Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests ways to help nature close to home this spring
Help nature in your own community
As the mercury slowly rises, many people are making springtime plans for their lawns, backyards, flower beds and gardens.
While some people may be hearing about or considering trying “No Mow” or “Slow Mow” May, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is urging people to take the next step with a more lasting way to naturalize your yard and connect with nature close to home.
The not-for-profit land conservation organization says that growing native plants is a small act of conservation that helps urban wildlife and biodiversity in many ways.
With about 80 per cent of Canadians living in urban settings, what we choose to plant in our yards and on our balconies can benefit the plants and animals that share our neighbourhoods.
Caroline Gagné, NCC’s program director for western Quebec, says the actions we take close to home can support wildlife populations, improve the health of urban ecosystems and foster our connection with nature.
“We often think of the spaces where we live as separate from nature, but they are part of the ecosystem,” says Gagné. “The plants we choose to grow will have an influence on the diversity and abundance of wildlife. Native trees, shrubs and wildflowers support a greater diversity of pollinators and other insects than traditional horticultural plants and are an opportunity to learn about local biodiversity.”
Here are some tips and things to consider when planning your wildlife-friendly garden or balcony:
- Native plants evolved alongside wild bees, butterflies and other species. As a result, they are better suited to support wildlife than ornamental varieties. Ornamental plants are often bred to enhance their aesthetic traits and may lose their nutritional value to pollinators or other wildlife.
- Provide a variety of different plants that can support wildlife throughout the year, from those that flower in early spring to those that still have flowers in fall, such as aster and goldenrod. Remember that native plants also include shrubs and trees, including juneberry and arrowwood. Many shrubs flower early in the season and provide important early food sources for pollinators, or, in the fall, provide berries for birds.
- Find out what kind of soils and natural plant communities exist in your area. This will give you a better idea of the types of native plants that should thrive in your garden. To learn about species native to Quebec, visit the Pollinator Partnership’s Ecoregional Planting Guides for Quebec: https://www.pollinator.org/guides-canada
- Ask garden centre staff or a native plant supplier about where their plants are grown. Many nurseries import plants from hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away. While they may carry the species you are looking for, the selection (if imported) may not be hardy for your backyard conditions. It is best to find a nursery that can guarantee that its native plants have been grown locally. If you can’t find a supplier for a particular native plant you are seeking, consider growing it from locally sourced seed from a native seed supplier.
- Invasive species crowd out native ones and can hinder the native plants you are trying to grow. To find out which plants to avoid, visit NCC’s website or the Canadian Council on Invasive Species website. You can also download the free iNaturalist app to help identify what is already in your yard.
“Spending time in nature is good for our physical and mental health. Planting native gardens invites nature in and offers refuge for local wildlife. It’s a good way to connect to nature, get the whole family involved and watch the fruits of your labour flourish,” said Gagné.
For more inspiration and ideas to help nature in your own yard, visit Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Small Acts of Conservation.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner, NCC works with people, communities, businesses and government to protect and care for our country’s most important natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to help conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares. In Quebec, close to 50,000 hectares have been protected.
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