Tools available to set up an urban oasis

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Peace Country residents have tools available to make their yards an urban oasis for some wildlife forms, thanks to Nature Alberta.

The organization, celebrating its 50th anniversary, has videos and a booklet entitled “Supporting Nature and Biodiversity in Urban Yards,” to help residents throughout the province make their green spaces more hospitable to beneficial species.

“The resources are available for anyone,” said Susan May, communications director of Nature Alberta. “It is specifically written for the Alberta climate. These are appropriate resources and species and things for anywhere in Alberta.”

Nature Alberta’s Urban Nature Initiative, piloted in Edmonton in 2020, is set up for residents throughout the province to get involved, from Grande Prairie to Hythe and everywhere in the Peace Country.

May said last year supplies were provided to those taking part in the pilot, but only resources are available now that the program is underway.

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“(The tools) are quite straightforward best practices that work very well for any of the regions. There is a different climate in Medicine Hat than in Wood Buffalo, for sure, as far as best practices of where to position bird feeders and questions from people about if we even should be feeding wild birds. There are house cats everywhere, for example, and they have had a major impact on the bird population. Cat lovers have outdoor cats, and birds are feeling; I was going to say the pinch, but it probably should be the teeth and claws. So there are some good tips about how we can mitigate all these pressures that humans and pets are putting on all of these species.”

The booklet is available as a free download on the website and is a good resource in addressing these issues and more.

“The checklist book is 60 pages and is available as a free download from the website, and it can take you through absolutely all aspects of the project. Its got tips and checklists and a workbook in the back. There is no paywall on the website. All of the resources are available through the naturealberta.ca website.” May said.

The Nature Alberta representative said getting out into the yard and closer to nature has been good for people the past 14 months of COVID-19 restrictions.

“I think it is very beneficial for people as they have been under a lot of stress and strain this year,” May said. “There is a quiet joy in seeing species of birds show up at your bird feeder and just enjoying them. There has been just an explosion in bird-watching groups and naturalist groups here in the province. There are a lot of benefits for people in naturalizing and spending some time in the yard and in the ground, on their hands and knees in the dirt.”

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The book can also be beneficial for those who want to be a little more back to nature regarding yard maintenance. The guide book is for first-timers and people who want to see their yard support natural species of plants.

“There are a lot of tips in there on natural weed control and keeping moisture in the soil. It is very holistic. The book is very comprehensive and gives you tips on all manners of things,” May said. “It is all interconnected. So, when you know when to spread mulch and know not to clean up your yard too early in the spring because you have dormant pollinators still in the hollow stems of last year’s plants or that overwinter on the leaves on your lawn or in your flower beds. When it is safe to do your initial yard clean up.”

May added waiting allows some of the beneficial insects to survive.

“Maybe your plants won’t be annihilated by aphids because the ladybugs, that are sleeping in the leaves that you just didn’t go ahead and bag at the first breath of spring, were allowed to actually wake up and feast on all of those species that are plaguing your plants and are a natural pest control.

“(There are) just a lot of great tips if no one ever taught them to you and this is your first time getting out there and doing things in your yard you just absolutely wouldn’t know. Some of the stuff you are taking and working against the things that you ultimately would like to be happening in your yard.”

Anyone wanting to access the resources can do so at naturealberta.ca/support-urban-nature.

Nature Alberta is also offering an anniversary lifetime membership of $10 at naturealberta.ca. This month, new members will receive a free copy of Nature Alberta Magazine, which regularly features Peace Country Sun columnist and area naturalist Margot Hervieux.

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