Meet the Expert – Caring for Your Green Yard

Woman looking at flowers

When you think of a technician, you don’t often think of trees and gardens. But planting trees and gardens is a large part of what Sara Maedel does in her role as Technician for Urban Landowner Outreach at Credit Valley Conservation (CVC).

Meet the Expert: Sara Maedel, Technician, Urban Landowner Outreach

CVC staff planting a tree in a backyard
Sara planting a tree.

Sara’s work supports CVC’s urban outreach programs to educate and inspire urban landowners in the Credit River Watershed. Our goal is to create sustainable landscapes in local yards and corporate properties that support a healthy environment.

To date, we have planted over 1,200 native trees, shrubs and wildflowers in 800 urban yards. If you’ve ever received a free native plant as part of CVC’s program, you’ve likely already met Sara because she delivered them straight to your door.

We recently spoke to Sara from her home office to find out what inspires her in the garden and to get advice on how to get started.

When did you first discover your love of gardening?

I’ve always admired trees and wildflowers while hiking. I’m a Trail Captain and Hike Leader for a section of the Bruce Trail. But I fell in love with gardening when I bought my first house. The huge red oak in my backyard meant I needed to create a woodland garden. To start, I asked: What plants do I see growing with red oaks in the wild? I don’t stress about design. I think about what birds, pollinators and amphibians need to survive in an urban setting.

What’s one gardening tool you couldn’t do without?

My by-pass pruners. I invested in a good quality pair that I clean and sharpen myself. The pair I have now has lasted over 10 years. Learn about pruners in this edition of The Garden Post.

Hand holding bypass pruners.
Sara’s by-pass pruners.

What’s one gardening myth you’d like to see dispelled?

That leaves need to be raked into yard waste bags! Leaves are valuable habitat for overwintering pollinators, like hibernating bumble bee queens and butterfly and moth larvae. They’re also free mulch! To use leaves as mulch in your garden, wait until overwintering insects have emerged. Gently spread clumps of leaves over the garden to allow air to circulate. You can pile dry leaves up to 12 cm thick or wet leaves up to 4 cm thick. You can add any leftover leaves gradually to a compost pile.

Wild leeks growing through leaf mulch.
Leaf mulch around wild leeks.

Do you have a favourite native plant?

I really enjoy watching spring ephemerals emerge. My favourite is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Their bright white flowers are a cheerful sight after a long cold winter. I remember their name because their unfurling leaves remind me of a blood thirsty vampire opening his cape. But the real reason they’re called Bloodroot is the red juice in their underground stems.

Bloodroot flowers
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Do you have any tips for novice gardeners on how to get started?

Start small! Don’t overwhelm yourself. Create a garden with native plants you know you will be able to maintain. And have fun doing it!

Meet Sara online

Sara will be delivering a free webinar for residents of the Credit River Watershed on May 2. Look up your address to find out whether you live in the watershed. You can also learn about other upcoming Your Green Yard webinars and workshops for landowners by visiting

Comments (4)

  1. What a great article! Thank you Sara. By the way, I have been mulching all of my leaves for the past 2 years with my lawn mower. The soil has never been so rich of organisms and moist.
    We look forward to resuming our neighbourhood tree sale program with the CVC once the COVID situation improves.

  2. Hi Sara
    This was a very interesting article. Good to know what some staff members at CVC are doing.
    The picture of the wild leek, is that from your garden? What other plants do you have?
    Maybe, at some future date, you could show more photos of your “woodland garden”
    Keep up the good work,

    1. Hi Norm, walking through my garden is a bit like walking along parts of the Bruce Trail (which I know we both miss!) – along with the Wild Leeks, I’ve got lots of other wildflowers popping up. Blooming right now are the Bloodroots, White Trilliums, Blue Violets, and Round-lobed Hepaticas. In the next few days or so, I expect I’ll see the Serviceberries, Blue Cohosh and Trout Lilies in flower. Such an exciting time of year! Some other woodland favourites in my garden include: Wild Ginger, May-apple, Canada Anemone, Wild Strawberry, Wild Columbine and Canada Mayflower.

      Here’s some photos of Blue Cohosh and Hepatica.


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