Want to Cre­ate an Ur­ban Oa­sis?

Then take a few tips from Beth Tweedie. She knows a thing or two about how to cre­ate a nat­u­ral space in the heart of the city.

Canadian Wildlife - - OUTDOORS -

Yes, we’re in the depths of win­ter. There’s not much work to do in terms of ac­tual gar­den­ing. But se­ri­ous gar­den­ers are busy with their plan­ning for spring. We sug­gest you do the same. And while you’re at it, con­sider some tips from Toronto’s Beth Tweedie. In 2004, she started work on trans­form­ing her small ur­ban prop­erty. Within two years, she had cre­ated a gor­geous space of lush green­ery, vi­brant blooms and myr­iad wild vis­i­tors that both en­joy the gar­den and add to its beauty.

Tweedie has learned many tricks along the way that have made plan­ning her gar­den as much fun as cre­at­ing it. You might want to try a few your­self when the warmer weather rolls around.

LAY OUT YOUR PLAN

Af­ter mov­ing to her cur­rent house in Septem­ber 2004, Tweedie jumped into gar­den­ing by cre­at­ing two cen­tre beds, which were later ex­tended to curve around one another. She used a sim­ple gar­den hose to help her de­cide on the right shape for the beds. She laid the hose on the ground and curved it to make the shape of beds she wanted.

BUILD IT UP

In­stead of dig­ging up the beds she had out­lined with hoses, Tweedie placed a layer of card­board on the ground to smother the grass and weeds. She then added about half a me­tre of soil on top of the card­board. This saved many hours and much hard work. Tweedie also con­sid­ered how mem­bers of her house­hold would use the gar­den. As the owner of two friendly dogs at the time, she was aware they’d tram­ple the perime­ters of her space, rush­ing to greet neigh­bours through the fences. So, Tweedie opted to line th­ese well-trod­den ar­eas with shrubs rather than more del­i­cate peren­ni­als. She then placed pot­ted plants among the shrubs to cre­ate colour ac­cents.

PLANT FOR WILDLIFE

Wildlife is a fea­ture of Tweedie’s gar­den. Some an­i­mals have taken up res­i­dence, while oth­ers stop by for rest, food and shel­ter on their long mi­gra­tory jour­neys.

Nec­tar- and pollen-rich spring blooms, like pussy wil­low and Vir­ginia blue­bells, of­fer food to bees, but­ter­flies and hum­ming­birds. Flow­ers, such as Joe-pye weed, bee balm, cone­flow­ers, sun­flow­ers and gold­en­rod, ex­tend the flo­ral dis­play into the fall. Th­ese plants also help many wildlife species to build up fat re­serves for their long trek south or hi­ber­na­tion. Many of Tweedie’s plants pro­duce nour­ish­ing seeds, nuts and fruit for birds, such as ori­oles, finches, fox spar­rows and north­ern flick­ers.

A di­ver­sity of plants in a gar­den pro­vides shel­ter, too. De­cid­u­ous shrubs like hedge rose bushes, dog­woods and chokecher­ries pro­vide sum­mer shel­ter from hot weather and preda­tors, as well as places to nest. Ever­green cedars of­fer that as well as pro­tec­tion from win­ter winds. Vines, such as bit­ter­sweet, roses, hon­ey­suckle and clema­tis, make great use of space along the fences and add more habi­tat for an­i­mals.

KEEP IT WILD

Tweedie re­frains from us­ing her­bi­cides or in­sec­ti­cides to en­sure a healthy food sup­ply of spi­ders and in­sects for bird species such as war­blers, swal­lows and hum­ming­birds. She also lets rab­bits, foxes and skunks en­joy her gar­den. Th­ese an­i­mals may cause small amounts of dam­age from time to time. But they haven’t ham­pered the ap­peal of Tweedie’s gar­den. Tweedie also says their an­tics are usu­ally worth a chuckle — and some­times a good laugh.

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