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Creating Monarch Meadows
Julie, of Georgetown, recently shared an inspiring idea for Monarch conservation and her personal story of doing away with her lawn and replacing it with a biodiverse, pollinator-friendly and edible garden. Here is Julie’s note and photos from her lawn-free yard!
“When I was growing up, in a small town in southern Quebec, my dad had a huge field where he gardened. Half was a vegetable garden and the other half was filled with grasses and milkweed. Every summer I would stand out in the middle of that wild field and the Monarch butterflies would be soaring and swooping all around me. I marveled at the sight, but took it for granted that every sunny summer day they would be there.
Flash forward nearly 40 years, to my garden in southern Ontario. If we spot a Monarch we run for the camera. Three years ago, I was delighted to watch a Monarch lay an egg on one of the Butterfly Weeds (Asclepias tuberosa) in my backyard. The summer of 2013 however, I only saw three Monarchs. One day, as I was pruning some towering Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and reflecting on the sad plight of migrating butterflies, my daughter came outside and exclaimed excitedly: “Mom, there’s a Monarch over your head!” I took the arrival of a Monarch at that precise moment as a sign. A sign that: “While there’s life, there’s hope”; a sign from the universe that I needed to do everything I personally could to help save the greatest migration on Earth.
In addition to giving away hundreds of perennials and planting school gardens, I decided to maximize the likelihood of Monarch caterpillars in my own garden. So I started removing a large section of my front lawn for a wildlife garden. I had just begun when fate intervened and my street was ripped up for a water main replacement. When I told the construction workers I was removing the lawn to help the Monarchs, and other wildlife, they dug it up for free.
During the 2014 fall migration, I was overjoyed to have (mostly solitary) Monarchs visit my garden daily. My daughter laughed every time I excitedly announced: “Monarch”, dropped whatever I was doing, and went tearing outside with my camera. They nectared almost exclusively on the Meadow blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis) and then headed south.
I know, however, no matter what I do, if their paths are not filled with others doing likewise, my efforts will be for naught. While discussing the need for people throughout North America to be involved, my twelve year old daughter Jenny said we should start the “Monarch Migration Movement”.
All over North America, there are many groups, and individuals, working to save the Monarchs. What if everyone who wanted to help could go to one website to obtain all the information they needed? And on this website there was a map which showed all the fields and farms, gardens at schools, parks, businesses, and homes which had planted milkweed or butterfly weed. What if this map showed areas in red, until enough fields, roadways and gardens were planted to be cautiously optimistic, when they would then turn to yellow? And, once optimal amounts were planted, they would turn green. What if there was a counter on the website which tallied up every single garden and you could watch the numbers climb higher and higher and see the continent wide efforts being made to save the Monarchs?
A map would clearly identify the areas which most needed habitat and everyone involved could start social networking amongst their family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends, in person and online, and letting them know that their area was desperately in need of habitat.
What if we called these gardens Monarch Meadows and we created habitat, which not only supported Monarchs but indigenous wildlife, pollinators, and migrating birds year round?
The benefits would be numerous. For, while people were gardening, they would be:
- Forming new friendships within their community, across all demographics.
- Learning about the importance of organic gardening and the dangers of pesticides
- Getting exercise
- Reducing their stress levels
- Beautifying their neighborhoods (which has been shown to reduce crime rates)
- Possibly learning about growing food for themselves, thus reducing their own carbon footprint
- Creating healthy organic soil, which sequesters carbon and retains more water
- Creating habitat to support all wildlife, thus protecting bees, other pollinators, and biodiversity
While we were planting these gardens we could ask artists and photographers of all ages to submit photos and designs which anyone could download and put on a t-shirt, hat, or tote to further spread awareness. Everyone involved would learn about the groups that have been tirelessly working for years to protect the Monarchs and people could be asked to support their efforts through donations which support education and habitat creation and protection.
While planting, we could advocate in our cities, towns, states or provinces for bans on spraying roadways, parks, and public land and encourage the planting of native milkweed species. People need something to hope for and work towards, to feel they are making a difference, but they often don’t know exactly what to do. One website, with all the necessary information, could guide them and the map and rising tally inspire. After all, the $6.64 billion dollars Americans are willing to spend to save the Monarchs would buy a heck of a lot of plants and seeds.
So what do you say? Can we all gather in one place and reach out to gardeners, farmers, bird watchers, nature lovers, pollinator, wildlife, and biodiversity advocates, people in the organic food movement and get planting? After all, as one of the construction workers who ripped out my lawn for my wildlife garden said: “Who doesn’t love butterflies?”
With hope for the Monarchs,
Julie (Georgetown, Ontario)
Ontario’s Greenbelt protects approximately 2 million acres of green space, farmland and rivers, streams and environmentally-sensitive areas from sprawl. The Greenbelt supports Ontario’s biodiversity and maintains our drinking water. The Greenbelt also prevents pollution and provides people with a better quality of life.
Coinciding with the 10 year anniversary of the Greenbelt, four provincial land use plans are being reviewed: the Greenbelt Plan, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Niagara Escarpment Plan, and the Oak Ridges Moraine Plan. Oakville residents can help grow and strengthen the Greenbelt by participating in the public consultation.
This is our chance to advocate for the expansion of the Greenbelt along our natural heritage systems and urban river valleys, such as Fourteen Mile Creek.
TAKE ACTION to GROW and STRENGTHEN the GREENBELT!
Share your views at the Town Hall meeting (Thursday May 7th at Oakville Town Hall, 6pm)
If you can’t attend the Town Hall meeting be sure to share your feedback online before May 28, 2015.
A NOTE ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT:
The Province has structured the public review process to provide input on how to better achieve six main goals. These goals and review questions are outlined in the Discussion Document produced by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Regional Town Hall meeting round tables and the online feedback form are also focused on gathering input on these six goals/questions. We’ve listed the six questions below.
Question 1: How can the plans better support the long-term protection of agricultural lands, water, and natural areas?
Question 2: How can the plans be strengthened to ensure our communities make best use of key infrastructure such as transit, roads, sewers and water?
Question 3: How can the plans continue to support the design of attractive, liveable and healthy communities that are accessible to all Ontarians at all stages of life?
Question 4: How can the plans better support the development of communities that attract workers and the businesses that employ them?
Question 5: How can the plans help address climate change?
Question 6: How can the implementation of the plans be improved?
For more information on the Greenbelt see the Friends of Greenbelt Foundation’s Q&A sheet.
Sean James and his team at Fern Ridge Landscaping have created a sample pollinator garden planting design incorporating some of the species found in our Pollinator Garden Kits. Please use these designs for our small or larger kits to inspire your pollinator plantings this spring! (Click on the image below to see a larger version).
This designs should inspire you if you’ve bought one of our Pollinator Garden Kits and are wondering how to arrange your plants, or if you are still on the fence and trying to imagine what a pollinator garden will look like. We can’t wait to see how you plant your pollinator gardens and how you incorporate the kit plants into your existing landscaping!
Please also check out this PDF for some very useful tips on installing and caring for your pollinator garden, also from Fern Ridge. A full list of species included in these designs can be found here (note: there are some substitutions from species that will be found in our kits).
Thanks Sean, Mike and the rest of the Fern Ridge team for helping Oakville pollinators!