When walking through London, Ontario’s Kensington Village neighbourhood, there are several lush front yard gardens with bright flowers to welcome warmer weather

The gardens are part of London’s Pollinator Pathways Project.

The Pollinator Pathways Project promotes the Forest City as a haven for pollinators like bees and butterflies. Pollinators pollinate nearly all flowering plants, which is necessary to produce food like pears, berries, melons, apples, and cucumbers.

Between pollution, climate change, habitat destruction, and diseases, pollinators are under threat. Hard surfaces and polished lawns in urban areas also limit opportunities for pollinators.

Lori Luscombe and Gabor Sass of the Pollinator Pathways Project in London, Ontario
Lori Luscombe and Gabor Sass did plenty of work for the Pollinator Pathways Project in London, especially in the Kensington Village Neighbourhood

The project began after six people across the city came together to plan how they can better help pollinators. Gabor Sass, a leader in the project, said the organization is encouraging homeowners to make their gardens more pollinator friendly.

“We didn’t just want to plant one garden,” he said. “But to build a network of pollinator gardens throughout the city.”

In 2018, Pollinator Pathways Project won $640 from the city’s Neighbourhood Decision Making program.

Lori Luscombe, another member of Pollinator Pathways Project, bought $640 worth of plants to help neighbours start their community garden. On Forward Avenue alone, there are about 20 pollinator-friendly gardens.

Strawberry flowers in the Wood Street Park Food Forest in London, Ontario
The Wood Street Park Food Forest grows fruit like rhubarbs, plums, raspberries and strawberries. Here are some strawberry flowers.

Kensington Village’s first project to help pollinators was the Wood Street Park Food Forest, a part of the neighbourhood since 2015. A food forest incorporates a variety of both edible plants and pollinator-friendly plants.

The food forest features a variety of fruit like apples, plums, pears, and strawberries. No chemicals are used on these plants, so anyone can pick and eat fruit off of the plants as is.

Animals like rabbits, chipmunks, and sometimes deer, will also munch on the fruit found in the food forest.

Planting a Pollinator Friendly Garden: Easy as 1-2-3

Becoming part of the Pollinator Pathways Project requires preparing, planting, and maintaining the garden.

First, mark the ideal location, with dimensions of one meter by one meter at minimum, for the garden with a rope. Dig up the grass, or cover it with cardboard and mulch to prepare the area, and then mix soil with manure before planting.

A small garden in London, Ontario that says "Pollinator Pathways Project" on it.
The Pollinator Pathways Project is asking homeowners to create a pollinator-friendly garden that is a minimum of one meter squared

Next, plant a variety of native perennial flowering plants for the garden such as blue-eyed grass, wild strawberry, lobelia, butterfly weed, and honeysuckle. Pollinator Pathways Project has a list of plants to bring into your garden based on the type of pollinator garden, and lists their height, flower season and colour.

Springbank Garden Centre, Parkway Garden Centre, and Heeman’s Garden Centre all carry the native pollinator-friendly plants.

Then, arrange the plants based on their height and spread. After planting, water your garden to establish the plants and mulch lightly. Leave some patches of dirt to benefit the native ground-nesting bees.

To maintain the garden, water the plants, leave a source of water behind so pollinators can quench their thirst, and avoid using pesticides. Be sure to also leave fallen leaves, perennials, and, if safe, dead trees alone in the area.

Lastly, put up the Pollinator Pathways Project sign in your yard and replace the reeds every two years.

Luscombe said that if you have an apartment, you can create and maintain a garden on your balcony.

She said for the healthiest garden and healthy native bugs, to not include invasive species.

“The native bugs need the native plants to survive,” she said. “When the invasive stuff comes in, it wipes out the indigenous plants to this area.”

Connecting the community

In addition to the ecological benefits, the Pollinator Pathways Project and the food forest brought the neighbourhood together.

The Kensington Village Association also hosts events such as the community concert series and Saturday Morning Cafes in Wood Street Park. The Urban League of London gave the neighbourhood association a Green Brick Award for their community work.

A sign for the Wood Street Park Food Forest Sign in London, Ontario
The Kensington Village Association hosts all kinds of events in Wood Street Park

The children in the neighbourhood also like to get involved. Sass’ son and his friends helped out with the food forest, and the children in the neighbourhood will host soccer scrimmages in the park.

Luscombe said that the community grew so much closer, that it’s like a family. She even brings her own family to the park.

“I could bring my grandkids,” Luscombe said. “They go off and play with a whole bunch of other kids and it’s safe.”

Visit the Kensington Village Association Facebook group to find out more about upcoming events.

After planting a pollinator-friendly garden, make your mark on the Pollinator Pathways Project Google Map.

For the latest buzz on the Pollinator Pathways Project, visit their Facebook page.

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