Lawn and Garden
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Pollinators - bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and numerous tiny insects - are incredibly important to our ecosystems. A lawn care plan that encourages pollinators is both beneficial and attractive.
THE DANDELIONS WERE MOVING….
May 5, 2010 was an unseasonably warm day in Muskoka, sunny and calm after a night of single-digit temperatures. I had arrived from Toronto in the middle of the night to faint cold-weather frog choruses and a clear starry sky. Now the mid-morning calls of crows and birds chirping woke me as sunlight streamed through my bedroom window.
I looked outside to see that the yard was awash in yellow with early Spring dandelions in full bloom. Then I noticed something unusual – the dandelions were moving. Hastily I threw on some clothes and headed outside. To my utter delight, I saw hundreds of butterflies alight on the flowers! Upon further inspection, I recognized these beauties as Red Admiral Butterflies, a migratory species that can be plentiful in certain years. Have you noticed them fluttering through your yard or at rest in your garden this May?
As I carefully walked around the yard in wonder, I also identified dozens of other pollinator species of all shapes and sizes. There were many bumblebees, a large White Admiral Butterfly, a pair of Hummingbird Moths, a Painted Lady, several Question Marks, a number of Purple Azures and two big Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies. All of these insects and more were drawn to the humble dandelions in the absence of other flowers that would bloom later in the season.
And in the morning light the obvious ecological revelation dawned on me. Had I taken the usual steps to own “the perfect lawn” and eliminate the dandelions, not only would I have deprived these lovely creatures of a much needed early season sanctuary of rest and nectar but I would also have deprived myself of a unique and wonderful spectacle of nature. After a lifetime of hiking through field and forest, I had suddenly found new respect and affection for this most common of “weeds”.
AND IF YOU DON'T LIKE DANDELIONS....
The best green practice to eliminate them in your yard is to cut off the flowers before they go to seed.
Do this in Spring, then rake up and compost the flowers. Repeat as needed throughout the season.
If you need to pull dandelions, make sure that you also pull out the thick tap root. This is easier to do after a rainfall or lawn watering.
Red Admiral butterfly in wild mustard patch (above); Pearl Crescent and Tiger Swallowtail enjoying hawkweed (below).