THE COMING OF THE ANCIENTS

We launched our ancient tree program several years ago. This program realizes the need to save the genetics of these old trees. The longevity gene, in itself, is a mystery. Why are some individuals long lived and healthy and others not? A mystery. Whatever the explanations, we need to bring these genes forward to the present day plant populations in order to help them be more resilient.

Though we launched this program long ago, it takes time to find these trees, find their history and grow up their progeny. Factor in the fact that many trees are periodical in seed production and you are looking at many years before we could actually offer saplings for sale.

Last year was very sporadic for seed production but we managed to get some good quality, though not abundant, seeds from many of our ancient trees. We now have many 1 year old seedlings from the following:

The Niagara Treaty white oak

The Toronto Carrying Trail white oak

The Niagara Necklace Black Oaks

The Jordan White Oak

The Point Abino Red Oaks

Dundas Driving Park Oaks

We have most of the histories of these trees on the website. Happy reading.

SPRING



This time of year we yearn to be gardening and feel the soil around our hands and the sun on our faces. But remember that the leaf litter carries this years pollinators and butterflies. By removing leaf litter, and disposing of it, you are disposing of this years pollinators. Be patient, my rule of thumb is, ‘ When the dandelions start to bloom, we can start tidying up our gardens.’

Usually by the time the dandelions start to bloom, the weeds try to take over. Here is an organic spray recipe for unwanted garden plants.

WEED BE GONE – never buy Roundup again!

1 gallon vinegar

2 cups Epsom salt

1/4 cup Dawn dish soap (the blue original)

Happy gardening



BEE CITY CERTIFIED

This was the perfect fit for us. We are a pesticide free honey producer and support the bees and pollinators by growing needed plants through our organic nursery. It is an integrated business where the nursery provides the much needed native, organic plants for the needs of the bees and the bees provide the pollination services for the nursery to continue.

When we discovered about Bee City, it sounded like a wonderful opportunity. We are so glad to be part of the Bee City family.

GETTING READY

We’ve adjusted the nursery opening season date. It seems that spring is being a wee bit tardy! We will be performing our winter damage assessment on all our nursery stock the 2nd week of April and then we will fling open the doors by April 15th.

Be sure to contact us ahead of time as to when you would like to visit the nursery. Spring is always a rush between spring cleaning bee hives and emptying out the greenhouse.

Looking forward to seeing you soon.

FEEDING POLLINATORS

FARMING FOR POLLINATORS # 3

We are continuing our farming for pollinators series. We have just posted the next article named feeding the pollinators. The hardest thing in any recovery or introduction program is that of integration. The articles are designed to fold into one another and integrating information from one subject to the next.

We are getting very excited in anticipating our land preparations for the upcoming beekeeping season. It will be a definitely different year where we will be caring for native and honeybees. Whatever we learn or amend we will post so that everyone can learn and share the experiences.

Happy beekeeping.

BECOMING BEE NEST FRIENDLY

FARMING FOR POLLINATORS # 2

We are researching many articles and sources in order to best prepare for our upcoming spring project. While the world is focusing on the European honeybees in crisis, we are focusing on our wild native bee populations for Ontario. In one word I can sum up our bees. DIVERSE. Diverse in their appearances, diverse in their nesting requirements, diverse in their feeding and, basically, diverse in every way from one another. The one take home message is that there is no ‘ one fit solution for our native bees ‘.

Our project is multi faceted. Although we are an organic nursery and honey producer we want to go to the next level. We want to become Bee City certified and take the public with us on our journey. We must all learn and implement changes to protect our precious pollinators.

To see the full story on becoming nesting bee friendly follow the link.

‘BEE’ING ORGANIC

FARMING FOR POLLINATORS

So we have been reading endless articles on sustainable agriculture, agricultural cover crops, wildflower meadows, bee biology and leading bee trends. We realized that the backbone of any pollinator friendly program is to become organic. No spraying!

The first article in our series is that of becoming organic and why this is so important. We all need to work together to save our precious pollinators.

FARMING FOR POLLINATORS

Last year, we moved our native plant nursery forward by introducing our mixed provenances and assisted migration program. Now it is time to let it settle with the public and the plant industry.

This year, we want to move our honey based farm forward. We will be taking some conventional agricultural methods and using them in an unconventional way – to farm for pollinators. As we restore the land from marginal status growing invasives to pollinator friendly, we will blog and post articles on the science behind it all.

These articles will provide information that can be used no matter what the scale, from agricultural sized tracts to the backyard. We are hoping that by blogging of our experiences and lessons learned we might encourage all people to try a similar journey.

Really looking forward to spring!

THE AMAZING PAWPAW TREE

Why do people want pawpaw? The answer is simple, uniqueness. In every aspect, pawpaws are unique and are like a crown jewel in anyone’s garden collection. Even the name, Asimina triloba, sets the plant aside. Asimina translates to ‘ food of the gods ‘ and refers to the strange mango looking fruit produced. Triloba refers to the strange three lobed flower.

This tree was a hugely popular tree for the native inhabitants of North America and when the Spanish started to explore the Mississippi valley, back in 1541, the Conquistadors named the fruit ‘ pawpaw ‘ after the Spanish word papaya. This tree, native to North America, produces the largest edible fruit. It was the major source of fruit for the native American since the present day apple was brought from Britain in 1625. Hard to believe the cultivated apple tree is not native.

In the wild, these trees grow in thickets in the forest understory and along woodland edges. They prefer fertile soil that is well drained. The amount of sunlight will determine the shape of the tree where dense growth is typical of sunny conditions and a more open growth is indicative of shady conditions. They have moderate growth rates and will attain heights of 15 – 20 feet and widths of 15 – 20 feet.

Unfortunately, people stopped seeking out pawpaw in the forest when apple tree cultivation became popular. At the same time, massive deforestation for land colonization happened which vastly decreased populations and left only scattered remnants of pawpaw. Finally, this tree is coming back to popularity. There is renewed interest since there is potential for organic insecticides from its ground up bark and leaves. Also, extracts from pawpaw can overcome the ability of some cancer cells to reject chemotherapy.

You would assume, with this renewed public interest in this tree that propagation and growth of pawpaw would be embraced by the horticultural industry. – Nope.  To see the full story please follow the link.

But no matter what the difficulties, be sure to plant these trees. Once established, they are self sufficient. They are generally pest free, drought resistant and will multiply by suckering to create a lovely thicket. Even though pawpaws look exotic and have beautiful flowers, I planted them for the butterflies. The pawpaw is the only larval plant for the zebra swallowtail butterfly. Since there are few pawpaw we now have few zebra swallowtail butterflies.

Whatever your reasons, be sure to plant the lovely and unique pawpaw.

ST CUTHBERTS ANCIENT WHITE OAK

It is never just about finding ancient trees and collecting seed to preserve their genetics for generations to come.  There is so much more – the human connection.  Inevitably, when you find the ancient tree, there is a human guardian connected to it.

So is the case of the St Cuthberts white oak.  The Lea family, back in 1818, was one of the founding families for the Leaside area.  By 1890, the Lea’s donated land for construction of a church.  There was no steeple built.  The white oak that was present during construction acted as the focal point of the church.  Today, to find the church just look to the sky and the giant white oak guides the way.

We were honored to meet the church representatives and tree enthusiasts last week on our quest to find this tree.  Thanks to the tree guardians, this tree has received Heritage status and still graces the side of the church.  Unfortunately, this great white oak is just a remnant of the old growth forest that once covered this terrain.

We are hoping that next year will not be a drought year and we will be back visiting the St Cuthberts white oak on a quest to retrieve acorns.