The Beit Tikvah Synagogue hugglekulture garden is a superb example of permaculture, polyculture and regenerative agriculture on a small scale in Ottawa. Permaculture garden design is a “whole systems” approach to growing food by maximizing the benefits of natural ecosytem principles into the landscape. Using natural water flow movement, the benefits of woody material decomposition (both for nutrients and water storage) and increasing the seasonal biodiversity of food crops, this hugglekulture garden optimizes nature’s cycles and reduces the work for the synagogue’s gardening community.
(Beit Tikvah's Orchard and Gardens, Title photo reproduced with permission by photographer (2020))
The Orleans United Healing Biodiversity Garden was created to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the church. The focus on both biodiversity and healing came from the desire for this new garden to provide both habitat and shelter for wildlife and offer a relaxing space for meditation and prayer for community members including those benefiting from a new healing ministry program. Nature itself offers healing benefits and this garden provides a designated space to sit outdoors and enjoy the wonder and beauty of being outdoors.
(The Haven Community Garden - Multifaith Housing Initiative, Photo Credit: Nancy Moir)
The Haven’s two-year old community garden is a LEED gold component of the Multifaith Housing Initiative’s (MHI) newest development in Barrhaven. Growing local produce and helping with food security is one of the garden’s tangible goals but participating in this outdoor activity offers residents much more: an opportunity to strengthen the connections in this neighbourhood and build trust and confidence between members.
(Congregation in the Labyrinth, Photo Credits: St John the Baptist Anglican Church)
St. John the Baptist Anglican church in the rural part of Ottawa, offers four acres of peaceful greenspace in a village setting. The church’s Quiet Garden and Labyrinth are tucked away off the street in a sheltered setting that provides visitors with a tranquil space to do walking meditation, connect with nature, relax, rest and seek spiritual comfort.
I couldn’t believe I was crouching on a green patch, trying to see close up the activities that were happening at ground level. How had the events of the day found me on my knees?
My day had started simply enough, packing flyers in a satchel and coordinating a route in the southwest end of the city for outreach and visiting with faith communities. This was one aspect of the program I appreciated, meeting with gardeners and seeing their labours of love, finding out how they were incorporating aspects of sustainability and supporting the local ecology in their own properties. It was inspiring to see what different approaches faith communities took to outdoor greening and how their sacred spaces linked with the landscapes of their neighbourhoods and supported the communities surrounding their property.
Light shining down from heaven on the garden at Holy Cross.
As I write this, the Holy Cross Eco Ministry nears its first anniversary, and what a blessed year it has been! Deo gratias!
Our eco team has just arrived back from watering our native pollinator garden and our vegetable gardens. Watering these gardens is often a peaceful task: admiring the growing fauna, greeting passersby, and surveying the bees and caterpillars and butterflies who have found a new happy home.
A Commitment to Sustainable Food: Islington United Church’s Giving Garden enters its 7th year
Islington United Church has long been a “green beacon” in its Etobicoke neighbourhood, demonstrating how a faith community can operate in an environmentally responsible manner. The congregation’s work has garnered community recognition including Faith and the Common Good’s Greening Sacred Spaces Award in 2013 and has been referred to as “the greenest church in Toronto.”
This summer the Ottawa Chapter of Faith & the Common Good, with the financial support of the Ottawa Community Foundation is delivering native pollinator plants to local faith communities that want to support our local wild pollinators with biodiverse habitat including wildflower. This outdoor greening – Care for Creation – activity is an easy one for local gardeners to do!
So what is a native pollinator plant?
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.
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?