Make every day Earth Day with your kids

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to get outside, get your hands dirty and have some family fun learning about local plants and wildlife.

Just like your favourite restaurant serves great food, small animals, insects and birds will be attracted to your garden depending on what you’re serving. This growing season, consider gardening with your wild neighbours in mind. It’s a great way to bring life to your area and our planet as a whole. 

Before you start, take some time to talk with the experts at your local garden centre. Regionally native plants provide valuable food sources and shelter for our neighbourhood wildlife.

A backyard full of birds

Once temperatures are above freezing, set up and fill a bird bath. Birds are happy with recycled materials that create a welcoming watering hole.

Put out hummingbird feeders, so early arrivals have a source of nectar while flowers are scarce.

Leave scraps of yarn or cut hair in your yard for birds to use as nesting material.

Keep your bird feeders stocked all year long. This is a great job for kids, especially if you let them make their own.

Bagel Bird Feeder

  • 1 day-old bagel
  • Lard
  • Birdseed
  • Jute or string (for hanging)

Spread entire bagel with lard. Place birdseed on a paper plate. Roll the bagel in the birdseed. Tie jute or string through the hole of the bagel to hang the bagel. The birds can eat the whole thing. Tie the feeder in a tree somewhere near a window if possible.

You can also place raisins and other cut-up fruit in bare spots under a tree to please early birds like robins. Children love to watch the birds have the snack they helped to make!

Wild about wildlife

To welcome wildlife into your garden, plant a diversity of blooms to attract a variety of species, including butterflies, birds and bees. Keep a good mixture of plants that provide blooms from spring to fall. The Canadian Wildlife Federation suggest the plants listed below. All are available at your local nurseries and garden centres.

Large and small tubular flowers – best for hummingbirds, but some bees and butterflies will visit.

  • Wild Columbine* hummer
  • Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia)
  • Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta) bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, probably hummers too
  • Virginia Bluebells bee, hummer
  • Canada Lily hummer
  • Michigan Lily hummer
  • Obedient Plant bee, hummer, butterfly
  • Bee Balm and Wild Bergamot (Monardas)* bee, hummer

 Large and small open flowers – good for all, especially bees, flies, wasps and butterflies.

  • Asters (ex. New England Aster*) bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, beetles
  • Coneflowers (ex. Echinacea*) butterflies, bees
  • Sunflowers (our natives or the annual kinds) sunflowers, bees
  • Wild roses bees, flies
  • Yarrow* bees, flies
  • Plus non-native favourites like zinnias (single flowers are best versus the fluffy many layered double kinds), marigolds hummers, bees

  Other shapes – a mix, really as I’ve seen hummingbirds go to Joe-pye Weed.

  • Violets* bees, flies, butterflies
  • Mitrewort flies
  • Wild Geranium hummers, bees, flies
  • Joe-pye Weed* hummers, bees, butterflies
  • Lupine* bees
  • Liatris (ex. Liatris spicata– Dense Blazing Star*) bees, butterflies

Now that you have made beautiful flower choices, you will be on your way to creating a wonderful habitat for wildlife and much needed pollinators.

What is in our own backyard? Good Things Grow in Ontario

Enjoy local food choices grown close to home.

Foodland Ontario helps you choose fresh food grown close to home, all while supporting local farmers and businesses. and it is good for the environment:

Staying local in five easy steps

  1. Look for the Foodland Ontario logo when shopping at your grocery store, farmers’ market, and on-farm market.
  2. Find out when Ontario fruits and vegetables are in season.
  3. Take a day trip and head to a “pick your own” local farm. Talk to the growers and ask them about the difference it makes when you choose local.
  4. Serve freshness every day, with delicious recipes featuring local ingredients. 
  5. Enjoy local fresh all year round! Find out how to buy, store and prepare Ontario’s bounty of fresh food.

Make every day Earth Day with your family by teaching your children to cultivate plants and foster wildlife. Help them learn to choose whole locally grown foods and to cook and prepare meals from locally sourced ingredients. These are great habits that will last a lifetime and nurture our planet.

Happy Earth Day!

Julie Findlay is Mom in the Know, a spokesperson for all things related to raising a family and living a healthy, happy and balanced life. A wife and mother of two, Julie has turned her teaching career into a lifelong passion of sharing with others.