Lessons from the Conservation Halton’s Homeowners Workshop: Working with Nature

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   “If we have no holes in our leaves we would have no butterflies!”


This spring Oakville has had the fantastic opportunity to be a part of the 2017 Conservation Halton Homeowners workshop series, called Healthy Neighboursheds. The second workshop focused on working with nature by picking out the right plants for your property and the natural systems and species around you. The speaker was Brenda Van Ryswyk, a knowledgeable and engaging gardener and Conservation Halton ecologist. With how much information Brenda artfully fit into her presentation, it would take an essay to relay it all. Instead, we’re going to take a little bit of time to sum it up and highlight why you should head on out to the next workshop on May 25th.


Invasive Plants

When an event starts off with the attendees being able to pick up a native plant, you know it is going to be a great evening! Brenda began by describing how gardening, can bring invasive species into local ecosystems. When some non-native plants spread outside of a yard, they may become invasive and cause damage to local ecosystems, economy, and even human health. One example of an invasive species spread by gardeners is the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). Admired for their large flowers, gardener’s had brought the plants into their yards. Over time this plant has spread into natural spaces across Canada and can cause serious burns to people who have touched the sap of the plant. Examples such as this one shared at the workshop highlight the importance of researching the plants one introduces to their garden to help minimise the risk of bringing in an invasive species.


Native Gardening

At this point, the conversation switched over to talking about native plants, and we’ll quickly sum up some key reasons to plant native here.

-They’re locally adapted, so they’ll do well in our climate here in Halton/ Oakville.

-They provide food and shelter for local species of birds, mammals, insects, plants and fungi.

-They can act as host plants to butterfly larva and other caterpillars.

-Planting particular native species can help attract different pollinators and birds to your garden.

Have we sold you yet on planting some native species in your garden this year? If you want to give it a go, but aren’t sure where to start, check out this next section.


What to choose?

When deciding what plants to pick it’s important to ask yourself some questions, for example:

-Is your yard damp or dry, shady, or sunny?

-What do you want the plants to do? Attract pollinators, birds, look pretty?

-How much maintenance do you want?

When you’ve answered all of these questions, and maybe a few more, it’s time to start reading up on your plant species to determine what ones fit your need best.


Pollinator Populations

One thing that I loved about this event was Brenda’s, and the audience’s keen interest in having native plants as a way to help pollinator populations. So this section will be looking at different ways that you can help attract or support pollinators through your gardening habits.

-Avoid using pesticides and buy plants grown without pesticides

-Avoid plants that are labelled as pest resistant

-Add some clover to your lawn. It’s not native, but the bees love the flower’s nectar!

-Leave 12 inches of dead hollow plant stems in your garden during fall clean up, bees love them for nests

-Leave some barren ground too, a significant amount of native bees are ground nesters

The information outlined in this post is just the tip of the iceberg of what Halton Conservation shared at the Homeowner’s Workshop, and we hope that it’s motivated you to learn more. Check out the end of this post for some more fun facts and tips about native gardening. If you’re interested in attending one of these workshops in Oakville it’s not too late, Halton Conservation will be holding their next workshop on Thursday, May 25th. Visit Halton conservation’s website for more details.


Tree-rrific tips!

Tree-rrific Tip 1: Visit or call native plant nurseries to find native plants for your garden. For a full list see http://chapter.ser.org/ontario/resources/seropublications/ Another fantastic option is to order your plants from the annual Oakvillegreen native plant sale! Keep an eye out in early Spring 2018 for more information.

Tree-rrific Tip 2: Buying seeds from plants raised locally can often lead to hardier plants since they have adapted to the region. Not sure how to tell? Try looking for seeds from the Seed Zone 34 (Halton Region).

Tree-rrific Tip 3: Wildflower =/= native. In fact, wildflowers are often called so because they spread so easily, and many seed packs will contain invasive species. If you’re considering buying a package of wildflowers, make sure you read the package and know the types of flowers in it first.

Tree-rrific Tip 4: If you want a wider diversity of insect and animal species in your yard grow different plants that grow at a variety of heights, have different bloom times, and offer nectar plants and larval host plants.

Tree-riffic Tip 5: Plant common or uncommon plants, not rare ones to that region. If you’re garden backs onto a natural space, rare plants may enter into an area they don’t typically live in.


~ Rachel Sparling, Oakvillegreen Stewardship Outreach Assistant