be green as well. And not just in your backyard!

    The NBB program encourages:

    Make It Naturally Beautiful

    Learning about how to work with nature will make you a better and more confident gardener. Encouraging birds, bees, and wildlife into your yard by using native plants, tolerating insects and a little damage, building great soil, recycling and composting waste materials, and using fewer chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) will enable your yard to contribute positively to a healthier environment.

    Browse our pages and learn how to make your yard naturally beautiful.

     

    Related articles: Natural Garden Tours | Composting

  • Good soil

    The most important thing we can do for our yards and gardens is to provide healthy soil. Healthy soil produces healthy plants. No matter what type of soil is in place when you acquire your yard, it can be made better with the addition of compost and/or mulch. If your funds are limited, good quality mulch is the best investment you can make in your backyard.

    Soil contains billions of micro-organisms that eat rotting organic matter and transform it into nutrients available for plants. Compost and mulch figure heavily into feeding the soil biota. Compost may be incorporated into the soil to immediately start feeding the soil life. Mulch should be used on top of the soil and/or compost. Over time, mulch turns into compost on its own.

    Read more

    nbb healthy soil article

    How to build good soil:

    Understand Soil Types

    Soil has many components, and it is generally broken down into three types: Clay, silt, and sand. Clay has the smallest size, Because of this, it packs together densely which limits how much air is contained within the soil. Sand has the largest particle size. Because of this, it has very large spaces. This is great for air flow, but it also means that water flows out of it very easily. Silt sits somewhere between the extremes of clay and sand.

    Generally, a blend of the three soil components is deemed the best for most gardening needs. This pleasant blend is called loam, and in Clark County, it is very difficult to find. We have more than our fair share of hard, dense clay soils. You don't need to try to make loam out of raw ingredients.  If you have mostly clay or sand soil, add compost to your soil.

    Use Compost

    You can make your own compost from the yard debris created in your own backyard. The Clark County Master Composter/Recycler Program is an excellent source of information. Through their workshops you can get started on your own compost pile. The Master Composters can also recommend composting demonstration sites so you can see firsthand how the compost cycle works.

    We understand that not everyone has the space for (or their neighborhood association may not allow) composting. What to do? You may be able to get compost from or a friend, but you can also buy compost.

    Even if you don’t have a garden in need of it, composting is a good way to keep kitchen waste and other organic materials out of the landfill. Here are some things you can do with unwanted/unneeded compost. We encourage everyone to compost. 

    Use Mulch

    Mulch is an under-used and under-rated commodity in the garden environment. In ornamental gardens in our region, mulch should always cover both bare soil and compost. Mulch helps the soil in ornamental gardens by: moderating temperature, retaining moisture, providing nutrients as it slowly composts in place, and preventing weeds.

    Mulch can be a variety of materials, but we recommend high-carbon, un-composted, woody material. In our area, tree bark is most commonly used. But the Naturally Beautiful Backyards program advocates using fall leaves as mulch. And why not? They fall from trees into the garden requiring minimal-to-no cost or work in accomplishing the task of mulching. Leaves and other woody debris are the same materials a natural forest uses for mulch, and that system has worked well for millennia.

    An added benefit of mulch is that it eventually turns into compost all on its own, thus providing food for the soil biota.

    Recently we have seen arborist wood chips used as mulch. This is a great way to recycle arborist leftovers. Learn more about wood chips, where to get them, and how to use them in the Information Archive.

    The benefits of mulch far outweigh their simplicity in the garden. The addition of three inches of mulch in the spring around early vegetables provides shelter from freezing temperatures. Mulch in perennial and garden beds deters weeds, increases moisture retention, and stabilizes soil temperatures during extreme hot or cold spells. Mulching garden beds before the winter rains provides protection of garden soil from compaction and provides an available nutrient source to turn into the bed in spring. Three inches of mulch applied in the spring before weed seeds have matured will save hours of weeding in the summer months.

    Some guidelines for using mulch:

    • Mulch depth can vary between 3"–6" for most ornamental garden needs. Finely textured mulch can be toward the lower end of that range. Coarse, arborist chip mulch can be toward the higher end. Less than 3" depth doesn't supply adequate weed suppression.
    • Apply mulch any time of the year when soil or compost can be seen through the mulch, or any time the mulch depth is less than listed above.
    • Before applying mulch, either new or refreshing old, make sure the soil below is well-watered. Mulch is an insulator, and if the soil below it is dry, the mulch will keep it dry until a very large quantity and duration of rain occurs.
    • Keep mulch away from woody-plant root crowns to avoid damage from pests and disease.
    • Gravel and other inorganic materials are not good mulches for gardens/landscapes. These things ARE good for creating walkways, patios and other hardscape features. In most cases, use a weed barrier between the inorganic material and the soil.
    • Organic mulches decompose and need to be replaced. Replacement is based on the type of mulch used: fall leaves last about a year; 3–4" of bark typically last two to three years; 5–6" of arborist chips may last three to four years.

    Learn About the Soil Food Web

    The soil food web is a complex collection of living organisms in the soil that work together to create healthy soil. It is a lot more complex than that, and you can learn more by reading Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.

    Nutrient cycling is the process organic matter cycled from living to non-living and back to new living matter through an ecosystem and is regulated by the soil food web.

    Learn more

    Explore the entire Information Archive

  • Appropriate plants

    We encourage the use of native, zone-appropriate, and disease-resistant landscape plants because they are adapted to our climate and soil conditions. Native plants are particularly good choices because they so perfectly support the insects that are an essential element of the ecosystem. But don’t assume that just because a plant is native to our region that it will work in your landscape. If you choose a tree like Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides), then you’d better be living at higher altitude than sea level, because that plant requires at least 2000' to thrive. Similarly, if you have a teeny, tiny yard, you don't really want a Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum). It doesn't matter that both of these plants are native in our region, they simply aren't appropriate plant for every location in our region. 

    Read more

    nbb native plants article

    Ways to select appropriate plants:

    Use the NBB Plant List

    We have created a plant list that includes mostly native plants, but also zone-appropriate plants that are generally drought-tolerant, can control erosion, and provide good wildlife habitat. We have chosen not to include some native plants that can become a problem in smaller residential situations. Our list also separates trees according to appropriateness for smaller or larger landscape situations.

    Employ the Right Plant / Right Place Principle

    Employ the Right Plant / Right Place principle for choosing plants. This means taking into consideration the plant's needs, your tolerance for doing maintenance, and the space you have available for the plant to live in.

    Do Good Landscape Design & Maintenance

    We encourage you to make green landscaping choices concerning design, plant selection, and maintenance practices. Since residential properties are not all created equal, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for landscaping. But learning about, and then orchestrating a landscape (even a small part of one) that is more natural in both character and function can really help both wildlife and water quality in our region.

    Though there are lots of resources, there are two very good books about designing and implementing natural landscapes.

    • Real Gardens Grow Natives by Eileen M. Stark.
      The author designs wildlife gardens in the Portland, Oregon metro area and the book is very region specific with plant lists, how-to information about installation, drawings, and lots of other information about wildlife and why native plants are important.
    • Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest by Russell Link.
      This has long been the go-to guide. It is the basis for workshops all over the Pacific Northwest.

    Reduce Traditional Lawn

    As for lawn, they require a lot of resources to look their best, and most wildlife and birds don’t look at lawn as lovingly as we humans do. But sometimes lawn is the only good option for the situation. Luckily, there are more eco-friendly turf grasses available that require much less water and fewer chemicals to look good and be healthy. To make yard that needs to have a larger lawn a bit more wildlife-friendly, carve out a small area for just small habitat area.

    Remove Noxious Weeds & Invasive Plants

    Recognize and remove invasive plants like: English Ivy, English Holly, Barberry, Herb Robert, Yellow Archangel, Yellow Flag Iris, Butterfly Bush, Spurge Laurel, Black Locust, Periwinkle, Thistle, Cherry Laurel, and Bindweed.

    Learn more

    Explore the entire Information Archive

  • Classes and Workshops

    Why waste a good thing? Recycle organic waste to make a rich soil amendment. Learn the basics of enriching the earth and keeping good stuff out of the landfill at a composting or vermicomposting workshop!

    See what’s coming up

     

    mcr classes workshops article

    Our Spring 2017 Workshop Schedule is here!

    Register now!

    Backyard Composting – FREE. Pre-registration required

    Saturday, May 20th, 10 a.m. – noon at CASEE 
    View compost bins in action. Learn how to turn your yard waste into garden gold.

    Lasagna Gardening – FREE. Pre-registration required

    Saturday, June 3rd, 10 a.m. – noon at CASEE 
    This no till, no-dig method saves time and backaches.

    Green Cleaning – FREE. Pre-registration required

    Thursday, June 8th, 6 – 8pm at Clark County Public Works Operations Conference Center 
    Make three versatile household green cleaners. Kit and ingredients provided no charge.

    "Wormshop"  ** Class is Full (email to be put on waiting list) **

    Turn waste into soil for your garden. Worms and bin provided no charge.

    Backyard Composting – FREE. Pre-registration required

    Tuesday, June 20th, 6 – 8 pm at Heritage Farm 
    View compost bins in action. Learn how to turn your yard waste into garden gold.