Rockyview School Division

Rockyview School Division

The Rockyview School Division is shaped like a “horseshoe” around the west, north, and east boundaries of the City of Calgary. Rockyview has 410 acres of school grounds that have been maintained without chemical pesticides or fertilizers since 1994. Steve Repic, the Grounds Coordinator since 1992, says that if he can do it, so can Calgarians. 

How does Steve Repic do it?  Steve says that natural landscaping takes a different approach than chemical landscaping.  The two main areas to focus on are
 1) choosing plants that grow well in this area according to their sun and moisture requirements and
2) improving the soil.

To choose plants that grow well in this area, Steve has naturescaped. He has reduced the area of the school grounds that has grass that needs to be mowed. Instead, hardy trees, shrubs, and perennial flowers have been planted in large beds. Wood chip mulch covers the ground to keep in moisture, keep down weeds, and add organic matter to the soil. In some places, the grass has been overseeded with Sheep’s Fescue grass - a hardy grass that stays short and doesn’t need mowing. Large sandstone boulders from the area provide places for children to sit and store heat for the plants and animals. The mix of plants chosen also provide food and shelter for wildlife. The hardy plants need little maintenance and only need watering the first year they are planted.

To improve the soil of the mowed grass areas, Steve spreads compost over the grass in a 1 cm. or 1/4 inch layer every spring, a practice called topdressing. Steve uses locally produced compost made from tree waste by a Cochrane company - Top Spray Sawmills. Aerating, topdressing, and overseeding improves the soil’s ability to retain water, reduces the compaction and hardening of the soil, and improves the vigor of the turf.
Steve also has large rain barrels at two of the schools to water new plants. When he needs to address weeds, Steve has the weeding done by hand or sprays them with horticultural vinegar - a strong form of vinegar.

Natural landscaping also requires an attitude shift. “Perfection is not achievable,” Steve says. “We’ve been spending billions of dollars over the last 50 years and there are no fewer dandelions around than last year. We just mow them - they only have fluffy seed stalks for two weeks of the year. Dandelion flowers also feed the bees first thing in the spring and keep them going so they can pollinate the fruit trees, like the Saskatoons.”

Click here for details of how the City could manage its parks/green spaces naturally.

Click here for actions you can take to support a pesticide bylaw.