Wildlife & Nature

My Green Venture Internship: Lessons Learned

Hi! My name’s Areeba and I’ve just completed a seven week placement at Green Venture. I have learned many different things during the past seven weeks through my position as a green gardener where I assist with the maintenance of the many gardens and facilities present on the property. Continue reading

Adventures in Turtle Rescue

Every now and again things happen unexpectedly that can provide surprise opportunities for environmentalism in daily life.

This lesson was quickly learned by Green Venture’s Garden Coordinator Julia Shulist when preparing to launch the Riverdale Community Garden Project. Peeking out of a large mound of soil were tiny turtle eggs! Being the environmentally conscious and animal loving type of person she is, all work was stopped until Julia could figure out what to do with these little guys. Through contacting the Ministry of Natural Resources we were pointed to a volunteer based, non-profit animal rescue in our area that focuses on native Ontario Wildlife that had recently added Snapping Turtles to their list of animals eligible to be assisted! Continue reading

Climate Change Action of the Month: The Green Cottage

Start Climate Change awareness at the home! That is what the Green Cottage in Hamilton has done, this house has many ecofriendly features, which helps eliminate its lasting effects on the climate. The house, located in the north end of Hamilton by the harbour, was originally built in 1885 with many similar houses surrounding it, but since then it has had some major renovations, and although the house does not look much different than the ones surrounding it the Green Cottage is unlike any home in Hamilton.

The Green Cottage

The Green Cottage

Starting on the outside the house is trimmed with salvaged wood, reclaimed wood helps eliminate the process of manufacturing and saves a few trees from being cut down in the process. The house is also insulated on the outside, this is called Exsulation, which provides more thermal heating for the house, eliminating most of the use of furnaces. The roof is also adorned with many solar panels and solar water heaters. Up to 30% of new greenhouse gases around the globe are contributed by non-renewable energy, and using solar energy as an alternative helps to decrease that number and the impacts of climate change.

On the inside the house is NOT equipped with a clothing dryer, air conditioner, stove, refrigerator or microwave! With the house lacking these amenities they are not sucking out energy for appliances that are not essential for everyday needs. The Green Cottage has significantly reduced its energy use, and has set a very high standard for energy conservation.

The house is also surround by a vigorous and beautiful garden. The garden creates green space in a mostly asphalt ridden area, and the plants not only look great but they are absorbing carbon dioxide and eliminating that from out atmosphere. The Green Cottage has gone above and beyond to eliminate their negative effects on climate change and the environment in general. This house is not only proof that you can take an old home and make environmental improvements, but it also demonstrates the many changes you can make a home level.

Written by: Brittney Massey

Fall Garden Chores

Doing chores in your garden during the fall is a very important process to a modern day gardener. Not a lot of people are aware of how important it is. Doing certain tasks will benefit your gardens future. These simple chores with help promote growth, keep your garden more organized and will make it a lot easier when spring hits.

A good task to do when working on your garden in the fall is to divide all of your overgrown plants. It is always important to do your research before dividing plants to ensure that it is okay to divide. Examples of some plants that are good to divide are daylilies, blue fescue and ornamental grasses. This cleans up the garden and also saves you money because you are able to put the new plants in other gardens. The best way to do this is to loosen up the soil around the plant with a shovel, getting the whole plant out of the soil with the roots and all. Try to avoid harming the root system when doing this. Once your plant is removed from the garden, you can take two pitch (garden) forks back to back in the center of the plant. Make sure they are as far into the soil and plant as they can be. You then pull them apart by keeping the pitch forks in the soil and keeping one handle in your left hand and the other in your right, then by pulling both handles apart, keeping the fork ends in the plants center. You now have two plants and are able to place them in the gardens.

Another important chore to do in the fall is to cut back your perennials. It is good to do this before winter hits because the foliage begins to die anyway and will look cleaner. This will be able to help promote growth for the spring. When cutting back your perennials, be sure to discard diseased leaves or leaves that seem to have a “rotting” appearance. When discarding the leaves, it ensures that they are not near any other plants. This avoids the potential of diseasing other plants. Cut back the perennials as low as you can with hand shears. Be sure the shears are clean and sharp.

A typical chore to do at the end of the season is to keep up with your raking. Raking the fallen leaves in and around your garden is important to do before the winter comes. The leaves can suffocate your lawn when snow begins to fall. When the leaves don’t exist, it helps the water get through and into the root system. Some people use their leaves as mulch. This can be done by shredding the leaves and placing them evenly throughout your garden.Davis Creek

If you want to have beautiful flowers in the spring, another chore to do is to plant spring flowering bulbs. By doing this, the bulbs will have time to grow and start to come out of the ground and flower in the spring. A few types of these bulbs would be Tulips, Daffodils and crocus. Be sure to find out how deep you need to plant these bulbs. Different types of bulbs, need to be certain depths to come out at the right time.

An option for you to do in the fall is to help protect your young trees and shrubs from the harsh winter. You have the option of wrapping the young trees and shrubs in burlap wrap. You can get these supplies at your local garden centers. Just be sure to take them off as soon as spring hits. You don’t want to keep them on for too long, because they may start to decrease growth.

Written By: Stacey Almas (Ecohouse Summer Green Gardener)

Climate Change Action of the Month: HIEA

Trees Please!

There’s been a lot of concern and interest in climate change in the City of Hamilton lately with the development of  a Community Climate Change Action Plan. Increasing the amount of green space and the number of trees in a dense city area helps to mitigate climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and use this in the process of photosynthesis to grow big and tall! Trees absorbing carbon dioxide is beneficial and planting trees is a very practical approach to combating climate change.

HIEA in the process of planting all of their new trees.

HIEA in the process of planting all of their new trees.

The Andrew Warburton Memorial Park, which is now the home of 32 new trees.

The Andrew Warburton Memorial Park, which is now the home of 32 new trees.

Around the north east end, the Hamilton Industrial Environmental Association (HIEA) has been committed to planting over 120 trees including Maple, Serviceberry, Kentucky Coffeetree, Katsura and more in various locations including:

  • St. Christopher’s Park
  • RT Steele Park
  • Andrew Warburton Memorial Park
  • Lake Avenue Park

HIEA is dedicated to improving our local environment. The actions of HIEA will help to lessen the effects of climate change as the trees continue to absorb the carbon dioxide, which they then convert and store in the form of wood. Planting younger trees is also beneficial as they begin to absorb the carbon dioxide at an exponential rate while they begin to grow. Planting trees is a great way to mitigate climate change as they absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and having less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere slows down climate change. This is why it is important not only to plant new trees but to also protect the trees we already have.

Written by: Brittney Massey

Gardening in the Shade

Having a garden on your property is beneficial in many ways, but sometimes we’re challenged when there’s a tree blocking the sun, a fence or even when the direction of the sun just doesn’t quite reach the area where you want to plant. Gardening in the shade can be tough. Choosing the proper plants that suit the lighting requirements is very important. Another thing to consider when planting in the shade, is to choose plants that are able to withstand lots of moisture. Since the sun isn’t quite hitting the garden, the moisture doesn’t evaporate as quickly.

At Green Venture, we recommend perennial plants that are native to the region. That way there will be less pests, and they will attract our much needed pollinators. When choosing these plants, it is important that you do your research to find out if these plants can withstand shade and moisture.

Perennial Native Plants that can withstand shade and moisture:

Foam FlowerFoam Flower

Ostrich FernOstrich Fern

Soloman's SealSolomon’s Seal

Wooly Blue Violet Wooly Blue Violet

Wild GingerWild Ginger Tall Bell FlowerTall Bell Flower
Wild GeraniumWild Geranium Fridge SedgeFringed Sedge

WintergreenWintergreen

 

A great tip for a shaded garden is to go with a woodland garden theme. Native shade tolerant plants make an excellent woodland garden. Luckily, there are still lots of plants to choose from, with a variety of different colours, shapes, and sizes. Even though a garden may be dark, it doesn’t mean you can’t brighten it up with some plants!

Don’t give up, and remember that you can plant in all sorts of light, you just have to remember the golden rule: Always remember to choose the proper plants for the proper place.

Now get planting!

Written by: Stacey Almas

Edible Plants in your very own yard!

It’s surprising to know how many plants out there are actually edible. It’s not just the plants in your vegetable garden that are edible. You can also eat a selection of ornamental plants, and even weeds! That’s right, you can eat some of those weeds in your backyard that are starting to drive you crazy! What better use for them than in a salad?

Here are a few ornamental plants and weeds that you may find in your very own yard:

Plant Edible part of plant Edible Use

Dandelion

Dandelion

  • All parts of the plant are edible raw including: unopened buds, seeds, leaves and roots
  • Roots can be roasted as a coffee substitute
  • Leaves can be added to a salad
  • Leaves can also be boiled down to make tea

Plantain

Plantain

  • Young leaves can be eaten raw
  • Seeds are also edible
  • Leaves are best finely chopped in a salad
  • Seeds can be dried into flour
Burdock

Burdock

 

  • Young leaves can be eaten raw
  • Old leaves should be boiled down with baking soda
  • Roots are edible
  • White pith of flower is also edible when raw
  • Young raw leaves can be made into a salad
  • Roots can be cooked into soup, made into a stir fry, mashed and fried as patties, or used as a ground for a coffee substitute

Knotweed

Knotweed

  • Plant should be cooked and eaten, not consumed raw
  • Seeds are also edible
  • Leaves can be cooked and eaten as a side dish
  • Seeds can be eaten whole, or pounded into meal

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

  • Plants should be consumed when cooked
  • Flowers can be eaten raw
  • Seeds are edible raw
  • Can be put into a salad
  • Flowers and leaves can be made into tea
False Solomon's Seal

False Solomon’s Seal

 

  • Young shoots and green parts of plants are edible, eaten when cooked
  • Berries are edible
  • Cooked greens can be eaten as side dish or in a salad
  • Berries may be eaten raw
Brittle Prickly-Pear Cactus

Brittle Prickly-Pear Cactus

 

  • Berries are edible
  • Flesh of plant can be eaten raw, after removing spines and inner seeds
  • Flesh and seeds can be dried for storage
  • Flesh and seeds can be used as a side dish

Sunflower

Sunflower

  • Sprouts are edible
  • Seeds can be eaten raw
  • Shells are edible
  • Kernels are edible
  • Seeds can be dried and eaten on their own
  • Shells can be roasted to make a coffee substitute

Always ensure that you wash the plants well before eating them, do your research, and be careful that you don’t have any allergies. It’s important to be sure that you use the proper part of the plant, since the entire plant isn’t always edible. Also be sure you know whether you can eat the plant raw, or will have to cook it.

So get out there, be adventurous, and make use of those plants!

Bon appétit!

 

Written by: Stacey Almas

Helpful Insects in the Garden

Do you have trouble determining which insects you see in your garden? Not sure which are helpful and which are harmful? Green Venture summer student Aaron, who studies etymology at university, has compiled a list of 5 helpful and 5 harmful bugs which are common in the garden. Take a look at this list of 5 helpful insects, find out why they are good, and look for them in your garden!

What: Bees, Flies, Moths and Butterflies – Pollinators

Why they are good for the garden: Pollination is a needed service for any garden. The pollinators such as bees, hover flies and butterflies allow plants to reproduce, fruit, and genetically grow. As these pollinators land on the flowers surface, the pollen on the stamen (male parts) gets transferred onto the insect (or collected, in the case of bees) and as the pollinator flies to the next flower some of that pollen is transferred to the pistol (female parts). This pollinates (or fertilizes) the plant, allowing for the growth of the seeds and fruit.

What: Assassin Bugs

Why they are good for the garden: Assassin Bugs are a great predator for natural control of insect pests in gardens. With their needle-like mouth parts they paralyze, inject liquefying enzymes into, and then suck up the internals of their prey. They feed upon any herbivorous insect pests you can think of, from aphids, to potato beetles, to caterpillars. They can be quite large (as big as 4 centimetres in length) but they are harmless to humans, if left alone. Assassin bugs can be found on the underside of leaves, stalking prey and keeping camouflaged.

What: Lady Bird Beetles

Why they are good for the garden: Lady Bird beetles are one of the best known natural controls for aphids, and have been used for centuries on crops for this purpose. Both their larval forms and adult forms are predatory, and can eat up to 400 aphids as larvae and up to 5,000 aphids in a one year lifespan. A single Lady Bird beetle can also lay up to 1,000 eggs. Unfortunately, due to their popularity, many species were brought over to increase their control abilities. One of the most well known and most common lady bird beetles in North America, the Asian Multicolored Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis), is now an invasive species and out-competes native Lady Bird beetles for resources, thus endangering them (see pictures below for the difference between the two species).

What: Parasitic Wasps

Why they are good for the garden: Parasitic wasps have gotten a lot of recent attention in Integrated Pest Management, especially in greenhouses, for the control of many herbivorous insect pests. Parasitic wasps have even become available for purchase to every day gardeners. If purchased, they are shipped on strips of card board that have eggs or pupae glued to them and can be hung in the garden. The wasps will then hatch, fly to the pest which will be their host, and use their ovipositor (egg laying structure) to inject eggs into the host. The larvae hatch and eat the pest from the inside out, causing the adult wasps to emerge from the dead host, fly away and parasitize more of the pest, thus controlling the population. These parasitic wasps are very host specific, so the ones on the market will not target anything other than the pest needing control. The wasp can parasitize a variety of species from tiny aphids to large caterpillars.

What: Ants

Why they are good for the garden: Ants are one of the best beneficial insects to have in a garden. Mound building varieties of ants act as great natural tillers; with their complex tunnel excavation, they bring up soils from lower horizons and help mix in nutrients from the surface. They also can help in plant growth, as they take seeds they find at the surface and place them in certain chambers of their nest to grow. Some species harvest fungi, which helps in providing valuable nitrogen for the soil, which is an essential nutrient for plants. They are also fairly territorial, and will ward off large unwanted pests such as caterpillars. That being said, some ant species will tend to aphids, farming them for their sweet excretions, and causing their population numbers to explode at a faster rate. If this is the case, be sure to handle an aphid problem quickly, but leave the ants be!

 

Stay tuned for the next blog about which insects can be harmful in your garden!

 

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Written by Aaron F. and edited by Rebecca J.

 

Rain Gardens: A Guide to Colour, A Guide to Wildlife

Building rain gardens is a truly wonderful way to minimize the amount of storm water runoff that ends up in to the sewers, and consequently in the Hamilton Harbour.  Strategically placing them in down-sloped areas or underneath downspouts is ideal for limiting the amount of runoff from your property.  However, another factor to consider is how this garden will look, and what type of wildlife you would like to attract.

Blue Flag Iris

Blue Flag Iris

 

In general, birds are attracted to plants that bear fruits and seeds.  Some examples of native rain garden plants that are best suited to birds are High Bush Cranberry, Cardinal Flower, Chokeberry, and fruit-bearing shrubs and trees.

 

Butterflies and bees are attracted to plants with nectars, pollens, and saps to extract.  These insects act as pollinators, moving pollens and nectars so that other plants may flourish.  Some examples of native rain garden species suited to attracting bees and butterflies are Cardinal flower, Sneezeweed, Turtlehead, Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed, and various types of Milkweed.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on Cardinal Flower

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on Cardinal Flower

 

It should be noted that rain gardens will not attract mosquitoes, since they require at least 6 days of standing water to breed, and a properly functioning rain garden will drain in less than 24 hours.  In fact, rain gardens attract other insects, such as dragonflies, which prey on mosquitoes.

 

 

 

Here are some native species that will provide colour and diversity to beneficial native insects and birds:

 

Fox Sedge (Carex  vulpinoides) and other native sedges

Dark-green Bulrush (Scirpus atrovirens)

Soft stem Bulrush (Scirpus validus)

Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Blue flag iris (Iris virginicus)

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilatica)

Golden Alexanders (Zizea aurea)

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Virginia Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum)

 

This plant list was provided by St. Williams Nursery.  You can visit their website here: http://www.stwilliamsnursery.com/

 

 

Green Venture is currently involved in the Shell Fuelling Change competition.   Our project will build rain gardens with residents in a neighbourhood that has a history of flooding during intense rainfall.

Every vote counts!

Please help us out in this competition by voting for our program here:

http://fuellingchange.com/main/project/407/Healthy-Harbour-Flood-My-Rain-Garden

 

Posted by Edward

 

 

Coach Jim talks about Nordic Walking and it’s many health benefits

Coach Jim at a Glance

In 2005, after several decades in marketing and later voluntary sector administration, Jim Mackey was looking for an outdoor activity to compliment his interests in cross country skiing, kayaking, cycling and running…that might inspire a new career direction.  Nearly 30 years of coaching team sports had left him with the firm conviction that lifelong sustainable activity was key to a person’s health and wellness.

By chance he was shown a set of Nordic Walking poles.  After listening to a few details about their construction, they immediately seemed to be the answer to his search.

“I realized that Nordic Walking would be a way for me to cross country ski all year round”, says Mackey.

But he needed to convince himself that this sport was something that he would love to do for the rest of his life.  So he bought himself a pair poles, took a walk leader’s class and spent the next couple of years Nordic Walking and Hiking on roads and trails; in parks and in snow and not only became convinced that this was the best sport he had ever come across (“because I can do it every day”) but was also so inspiring that he took an international level certification course  so that he could instruct others.

Now in 2013 Nordic Stride is offering year round Nordic Walking programs up to 15 times per week. Mackey instructs and/or leads every group perhaps proving clearly that this is something that you really can do every day (4 times a day on some days!).

 

History and Benefits of Nordic Walking

There are a variety of stories that explain the roots of Nordic Walking. To bring them together, it isn’t hard to imagine that in Scandinavia Nordic skiing has been extremely popular for a long time. At times weather or trail conditions would have made it more practical to “ski without skis,” this is essentially what Nordic Walking is.

So combining the utility of a pole with the need to get somewhere, Nordic Walking evolved as a lifestyle activity in northern Europe and then the rest of Europe where walking culture is far more ingrained than it is here.

Nordic Walking has grown in popularity as a fitness program.  The first well known example was a runner (and entrepreneur!) who decided to use some cut down ski poles to keep himself moving while rehabbing from a running injury.  Which if nothing else demonstrated the fact that poles have a variety of uses…that compliment Nordic Walking’s many benefits that thousands more people in North America have finally begun to discover.

Today, Nordic Walking is emerging as a very popular sport/activity worldwide. It is still far more popular in communities where walkability exists in the local urban infrastructure or is encouraged in recreation areas.

In the 8 years that I have been Nordic Walking and Nordic Hiking it has become far more common to see someone out on the trails or sidewalks in this region, walking with poles.

Some of those people will be from amongst the several hundred folks who I have personally gotten started in the sport. They may also be members of Nordic Stride an active group of people from all backgrounds who join in one or more of my groups each week.

The benefits of Nordic Walking are many. To highlight what people who have taken up the sport tell me they are getting from it, here is a list of the most frequently mentioned benefits:

  • Environmental Impact Minimal
  • minimal equipment
  • human powered transportation (viable commuter alternative)
  • encourages gentle use of natural places
  • as it becomes more popular will challenge carbon emitting modes for access to routes

Other

  • Outdoors all year round (in almost  any weather)
  • Group activity
  • Engages most muscles in the body (vs regular walking)
  • Easy to learn BUT always a new challenge. It’s completely up to the individual
  • Inexpensive
  • Low Impact (poles absorb some stress on lower joints)
  • Pumps cardio and calorie burn up versus regular walking
  • Provides a “purposeful” walk
  • Can be worked into one’s lifestyle (walk at lunch time instead of staying at your desk)
  • Is a viable means of staying fit in the broadest sense.  It is more frequently being associated with an individual’s ability to avoid health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles. This is becoming very much top of mind especially with older adults.
  • Nordic Walkers become very aware of ways to improve and maintain good posture and walking technique even when not using the poles.
  • Is both a way to get around and a workout. You control the effort based on terrain, level of plant and push with poles, time on trail etc
  • It is a very good way for the individual (in consultation with their health care provider) to maximize their wellness, flexibility and strength going into or after rehab for many challenging health concerns.
  • My experience working with Nordic Walkers and Nordic Hikers each day is that this is a sport that they can see themselves doing throughout their lives. That they can flex to their schedule and use the skills of in many ways.
  • Nordic Walkers walk at the waterfront all year round…they hike the Bruce Trail…they use their poles with snowshoes in winter…they apply the skills, strength and flexibility that they get to other sports…in some cases they tell me that this is the only way that they can get out and walk a bit.  It is a very broad based activity for anyone.

I am happy to provide more details regarding my scheduled outings, group opportunities, demonstrations, or to direct you to some of the studies done regarding the benefits of this safe, gentle activity that you can challenge yourself with as much as you like.

Jim Mackey
Certified Nordic Walking Instructor
NCCP Coach
Nordic Stride
Dundas ON
905 906-2405
nordicstride@bell.net