Double header – two volunteer groups in one day

by Sandy Garland

Yes, despite the threatened thunderstorms, both the Tuesday group and a crew of people involved in the Learning Garden at Ottawa U came to work in our Old Woodlot the same day.

In the afternoon, Derek and Mirko tackled the milkweed field with scythes. Despite the hot, humid weather, they succeeded in clearing the west side of the field. However, Mirko hinted that we might think about hiring someone with a gas-powered (rather than human-powered) cutter.

Derek and Mirko cut dog-strangling vine in this part of the milkweed field. Although cutting does not stop growth of DSV, it does keep it from “strangling” trees and from producing seeds. Another cut in August should prevent new seeds in this field.

And our Common Milkweeds are growing in that field, despite being surrounded by DSV.

And our Common Milkweeds are growing in that field, despite being surrounded by DSV.

Balsam Fir saplings still growing under all those taller plants.

Balsam Fir saplings still growing under all those taller plants, including dog-strangling vine.

Meanwhile, new volunteer, Melanie, and I decided to tackle our burdock “trees,” continuing Jesse’s work from last week. We worked along the east edge of the woods, cutting the large first-year rosettes as well as the massive second-year plants. Some motherwort had to come out as well, but we uncovered a number of Balsam Fir trees that seem to be doing well.

Eastern Comma, another butterfly whose larval host is Stinging Nettle.

Eastern Comma, another butterfly whose larval host is Stinging Nettle.

We stopped to watch an Eastern Comma and noticed a couple of new-looking Red Admirals – apparently not all the caterpillars on the nettles were eaten.

Other wildlife: we saw a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers (possibly the ones that nested in the box near the bridge), several toads, mason wasps using the insect hotel, Summer Azures, a Cabbage White, and a couple of snails.

Despite the shade along that east path, White Snakeroot is already starting to bloom. It has spread throughout the woods and can usually be counted on to shine in late summer, early fall, when other plants are starting to fade.

White Snakeroot, blooming early?

White Snakeroot, blooming early?

Blue Vervain is spectacular this year – there’s a huge bunch of it along the southern edge of the FWG just south of the woods.

Blue Vervain - attracts both bees and butterflies with its striking blue colour.

Blue Vervain – attracts both bees and butterflies with its striking blue colour.

It was a pretty hot day, so we packed it in early and sat in the cool of our Resource Centre drinking water and comparing notes on what we saw and did.

Home for dinner, and for me a return trip to the garden to meet Renate, a long-time FWG volunteer, and her colleagues from Ottawa U’s Learning Garden. The FWG donates plants to this garden every year in exchange for an evening’s work in our garden.

After introductions, Alan, Amanda, Afnan, and Nicholas loaded up the wheelbarrows with maple trees and tools and set off for the woods. After an afternoon in the jungle the woods has become, I had serious doubts about finding a place to plant these trees.

Afnan and Amanda started by removing Canada thistles (an alien invader despite its deceiving name), from around the fruit trees on the south side of the woods. Meanwhile, Nicholas, Alan, and I found a path into an area just south of where I had planted maples last year. Once I explained which plants were “good” and which needed to go, we set to work.

Nicholas

Allan-Amanda-Afnan

In no time at all, the intrepid crew had cleared some space and we could see bare ground. We could also see a big patch of trilliums that I rescued many years ago from the middle of a soon-to-be highway 416 off-ramp. Nice to see these old friends – and doing so well!

White Trilliums rescued many years ago, now spreading nicely in their new home.

White Trilliums rescued many years ago, now spreading nicely in their new home.

Renate brought the 10 trees and buckets of water and they were soon in the ground – not a moment too soon as the rain finally arrived, capping off the evening with a good soaking – of plants and people.

Thanks so much for all the hard work – Tuesday group AND Learning Garden guys!

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