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Volunteer at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

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 gruelling 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 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 May 6, 2016, 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 interpretive centre is tidy and stocked with necessities (like cookies). Others take on seasonal work like garlic mustard control.

  • Butterfly Meadow Volunteer Group, Wednesday evenings, 6 p.m. to dark, starting May 4, 2016, weather permitting. On May 6, please try to arrive by 5:30 to sign waivers and find out what's planned for this season. Diane advises that you wear good 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.

    The 2016 plan is to continue maintaining the previously planted areas and to remove invasive plants. I hope to be able to get a number of plants to put in the areas where the invasive plants have been removed. Need the help of volunteers to realize this work.

    Tools and work gloves provided, fabulous opportunities to see and hear FWG inhabitants free, and good will welcomed!

  • Tuesday in the Old Woods, Tuesday afternoons, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. starting April 19 - In spring 2014, we lost half the major trees in our small 50+ year old woodlot to Emerald Ash Borer. We are taking this opportunity to plant a wide variety of locally native species of trees and shrubs. Work usually involves removing invasive plants, such as garlic mustard and dog-strangling vine, which can be difficult, but we are slowly replacing these unwated species with forest wildflowers, ferns, mosses, etc. If you are interested in recreating a woodland habitat, please come and help. Meet at 1:30 sharp at our building (138) to collect tools and other equipment before moving to the woods to work.

    If you'd like to find out a bit about what we did last year (2015), please see our blog posts: Treasure hunting in the Old Woodlot | Burdock, motherwort, and nettle jungle (or It’s not always about DSV)

  • Invasive Species Group - This hard-working volunteer group is small but tough. This year, they'll be focusing on a number of experiments to try to determine the best ways to control dog-strangling vine. Note: battling invasive species is hard work and can be discouraging; strong backs and determination definitely needed here.

Jobs for 2016

This list is not exhaustive. There's always something more to be done. If you don't see something you want to do, let us know. Or if you have an idea about something that needs to be done or could be done, we want to hear that too. Speak up! We love working at the FWG and we want you to love it too.

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 spreadng. 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.

Pick a favourite spot

Coordinate with other volunteers in the Butterfly Meadow or Old Woodlot to focus on a specific area. Find out which species should be removed, what should be planted, and what other maintenance tasks need to be done to improve the area for wildlife. For example, in the "pine forest" part of the Old Woodlot, we are meticulously removing DSV and planting large-leaved asters, sedges, sarsaparilla, and other plants that grow under pine trees. We've also added some rotting birch logs and would like to include rocks and a brush pile.

Entrance area - Although we've planted shrubs and wildflowers around our big FWG sign on Prince of Wales Drive, DSV manages to cover these plants every year and leave people with a poor first impression of the garden. We need someone to work in that area more often, to keep the DSV at bay and make sure the "good" plants can grow.

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.

This page was revised 1 August 2016
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