Insect Hotels by Donna Vultier

13151944_1243086919035102_3007313947948890077_nThe vanishing population of bees and other beneficial insects is a threat to gardens and to ecological balance in general. Attracting insects to our garden that are useful for pollination and the reduction of destructive pests provides a chance to sync with nature. An insect hotel is a man made structure built from natural materials and intended to attract and provide shelter for beneficial insects. These hotels are intended as nest sites and some to allow for hibernation. They also add an aesthetic quality to any landscape.

The first ‘hotel’ to be built in the Canmore Community Garden was a 2014 project using13133115_1243086945701766_437115875313292944_n clay tiles and a variety of natural materials readily available. It was located under one of the cisterns to provide protection from harsh elements like driving rain and intense sun. There is evidence that the ‘hotel’ has been occupied; you will see that some of the holes that were drilled in wood blocks are sealed. This is likely solitary bees who have laid their eggs and then sealed the hole to protect them. The second ‘hotel’ project began in 2015 and is ongoing. Used pallets already in the garden were the foundation and various materials are being added as time goes by. There is talk of a green roof being added for protection from rain and to provide habitat for wild flowers and grasses that the insects are drawn to.

Community gardeners are invited to add to and help maintain the insect hotels. Wood, rock, tile, reeds, bamboo, rotting wood, bark, terra cotta shards, brick, twigs, straw, grasses, leaves and logs or wood blocks with holes drilled into them – a variety of materials will attract a variety of beneficial insects. Use recycled, untreated natural materials and don’t forget to decorate – options are limitless.

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Compost Project at CCG by Anne Wilson

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We’ll be making a hot compost pile, so please put the green stuff, including all weeds, in one stock pile,(the big messy pile in the garden).

We’ll layer the green stuff with the brown stuff, and some fresh manure, water it, trample the layers down to squeeze out air and get the manure in contact with the green material, and let it cook for a month. Then we’ll turn it and use it to make a bed. The last year’s pile has potatoes in it now.

 We made the hospital garden with passive composting. This is hot composting to cook the weeds. They’re too hard to separate from the other green stuff.

Diseased plant parts can go to the bush outside the garden, or in the garbage.

FAQs:

Q: Won’t trampling out the air make the pile too compact?

A: No, there’s a lot of air in green plant material.

Q: Won’t the weed seeds survive and germinate?

A: If the pile gets hot enough the weed seeds will get “cooked”.

Q: Why fresh manure, why not well-rotted manure?

A: Fresh manure will compost at a high temperature, and will make the green material hot too. Usually we like well-rotted manure to top-dress a bed, and fresh manure would “burn” the plants, not good.

Q: Where will the manure come from?

A: Hopefully the horse stables by the Alpine Club, but maybe from the horse stables in Banff.

We should be building the pile in the next couple weeks, on one of the Sunday (noon to 5) or Tuesday(3-8) gardening-together sessions. Ask me anything!

Anne, for the Potato and Compost tea