Many plants rely on “pollinators” to fertilize their flowers so that seeds can grow. Fertilization can only happen when pollen is moved from the male anther to the female stigma of the flower. So for the plants that need help (when they can’t self-pollinate or they aren’t pollinated by the wind) many insects and some birds and even bats provide that “free” service. With pollination, the plants can create seeds, which will ensure that there will be another crop of plants for the following year but we humans also eat some of these pollinated plants – including nuts, fruits, seeds and vegetables. Pollinators are essential for the production of our food.
Many wild pollinators help with the pollination of our food crops and our flowers, shrubs and trees. Some are generalists, searching for pollen and nectar from wherever they can find it but many are specialists and are in need of specialized plants to survive the full flowering season. This is where pollinator plants come in. Native perennials bloom at different times of year, providing sustenance for wild bees, beetles, flies, moths, butterflies and other pollinators in spring, summer and through to the fall. This ensures that these species that we rely on for pollination can return year after year and continue their important job of pollination.
These native pollinator plants also come in a variety of colours, sizes and shapes to provide a biodiverse habitat to support the multitude of insect species that we have. In terms of just wild bees alone, there are over 800 native species, from the size of a few milimeters to the size of a larger bumble bee that can be over 2 full centimeters. Bees also can be either short-tongued or long-tongued which allows some to have better access to nectar from certain flowers. With consideration of all these various sized insects and their needs, it helps to have a variety of flowers in many sizes. As humans we appreciate the big and colourful flowers, but adding smaller, daintier ones to the mix can make a big difference to our pollinators. (TIP: Add them in a large bunch so that they look showier and more colourful as a big group of blooms for your garden admirers to enjoy.)
Along with planting more native pollinator plants, faith community gardeners can also improve habitat by changing some of their maintenance practices and keeping a less “tidy” garden. Some easy Outdoor Greening - Caring for Creation opportunities include adding a small piles of rocks, a brush pile of twigs, grasses and other material, and/or even a small flat water dish with some rocks on which to land. Many insects also overwinter in our yards, looking for crevices to either hide in themselves or a place to leave eggs that will hatch next spring. Some need hollow stems while others will overwinter under fallen leaves or dig or find holes in the ground. So leaving up some plant material, especially grasses and aster and other hollow stems like raspberry, keeping leaves on the ground until spring and ensuring that we leave some patches of bare dirt can help these pollinators immensely. Spring cleaning of our gardens is the best time to clear away dead material – once the temperatures are consistently above 10 degrees Celsius. And if you can’t leave up all dead plant material, consider keeping up at least a third, perhaps in a less conspicuous area on your faith community property.
Native pollinator plants are a great addition to our gardens!
This past summer, the Ottawa Chapter of Faith & the Common Good collaborated with a new environmental effort: the Wild Pollinator Partners (WPP) network. This new initiative in Eastern Ontario was created to share information, resources and experience on native pollinators and it also has the goal to help liaise between local groups such as teachers, researchers, NGO’s and local residents. WPP saw a need to support and promote the important pollination benefits that native bees and other native species of insects provide to the local ecology. They realized that many people were not aware that wild bees, which are mostly solitary bees, are key to local pollination in both cities and the countryside. The belief that we are dependent solely on European Honeybees (an introduced species) to do all pollination is false. However Honeybees compete for the same nectar and pollen as our native species so it is crucial to provide native wildflower habitat to ensure the health of local populations of pollinators.
The Ottawa Chapter of Faith & the Common Good (FCG) is offering an Outdoor Greening Program for 2019: Caring for Native Pollinators in our Gardens!
This year's summer program is financially supported by Ottawa Community Foundation - a great big thanks to this amazing local foundation!
This program allows us to offer free "pollinator plants" to gardeners who want to add some native flowers to their current garden beds to help increase local habitat diversity and offer pollen and nectar to our wild solitary bees and other pollinating insects that are native to our region! These wild species provide FREE ecological services to our communities, pollinating thousands (millions?) of flowers each year to help grow nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and who are essential to the ecological food cycle.
Faith & the Common Good has continued its partnership with the Wild Pollinator Partners (Ontario East - Outaouais) who is providing us with some of the organic locally-grown native plants for this program. We are also thankful for other businesses and organizations that are contributing to this new program: Canadian Wildlife Federation - who has donated wildflowers and seeds from their "Wildlife Friendly Gardening" program and the executive director of SOUL (Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care) who has also donated wildflowers from her personal garden and even FRESH on Beechwood Avenue, a local business that donated wildflower seeds to the program.
Contact Katherine Forster if you would like to receive FREE wildflowers - many which you may be familiar with such as Yarrow, Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susans, Beebalm and more. Donations can be 10 or so plants to over 25, depending on the room you have in your garden. Best native plants for your garden will be identified if you need advice. Please contact us as soon as possible as there are limited quantities.
Let us know if you would also like to officially be part of the Interfaith Outdoor Greening network so that you can receive sustainable gardening information, specific tips & techniques, and details on local Ottawa garden resources and our programming such as this "Caring for Pollinators in our Garden" program this summer. Gardening newsletters will be sent out to members every 4 - 8 weeks during the garden season. Members of the Network can get support for their gardens in many ways:
Members of the Outdoor Greening Network can receive a FREE garden visit from the Sustainable Outdoor Greening Coordinator to learn more about the FCG Outdoor Greening resources, discuss specific gardening questions, identify native plants they can add to their garden and/or to help with garden skills including maintenance.
Members can download FREE Outdoor Greening resources available on the FCG website includingOutdoor Greening Fact Sheets and Case Studies that provide inspiration and ideas for sustainable gardening (including xeriscaping, rain gardens, waterwise strategies, wildlife gardens, prayer and meditation gardens, and wildflower gardens, to name a few).
Members of the Outdoor Greening Network can discuss garden plans, designs and sourcing opportunities for their individual gardens and will be provided with information on the local support for sustainable gardening in Ottawa. There are even tips on how to recruit and retain volunteers or organize gardening (weeding) bees and weekly watering committees!
FCG Ottawa staff is here to help support faith community staff and volunteers working outdoors on their landscape and gardens and those who want to add a new sustainable garden component to their property. Let us know what your Care for Creation needs are in terms of your landscape and gardens — we are here to help!
What if you could share with your community your caring actions for creation and become a leader for sustainability in your neighbourhood? What if you could take simple steps to change your outdoor property maintenance or landscape design so as to reflect your place of worship’s desires for stronger social cohesion, resilient city making, or local ecological protection? What if your congregants could create an outdoor space that would delight all ages and provide much needed habitat for butterflies, birds, and other urban wildlife species?
The 2017 Ontario150 Youth Partnership Program was an opportunity for Ontario youth to participate in their communities in ways that would reflect their creativity, cultural expression, diversity, environmental stewardship, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement.
***French version follows – La version en français suit***
St. John’s Anglican Church South March, is a small, well-maintained limestone church on the periphery of Ottawa, Canada that was first established in 1832. It is located on a large parcel of land and has an adjacent heritage cemetery as well as a newer one. Now it is located in the midst of suburban Kanata. Large sugar maples were planted in the old cemetery many years ago and they help to create a park land that is a peaceful place to walk. Many of the graves are lovingly tended.
Tucker House is one of three youth gardens in Ottawa participating in Faith & The Common Good’s “Growing Community” Garden program funded by Ontario 150 Youth Partnership Program. Tucker House is located in Rockland, ON. This centre focuses on environmental teaching and host Summer Camps for kids and teenagers. Over spring and summer, the kids learned about, created and took care of the gardens. Below is the testimonial of one of the young gardener, Erin Whittingham.
In recognition of 2017 as Ontario’s 150th anniversary, the Ontario150 Partnership Program is providing youth with opportunities to participate in their communities in ways that reflect their creativity, cultural expression, diversity, inclusion, environmental stewardship, entrepreneurship, healthy living and civic engagement.
There’s an intriguing sign that can be found on Laurier Avenue. You will see it along with twenty or so raised garden beds in front of a large old stone church. The sign says “Urban Shades – Communal Community Garden”. In smaller print the sign explained further “We’re Hosting “Work Bees” Every Sunday at 2 pm. Come and garden with your community.” It’s an interesting new twist to the familiar concept of community gardens.