Garden Clippings for Jan 4, 2020
Our corner of the world is getting a wee bit better thanks to Pollinative, a Southwestern Ontario initiative whose aim is to restore and improve habitats for native plants, insects, birds, bees, butterflies and even bats.
The heads up for the organization came to me while driving down the 402 Highway and spotting two wooden signs capped with a pitched roof. The Ministry of Transportation has strict rules about the placement of commercial signs along the 400 series highways and I was intrigued that these rules were allowed to lax for Pollinative.
A quick search to the Pollinative website revealed that the organization was founded a few years ago by Rick Tusch of London and is now headed up by a core group of 6 individuals who enjoy the support of a growing crowd of volunteers and donors who are passionate about improving environmental health in their communities.
Pollinative looks for marginally productive vacant land and makes efforts to transform these lands into vibrant ecosystems that promote and build pollinating insects. The goal is to create corridors or migration pathways helping wildlife travel between fields, ditches, woodlots and other safe havens. The wooden structures are designed to promote the cause while proving a perch for birds, bats and insects.
Once Pollinators gain permission to access a parcel of land, they plant native bee-friendly seed mixes hoping to bring bee populations back to the levels of a generation or two ago. Along with bees, a host of birds, butterflies and other wildlife will enjoy the enhanced ecosystem.
My initial thought for the program is that it seems counter productive to attempt to establish native plant spaces adjacent to highly non-native highways. Huge swaths of pavement, gravel shoulders, diesel fumes, excessive noise, wind and lighting issues all make for an environment that is far removed from healthy wildlife. Even countless bugs that hit windshields make a dent in insect populations.
But highways, parking lots, hydro and pipeline right of ways, and industrial parks are the very cause of habitat loss, obliging us to do whatever we can to mitigate the situation. Native flowers and grasses are relatively easy to cultivate. Once established, they can often sustain themselves with little maintenance and may even repel the spread of non-native invasive species.
If all goes well, the turnaround for establishing a native grassland and wildflower meadows lot is about five years. In year one the site is prepared by removing existing vegetation, levelling and improving soil. In spring or fall of the second-year seeds are sowed, being careful to use local native grasses and wildflowers. Year three concentrates on maintenance and control of interfering weeds while encouraging root growth of native species. In year four the desirable plants will establish themselves, while producing flower and seed for self-sustainability. Year four and five may require spot spraying, mowing or burning for control of invasive species. By this time the new lot should manage on its own with little interference.
Pollinatives and similar organizations should be commended for their efforts to renew degraded landscapes and transforming them into healthy pollinating ecosystems.