Certification Criteria & Checklist
You are invited to display your commitment to water-smart landscaping and your appreciation of our natural and cultural heritage by certifying your garden as a Heritage Garden.
To certify and qualify for the free sign, your garden will need to meet the basic requirements below.
Why certify? Not only does it show off all your hard work but it helps us to keep offering these services in the years to come.
Does your garden check all the boxes? Request a certification visit!
Unsure if you're garden's certification ready? Connect with your county Heritage Garden Representative with any questions.
Basic Requirements of a Heritage Garden
Your garden must have at least five different species of plants. A more diverse plant population will support more animal species, resulting in greater biodiversity. At least two of these five species must be of value to wildlife. At least one of these five must have cultural or historic significance.
For the total population of plants in your garden, 75% or more must be native to Washington State. You will find that once you meet this goal, you have likely achieved the plant species requirements above.
Next is to evaluate your garden for achieving sustainability requirements, especially water conservation. The Heritage Garden Program was designed to limit the need for supplemental irrigation in the arid regions of eastern Washington (i.e., the Columbia Plateau ecoregion) so is based on natural precipitation of around 10" annually. Therefore, for the total population of plants in your garden, 30% or more must require less than 10" water annually. Once established, these plants will not require supplemental irrigation. Additionally, no more that 10% of the plants in your garden should require more than 30" of water annually. This latter parameter allows your garden to have a bit more diversity without being too dependent on supplemental irrigation.
The Heritage Garden Program has grown, extending west into the Eastern Cascades Slopes & Foothills ecoregion. If your garden location is in this region and precipitation is significantly greater than 10" annually, some adjustments to these criteria may be in order. Contact your Heritage Garden Representative to discuss.
To recognize Washington's dramatic history of layer upon layer of basalt flows followed by massive floods, your garden must display at least one example of basalt or a rock from the ice-age floods such as an erratic or rock rolled by the flood waters.
With the Heritage Garden Program moving west and climbing into the Cascades, some adjustments may be in order for defining geologic features in these areas. "The geologic history of the North Cascade Range is a complicated puzzle that records over 400 million years of various rocks and terranes..." (Visit North Cascades by Washington States DNR to learn more.) If basalt rock or ice-age flood debris does not represent your geologic history, educate us. Tell your Heritage Garden Representative about the native rock that you would like to use as your geologic feature. The goals are to be representative of your area and to not be unnecessarily hauling in rock over long distances.
Finally, getting and keeping weeds under control is essential as is not allowing plant species listed on Washington's Noxious Weed List to establish themselves.