"We recently moved into a new home. It is the first time we have owned a place with a backyard, 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 kinds of things fare well in this climate and do not attract wildlife? Also, we have tall trees around our backyard, and so only get a little morning sunlight."
Siobhan Gatchalian, Coquitlam
Few crops meet all your criteria: the shade, tall trees, and hungry wildlife. I include slugs as "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 rhubarb 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 garden.
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, provided you plant at the right times and choose varieties intended for coastal areas of southern B.C.
But most successful gardeners in wildlife-active areas routinely employ protection and avoidance tactics.
For instance, slugs munch on many seedlings of plants that they'll avoid completely when 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, lettuce, purslane (delicious but invasive) and many Asian vegetables like bokchoy.
Unfortunately, deer love leafy vegetables. Netting (pea-netting or fishnet) works. Deer also hate putting their faces in branches with multiple tiny twigs.
Try to stay uncommitted about what you can and can't grow until you've tried many different things. Most vegetables need four hours sun, while sun-lovers like squash or tomatoes need much more.
Location is important. You may have a sunnier, or 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.
The tall trees around the garden have probably made a network of hungry roots. And if you're on a hillside, you may have lots of boulders. Growing food crops may be easier in raised beds, with in topsoil and compost brought in.
These are general guidelines, but I urge you to try a bit of everything 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 firstname.lastname@example.org