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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Act now to keep our bees buzzing! Opportunity to tell Health Canada you want them to ban neonics.

Brown-belted-bumble-bee. PC Ontario Nature.
We support Ontario Nature's urgent call to action to ask Health Canada to ban imidacloprid, and save our precious bees. Here is there message:

We have an urgent opportunity to ban a harmful pesticide that is known to be detrimental to pollinators and the environment.

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is currently re-evaluating the use of imidacloprid. Imidacloprid is a commercial neonicotinoid insecticide (“neonic”) that is available on store shelves to kill insects on agricultural crops, trees, lawns, and even pet ticks and fleas.

The PMRA is taking a step in the right direction by proposing to phase-out most uses of imidacloprid over the next three to five years.

Please join Ontario Nature in supporting the phase-out, but asking the PMRA to go further faster. We need a full ban of this neonic and the phase-out should take effect immediately. The government knows this insecticide is harmful and must act now. Ontario Nature has made an easy to use form for your convenience here.

For more details from Health Canada's PMRA, visit there page here.

The proposal is open for public comment until March 23, 2017.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Paul O'Hara's Native Plants List for the Hamilton Area.

We are really lucky, here in the Hamilton area to have the talented and highly knowledgeable, Paul O'Hara to advice us on the best native plants to grow in our gardens, in order to create high-quality habitat for pollinators. Paul is a field botanist, landscape designer and native plant gardening expert. His business is Blue Oak Native Landscapes .

Paul O'Hara by the Wild Crab Apple (Malus coronaria). Photo credit, Paul O'Hara.
Paul has given us permission to share his "Notes on Native Plant Gardening in the Golden Horseshoe" on this blog. Hamilton is located on the extreme northern edge of the Deciduous Forest region of Carolinian Canada (which has 25% of Canada's  rare and endangered species, according to O'Hara).

In planting habitat for this region, O'Hara's list provides plant selections (including trees, for which is business is known for) that flower at different times, providing nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season. He also provides plant selection for winter interest.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): Photo credit, Paul O'Hara.

Check out his amazing plant list.  As well, Paul has started a little backyard nursery of native plants. Contact Paul to order your native plants today!