Why Native is Better
Plants that occur naturally in an area are called native or indigenous species. It's best to plant native species, because they are used to local soil and weather conditions. Native plants usually survive longer than non-native species and need less tending, because they are hardier and more disease resistant. Use native plants and seeds in your greening scheme. You will be giving our wild plant heritage a boost as well as providing long-lasting food and cover for all sorts of animals.
How to Plant Trees and Shrubs
Moving day is a shock for seedlings. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Keep roots moist at all times but don't immerse them in water.
- If you need to use additives, peat moss and manure are good choices for most soils.
- Mix the soil well. Arrange for the use of a Rototiller if your site is large.
- For each seedling, remove a patch of sod about three to six centimetres wide and dig a hole three to 10 centimetres deep. For large plants, the hole should be wider and deeper than the root ball. Allow about 15 centimetres of extra space around a small root and 30 centimetres around root balls over one metre wide.
- Leave a radius of at least one metre between plantings.
- Plant a tree one centimetre more than the depth at which it grew in the nursery.
- Gently spread the roots out so they aren't curled up against the sides of the hole.
- Add soil gradually and use your heel to pack it firmly around the roots to eliminate air pockets.
- Water seedlings immediately if possible. Add the water slowly, letting it sink in before adding more.
- To keep a tree upright, stake it if necessary.
- For the first few years, give your plants a good soaking during dry spells.
Planting Do's for Wildlife
- Plant different types of trees, shrubs, and flowers. The greater the variety, the better.
- Remember that different flowers blossom at different times of the year, so it's important to include early and late bloomers.
- Once flowers have finished blooming, leave them in place. The seeds they produce may be eaten by sparrows and other birds.
- Plant smaller shrubs and trees in border areas and larger species in the centre.
- Place seedlings as far as possible from thick, high grass so they won't be in the shade.
- Choose the best spot for each plant. Even grasses, trees, and shrubs have their likes and dislikes!
- Leave enough space between each plant. Plant trees where they won't shade gardens or other areas that need a lot of sunlight.
- Make sure you don't plant on low-lying portions of very wet sites. Roots can suffocate if they are in water.
Protect Our Natural Heritage
Why not restore a site to its original condition or protect an area that's already a native plant community? Native plants help perpetuate our natural heritage. Your efforts will help ensure that indigenous species thrive.
Before trying to replant or save native species, you'll need to do your homework. To find out what used to grow in your area, contact your local wildlife or naturalists' club or a botanist. And don't forget to visit your public library!
Find a site and get permission for the planting. Then publicize your plans to convert the area to its original condition. Ask for volunteers. This project might be a great opportunity for the community to get involved. Saving our heritage could attract a lot of interest!
Anyone who lives in the Yukon or the Northwest Territories probably knows how important lichens are as a winter food source for caribou. What's a lichen? It's a special type of plant made up of two completely different organisms. Think of it as a fungus sandwich with an algae filling! There are three types of lichens: crusty, bushy, and leafy. See how many you can identify in your area. How do they differ in their nutritional value for caribou? What kind of habitat do they like?
It's crucial to protect lichen growth, because caribou depend on the plants for their survival in winter. But lichens grow slowly — in fact, they can take 50 years to re-establish themselves following a fire! Draw your community's attention to the importance of lichens. Prepare a report on how many caribou they support and how long it takes them to grow.
Save Endangered Species!
We often hear about endangered animals in Canada. But did you know that many plant species are in trouble too? Vulnerable, threatened, or endangered species of trees include blue ash, cucumber-tree, dwarf hackberry, and Kentucky coffee-tree, which are all found in the Carolinian zone in southern Ontario's deciduous forest region.
To find out if any plants are in trouble in your area, contact your provincial or territorial wildlife department. Then publicize the plight of these plants and suggest ways to protect them from destruction. Does your province or territory have special laws protecting rare, vulnerable, threatened, or endangered plant species? If not, why not? Maybe it should. You could do something about it!
Eurasian water milfoil, another exotic most commonly found in water, is a vigorous plant that blocks the sun from other species. It can grow so dense that the tangle of branches near the water surface can support the weight of frogs and wading birds!
Are there any exotic species in your area that are causing problems? How can you identify them? What can be done to stop their spread? Find out by contacting your district agriculture or forestry department. Once you know, tell others. Volunteer to help identify sites where exotic species are present.
Trees native to Canada fall into two groups: deciduous (leaf shedding) and coniferous (cone bearing). Deciduous trees are often referred to as hardwoods and coniferous trees as softwoods. How can you tell the difference? Use the Native Tree Checklist to identify different kinds of trees in your schoolyard or neighbourhood. Add other facts that you discover through observation or research.
Start an Arboretum
How about starting an arboretum (a garden of trees)? Use at least two different species of native trees that appeal to wild animals and plan to add two or more trees every year. Use the Plant for Wildlife Chart to determine which species are most beneficial to wildlife. And don't forget to take future growth into account when thinking about spacing! Refer to "Arrange for Wildlife" for ideas on how to arrange your plants to maximize benefits for wildlife.
It's a good idea to keep a tree diary. Each year, measure the diameter and height of your trees; make observations about seasonal changes; and take notes on the relationships between your trees and the animal life associated with them.
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