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.

DISCOVERING THE TREATY TREE

THE TREATY WHITE OAK TREE (A)

Height 213 m

Circumference 518 cm

Age approximately 400 years old

 

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This 400 year old tree in Niagara is the official boundary marker in the first land deed in Upper Canada signed in 1781 between the Chippawas and the Mississauga and the English Crown. The deed, signed by King George, was for a 4 mile wide strip of land bounded by the Niagara River between Lakes Ontario and Erie. To mark the boundary, the 4 First Nations chiefs chose a large, white oak, forked 5 feet from the ground near Lake Ontario at a distance of 4 miles from the west bank of the Niagara River.

 

 

This is a designated Ontario heritage tree.

 

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We were very happy to track down the location of this magnificent tree with the help of Forests Ontario.  The 2 men responsible for getting this tree designated as an Ontario heritage tree are seen in this photo.  Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a mast year for this old tree and we managed to collected 200 germinated acorns.

This trees’ legacy will live on!

 

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DISCOVERING ONTARIO

We have been very busy scoping out the Lake Erie shoreline looking for southern seed sources.  With the launching of our assisted tree migration program we needed southern seed sources to bring northward so that we might be able to offer mixed  provenances.

We have been blessed this year to see many new places in Ontario as we go exploring.  What a great job.  I really can’t consider this work when we get to travel to so many beautiful and fascinating places and meet great people.

 

I think the only red oaks that produced any meaningful amounts of acorns was at Crystal beach.   Wow – these oaks were already present when the lake shore cabins were built around 1904.  What an incredible view as these red oaks arch over the roadway and extend to Lake Erie.  So glad work took us there!

 

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DISCOVERING ANCIENT OAK TREES IN TORONTO

This weekend we went on a historic walk.  We went to the historic village of Swansea which is more than 300 years old.  This village was completely surrounded by the city of Toronto, and by 1967, had been amalgamated.

As far back as 1615, indigenous peoples and settlers have been using this area for travel.  Etienne Brule, walked the Toronto Carrying Trail and stayed at the native encampments at the Humber River.  By 1793, this area was declared a mill reserve so that the forests could remain intact for the use of the King’s sawmills.  This area was unused and eventually was turned into parks and house lots.

It was this rich historic area that we explored in hopes of finding some of the ancient white, red and black oaks.  It took a bit of sleuthing since it is old residential area with many of these ancient trees residing in backyards and private property.

So much fun – we will be back to investigate again!

THE BEST TREES AND SHRUBS FOR ONTARIO POLLINATORS

So many people ask what is the best to plant for pollinators to feast upon.  I base my recommendations on published bee appeal values posted by universities.  I only selected plants that rated very good or excellent for bee appeal.  Also, we only selected native species since these species have developed special bonds with our pollinators.

Here is the listing.

 

Serviceberry

 

 

 

 

Canada and American Plum

Cherry

Ohio Buckeye

Eastern Redbud

Northern Catalpa

 

 

Indigo bush

 

 

 

 

Eastern flowering dogwood

Hawthorn

Basswood

Eldeberry

Honey locust

Sumac

Meadowsweet