Volunteering at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

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Volunteering at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden 2017-09-25T23:30:26+00:00

A great opportunity to learn more about local wildlife and gardening with native plants.

Our volunteer groups are very informal. Join an existing work group or volunteer for a one-off work bee. New volunteers are asked to read our safety guidelines and sign a standard waiver (English | French). A brief orientation session is also provided. After that, volunteers join in working on whatever needs doing this week.

Some volunteers join one crew and come every week. Others work when they can. The only rules are: follow the safety guidelines and let the group leader know what you are doing. Some volunteers even come to the garden on their own in their spare time to work on ongoing projects.

The work can be grueling and sometimes tedious, but the rewards are many. If you enjoy working outdoors and learning about nature, this is a great opportunity to do both.

All volunteer groups are active from April to October. Read more about each group below, and email us at fletcher@ofnc.ca if you have questions or want to join!

Work groups

We have several groups that meet every week and are primarily composed of regular volunteers who come out as frequently as possible. New volunteers are welcome to join any of these – as a regular volunteer or occasionally as your time permits.

    • Backyard Garden Group, Friday mornings, 9 a.m. to noon, starting at the beginning of May 2017, and going until the snow flies. A detailed schedule, posted in the interpretive centre, outlines what should be done in each garden bed — weeding, mulching, filling in spaces, observing wildlife and taking notes, identifying and labeling plants, dividing plants for our native plant sale in June. Some regular Friday volunteers have special responsibility for pruning, trail grooming, repairs, and making sure the Interpretation Centre is tidy and stocked with necessities (like cookies). Others take on seasonal work like garlic mustard control.

    • Butterfly Meadow Volunteer Group, Wednesday evenings, 5:45-7:45 p.m., starting 17 May. Please arrive on time at the Resource Centre to gather tools, find out the tasks for the day, etc., or join the group later in the Butterfly Meadow. Please wear sturdy footwear and bring drinking water.Join the team of volunteers creating space for flowers to attract butterflies and other pollinators to the Butterfly Meadow, just one of the many habitats in Fletcher’s Wildlife Garden.Tools and work gloves provided; fabulous opportunities to see and hear FWG inhabitants.

  • Tuesday in the Old Woods, Tuesday afternoons, 1:30 to 4 p.m. starting April 25. We are still restoring this habitat after more than 50 ash trees had to be removed in 2014. In addition to planting a variety of locally native species of trees and shrubs, work also involves removing invasive plants, such as garlic mustard and dog-strangling vine. We are slowly replacing these unwanted species with forest wildflowers, ferns, mosses, etc. If you are interested in recreating a woodland habitat, please come and help. Meet at 1:30 pm sharp at our building (138) to collect tools and other equipment before moving to the woods to work.

Volunteer team for our pond project

Our Amphibian Pond was dredged last fall and we want to replant around the pond this spring/summer. The bed preparation, planting, watering, and tending of the new flowers will require a large number of people to visit the garden regularly to plant and maintain the new plantings. Work on this project will mean getting your hands dirty as you transfer a wide variety of plants from growing pots to locations around the pond. Watering and weeding will then be the activities that ensure the new plants establish, grow, and survive their first summer at the Garden. Volunteers will need to commit to regularly visiting the Pond to ensure an adequate watering schedule, particularly in the hot days of summer. No experience is required to get involved.

Node worker

Many people would like to help at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, but do not want to be tied down to a particular day and time. We have created a strategy that we call “work nodes” that allows you to work on your own, at your own pace. Under the guidance of one of our long-time volunteers, you will be helped to choose a small area of the garden that you would like to adopt. It will then be your responsibility to take care of your node, which will likely require removal and control of invasive species, planting native plants/shrubs/trees, mulching to discourage unwanted plants, etc., for the entire growing season. Time commitment can vary from one afternoon a month to weekly chores – it’s up to you! Tools, instructions, advice, and feedback will be provided to assist you as you work on your node.

Ongoing jobs throughout the FWG

Cut burdock – Burdock is a non-native species. Although the flowers are used by bees, overall the plant can become a nuisance. It spreads only by seed, so if we can keep cutting away the flowers or burs, the main plant will die. Once burs start to mature, they must be bagged to prevent seeds from spreading. See Burdock fact sheet for more info.

“Rescue” trees from dog-strangling vine – DSV is a problem throughout the FWG and we are trying a number of methods to control or eliminate it. When DSV grows near trees, it often twines around the trunk and is able to grow up to 3 m tall by using the tree branches for support. This often damages the trees and also allows DSV seeds to spread farther as they are taken by the wind high above the ground. An easy way to help control the spread of DSV (and help the trees) is to simply pull the vines down out of the branches and push the stems and seeds down to the ground.

Control buckthorn – Although we have a buckthorn removal team, we can use more help. For example, in some areas buckthorn seedlings are a problem, but they can be pulled out quite easily with a concerted effort.

Keep wildflowers DSV free – Because of the extent of the DSV problem at our garden, our efforts to remove it are often doomed. In the Butterfly Meadow, for example, areas have been rototilled, carefully sifted to remove DSV roots, and then planted with hundreds of wildflowers. But because DSV is still present in adjacent areas, seeds come back into the cleared sites and DSV soon starts to grow back. We need people to pull or dig out these isolated plants to keep the wildflowers healthy and strong.

Free the milkweeds – More and more milkweeds are growing at the FWG, which is a registered Monarch Waystation. But they are surrounded by DSV. DSV is related to milkweeds and Monarch butterflies are known to lay eggs on DSV by mistake. The eggs hatch, but the caterpillars can’t live on DSV, so they die. We want to prevent this (if possible) by removing DSV from the immediate area of milkweed plants. Please ask about where to put the pulled DSV plants. They may have to be bagged, or they can be used to “smother” other DSV plants.

Comfrey control – Comfrey is a non-native flowering plant with medicinal properties, and bees love the pretty blue flowers. Unfortunately, in recent years, this plant has become invasive at the FWG; that is, it’s spreading into areas like the New Woodlot and Butterfly Meadow, where it isn’t wanted. We need someone (or two) to figure out how to control this plant and keep it from spreading further.

Volunteers at work

The Backyard Garden is a focal point of the FWG and our Friday morning volunteers put a lot of effort into keeping it looking great – for people and wildlife.

The Wednesday evening group concentrates on the Butterfly Meadow, in 2012 creating a model monarch waystation.

Many of our volunteers have retired from their “real jobs” to work even harder volunteering at the FWG and elsewhere.

Not all jobs require great strength. Potting up plants for our annual sale and keeping the nursery organized are very important tasks that can be done sitting down.