Friday, September 30, 2016

The Benefits of Fall Gardening

"The fall is the most important time of year in any garden," says Charlie Briggs, gardener at the Royal Botanical Garden (RBG).

 It can seem counter-intuitive, the fall being a beneficial season for gardening. We tend to focus on spring, with the sense of everything starting up. But in the fall, plants are getting ready to go dormant, "so you're not interrupting anything," Charlie says.

Charlie explains that the cool temperatures and additional moisture allows plants to get a head start on the following season.

On a fall day, you can put in hardy plants, perennial woody types and native plants like black-eyed Susans, echinacea, milkweed etc.

It's also the best possible time to divide and transplant seeds.
Collecting seeds from the garden is easy, sowing outside, literally letting mother nature do the work.

"Look for pods or seeds that have turned brown or yellow, and wait until the seed can drop on its own," says Charlie. "Leave some for the birds though."

 Be sure to make labels for the areas in garden or a map.

Charlie points to other advantages of fall gardening: with less vegetation, you can fill empty spaces in the garden and also, more space allows true form to emerge as you plan and plant.

Remember that native plants are needed for pollinators that overwinter so leave those stalks for the winter for these little critters to hibernate within. Leave the plants as they are,  all winter long and you can cut in the spring and leave on the ground, providing extra weeks for the insects to emerge.

Read more about fall gardening on our previous post.

Recommended reading:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Protecting Our Native Bees and Other Pollinators: What we Can do to Help.

The evidence is clear that many native wild pollinators are declining. That wouldn’t be a big deal, if commercial honeybees could pick up the slack. They can’t. Managed honey bee colonies supplement the work of natural wild pollinators, not the other way around. In a study of 41 different crop systems worldwide, honeybees only increased yield in 14 percent of the crops. Who did all the pollination? Native bees and other insects. Gwen Pearson, Your worrying about the wrong bees.

All pollinators are in trouble, not just honeybees. And while honeybees get most of the credit, native bees and other pollinators are actually the workforce of the pollinating world, doing the bulk of the chores.

Bumblebee on nectaring on a scabious plant by Carmel Mothersill
According to Bee City Canada, bees are often considered to be the most important animal pollinator for a number of reasons, including that they are the only pollinator that rely solely on flowers for all their nutritional needs, obtaining their protein from pollen and carbohydrates from nectar.

Being fuzzy and electrostatically charged, makes bees particularly effective at carrying pollen.
Bee City Canada also points out that bees are flower-constant: they like to work one kind of flower at a time. So "a bee that has started to gather nectar from apple blossoms will continue to gather nectar from apple blossoms until that period of foraging  has ended," helping to ensure the cross-pollination of plants.

Writer, Gwen Pearson reports in 'Native Bees Increase Blueberry Crop Yields' (Wired, 2015) that research looking at the individual efficiency of different bee species found small, native bees were highly efficient pollinators; their visits resulting in nearly twice as many seeds as honey bees. "They also aren’t as wimpy as honey bees, which only like to forage in nice sunny weather," Pearson writes. From the research, Pearson quotes:
“A perfect bee would be super abundant, work under all weather conditions, and handle pollen efficiently. A perfect bee also doesn’t exist,” said Dr. Burrack. “We wondered if all these different bees, working together, can fill in the gaps and function as a perfect bee community.” Essentially, each bee species is complimentary.
Native bees deserve more of our attention. Thankfully, there is a lot we can do to help protect our native bees and other pollinators.

On Wednesday, November 2nd, join us to learn about the what native pollinators do for us, the challenges they face, including the harm honeybees can cause to native pollen bees in urban areas (including spreading disease and competing for limited resources) and how we can help by building a habitat corridor of native plants. We will also learn about the challenges of urban beekeeping.

Speaker include: Research, Scott MacIvor (University of Toronto).  Peter Kevan (University of Guelph, Environmental Biology). Local Hamilton Beekeeper, Michelle Ordyniec.

Wednesday, Nov. 2nd.
The Spectator Building
44 Frid St.

Get your FREE tickets here.

For more information, contact Beatrice at

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Taking Care of Your Fall Pollinator Garden

How do you take care of your pollinator garden in the fall? Here is some advice from local experts.
Master Gardener, Bev Wagar writes:
I don't do much in the fall. I leave all the stalks and all the seed-heads (except when they are pesky re-seeders) for the insects to nest in. The plant stalks and leaves fall down and help insulate the plants against the wild temperature swings we get with global warming. This is especially important when there is no snow cover.
Brenda Van Ryswyk has similar suggestions: "Do nothing!" this Natural Heritage Ecologist says.
She writes:
Just leave things be is the best thing to do. Birds love to eat the seeds through the winter. Some bees will overwinter as larva in the old plant stems. Sweep/rake your leaves into a pile and leave them be; it's great mulch and butterflies and bumblebees may overwinter in it.
At the very least do not “clean up” your garden too much. Pollinators need some of the things we may consider “messy”. Old stems for the solitary bees to nest in, dried flower heads with seeds for the birds to eat (Goldfinch and Dark-eyed Juncos visit my garden for seeds on the plants all winter long).