Here we are one month into fall, colours have peaked and many of those vibrant yellow, orange and red leaves that beautified our landscapes are now scattered across neighbourhood lawns. For many of us, we will spend the next couple weeks bagging, mulching or composting these leaves as part of our fall yard clean up. Annuals will be pulled from gardens and perennials will be cut back to give way to new growth in the spring. As we remove plant matter from our gardens, it is time to think ahead to next season’s garden and perhaps saving Species at Risk in the process.
Now is the perfect time to plant Milkweed seeds around your yard and in your gardens. Most Milkweed requires cold stratification in order to germinate and winter takes care of this process naturally. Milkweed is the only plant consumed by Monarch Caterpillars and is crucial to the survival of this species. Monarch Butterflies are currently listed as a species of special concern on the Ontario Species at Risk List. Milkweed seeds can be easily obtained by collecting seeds pods in the wild. Remember to gather responsibly. Only gather seeds in an area where Milkweed is well established and only take one pod per plant. Once removed form the pod, seeds can then be planted in your garden just below the surface of the soil. Be sure to mark where you plant them so you will remember what they are when the small plants emerge in the spring.
If you do not have access to an established Milkweed patch, or wish to help more Species at Risk and not just the Monarch Butterfly, another option exists. Swift Care Ontario, a local, licensed wildlife rehabiltator has put together Milkweed seed packages that are available in exchange for a donation to their centre. Planting instructions can be found on their website. If you are not familiar with Swift Care Ontario, they specialize in rehabilitating injured and orphaned Species at Risk birds, most notably aerial insectivores, including Chimney Swifts, Common Nighthawks, Bank Swallows, Barn Swallows and Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills. These seed packages are available at local bird feed retailers Hyde Park Feed and Country Store and Featherfields The Bird and Garden Store. Your donation will help Swift Care Ontario purchase food and other supplies needed in the 2015 season to raise and care for these fragile species. Licensed wildlife rehabilitation centres in Ontario, such as Swift Care Ontario, do not receive funding from the government and rely solely on donations from the public. Not only will your donation help Swift Care Ontario preserve Species at Risk birds, your Milkweed garden will also help preserve Monarch Butterflies in your own backyard. Pick up one of these seed packages today and help save multiple Species at Risk.