Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Category: Gardening (page 2 of 5)

Butterflies to see and links to share for Pollinator Week

It’s said that birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammal pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of our food. Pollinating flowers is a serious job. For this reason, the Pollinator Partnership organization created an event called Pollinator Week, every year around the third week of June.

In 2019, it’s June 17– 23. The blog post for this year is Creating Lawn Habitat for Endangered Bumblebees, which includes two citizen-science initiatives that you can contribute to by sending in your bumblebee sightings.

In 2017 (the year of this post), it’s June 19-25.

In 2013, I blogged about it with a bonus DIY Mason Bee house project.

It’s very important to give honeybees and native insect pollinators as much habitat and food as we possibly can, because of Colony Collapse Disorder. In absence of remedies to prevent this disease from killing the honey bees that pollinate our non-native food crops, only natural resistance, the kind where survivors (in particular, survivor queens) go on to create new hives, will improve the survival rates of beehives. In addition, honey bees are very competitive with native pollinator species, so we need to make sure that the natives get a fair crack at food sources – specifically native plants, which honey bees are less adept at pollinating.

So, to inspire people to do something to appreciate or even help our pollinators, I found a few links to share. Nature herself also motivated me: the cover photo for this post came from my recent trip to the Adirondacks, where I found a bunch of Eastern Swallowtail butterflies mud-puddling on the beach.

Why do butterflies mud-puddle? Well, it’s an easy way to absorb minerals, sodium in particular, from the solution it makes in water-logged soil. For this reason, other insects also congregate around mud puddles.

  • Male butterflies tend to mud-puddle more than females, and you can read more about that curiosity here.
  • If pollinators had dating profiles, these would be those. This is an article by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, on my favourite publishing platform, Medium. It’s cute and clever and I learned a few species.
  • Updated in 2018: there’s also an Irish website, “Don’t Mow, Let it Grow,” dedicated to education about helping pollinator species such as bees. They have an animated cartoon series suitable for children to explain what bees and other pollinating insects do. (Note for little children: it would be helpful for a parent to read the titles on the animation!)

What more can we lawn-owners and gardeners do to help bees and other insect pollinators, such as butterflies?

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Plants for Birds – a native garden planning resource

Are you getting ready to plan or plant your garden? If so, Plants for Birds is for you!

It’s a native-plant database (plants that evolved in local landscapes) cross-referenced with the birds that enjoy those plants. Knowing which birds pass through your location along with what kinds of food and shelter they’ll enjoy, it’s a great research tool for making decisions to help wild birds.

For Americans, it’s even better – it’s integrated with local nurseries where you can buy the plants! This aspect won’t apply to Canadian gardeners, as we wouldn’t be able to shop and bring plants back across the border. However, we share some of the same Zones as the northern states (for example, Montreal is in Zone 5). Only distance and our immediate habitat type (for instance, dry and open vs. wet and forested) might differ, so it’s relatively safe to assume we can benefit from this cross-referencing.

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Climbing vines on the shady side 

My house is almost famous for the green wall of vines I have growing on it – which you can see in on our Facebook page. Of all the neighbours, the only others who have vines are those on the end on a row, with a big wall to cover.

My Virginia creeper is now about six years old, and for two years, I also  let one climb out back, on the  shady eastern side. At the same time, I nabbed a real ivy plant and planted it in the same place, but I suspect that Virginia creeper inhibits other plants, as it failed to thrive.

This year, out back, I dug out the creeper and planted a climbing hydrangea in its place, as I wanted the flowers, and a climber that thrived in the shade. Little did I know, but it also released the ivy, which has since taken off.

It’s inspiring me for next year, where I’m going to remove the creeper from the front of my house (except the garage wall) and plant ivy in its place, because it spreads nicely and is less rambunctious.

It is not true that climbing plants damage your bricks. They help shade your home so that it’s cooler, they look nice, and they also give wild birds a place to hang out, and berries and insects to eat.

Montreal’s annual Borough Plant Giveaway Day – an extravaganza

BCLH’s “Rewilding” service is available again for the April – June 2019 migration and planting season. If you’re considering making your driveway a green one, converting over a portion of your yard and garden to no- or low-mow native plants, or you’d like to take practical action to save the birds, contact me. Also, subscribe to the monthly newsletter, and send in any DIY questions you have!

Due to the popularity of this post (the fact that you’re reading it), I’ll be doing an annual blog post as soon as the information is available on when the plant give-away weekends take place across various parts of Montreal. I’ll do my best to find out when it is at least by the first weekend in May — which is when you might want to go shopping for seedlings, anyway.

2019’s event announcement is here.

Jane, april 2019

If you like gardening, there’s always a weekend in May that’s our big gardening weekend. It’s like a coördinated extravaganza to get people motivated to get their plants into the ground at the best possible time. Events usually happen the same weekend, including native and ornamental plant sales such as at the Botanical Garden.

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