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Going green at home

Grow native plants in your garden


Native plants

Native plants are plants that occur naturally in an area, and are well adapted to local climate, soil conditions and diseases. Since they have evolved surviving on rainfall alone, they are generally good choices for low maintenance, low water consumption gardens.

See the list below to get you started. Your local nursery or garden supply centre may carry some of these plants, and there are a number of nurseries in the Ottawa area that specialize in native plants. The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club also holds an annual native plant sale at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden (Experimental Farm).

Try to make sure that the plants you choose are actually native to eastern Ontario, not just to North America in general.  For more information on native plants, please refer to the following:

Evergreen Native Plant Database

Ottawa Area Native Trees and Shrubs Database


In areas that are not used much, grass can be replaced by one or more groundcovers. Many of the following species will thrive in shady areas, unlike most turf grasses.

  • Bearberry (white-pink flowers in early spring; red berries in summer) – Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
  • Bloodroot (beautiful white flowers in early spring) – Sanguinaria canadensis
  • Bunchberry (white flowers followed by red berries) – Cornus canadensis
  • Canada Mayflower (white flowers in spring) – Maianthemum canadense
  • Foamflower (clusters of white flowers in spring) – Tiarella cordifolia
  • Partridgeberry (very low-growing, evergreen with red berries) – Mitchella repens
  • Violets, including Sweet White, Canada, Northern White, Yellow or Common Blue – Viola blanda, V. canadensis, V. macloskeyi, V. pubescens or V. sororia
  • Wild Ginger (interesting flowers in spring) – Asarum canadense
  • Wild Strawberry (white flowers in late spring, edible berries in summer) – Fragaria virginiana
  • Wintergreen (low-growing, aromatic evergreen leaves and red berries) – Gaultheria procumbens


Many commercially prepared wildflower seed mixes contain species that are not native to our area. Some mixes even include invasive species that should not be planted near natural areas!

  • Asters, such as Panicled, Calico, New England or Purple-stemmed – Symphyotrichum (formerly Aster) lanceolatum, S. lateriflorum, S. novae-angliae or S. puniceum
  • Blue Flag – Iris versicolor
  • Canada Anemone – Anemone canadensis
  • Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis
  • Goldenrods, including Tall, Canada, Zigzag, Early or Rough – Solidago altissima, S. canadensis, S. flexicaulis, S. juncea or S. rugosa
  • Spring-beauty – Claytonia caroliniana
  • Trilliums, including White or Red – Trillium grandiflorum or T. erectum
  • Wild Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis


  • Canada Yew (evergreen) – Taxus canadensis
  • Chokeberry – Aronia melanocarpa (also known as Photinia melanocarpa)
  • Common Juniper (evergreen) – Juniperus communis
  • Elderberry, either Common or Red – Sambucus canadensis or S. pubens (also known as S. racemosa ssp. pubens)
  • Maple-leaf Viburnum – Viburnum acerifolium
  • Nannyberry – Viburnum lentago
  • Northern Bush-honeysuckle – Diervilla lonicera
  • Purple-flowered Raspberry (large, showy flowers and leaves) – Rubus odoratus
  • Staghorn Sumac (large shrub/small tree; spreads by roots) – Rhus typhina
  • Winterberry (bright red berries in fall and winter) – Ilex verticillata

Trees (small)

  • Alternate-leaved Dogwood – Cornus alternifolia
  • Blue-beech – Carpinus caroliniana
  • Hawthorn – Crataegus chrysocarpa, C. flabellata or C. submollis
  • Pin Cherry – Prunus pensylvanica
  • Maple, either Mountain or Striped – Acer spicatum or A. pensylvanicum
  • Serviceberry – Amelanchier arborea
  • White Cedar (evergreen) – Thuja occidentalis
  • Trees (large)
  • American Beech – Fagus grandifolia
  • Balsam Fir (evergreen) – Abies balsamea
  • Birch, either White or Yellow – Betula papyrifera or B. alleghaniensis
  • Bitternut Hickory – Carya cordiformis
  • Black Cherry – Prunus serotina
  • Maple, either Red, Silver, United (hybrid) or Sugar – Acer rubrum, A. saccharinum, A. x freemanii or A. saccharum
  • Oak, either Red or Bur – Quercus rubra or Q. macrocarpa
  • Tamarack – Larix laricina
  • White Pine (evergreen) – Pinus strobus
  • White Spruce (evergreen) – Picea glauca

Reduce home energy

Use a clothesline or drying rack

Your clothes will smell fresh, naturally. It costs nothing, requires no electricity and creates no pollution.

  • Lower energy demand on power grid, reduces risk of blackouts during peak load
  • Reduces greenhouse gases and air pollution from coal-burning power plants
  • Saves money on your electricity bill (approximately $0.25 to $0.30 per load)

Install compact fluorescent energy-efficient light bulbs

light bulbs

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs. They also last up to 10 times longer.

Changing a light bulb may seem like a small act. The impact may seem abstract. But the cumulative effect is huge. If every Canadian household replaced JUST one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a 20-watt compact fluorescent it would save up to $73 million a year in energy costs. It would also reduce emissions by almost 400,000 tonnes per year - the equivalent of taking 66 000 cars off the road.


  • Saves money on your electricity bill
  • The bulbs last 10 times longer than standard light bulbs
  • Lessens the demand on public power sources
  • Reduces greenhouse gases

Install a low-flow showerhead


Replace your showerhead with a new low-flow model. Look for one with a flow rate of 9.5 litres per minute. It will save as much as 60 percent of the water used by a conventional fixture. For every person in your house, it translates into 1,400 litres saved every month. Over a year, that's 16,800 litres per person.


  • Reduces demand on valuable water supply
  • Saves on water and water heating bills

Safer alternatives for household products

In addition to the many suggested alternatives below, there is a wealth of information available. Examples of informative websites include:

The Basics:

Baking soda – cleans and deodorizes; scours and polishes; removes stains; softens water.
Borax – deodorizes; removes stains; boosts the cleaning power of soap; water softener.
Cornstarch – cleans and deodorizes carpets and rugs.
Lemon juice – cuts grease and removes stains on aluminium and porcelain.
Pure soap – cleans everything; comes in liquid, bar, powder and flakes.
Table salt – use as a mild disinfectant; scouring powder.
Washing soda – cuts grease; disinfects; boosts cleaning power of soap; removes stains.
White vinegar – removes mildew, stains, grease and wax build-up.


  • Use non-aerosol products.
  • Deodorants – roll-ons, creams, sticks.
  • Cooking sprays – cooking oils.
  • Shaving cream – tubes, brush and shaving soaps.
  • Hair sprays – setting lotions, gels, pump sprays.
  • Cleaners – pump sprays.

Air Freshener

  • Baking soda box left open in room.
  • Use herbs or potpourri.
  • Add cloves, cinnamon, vanilla to boiling water, simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Set out a dish of vinegar.

All-Purpose Abrasive Cleaner

  • Mix 125 ml baking soda and 125 ml water.

All-Purpose Carpet Stain Remover

  • Mix 50 ml borax with 500 ml warm water. Spray on stained area and wipe with a damp sponge. Repeat until clean.

All-Purpose Cleaner

  • Mix together 1 litre warm or hot water, 15 ml soap flakes (or more for tougher cleaning jobs), 30 ml borax, 5 ml lemon juice and/or white vinegar. Melt soap flakes in water. Apply to surface. Rinse.

Ant Control

  • Caulk or weather strip ant entry points into your home.
  • Pour a line of cream of tartar where ants enter house.
  • Sprinkle red chilli, paprika or dried peppermint where ants enter house.


  • Add 125 ml borax to wash load to whiten whites and brighten colours.
  • Add lemon juice to rinse cycle and hang clothes outside in the sun to bleach.
  • If bleach is necessary, use dry bleach flakes.

Carpet Cleaner

  • Use soap based cleaners; avoid using aerosols.
  • Clean carpet stains immediately with club soda.
  • Sprinkle carpet with dry cornstarch or baking soda and vacuum after 1 hour.
  • Rub dry baking soda into grease stains on carpets.
  • Combine equal parts vinegar & water to remove winter salt residue on carpets.


  • Heat white vinegar and water in kettles, steam irons and coffee makers for cleaning scale (according to manufacturer’s instructions).
  • Apply pure white vinegar to taps, faucets and showerheads to dissolve scale. Repeat several times. Scrub with baking soda on an old toothbrush to remove material that remains.


  • Wash items with soap and water or add 100 ml borax with 1 L water.
  • Mix 50-100 ml eucalyptus oil with 1 L of water in spray bottle; shake mixture before use to disperse the oil.

Dish Soap

  • Dissolve soap flakes in hot water. Add a little white vinegar to cut grease. Not for use in automatic washers.

Drain Cleaner

  • Use plunger or mechanical snake first.
  • Flush clogged drains with 60 ml baking soda followed by 125 ml vinegar. Close drain until fizzing stops and flush with boiling water.
  • Clogged Drain Prevention: Mix 250 ml baking soda and 250 ml salt. Pour 60 ml of this mixture down drain followed by a pot of boiling water. Flush with cold water. Do this once every 2 weeks and your drain should remain unclogged and odour free.

Dusting Aid

  • Moisten dusting cloth with a few drops olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons (28 ml) lemon juice.

Fabric Softener

  • Rinse cotton and wool blankets with 500 ml white vinegar added to washer.


  • Replace chemical fertilizers with peat moss, manure, fishmeal or organic compost.
  • Lawn fertilizer is unnecessary if lawn is watered properly and you practice grass cycling.
  • Grass Cycling: leave grass clippings on lawn; nutrients are reabsorbed into soil. Do not cut grass too short. Thoroughly water lawn (when necessary) in early morning (no more than a couple of hours). Aerate lawn every few years.

Flea/Tick Product

  • Put brewer’s yeast or garlic in pet food.
  • Sprinkle fennel, rue, rosemary or eucalyptus seeds or leaves around animal sleeping areas.

Floor Cleaner

  • Mop floor with mixture of 200 ml white vinegar to 9 L of water.

Furniture Polish

  • Wipe furniture with mixture of 5 ml lemon oil in 500 ml mineral or vegetable oil.
  • Try 3 parts olive oil, 1 part white vinegar.


  • Make a paste of 3 tablespoons (42 ml) cornstarch in 4 tablespoons (56 ml) water. Stir this into 2 cups (454 ml) boiling water. Continue stirring over gentle heat until mixture thickens and becomes translucent. Cool and pour mixture into container and store in refrigerator.

Glue/Decal Remover

  • Soak in white vinegar.
  • Rub decals and hard-to-remove glue with peanut butter.

Grout Cleaner

  • Use undiluted vinegar with toothbrush.
  • Try 3 parts baking soda with one part water.
  • Use toothpaste or denture polish.

Insect Bites

  • Bee Stings: Apply a thick paste of baking soda and water or rub with an onion cut in half.
  • General Insect Bites: To relieve itching, rub area with cider vinegar or baking soda paste or use a paste of meat tenderizer and water over bite.
  • Mosquitoes: Soak bites in salt water, then apply skin cream.


  • Plant garlic cloves at 1-foot intervals in garden.
  • Use traps or spray soaps.
  • Blend 6 cloves crushed garlic, 1 minced onion, 1 tablespoon (14 ml) dried hot pepper, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure soap in 1 4.5 L hot water. Let sit 1-2 days; strain; spray on plants.
  • Use chamomile tea as insect lotion.
  • Burn citronella candles or mosquito coils.

Metal Polish

  • Brass – Worcestershire sauce.
  • Chrome – Apple cider vinegar or baking soda with soft cloth.
  • Copper – Vinegar and salt; or lemon and salt.
  • Pewter – Rub with fine steel wool dipped in olive oil, wash in soapy water and dry; or polish with cabbage leaves.
  • Silver – Soak in 1 L warm water with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt and a piece of aluminium foil; or soak in buttermilk or sour milk overnight.
  • Stainless Steel – Wash with 1 L warm water and 3 tablespoons (40 ml) baking soda; rinse with hot water.

Mildew/Soap Scum

  • Use 56 ml baking soda, 115 ml vinegar and warm water.


  • Try one of the following – cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, white peppercorns, cloves, dried lemon peels.

Oven Cleaner

  • Sprinkle salt and baking soda on a spill while oven is still warm. Scour with steel wool and baking soda.
  • Use salt for baked on grease.


  • Use water-based or latex paint.

Rat and Mouse Poison

  • Remove food sources that attract rodents.
  • Place a screen over drains.
  • Use live traps or mechanical snap-traps.

Shoe Cleaner and Polish

  • Stale beer or skim milk will clean smooth leather. Shine it with a little olive or nut oil on a clean cloth.
  • Clean suede and other napped leathers by rubbing gently with the heel of a loaf of stale bread.
  • Remove salt stains from winter boots by sponging with white vinegar.
  • For grease stains on smooth leather, rub with an egg white, beaten stiff.

Stains (All-Purpose Remover)

  • Use paste of water and washing soda mix.
  • Use club soda.
  • Use lemon juice and hot water.

Stains (Blood/Chocolate)

  • Dab or soak in cold water immediately; don’t use hot water.
  • Sponge on mixture of 60 ml borax in 500 ml cold water and let dry prior to washing.

Stains (Coffee/Tea)

  • Use equal parts moist salt and vinegar.
  • Use baking soda solution of 3 tablespoons (40 ml) and 1L of water.

Stains (Chewing Gum)

  • Rub with ice and the gum will flake off.

Stains (Deodorant)

  • Rub lightly with white vinegar and launder as usual.

Stains (Grass)

  • Rub with glycerine (available at drug stores). Let stand 1 hour and wash.

Stains (Grease)

  • Rub with damp cloth sprinkled with small amount of borax.
  • Rub with soap and baking soda.

Stains (Ink)

  • Soak in milk.
  • Use hydrogen peroxide.
  • Use cold water combined with 1 tablespoon (14 ml) each of cream of tartar and lemon juice.

Stains (Wine)

  • Use club soda immediately.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

  • Use baking soda or vinegar.
  • Drop 1000 mg. of vitamin C in the bowl. Leave overnight and then scrub.
  • To disinfect use borax. Let stand for 30 minutes and scrub.

Wall and Wallpaper Cleaner

  • Rub smudges with a slice of stale bread or an art gum eraser.
  • For grease spots, apply a paste of cornstarch or baking soda and water, let it dry in place, then gently brush off. Repeat if necessary.
  • For crayon marks, rub with baking soda sprinkled on a damp cloth.

Weed Killer

  • Remove weeds by hand.
  • Try corn meal gluten.

Window Cleaner

  • Use 115 ml vinegar in 4.5 L of warm water.
  • Use newspaper to dry glass since newsprint will polish without leaving lint.
  • Use the oldest newspapers in the house so fresh newsprint won’t come off on your hands.
  • To keep bathroom mirrors from fogging, try rubbing with a dab of glycerine.

Woodwork Cleaner

  • Remove greasy fingerprints by rubbing with a soft cloth soaked in equal parts vinegar and water.
  • Clean finished, unpainted wood with equal amounts of olive oil and lemon juice on a soft cloth.
  • Unfinished woodwork can be cleaned carefully with a mixture of 2 parts olive oil to 1 part rubbing alcohol.

Start composting

compost bin

By working with nature you can turn your kitchen and yard waste into valuable compost. Use it to enrich the soil for your garden, lawn, and indoor plants. If you don't have a garden, you can always offer to provide compost for neighbours' or community gardens.

Set up an indoor compost bin

Turn your kitchen waste into valuable compost in your apartment-without any odour! Thousand of apartment dwellers across the country are adopting this new concept, also known as vermiculture. Simply put fruit and vegetable waste in a closed plastic bin containing the same type of worms used for fishing.

The worms happily eat your organic waste and turn it into perfect fertilizer. It's surprising how the waste is reduced and converted. Surprising also how there is no odour. You then add the composted material to the soil of your indoor plants, flower boxes and gardens surrounding your apartment or condo.


  • Reduces waste by up to 25 per cent
  • Provides rich organic product to nourish lawn and plants
  • Increases crop success for vegetable garden
  • Eliminates need for fertilizer

Turn idle fields into woodland


When you turn a field back into a forest, you benefit your immediate ecosystem and the overall region in a huge way. Forests create oxygen, help to prevent soil erosion, provide natural habitats for native species that are important to lifecycles and absorb pollutants such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The City's Green Acres program provides advice and assistance in setting up a proper planting plan for your property. It also provides a source of suitable planting stock (high quality, genetically appropriate and cost effective bare root seedlings).

Funding is provided on a cost-shared basis to a maximum of 50 per cent. Landowners must be rural property owners in the City of Ottawa, have a minimum of 0.4 hectares (1 acre) of suitable land. The owners must agree to assume the partial costs of the seedlings and plant, nurture and reasonably protect the plantation.


  • Provides natural biodiversity to your lands and helps lower the overall temperature of the local area
  • Cleans the air of CO2 and produces oxygen
  • Protects soil from erosion
  • Reduces water, air and soil pollution


Land Owner Resource Centre
Tel: 613-692-2390 or 1-800-387-5304