Friday, May 26, 2017

A bright spot on a busy street: A garden that's aiming for the Monarch Award 2017

“People seem more interested in people,” says Margaret Juraj, west Hamilton resident, and gardener. But she, herself appreciates the non-human creatures; “they loom large in my imagination and consciousness.”

Gardening is a way she immerses herself in this world: “Anytime you spend time in your garden, you realize it’s not only about people,” Margaret says. “We humans are temporary and maybe we will last longer if we embrace that; if we really cared about people we would take care of the non-humans.”

This spring, Margaret is entering her pollinator-friendly garden to the Monarch Awards 2017. This is an award that celebrates gardens that nature loves. Monarch Awards recognize gardens and gardeners in Hamilton, Ontario for their contribution to biodiversity, pollinator health and environmental stewardship.

Started in 2016 by volunteer at Crown Point Gardening Club and staff at the Pollinator Paradise Project and the Royal Botanical Gardens, the awards invite submissions from wards 1-10 and 13. Margaret applied last year and was a runner up for the award.

‘It’s nice that people have organized an award that creates awareness of alternative forms of gardening, which I prefer,” Margaret says. “It’s less sterile, has value, and things can live in your garden.”

Margaret’s garden is a spot of brilliance on very busy Main Street. She has been working on it since 2001. When she moved in, it was sparse with very little to look at, but over time, as she became interested in native species, she has increased the habitat in her spot of earth, replacing things that only serve as eye-candy to pollinators, but not actual food; “People give you things that are easy to grow, but do not serve the interest of pollinators,” Margaret says.

Margaret recognizes that there is still a lot of work to do and challenges to tackle. For example, next year, she has plans to remove the periwinkle, which is an invasive groundcover. There is also the struggle with soil that contains lead, a shady backyard (that is now receiving more sun since the neighbours removed a tree) and water concerns, since the summers are hot and she has had to water more than she would like to retain moisture. “I am always thinking of new ways to harvest the rain,” Margaret says.

Margaret is having a positive influence on her neighbours, thanks to the copycat effect that is very good if we are hoping to increase habitat across the city: “There was nothing there and now some neighbours have decided to plant wildflowers too!”

For more information on how you can enter your garden to the Monarch Awards, please visit Deadline is June 18th.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Got a Nature-loving Garden? Then show off and tweet at us with #MonarchAwards2017

Photo Credit: Bruce Bolin

Photo Credit: Bruce Bolin
So the Monarch Awards 2017 are fast approaching and to get nature-loving gardeners in the mood to apply, we are inviting those of you who are on social media to tweet out/instagram or facebook photos of your garden and use the hastag #MonarchAwards2017.

On twitter, please tag:


On Instagram, please tag environmenthamilton and  hamiltonnature

Lets get the word out and have some fun out there!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Are you ready for the Monarch Awards 2017?

This Earth Day, think ahead to submitting your spot of paradise to the Hamilton Monarch Awards 2017, for gardens that nature loves, by gardeners who love nature!
Photo Credit: Bev Wagar

Do you garden for nature? Does your patch of earth include habitat for bees and butterflies and other pollinators? Then you are invited to apply to the Hamilton Monarch Awards!

The Monarch Awards recognize Hamilton gardens and gardeners for their contribution to a bio-diverse, sustainable environment.

Originating with a group of gardeners, the idea for an “alternative” garden awards program quickly gained momentum.

The organizing committee includes volunteers from the Crown Point Garden Club (with Bev Wagar, the initiator and visionary behind the Awards) and the Royal Botanical Gardens as well as staff from the Hamilton Naturalists Club and Environment Hamilton.

Last year, due to lack of resources, the Awards were only offered to wards 1 to 4. This year, properties in wards 1-10 and 13 (Dundas) are eligible. Gardens must be residential, not on business or commercial properties. Entrants do not need to own the property but do need to be primary person responsible for how the gardens look and function.

A winner and finalists will be chosen based on judges’ scores over six criteria categories that include soil health, water conservation, native plant species and aesthetics.

Please visit for competition details and rules.

Entry deadline is midnight Sunday June 18, 2017. Good luck!!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Creating your Monarch Award-winning Garden: Updates from the April 1 Workshop.

You missed the workshop on creating your Monarch award-winning garden (for gardens nature loves, by gardeners who love nature?). No problem, we've got you covered. Here's what happened.

Charlie Briggs
After an introduction about what we're looking for in a Monarch award-winning garden, Charlie Briggs of RBG went on to advice about the importance of a healthy soil and what that looks like.
"It's the start of a whole system," Charlie explained, "and it should provides the necessities for plants and animals to live. As well, it should allow water penetration for proper water table recycling."
For these, you'll be checking out the following: Texture, pH (potential of Hydrogen), nutrient content, and water retention and drainage.

With soil texture, you have to decide what type you have, that is, sand, silt or clay. Note that the soil texture could differ by depth of soil and also by location in the garden. For the pH, you can use a soil test kit. For more information, Charlies suggests doing a of “OMAFRA Soil Testing Laboratories.”

Having to amend soil can be a big hassle, but if needed, Charlie recommends that you can do so with organic matter. You can start your own compost, or purchase or receive compost/organic matter from trusted sources (e.g. City of Hamilton). Equally important is to mulch your garden with leaf and other plant litter. This will break down into a fine organic layer as well as provide other benefits to your garden.Charlie advises that you add organic matter by tilling into a large area or garden, not by amending single holes for trees or shrubs! Be sure to select plants for your soil type, and choose the right plant for the right place! Carolinian Canada has a selection of plants for almost every soil type.

We'll be looking for those gardens that provides for our native plants and animals, and allows as much rainwater to fulfill its cycle on site. The garden can have different types of soil showcasing proper plant selection.


Jeff and Kestrel
For the water component of a garden that supports nature, we were fortunate to have both Kestrel Wraggett, Stewardship Technician with Cootes to Escarpment and Jeff Stock, Stewardship Technician, Hamilton Conservation Authority to explain  Low Impact Development (LID) towards more natural water infiltration levels. Do you have a rain barrel? And is it being maintained properly (that is, is the downspout disconnected)?  Some ways that you can preserve water and keep it out of the sewer is to disconnect your downspout and lead direct the water to create a soakaway or a rain garden! Is your lawn naturalized? Driveway permeable?

Abiotic Components
Master gardener, Joanne Tunnicliffe explained that the biotics can't be as successful in your garden if you don't have the abiotic (the non living parts of an ecosystem). They need the warmth, shelter, food and spaces to reproduce.Without the right amount of sunlight or moisture, for example, some plants are unable to survive. Success happens when the biotic moves in the abiotic. Joanne showcased examples of recycled toys that can be used for shelter and nesting grounds.

Native Plants

Claudette Sims and Janet Hughes-Mackey with Halton Master Gardeners talked about the rewards that flowers receive (the pollinators come), making sure you plant the flowers en masse, make sure you use native species, and that you plant for shelter in mind and host plants. For example, plant so that you extend the nectar sources for different times of years, from May to November.

Check out Claudette's awesome blog post on what to plant in your garden.