Sunday, 15 July 2012

planning for biodiversity

One of the tenets of organic gardening and farming is to sustain or even enhance the ecology of the land. To me this is a very romantic notion - to be charged with the stewardship of one's own corner of the planet. While the size of one's plot obviously allows for varying degrees of involvement even in a city backyard there is opportunity for action.

On our thirteen acres we were given certain advantages: a creek running along the south border, a mature hedgerow along two sides of the field and sandy loam considered Class 2 agricultural soil. The hedgerow provides refuge for wildlife and the long grasses provide a hospitable setting for nesting birds.
The hedgerow provides refuge for wildlife (and domestic too!) 

The creek is like a bird "highway"- birds constantly traversing its length. Along its edge there is a Joe Pye Weed walk. When in bloom it is filled with bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Path down to the Joe Pye weed walk
In the area where we have planted more than 1500 trees, both hard and softwood, and native shrubs, you can see indentations where deer sleep at night.
The deer "bed"
A young black walnut planted as a whip
One section of the field between the garden and the wooded area has been left to naturalize and has been colonized by milkweed, beloved by Monarch butterflies. Later in the summer goldenrod and wild aster take over.

 Trees and shrubs attract birds through their fruit (like mulberries), or seeds (like pine and spruce), through their sap and by providing nesting sites. Leaves can also catch droplets of water for birds and animals.
One of the mulberries which attract cedar waxwings, brown thrashers, kingbirds...

In the garden bird baths provide water, especially welcome in periods of drought like we have been experiencing these past few weeks.

Plants can also be selected to provide nectar for birds and butterflies and pollen for other pollinators like bumble bees. And hummingbirds love their feeders (where the nectar does not have to be red) and many flowers, again not just the red ones.
Beebalm earning its name
Bumblebee at the hollyhock

And bird houses and bat houses provide homes for birds which, along with dragonflies, eat insects.
Bird house occupied by house wrens which are incredibly melodious

Sunflowers, in August when they have formed their seeds, are a delicacy for the goldfinches.
Sunflowers in bloom

But we notice the absence of peepers and bullfrogs and swallows which used to mass by the dozens on the telephone wires. This year it has been generally observed that there have been more butterflies than other years. There are cyclical changes but the question we need to answer os whether we want to inhabit a world where birdlife is characterized by starlings and seagulls, insects by Asiatic lily beetles and pine beetles and flora by Manitoba Maple and Dog Strangling Vine. It seems incumbent upon each and every one of us to do everything we can to protect and foster the diversity and health of our small piece of earth.

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