Archive for the ‘Wildlife & Nature’ Category

Edible Plants in your very own yard!

It’s surprising to know how many plants out there are actually edible. It’s not just the plants in your vegetable garden that are edible. You can also eat a selection of ornamental plants, and even weeds! That’s right, you can eat some of those weeds in your backyard that are starting to drive you crazy! What better use for them than in a salad?

Here are a few ornamental plants and weeds that you may find in your very own yard:

Plant Edible part of plant Edible Use

Dandelion

Dandelion

  • All parts of the plant are edible raw including: unopened buds, seeds, leaves and roots
  • Roots can be roasted as a coffee substitute
  • Leaves can be added to a salad
  • Leaves can also be boiled down to make tea

Plantain

Plantain

  • Young leaves can be eaten raw
  • Seeds are also edible
  • Leaves are best finely chopped in a salad
  • Seeds can be dried into flour
Burdock

Burdock

 

  • Young leaves can be eaten raw
  • Old leaves should be boiled down with baking soda
  • Roots are edible
  • White pith of flower is also edible when raw
  • Young raw leaves can be made into a salad
  • Roots can be cooked into soup, made into a stir fry, mashed and fried as patties, or used as a ground for a coffee substitute

Knotweed

Knotweed

  • Plant should be cooked and eaten, not consumed raw
  • Seeds are also edible
  • Leaves can be cooked and eaten as a side dish
  • Seeds can be eaten whole, or pounded into meal

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

  • Plants should be consumed when cooked
  • Flowers can be eaten raw
  • Seeds are edible raw
  • Can be put into a salad
  • Flowers and leaves can be made into tea
False Solomon's Seal

False Solomon’s Seal

 

  • Young shoots and green parts of plants are edible, eaten when cooked
  • Berries are edible
  • Cooked greens can be eaten as side dish or in a salad
  • Berries may be eaten raw
Brittle Prickly-Pear Cactus

Brittle Prickly-Pear Cactus

 

  • Berries are edible
  • Flesh of plant can be eaten raw, after removing spines and inner seeds
  • Flesh and seeds can be dried for storage
  • Flesh and seeds can be used as a side dish

Sunflower

Sunflower

  • Sprouts are edible
  • Seeds can be eaten raw
  • Shells are edible
  • Kernels are edible
  • Seeds can be dried and eaten on their own
  • Shells can be roasted to make a coffee substitute

Always ensure that you wash the plants well before eating them, do your research, and be careful that you don’t have any allergies. It’s important to be sure that you use the proper part of the plant, since the entire plant isn’t always edible. Also be sure you know whether you can eat the plant raw, or will have to cook it.

So get out there, be adventurous, and make use of those plants!

Bon appétit!

 

Written by: Stacey Almas

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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: http://www.stwilliamsnursery.com/

 

 

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:

http://fuellingchange.com/main/project/407/Healthy-Harbour-Flood-My-Rain-Garden

 

Posted by Edward

 

 

Coach Jim talks about Nordic Walking and it’s many health benefits

Coach Jim at a Glance

In 2005, after several decades in marketing and later voluntary sector administration, Jim Mackey was looking for an outdoor activity to compliment his interests in cross country skiing, kayaking, cycling and running…that might inspire a new career direction.  Nearly 30 years of coaching team sports had left him with the firm conviction that lifelong sustainable activity was key to a person’s health and wellness.

By chance he was shown a set of Nordic Walking poles.  After listening to a few details about their construction, they immediately seemed to be the answer to his search.

“I realized that Nordic Walking would be a way for me to cross country ski all year round”, says Mackey.

But he needed to convince himself that this sport was something that he would love to do for the rest of his life.  So he bought himself a pair poles, took a walk leader’s class and spent the next couple of years Nordic Walking and Hiking on roads and trails; in parks and in snow and not only became convinced that this was the best sport he had ever come across (“because I can do it every day”) but was also so inspiring that he took an international level certification course  so that he could instruct others.

Now in 2013 Nordic Stride is offering year round Nordic Walking programs up to 15 times per week. Mackey instructs and/or leads every group perhaps proving clearly that this is something that you really can do every day (4 times a day on some days!).

 

History and Benefits of Nordic Walking

There are a variety of stories that explain the roots of Nordic Walking. To bring them together, it isn’t hard to imagine that in Scandinavia Nordic skiing has been extremely popular for a long time. At times weather or trail conditions would have made it more practical to “ski without skis,” this is essentially what Nordic Walking is.

So combining the utility of a pole with the need to get somewhere, Nordic Walking evolved as a lifestyle activity in northern Europe and then the rest of Europe where walking culture is far more ingrained than it is here.

Nordic Walking has grown in popularity as a fitness program.  The first well known example was a runner (and entrepreneur!) who decided to use some cut down ski poles to keep himself moving while rehabbing from a running injury.  Which if nothing else demonstrated the fact that poles have a variety of uses…that compliment Nordic Walking’s many benefits that thousands more people in North America have finally begun to discover.

Today, Nordic Walking is emerging as a very popular sport/activity worldwide. It is still far more popular in communities where walkability exists in the local urban infrastructure or is encouraged in recreation areas.

In the 8 years that I have been Nordic Walking and Nordic Hiking it has become far more common to see someone out on the trails or sidewalks in this region, walking with poles.

Some of those people will be from amongst the several hundred folks who I have personally gotten started in the sport. They may also be members of Nordic Stride an active group of people from all backgrounds who join in one or more of my groups each week.

The benefits of Nordic Walking are many. To highlight what people who have taken up the sport tell me they are getting from it, here is a list of the most frequently mentioned benefits:

  • Environmental Impact Minimal
  • minimal equipment
  • human powered transportation (viable commuter alternative)
  • encourages gentle use of natural places
  • as it becomes more popular will challenge carbon emitting modes for access to routes

Other

  • Outdoors all year round (in almost  any weather)
  • Group activity
  • Engages most muscles in the body (vs regular walking)
  • Easy to learn BUT always a new challenge. It’s completely up to the individual
  • Inexpensive
  • Low Impact (poles absorb some stress on lower joints)
  • Pumps cardio and calorie burn up versus regular walking
  • Provides a “purposeful” walk
  • Can be worked into one’s lifestyle (walk at lunch time instead of staying at your desk)
  • Is a viable means of staying fit in the broadest sense.  It is more frequently being associated with an individual’s ability to avoid health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles. This is becoming very much top of mind especially with older adults.
  • Nordic Walkers become very aware of ways to improve and maintain good posture and walking technique even when not using the poles.
  • Is both a way to get around and a workout. You control the effort based on terrain, level of plant and push with poles, time on trail etc
  • It is a very good way for the individual (in consultation with their health care provider) to maximize their wellness, flexibility and strength going into or after rehab for many challenging health concerns.
  • My experience working with Nordic Walkers and Nordic Hikers each day is that this is a sport that they can see themselves doing throughout their lives. That they can flex to their schedule and use the skills of in many ways.
  • Nordic Walkers walk at the waterfront all year round…they hike the Bruce Trail…they use their poles with snowshoes in winter…they apply the skills, strength and flexibility that they get to other sports…in some cases they tell me that this is the only way that they can get out and walk a bit.  It is a very broad based activity for anyone.

I am happy to provide more details regarding my scheduled outings, group opportunities, demonstrations, or to direct you to some of the studies done regarding the benefits of this safe, gentle activity that you can challenge yourself with as much as you like.

Jim Mackey
Certified Nordic Walking Instructor
NCCP Coach
Nordic Stride
Dundas ON
905 906-2405
nordicstride@bell.net

Davis Creek Clean Up (My Green Adventures Part 1 of 5)

My Green Adventures is Green Venture’s open house event, taking place on Saturday October 13th from 10AM until 3PM, at our demonstration home, EcoHouse (22 Veevers Drive, Hamilton).  In the weeks leading up to My Green Adventures, we will feature blog posts highlighting some of the exciting activities taking place on October 13th.

_______________________________________

Come early on October 13th and help Green Venture and the local community to clean up the area around Davis Creek.  Roadside litter is a significant issue in our neighbourhood.  Some litter makes its way down to the side of Davis Creek as it winds its way towards the Red Hill Creek.  Green Venture, along with some great partners from Lowe’s, the Clean City Liaison Committee and the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC) are organizing a community clean up for the morning of October 13th.

This project will achieve two major goals.  Firstly, the litter that is collected during the clean up will be audited by Green Venture staff to try and understand the most likely sources.  Then, Green Venture will propose strategies to prevent litter from accumulating at all.  Secondly, BARC will be conducting water quality sampling to assess the health of the creek.

No registration is required, just show up at 9AM willing to work for a couple of hours.  Volunteers taking part in the clean up will receive a voucher for lunch from one of the food trucks attending My Green Adventures (stay tuned for more on our food trucks!).

This project is generously funded by the Keep America Beautiful foundation through the Clean City Liaison Committee, and by Lowe’s.

For more information contact Matthew at matthew.sweet@greenventure.ca or at (905) 540-8787 x151.

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 clare.wagner@greenventure.ca.

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.

Backyard Pet Waste Composting Allowed in Hamilton

City of Hamilton staff member Angela Storey (Manager of Business and Support Services in the Operations & Waste Management Division) confirms that “there is nothing in the solid waste or yard maintenance by-laws that would prevent composting of pet waste” in accordance with the bylaws listed below.

Municipal Law Enforcement has advised that what goes in the back yard composter is not regulated, just that they require that its use meets the standards listed below. The Yard Maintenance By-Law (10-118) includes information about waste that accumulates on private property:

4(5) Every owner or occupant of property shall ensure that all waste which accumulates on their property is:

(a) when not placed out for collection, in containers:

(i) made of rigid, watertight construction;

(ii) provided with a tight-fitting cover, which may be removed only when the container is empty or is being actively loaded;

(iii) maintained in good condition without holes or spillage; and

(iv) closed, or emptied, rinsed and cleaned when not in use, to prevent the escape of offensive odour or waste; and

(v) kept in a rear yard located against a building, structure, fence or retaining wall and arranged in an orderly manner.

A copy of by-law 10-118 can be found on the city of Hamilton website under 2010 by-laws (http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/CorporateServices/Clerks/By-Laws/By-laws+Passed+in+2010.htm ).

The Solid Waste Management By-law (09-067) does not address pet composting on private property, however, it does define the following:

(u) “Household Pet Waste” means animal excrement generated by a domesticated animal that is not living on a farm;

(00) “Unacceptable Organic Waste” means:

(xii) Household Pet Waste;

(nn) “Unacceptable Garbage” means:

(vii) human and animal excrement, except for Household Pet Waste and diapers;

A copy of by-law 09-067 can be found on the city of Hamilton website under 2009 by-laws (http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/CorporateServices/Clerks/By-Laws/By-laws+Passed+in+2009.htm).

This means that pet waste is not accepted in your Green bin. You may dispose of pet waste by flushing it down the toilet, or double bagging it and placing it in the trash.  More information here: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/57961F92-C75F-4870-8F47-1E6965F080A8/0/P2ResidentialPollutionPreventionPetWaste.pdf

Pet excrement contributes approximately 12,000-30,000 pounds of waste to Hamilton landfills every year. Composting the waste from one medium sized dog eliminates about 122 pounds of this each year.  Imagine the difference we could make if every pet owner used one of these….

Using a pet waste composter is a great way to manage your pet’s waste and save room in our landfills. Compost Away!

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