Category Archives: Backyard Wildlife

Planting for Butterflies

This spring, a large amount of our kids’ time has been spent trying to catch backyard wildlife to bring inside as “pets”.  Currently in my backyard I have four “traps”.  We hung a bird feeder, which is currently populated by sparrows.  I’m not sure how long it takes for word to travel amongst the sparrow population, but eventually they may figure out that each time they land for a snack, two eager preschoolers come running out the door to try to grab them.  I have an ant trap on the patio.  Not an ant-trap filled with poison, but rather a welcoming home for them made from a sandwich container, and filled with rocks.  A similar ladybug home sits nearby, but filled with dust from last year’s sidewalk chalk remnants (because of course that’s appealing to ladybugs!).  There is a worm farm on the deck (from April’s Young Gardeners’ workshop).  There are old carrots lying around, which I am under strict instructions are for the bunny, who we will (apparently) catch and bring inside.  However, all the efforts to attract wildlife to the yard are not just the kids’.  I also have made a contribution, in the form of a butterfly planter. I’m not about to advocate feeding the neighbourhood bunnies with your leftover veggies, but making an area of your garden attractive to butterflies is much less damaging to the other plants in your yard.

butterfly with caterpillar

Butterfly planters or gardens need to be in full sun, and may contain a variety of trees/shrubs, annuals and perennials.  The plants can reflect the needs of either the caterpillars, or butterflies or both!

Plants that caterpillars love: blueberries, cabbage, cherries, dill, hops, grasses & sedges, milkweed, parsley, pussy-toes, sunflowers, violets, wild mustard, and wild plums

Plants that butterflies love:

Annuals: ageratum, alyssum, butterfly weed, cosmos, dianthus, geranium, heliotrope, impatiens, lobelia, marigold, milkweed, nasturtiums, petunia, salvia, verbena, zinnia

Perennials:  asclepias (butterfly weed) asters, black eyed susan, coneflower, daylily, gaillardia, goldenrod, lavender, monarda, sunflower, wild bergamot

Trees & Shrubs:  chokecherry, crabapple, lilac, honeysuckle

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When attracting butterflies to your yard, you can also include some homemade butterfly nectar, and food.  Butterflies love rotting fruit, especially bananas.  If leaving fruit out, remember to replace it once it dries out, or becomes mouldy.

Homemade Butterfly Nectar:

Mix 10 parts water with 1 part sugar, boil for 2 minutes.
Let cool and place in a shallow container (like a plant saucer).
Add a paper towel, saturated in the mixture, or a bright orange/yellow scrub pad.  The bright colour will help attract them, and provide a place for them to rest on.
The saucer can be placed amongst flowers, or on a post, or table nearby.
Extra solution can be stored in the fridge, and used to replenish the saucer as needed.

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Once you’ve made your planter, sit back and watch carefully and patiently for the butterflies to arrive. And if you are so inclined, feed the bunnies, trap the ants and ladybugs while you’re at it!

Bee Friendly Gardening

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If you spend some time watching a flowering plant, eventually you will likely see a bee land and gather the nectar and pollen contained in the flowers.  It can be fascinating to watch them work; moving from flower to flower before eventually flying away to their hive. Bees play such an important role in nature, pollinating so many plants with their tiny bodies.  However, the use of chemicals in gardening and yard care is causing the widespread demise of bees, worldwide.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/what-s-killing-canadian-honeybees-1.1312511

At Lacoste we are committed to operating in a sustainable system. We use parasitic (“friendly”) wasps (read about it here) to control aphids in the greenhouse.  We do not use neonicontinoid pesticides.

At home, you can help the bee population too! When you plant your planters and gardens, you can create a bee-friendly place!

Create a welcome place for bees

  • All creatures that eat plants (including humans!) depend on pollinators.
  • ¾ of the foods we eat — fruits, nuts, vegetables, and herbs — need pollinators to reproduce.
  • Creating hospitable homes for beneficial insects in your garden means they are less likely to move into your house.
  • You’ll triple the yield of fruit and veggies in your garden — no more lumpy strawberries or shrunken squash!
  • Even what seems like a small contribution — just a tiny flower pot or patch — can provide valuable pollinator habitat.

These plants, organized by when they bloom, are just a few of the species that attract bees:

Early                      Mid-season        Late

Blueberry            Blackberry           Aster (perennial)

Cotoneaster       Cat mint               Beggar’s tricks

Crabapple           Catnip                   Borage

Cranberry            Chives                   Coneflower

Crocus                  Dahlia                    Cornflower

Foxglove              Hyssop                 Cosmos

Heliotrope          Lavender             Goldenrod

Hazelnut              Raspberry           Pumpkin

Heather               Sunflower           Sedum

Primrose              Yarrow                  Squash

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 David Suzuki has a great article on other ways to make your garden bee-friendly, check it out for some more ideas

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/create-a-bee-friendly-garden/

And don’t forget the best part about cultivating a healthy bee community.  There’s nothing tastier than local honey!

Botanical Photography – Plant Pic Contest!

How many of us love to capture nature with our cameras? Whether you use a phone camera, a point-and-shoot, or a high-end DSLR, it is very easy to capture the beauty around us!

Yesterday’s “Google Doodle” was a representation of photograms by Anna Atkins.

Anna Atkins Google Doodle

 Anna Atkins was either the first or second female photographer. Her images of Algae were made by placing seaweed on light sensitive paper, which was then left exposed to sunlight. In addition to being a pioneer in photography, she also published the very first illustrated book, with her images of algae!

I find that taking pictures of plants and flowers is a great boost of confidence in my photography skills. Unlike kids or pets who will dart away, or make funny faces, flowers tend to be ideal subjects! Of course there is always something to learn, but practice and experimentation is the best way to capture the world around you!
I’d love to see some of your favourite “botanical” (really just any plantJ) picture you have taken. Everyone who posts one in on our Facebook timeline will be entered to win a $25 giftcard!  The winner will be drawn randomly, at 5:00 March 18th.  To get things started here are my two favourites:

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Red Lily Beetle

Red Lily Beetle

Have you spent any time browsing through our website? Under the “Garden Resources” tab,  Amy adds articles to help with many common gardening questions. While the Lily Beetle has not invaded my garden as yet, I know it has spread across the city like crazy! Here’s what she has to say about controlling it.

In the past few years more and more gardeners have been noticing lily beetles in their gardens. A small red beetle that resembles a ladybug without its black spots, and affects only true lilies (Lilium- daylilies, canna lilies, etc. are all of different families). The lily beetle has been working its way through Manitoba and seems to be getting worse every year. More questions about how to kill/prevent them have been coming to us daily.

From doing a quick internet search you will find a lot of tips on control and chemicals that are supposed to “kill” lily beetles. Many gadeners will find different methods that work, but then later find they have another infestation to deal with. Learning how to effectively control the beetles comes from understanding their life-cycle:

1. Eggs on underside of leaf hatch in about 1 week.

2. Larvae then begins feeding on the leaf. They will cover themselves in their own feces to keep predators away.

3. After about 2-3 weeks the larvae will drop to the ground to pupate. They are dark in colour and can be very hard to see.

4. After about another 3 weeks the adults will emerge from the soil and climb up the lilies. Here they will feed until fall.

5. Usually in August-September they will fly together to find new locations. They can over winter in the surrounding soil or plant debris. They usually do not mate until the spring.

Understanding this part about lily beetles can help us see what steps we need to take to effectively control them. The only control method that has seemingly been effective at keeping populations to a minimum (because it is becoming apparent that wiping them out completely is nearly impossible) is a multiple-step process. There are no known natural predators here or pesticides legal for use in Canada to help control them. The following is a list of steps that can be used to help monitor and control populations:

1. Monitor plants every couple of days. Part of their life-cycle might not be clear to you at that moment, or they may have flown into your yard since the last time you checked your lilies. Sometimes seeing the beetle or larvae can be difficult, but seeing the holes chewed in the middle of leaves is usually quite obvious.

2. Once you see them, make sure your neighbours are aware so they can keep an eye on their lilies as well. Start by picking them off and drowning them in a water and dish soap solution. Be careful, though, because when they fall to the ground they turn themselves over so you cannot tell their dark bellies from the soil.

3. Using a gloved hand (let’s face it- you probably do not want your hands full of beetle feces), scrape off the larvae into a bucket as well.

4. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth (a product found in some ant killers) around the soil at the base of your lilies. Make sure all areas are covered. This will prevent the new adults from crawling back up your plants.

Making sure to stay on top of picking them off, especially before they get a chance to lay eggs, will help keep them from continuing their life cycle near or on your lilies.

How to Attract Butterflies to the Garden

One of the common questions we hear throughout the greenhouse, is how to attract butterflies to a yard.  The Garden Experts at Costa Farms have assembled this list of 13 must-have plants for your Butterfly Garden.

http://www.costafarms.com/public/slideshow.aspx?slideshow=Top-Plants-to-Attract-Butterflies-to-Your-Garden&slide=Yarrow

An added bonus, 8 of the 13 are perennials for us in Winnipeg! (Butterfly Bush, Lavendar, Penstemon, Scabiosa and Verbena are not)

 

 

 

 

 

Q & A for New Gardeners – What is Vole Damage?

Now that the snow has melted, it looks like there are little paths, or tunnels through my grass.  What IS this? What can I do?

If you see what looks like tunnels throughout your lawn, its likely vole damage that you are seeing.  Voles typically move in in the fall, and frolic under the snow all winter. Repairing the damage, is fortunately not that difficult or time consuming.  Take some soil, and spread it over the entire lawn, re-levelling any trenched areas.  Sprinkle some fresh grass seed, and water away!

If you’re feeling compassionate, and don’t want to worry about exterminating little creatures (they are kind of cute, in a mouse-y way), you’re in luck.  By the time the snow melts, they’ll have migrated somewhere else.  Next fall, to avoid the same problem, spray around your yard with Plantskydd, and they will be repelled by the scent, and choose a different playground for the winter!

For the Birds

One evening this fall we stopped by a friend’s backyard for a quick visit.  As we sat on the deck, we were amazed by the number and variety of birds that stopped by their feeder. They were not particularly avid birders, but just enjoyed seeing the birds come by to eat. I have often thought that it would be nice to have a bird-feeder in the yard, but never ever got around to putting one up.  However, this experience has inspired me! Now that all the planters and hanging baskets are put away, I have an open hook just waiting for some kind of feeder!

If you’re a bird-feeder, or would like to be, come check out our selection of birdseed, bird feeders, and bird houses! If you know one, maybe now is the time to start your Christmas shopping!