Naturalization with Trees, Dandelions and Composting Using the New Cart Rollout

Volunteer Tree Planting with Root for Trees

At the start of our blog, back in the fall of 2019, Lucy had read about Root For Trees, and made a plan and registered to volunteer with them to plant trees in Edmonton. Finally, after a year of COVID restrictions, she received an email that small groups are again planting trees. Strong winds cancelled the original group outing planned with Janet, Brenna and Russ so Lucy grabbed the next available date for planting in the south area near the Blackmud Creek.

With Root for Trees the city is focused on naturalization, an ecologically-based landscape management approach, where highly-maintained land is transformed into a more natural condition.

The Roots for Trees program started in 2012 with a goal of planting 16,000 trees a year and now the new goal is to plant 45,000 trees each year. As well Edmonton will continue with the program of giving 15,000 trees to school children each year and mandates that all new homes plant two trees in the front yard, two other ways it is increasing the urban forest canopy. The river valley of Edmonton has the status of having the longest continuous green space in all North America. 

The Root for Trees program is very well organized. Businesses, individuals, and community groups can register online, during the first week of March. The only weakness we found was that on the website it is challenging to see at a glance all the possible planting dates and locations. There are opportunities to plant all summer and early fall, and more dates are being added including some Saturdays. As the province opens up, larger groups can meet, as the current limit is 10, but in past years they have had up to 200 planting at one time.

The organizers send out detailed information on how to dress (long pants and closed toe shoes), as well as specific directions on finding the “field” you are planting. It seems everyone found the site. We plant either in the morning or afternoon for two and a half hours. Luckily it was perfect weather on the day we planted, but we are sure it can get hot. A hat, sunscreen, bug repellent, water, are all a good idea. Root for Trees provides the fitted gloves, tiny spades and trees/bushes to plant. The site is already mapped out, with a perimeter, and each tree is planted a metre apart, pairing the birch trees, and bushes need to be half a metre apart.

After discussing safety issues, there is a complete demonstration on how best to plant the trees. These trees were 2-5 feet tall and have about a 9 inch root, so a narrow round hole that is deep enough for the plant must be dug. Next the root ball has to be well loosened so the roots are aiming down, and then the plant must be packed in with no air pockets, using the same dirt, un-crumbled in layers, packed down with the final test being, the tug to ensure it does not come out. Later that day a truck will come to water the trees. Prior to planting the area has let the grass grow long, and that is why the trees need to be large enough to compete and increase their survival rate. The survival rate of these trees is 80 percent. Not bad! We each planted about a dozen trees while there.

The coordinators took time to discuss the types of trees we were planting and photos of them are included here in this blog. As an unexpected bonus, when we were finished we each could bring one plant home and were given a Root For Trees t-shirt. Lucy was thrilled to plant in her back yard her chosen Highbush Cranberry which attracts birds.

So if you want to do a bit of volunteering in Edmonton that gives you a feeling of satisfaction, helps naturalize the city, gives you a little exercise and lots of fresh air as well, check it out. Lucy looks forward to more tree planting as well as going back over the years to look at how well these trees have grown over time.

Benefits of the Edmonton Cart Roll Out

Finally Edmonton has a new system for managing waste. It feels like most other cities are ahead of us in this regard, but hopefully it means this is well planned out. Last week we received our new garbage cart and food scrap cart (with food scrap pail). The city wants all citizens to participate in using these containers as intended to ensure a sustainable future for our city. If together we adjust our approach to waste processing the city can keep waste from going into the landfill with a goal of a near zero waste future. This is ambitious!

Our new Food Scrap Pail and Cart in Edmonton encourages composting and the waste will be sent to the new High Solids Anaerobic Digestion Facility where the methane produced (biofuel) from our waste will generate heat and electricity for the facility and is part of the plan for Edmonton to divert 90% of waste from landfills. It is a benefit that we can put paper napkins and paper towels into the scrap container now, rather than in the garbage. This is a bagless container so that removes the plastic from the garbage. We personally are going to use the food scrap pail to compost at home in the summer. For more information on composting please check out our April 30, 2020 blog. (Friends4Trees4Life: https://bit.ly/3wUIGAW)

Photo credit Lucy

Citizens of Edmonton are receiving one of the two garbage container choices. The smaller 120L garbage container (shown above) is cheaper by $5.00 a month than the larger 240L one as an incentive to pay less if you put out less garbage. One can always request a different size bin over the next few months, by calling 311, so if you are not filling your large bin more than half, you might want to downsize. Maybe this is a welcome challenge to keep one’s garbage to a minimum. Packaging from products we buy is bulky so it might require assessing and changing the way we shop. We can try to purchase food with less packaging, and do less online shopping which has been shown to create more packaging waste.

With the new cart roll out the city of Edmonton will save on fuel as the trucks pick up the garbage only every other week. It is interesting that the blue bag recycling system has not changed but we did read that pizza boxes can be recycled now as they used to be considered garbage. You can download the Wastewise app onto your phone to help with sorting your waste.

Can We Learn to Love Dandelions?

If discussing changing our garbage habits is not distasteful enough, let’s discuss dandelions. First up, did you know a dandelion is a flower not a weed? As such, can we start to view them with a different lens, and maybe consider them to be pretty, just as children do? Did you know all parts of a dandelion are edible, including the root, and it is a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin K. Unknowingly you may already be eating dandelion leaves as they are found in mesclun, a mix of tender, young salad green leaves sold in the grocery store.

When Did We Learn to Despise Dandelions?

“Paula Noel, the New Brunswick program director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, is not sure when dandelions became the outcast of the landscaping world but figures it probably started in the 1950s. “During the Depression and war years, people ate dandelion greens because they were free and available and are in fact very nutritious,” she said. “After the Second World War, dandelions were associated with the poverty and hardship of those years, so this is part of the reason they became reviled. Campaigns by herbicide companies [in the 1950s and ’60s] probably played a big part, too.”At around the same time, the rise of suburban communities spawned a cultural tradition of having a well-kept front lawn, and peer pressure took it from there.”

“But in recent years, several factors have begun shifting that thinking. Mounting evidence of climate change has heightened our concern for the environment. Reports of an alarming decline in the world’s bee colonies — with disease, loss of habitat and pesticides all taking some of the blame — have put a laser focus on anything that can harm them. Meanwhile, anything that provides sustenance to bees is suddenly being encouraged, and that includes dandelions. “They’re one of the first foods of the season for pollinators,” Noël said. “They’re not damaging in any way to the environment, and the insect that we see most on them in May is the honeybee.””

Photo credit Carrie

No Mow May

“And over the past few years, No Mow May, a campaign created by U.K.-based Plantlife and adopted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, has sought to convince Canadians it’s OK to let their lawns grow wild. Residents are asked not to mow their lawns for the entire month in an effort to help pollinating insects, including butterflies and bees, whose food is in scarce supply in May. The general consensus is this-it’s gaining ground, and life is certainly a lot simpler when you don’t try to fight nature. “People are looking for things they can do to make a difference to protect wildlife, to protect the environment,” Noël said. “And this is an easy thing that people can [do] to help in their own little corner of the world. No Mow May is really about retraining our way of thinking,” Noël said. “I think it’s teaching people that it’s OK to have some of those yellow flowers adding some colour to the landscape.””

Being surrounded by untreated public spaces makes keeping your own residential patch of grass dandelion-free a lot more challenging, especially considering the dandelion’s prodigious seeding capacity. That fluffy white dandelion seed head can contain up to 172 seeds. But that’s just a start: The plant blooms repeatedly through summer, and each plant can produce as many as 5,000 seeds in a single year. Pulling dandelions the wrong way will turn one plant into a many-headed hydra. It fractures the root system underground, and each piece of those fractures will now turn into a dandelion — with multiple leaves and four or five different stems, all of them with flowers. This invasive nature of dandelions is what many despise.

Some Like it Green

People still want their lawns to look good. If you’re one of those people, here are some tips on how to get and keep your lawn (mostly) weed-free. The first and most important thing is to get that grass thick and healthy. If the dandelion seed can’t touch the soil, it can’t grow. That means applying fertilizer and lime liberally, overseeding often, watering frequently and using a blend of grasses. Once you’ve got your lawn thick and green, get ready to accept the fact that you will occasionally see a few dandelions and other weeds on your lawn.

Photo credit Lucy

Article by Marie Sutherland of CBC News based out of Saint John (CBC: https://bit.ly/2SjzpmI)

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