Archive for the ‘Native Species’ Category

Helpful Insects in the Garden

Do you have trouble determining which insects you see in your garden? Not sure which are helpful and which are harmful? Green Venture summer student Aaron, who studies etymology at university, has compiled a list of 5 helpful and 5 harmful bugs which are common in the garden. Take a look at this list of 5 helpful insects, find out why they are good, and look for them in your garden!

What: Bees, Flies, Moths and Butterflies – Pollinators

Why they are good for the garden: Pollination is a needed service for any garden. The pollinators such as bees, hover flies and butterflies allow plants to reproduce, fruit, and genetically grow. As these pollinators land on the flowers surface, the pollen on the stamen (male parts) gets transferred onto the insect (or collected, in the case of bees) and as the pollinator flies to the next flower some of that pollen is transferred to the pistol (female parts). This pollinates (or fertilizes) the plant, allowing for the growth of the seeds and fruit.

What: Assassin Bugs

Why they are good for the garden: Assassin Bugs are a great predator for natural control of insect pests in gardens. With their needle-like mouth parts they paralyze, inject liquefying enzymes into, and then suck up the internals of their prey. They feed upon any herbivorous insect pests you can think of, from aphids, to potato beetles, to caterpillars. They can be quite large (as big as 4 centimetres in length) but they are harmless to humans, if left alone. Assassin bugs can be found on the underside of leaves, stalking prey and keeping camouflaged.

What: Lady Bird Beetles

Why they are good for the garden: Lady Bird beetles are one of the best known natural controls for aphids, and have been used for centuries on crops for this purpose. Both their larval forms and adult forms are predatory, and can eat up to 400 aphids as larvae and up to 5,000 aphids in a one year lifespan. A single Lady Bird beetle can also lay up to 1,000 eggs. Unfortunately, due to their popularity, many species were brought over to increase their control abilities. One of the most well known and most common lady bird beetles in North America, the Asian Multicolored Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis), is now an invasive species and out-competes native Lady Bird beetles for resources, thus endangering them (see pictures below for the difference between the two species).

What: Parasitic Wasps

Why they are good for the garden: Parasitic wasps have gotten a lot of recent attention in Integrated Pest Management, especially in greenhouses, for the control of many herbivorous insect pests. Parasitic wasps have even become available for purchase to every day gardeners. If purchased, they are shipped on strips of card board that have eggs or pupae glued to them and can be hung in the garden. The wasps will then hatch, fly to the pest which will be their host, and use their ovipositor (egg laying structure) to inject eggs into the host. The larvae hatch and eat the pest from the inside out, causing the adult wasps to emerge from the dead host, fly away and parasitize more of the pest, thus controlling the population. These parasitic wasps are very host specific, so the ones on the market will not target anything other than the pest needing control. The wasp can parasitize a variety of species from tiny aphids to large caterpillars.

What: Ants

Why they are good for the garden: Ants are one of the best beneficial insects to have in a garden. Mound building varieties of ants act as great natural tillers; with their complex tunnel excavation, they bring up soils from lower horizons and help mix in nutrients from the surface. They also can help in plant growth, as they take seeds they find at the surface and place them in certain chambers of their nest to grow. Some species harvest fungi, which helps in providing valuable nitrogen for the soil, which is an essential nutrient for plants. They are also fairly territorial, and will ward off large unwanted pests such as caterpillars. That being said, some ant species will tend to aphids, farming them for their sweet excretions, and causing their population numbers to explode at a faster rate. If this is the case, be sure to handle an aphid problem quickly, but leave the ants be!


Stay tuned for the next blog about which insects can be harmful in your garden!


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Written by Aaron F. and edited by Rebecca J.



Rain Gardens: A Guide to Colour, A Guide to Wildlife

Building rain gardens is a truly wonderful way to minimize the amount of storm water runoff that ends up in to the sewers, and consequently in the Hamilton Harbour.  Strategically placing them in down-sloped areas or underneath downspouts is ideal for limiting the amount of runoff from your property.  However, another factor to consider is how this garden will look, and what type of wildlife you would like to attract.

Blue Flag Iris

Blue Flag Iris


In general, birds are attracted to plants that bear fruits and seeds.  Some examples of native rain garden plants that are best suited to birds are High Bush Cranberry, Cardinal Flower, Chokeberry, and fruit-bearing shrubs and trees.


Butterflies and bees are attracted to plants with nectars, pollens, and saps to extract.  These insects act as pollinators, moving pollens and nectars so that other plants may flourish.  Some examples of native rain garden species suited to attracting bees and butterflies are Cardinal flower, Sneezeweed, Turtlehead, Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed, and various types of Milkweed.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on Cardinal Flower

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on Cardinal Flower


It should be noted that rain gardens will not attract mosquitoes, since they require at least 6 days of standing water to breed, and a properly functioning rain garden will drain in less than 24 hours.  In fact, rain gardens attract other insects, such as dragonflies, which prey on mosquitoes.




Here are some native species that will provide colour and diversity to beneficial native insects and birds:


Fox Sedge (Carex  vulpinoides) and other native sedges

Dark-green Bulrush (Scirpus atrovirens)

Soft stem Bulrush (Scirpus validus)

Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Blue flag iris (Iris virginicus)

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilatica)

Golden Alexanders (Zizea aurea)

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Virginia Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum)


This plant list was provided by St. Williams Nursery.  You can visit their website here:



Green Venture is currently involved in the Shell Fuelling Change competition.   Our project will build rain gardens with residents in a neighbourhood that has a history of flooding during intense rainfall.

Every vote counts!

Please help us out in this competition by voting for our program here:


Posted by Edward



Flood and Mud: Using Rain Gardens to Control Erosion and Flooding

We have had quite the rainy summer in southern Ontario this year! Have you noticed issues with flooding or soil erosion in your garden? If so, constructing a rain garden may be an excellent way to minimize this problem.

If you live in a particularly hilly area, rain gardens can be an ideal way to minimize flooding issues because they are able to hold more water than a regular garden, and  help to prevent soil from washing away.  Rain gardens can also be used in conjunction with rain barrels to capture substantial runoff from your property.

Rain Gardens at Ecohouse

Rain Gardens at EcoHouse

It’s easy to construct your own rain garden! For details on construction, visit  Remember, in order to capture the maximum amount of water, try to strategically place your rain garden in depressed areas where water naturally pools or where downspout water will collect.

Once you have constructed your rain garden, it is important to plant native species in it.  Native plants are accustomed to local conditions, and have deeper roots to increase the permeability of your soil.

Foxglove Beardtongue

Foxglove Beardtongue

As your plants mature, their roots continue to spread, increasing the amount of water your garden will be able to hold.  Remember that most water will be stored in the centre of the garden, similar to a large bowl.  Cardinal Flower, Foxglove Beardtongue, Joe Pye Weed and Service Berry are a few examples of plants we have in the middle of our own rain gardens at Green Venture because they favour a wetter environment. For a list of native shrubs and plants, visit


Green Venture is currently involved in the Shell- Fuelling Change competition.   Our aim is to build community awareness and support for lot-level storm water management measures, like rain gardens.

Currently, just over 800 more votes gets us in the top 4! Please help us out in this competition by voting for our program here:



Posted by Edward


Doors Open Hamilton

Doors Open Hamilton 2013 is Green Venture’s annual opportunity to celebrate the heritage of the EcoHouse site. The site is open for the May 4-5 2013 weekend (10-4 on Saturday and 12-4 on Sunday), providing our neighbours an opportunity to get to know us better, and to learn what is new.

Because Doors Open Hamilton is about architecturally interesting buildings and their community connections, this event is one in which the heritage of Glen Manor, the traditional name for the site, comes to the foreground.

Glen Manor may have been named by the Veevers family, or may have already been called that going back into the late 19th century. The name is first referenced in 1930 in a shot of the entire farm from the Niagara Escarpment, although the name “Glendale”, for the surrounding roads and lands, appears to have existed back to before 1900.

Green Venture takes great pride in maintaining the heritage building, and indeed is determined to showcase EcoHouse as an example of adaptive reuse: the repurposing of existing facilities and “invested energy” rather than destroying said facilities and expending more energy and materials in creating something new. In 2012, Green Venture received a Benjamin Moore paint grant to enable us to repaint the front façade in more appropriate heritage palette colours.

new paint job EcoHouse 2012

new paint colours for EcoHouse 2012

Please help us get a better historical picture of the families who lived not only at our site, but also in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Green Venture welcomes any historical information or pictures of the Davis Creek neighbourhood (roughly from the Red Hill Valley to Centennial Parkway, and from King Street to the escarpment) to better help us present a good narrative of the land and its people.

In 2011, Green Venture was very glad to receive from a Veevers descendant a series of photos of the farm in 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, as well as invaluable information, helping us to get a better idea of the dimensions of the Glen Manor farm and what sort of crops they were producing. The complex, and occasionally painful, story of how the farm was eventually subsumed into the modern City of Hamilton provides an illuminating example of the nature of technological change and the effects of urban sprawl

Glen Manor farm sketch

sketch of Glen Manor farm in 1940s

Glendale Dairy barn

old Glendale Dairy barn, c1940

Davis Creek 1953

Davis Creek in 1953

Green Venture has aspirations to one day return the front façade of the building to its pre 1970 look, removing the front dormers and recreating the clean lines of a mid 19th century pre-Confederation stone farmhouse. Such a project is, of course, well beyond our current means, and would have to be taken in partnership with the City of Hamilton, owners of the heritage property. Doors Open Hamilton however, is a good annual opportunity to keep the dream alive and to remember the rich story of the Green Venture education centre.

During Doors Open Hamilton 2013, Green Venture will be conducting a Garlic Mustard Pull on Sat M<ay 4, between 1-3 pm. This volunteer event is part of our commitments to maintain the site and a heritage and horticultural centre. Help us eliminate this aggressive invasive species on the site. If time and manpower permits, we will expand the effort into the neighbouring Veevers Park.

Green Venture will also be hosting a vermicomposting workshop on Sat May 4, from 1030 am – noon. Learn about worm composting from an expert, David Pitt of Vermisprout, and make your own starter kit to take home. Get a jump-start on producing superior organic compost and liquid fertilizer for your gardens. There is a $30 charge for this workshop to cover materials, a great value for an item that regularly costs double that to buy. Pre-registration is required. Please give Green Venture a call at 905-540-8787, ext 115 to register, or email contact

The John & Pat McCutcheon Foundation Support Depaving Paradise

Thank you to the John & Pat McCutcheon Foundation for their generous contribution to our upcoming Depave Paradise project. Their support will be combined with support from Green Communities Canada to establish a demonstration site at a local school where asphalt paving is torn up and removed this Fall 2012.

The community will be engaged to assist in depaving the space, and once complete, a native species garden will be planted in the formerly paved space. Native species act as filters and sponges for polluted stormwater runoff and help restore the natural hydrological cycle. In addition, this will provide additional greenspace for students to enjoy.

This project will engage and empower volunteers and the community; participants will learn new skills, build connections with their neighbours, and see the potential for new green spaces in the urban environment. If you are interested in becoming involved with this project, please email Clare Wagner at

Thank you John & Pat McCutcheon!  We couldn’t do it without you.

Kathryn, Chaylene, and Clare learn how to depave a schoolyard during Green Communities Canada training in Kingston.

Rain Gardens

Do you have an area on your property that floods routinely?  The answer to your problems may be your very own rain garden. Rain gardens provide a natural pathway for rain to easily return to the ground, eliminating that little lake in your yard. Creating a rain garden involves digging out the area, adding gravel underneath the soil to improve drainage, and planting water-tolerant species in the new bed.  Plant roots help to make the soil more permeable, allowing water to travel along the roots down into the ground.

Rain gardens are great for the environment.   In urban areas, rain travels along hard surfaces, transporting pollutants (like bacteria, chemicals, fuels, and heavy metals) to nearby water bodies.  Rain gardens minimize the amount of stormwater that needs to be managed, and they also allow the water to be filtered naturally on its way down to the aquifer.

For more information on this subject check out

On Saturday September 17th, 2011 Green Venture hosted a rain garden workshop. Using only native plants, participants helped to create one of these beautiful gardens at EcoHouse.  It is important to use native plants, as these are adapted to local climate and soil conditions.  Ontario boasts a variety of water tolerant native-species like Canada Anemone and Sedges.

The new EcoHouse rain garden is 420 square feet in area, and captures stormwater runoff from a drainage area of about 2000 square feet on the property. With approximately 30 inches of precipitation per year, this means our rain garden is diverting slightly more than 5000 cubic feet of precipitation EVERY YEAR.

Come and see it! It’s highly visible, being located right beside the street corner of Ambrose Avenue and Veevers Drive, and it works in conjunction with the also-recently-installed permeable paver driveway.

Thanks to everyone who came out last weekend, particularly the volunteers from Katimavik and the Girl Guides– we couldn’t have done it without you!

For more information about how to build a rain garden, contact .

Participants learning about native trees used in rain garden

Hamilton’s Clean(er) Air – Celebrating at June’s My Green Adventures

Community members raved about June’s My Green Adventures, held June 6th and 7th. This month, we celebrated clean air in Hamilton. In the past, Hamilton was notorious for its smoggy skyline and poor air quality. However, Clean Air Hamilton’s release of the Air Quality Progress Report 2010 brought good news, reporting a decrease in nearly all pollutants in city air (yay!).

Green Venture wants to help Hamiltonians continue this positive trend! Visitors to EcoHouse during My Green Adventures learned how retiring your old gas lawnmower and using a program like CarShare Hamilton can reduce emissions of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases. Kids flew homemade kites and made seed rockets with red clay and seeds from air-purifying native plants.

Thank you to everyone who participated in My Green Adventures this month! Don’t miss July’s My Green Adventures: All About Energy. As usual, it is the second weekend of the month: July 7th and 8th from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Stay green, friends.

Thanks to ArcelorMittal for their generous funding of My Green Adventures!

-Lindsay Toth

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