Things you can do to help the en­vi­ron­ment

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - Mark Cullen Mark Cullen is lawn & gar­den ex­pert for Home Hard­ware, mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada, au­thor and broad­caster. Get his free monthly news­let­ter at markcullen. com. Look for his new best seller, ‘The New Cana­dian Gar­den’ pub­lished by Dun­durn Pres

By plac­ing nest­ing boxes in open spa­ces where birds will ac­cess their new home, build nests, mate, lay eggs and have a fam­ily you are help­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

I re­cently learned that only 20 per cent of us re­act to the mes­sages about global warm­ing by ac­tu­ally do­ing some­thing about it. I have a sug­ges­tion and it is as con­ve­nient as your back­yard or condo bal­cony. Plant a gar­den or some con­tain­ers on your bal­cony. Here is how and why:

Bring back the birds. Many but­ter­flies, song birds, and rap­tors (not the bas­ket­ball team, but hawks and the like) are in de­cline in Canada. I sug­gest that you put out some citrus fruit, cut in half to at­tract Bal­ti­more Ori­oles (no, they are not JUST a base­ball team). Or mush up a ba­nana into an old saucer and place it where but­ter­flies can ac­cess it. As for the in­sec­ti­vore song­birds, place nest­ing boxes in open spa­ces where they will ac­cess their new home, build nests, mate, lay eggs and have a fam­ily.

Rap­tors are a dif­fer­ent mat­ter as they pre­fer mice and (sadly) small birds as bait. The mice and field rats we can do with­out. As for the other birds that they en­joy, this is life in the wild. Jody Al­lair, bi­ol­o­gist and science ed­u­ca­tor at Birds Stud­ies Canada, tells me that the pres­ence of rap­tors in your neigh­bour­hood is a sign that there is a healthy ro­dent pop­u­la­tion.

Soak up the Rain. When ex­cess rain runs off your prop­erty, it takes a lot of tox­ins with it. Storm wa­ter causes all kinds of prob­lems for our mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. You can help by build­ing a rain gar­den.

Dig a deep de­pres­sion in your yard where rain­wa­ter drains or di­vert rain­wa­ter to an ex­ist­ing de­pres­sion in your yard. Plant this area with ‘mar­ginal’ plants that thrive in moist soil and tol­er­ate pe­ri­ods of dry­ness come sum­mer.

Some of th­ese plants in­clude wa­ter iris, marsh marigold, many na­tive ferns, berge­nia and cimi­cifuga. There is a se­ries of ex­cel­lent how-to videos on the sub­ject at com/watch?v=_W5CF7qoex0&li st=PLByURgHp4aTsnh2xkdVw7 J28AQIYMIECF.

Grow trees. TD Bank group and Na­ture Con­ser­vancy Canada pro­duced a study re­cently which de­ter­mined that an acre of for­est can pro­vide up to $18,000 in im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices such as re­duc­ing floods, air pol­lu­tion and se­ques­ter­ing car­bon.

Trees can cre­ate habi­tat for song­birds and other wild life. Trees pro­duce oxy­gen. Trees se­quester car­bon and fil­ter tox­ins out of rain­wa­ter. Trees are our friends. While you may not have an acre to plant, just plant­ing one tree makes a dif­fer­ence en­vi­ron­men­tally. And men­tally, for us, as we tend to re­lax more when we are in their com­pany. And it is much nicer to have a pic­nic un­der the cool­ing shade of a tree than on your drive­way.

Leave it Alone. Re­sist the temp­ta­tion to san­i­tize your gar­den. Let leaves de­cay on the ground. Al­low some fire­wood to rot and host ben­e­fi­cial in­sects to your yard. Build an in­sect ho­tel and a still-wa­ter gar­den to en­hance the bio­di­ver­sity in your neigh­bour­hood. When you en­hance the qual­ity of the en­vi­ron­ment in your own yard, the whole com­mu­nity ben­e­fits. Re­mem­ber: rot and de­cay are your friends. When a tree dies cut it down and leave some of it on the ground to rot. Ben­e­fi­cial in­sects, mi­crobes and even small ro­dents will help it to make a con­tri­bu­tion to to­mor­row’s gar­den by break­ing down the or­ganic sub­stance that it is made of to help gen­er­ate new soil.


Place nest­ing boxes in open spa­ces where birds will ac­cess their new home, build nests, mate, lay eggs and have a fam­ily.

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