Q: We recently moved into a home in Coquitlam. It is the first time we have owned a place with a back-yard and we are excited to start a garden. I would love a garden from which we could pick delectable things to eat (herbs, veggies, etc). But we often get bears, raccoons, squirrels and others here.
What kind of things fare well in this climate and do not attract wildlife? Also we have tall trees around our back-yard and so only get a little morning sunlight.
Siobhan Gatchalian Coquitlam
A: Few crops meet all the criteria you have: the shade, the tall trees and hungry wildlife. I am including slugs in my idea of 'wildlife' because they can create havoc in many gardens, especially shady ones.
Food crops that should fit your situation without a lot of extra work include rhu-barb and strongly aromatic shade-tolerant herbs such as mint (invasive!), chives and parsley. Arugula and corn salad aren't a favourite of deer or slugs in my gar-den. Though slugs can eat fruit of alpine strawberries, much of it stays untouched.
Raspberries are also shade-tolerant, but deer do 'prune' the stems in winter.
Most kinds of vegetables and fruit for temperate climates do well here pro-vided you plant at the right times and choose varieties intended for coastal areas of southern B.C. But none of it is totally workfree.
Most successful gardeners in wildlife-active areas rou-tinely do some protection and use avoidance tactics.
For instance, slugs munch on many seedlings of plants which they avoid completely when the same kinds become mature. They don't cross copper tape.
Plastic milk jugs with caps removed and tops covered with mesh make slug-proof greenhouses. Pet-friendly slug baits are sold in garden centres.
Leafy crops tolerate part shade much better than fruiting crops do. Leafy vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, kale, arugula, spinach, swiss chard, let-tuce, purslane (delicious but invasive) and many Asian vegetables like bok choy.
Unfortunately, deer love eating leafy vegetables.
Netting these (pea-netting or fishnet) does work. Also deer hate putting their faces in branches with multiple tiny twigs.
It would be helpful to stay uncommitted about what you can and can't grow until you've tried many differ-ent things. Most vegetables need a minimum of four hours sun while (sun-lovers like squash, tomatoes etc.) need much more.
Location is also important. I wonder if you have a sunnier, or at least lighter, space outside your front fence. Boulevard gardening happens in Vancouver frequently. Also climbing vegetables (pole beans, tall peas) can, reach up into more light - sometimes just enough to produce more of a crop than would happen with bush varieties at the shadier ground level.
The tall trees around your garden have probably made a network of hungry roots in your soil. Also if you're on a hillside, you may find your ground is full of boulders and not easily dig-gable. You'll probably find it easier to grow food crops in raised beds and may need to bring in topsoil and some compost such as Sea Soil or commercial compost.
These are general guide-lines, but I urge you to try a bit of everything anyway over the years. Experience is by far the best way to find what works well for you and what won't.
- Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.