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.

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  • 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.

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    nbb attracting beneficials article

    This is what wildlife needs:


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.

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  • Alternatives to chemicals

    One of the Naturally Beautiful Backyard (NBB) program’s main goals is to educate Clark County residents about how they can reduce the use of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers) in their landscapes and keep pollutants out of our watershed. You’d be surprised how easy it is for chemicals and other pollutants to find their way from our yards into nearby surface water, and even into the water we drink.

    Reducing the use of chemicals can help increase beneficial soil microbe activity and enhance wildlife habitat, both of which contribute to a healthy watershed.

    A healthy watershed benefits our community and the entire region. So limiting chemical use helps ensure a healthy environment for wildlife and people, too.


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    nbb pesticide alternatives article

    Ways to reduce use of chemicals in your landscape:

    Select Disease-resistant Plants

    Diseases are the most difficult problem to remedy without chemicals. So choosing plants that are immune to typical landscape diseases can really help. Choosing native plants can help, too. But be advised that even native plants can be susceptible to typical landscape diseases.

    There is a saying in landscaping: Right plant / Right place. It means selecting plants that fit into the space that is available, and that need the amount sun, water, soil composition, etc. that is available in that particular space. It also means evaluating a plant’s growth characteristics in accordance to your tolerance to do work and use chemicals. If you are dedicated to not using chemicals as a measure of protecting both wildlife and the watershed, then you should select plants that support that desire.

    Employ Beneficial Insects

    Over 90% of the insects in our region are beneficial. They do more good than harm, and eat or otherwise destroy many of the trouble-makers.

    A lot of insecticides kill more than just the few bugs that are actually pests. Systemic insecticides will kill even good insects that munch on the plant. Many contact insecticides will kill whatever insect they touch.

    “But they are eating my plants,” you lament! Yes, they are, but consider this: If you arrange to have an army of beneficial insects live among your plants, they would be more than happy to eliminate most all of the bad insects. All they need are some ‘host’ plants to call home.

    Hand-pick Pests

    Yeah, slugs are a true menace. We don’t know of any insects that eat them. Got chickens?

    Hand-picking and destroying the few pests that aren’t managed by beneficial insects is the way to go. Yes, we realize this is work. But your watershed thanks you!

    You can also hand-pick diseased leaves, fruit, etc from plants as an alternative to chemical use.

    Be Observant

    Become familiar with your landscape and how things should appear when it is healthy. Doing so can help you see when things are not quite right. And you'll have a jump-start on solving problems before they get out of hand.

    Remove Noxious Weeds

    While we promote the use of chemicals only as a last resort, we realize it is not always possible to avoid the use of chemical products entirely. You may have a large area of your yard being overtaken by invasive or aggressive plants or insects that should be eliminated before they get out of control.

    In such cases (like English ivy, thistle, blackberry, tansy ragwort, etc.), it is important to correctly identify the problem and choose an appropriate chemical product to treat it. Be sure to carefully follow the mixing and application instructions in order to protect yourself, your family, and the environment.

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  • Information Archive

    Our categorized information has been collected from a variety of sources across the web. The archive includes links to other useful sites, as well as many pdf documents you can download. We provided the source information if it was available.

    Want a more personal resource?

    The WSU Clark County Master Gardeners provide advice about residential gardening and landscaping. If there is a bit of information you can’t find in the resources below, the Master Gardener might be able to help. They staff a local answer clinic and offer classes and workshops to the community.

    Note: You may notice that this archive quite often lists information from Goodnight Design. Beth Goodnight was the Naturally Beautiful Backyards consultant during 2015–2016 when this archive was produced. She is a landscape designer and gardening coach with her own business, Goodnight Design. We have borrowed, with permission, from her information archive. Feel free to explore her archive here: Successful Landscaping Knowledge Base

  • Natural Garden Tour

    Save the Date: Natural Gardens Tour - Sunday, 15 July 2018

    The Natural Garden Tour is a self-guided tour on a Sunday in July, offering a peek into spectacular gardens that are maintained through natural gardening techniques. Meet the host gardeners and gather ideas to make your yard a beautiful and healthy garden. The 2017 Natural Garden Tour had 800 participants, with a total of 2,400 garden visits! Check back in June 2018 for details on the 2018 Natural Garden Tour.

    Why Garden Naturally?
    Common chemicals kill many insects beneficial to the health of your garden and they compromise the garden’s ability to fight pests. By learning natural gardening techniques, you can minimize the use of chemicals to control diseases and pests. By removing chemicals from our management practices, we help to keep a healthy environment for pets and children, while also protecting local rivers and streams.


    Check back in June for the 2018 Natural Garden Tour Booklet

    2017 Natural Garden Tour Booklet

    Related articles: Naturally Beautiful Backyards | Grasscycling

    natural garden tour