Intentional wilding: beyond No Mow May

Tuesday evening Master Gardener in Training Nathan Nesdoly gave the following delegation to City Council.

“Good evening, Mayor Paterson, Councillors and guests. Thank you for your time, and for your efforts to make Kingston a better place for its human and non-human constituents. My name is Nathan Nesdoly. I’m a retired teacher and currently volunteer with Little Forests Kingston and with Rideau 1000 Islands Master Gardeners. I am also the Climate Action Champion for Portsmouth District so, as such, I’d like to give a shout-out to Councillor Amos who, I will add, has been an incredible supporter of the three Little Forests and the Food Forest currently in the works at the Seniors Centre site.”

I am here to support Councillor Tozzo’s No Mow May initiative as a worthwhile example of a step we can take, as a community, to support our biodiversity, an opportunity to engage citizens and develop their awareness of the importance of restoring habitat to the numerous living organisms who comprise our urban ecosystem. We are only one species among many. Converting even a fraction of our current lawn area to native plants would extend food and habitat for countless species of bees, other pollinators such as ants, butterflies and moths, and for the birds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals that in turn feed on them. It would also support the millions of microscopic organisms that live in each handful of soil, the tiny inhabitants that make up our soil food web, the basis of terrestrial life.

Photo by Stefan Weber, Introducing the Southern Ontario Seed Strategy
Photo by Stefan Weber, Introducing the Southern Ontario Seed Strategy

In my capacity as Climate Action Champion, I am applying for a city grant to transform a 20 square meter plot of underused land into a Neighbourhood Pollinator Seed Garden. My hope is to plan and plant the garden with community input, to develop a stewardship process to care for the land, to harvest the seed in the fall, and then to hold workshops in the winter to teach me and my neighbours to successfully grow and care for native plants–which can be tricky—with the understanding that we will plant our seedlings on the land we occupy or gift our seeds to someone else who is able to find them a home.

This is an example of a Distributed Micro-Nursery Model, where many gardeners cooperate to plant, harvest and share seed. Efforts to establish these grassroots organizations are taking shape in Kingston. For example, two weeks ago, I attended a Zoom call with ten other people who were learning how to propagate pawpaws. If you are not aware of what pawpaws are, I suggest a Google: p-a-w-p-a-w. They are a delicious fruit indigenous to eastern North America. In the last fifty years, our climate has gotten milder, so that plants like the pawpaw that historically grew on the other side of Lake Ontario can now grow comfortably here. But trees are slow walkers, so they benefit from our help. If we engage our community in actions such as this, people respond—not everyone, but many. If we get plants into the ground, we can build community at the same time that we sequester carbon.

I moved into the Woodlands neighbourhood just under two years ago. I inherited a somewhat anemic lawn and planting beds that had many non-native and invasive species—common buckthorn, garlic mustard, mock strawberry, dog-strangling vine, goutweed, to name a few—all of which out-compete native trees and plants and do nothing to provide food for native animal species. I gave away many of the non-invasive plants, covered my arable fifteen hundred square feet with eight inches of wood mulch and now, I am actively converting my front and back yard into a food forest, vegetable garden and pollinator garden. All species planted are native or edible. Support from the neighbours has been overwhelming, I think because my scheme has been so obviously intentional. For all who care to look, each plant species is labelled, the deep mulch so far makes the front yard look neat, and planting around the fruit trees and bushes still looks controlled—the plants haven’t had long enough to enter the wild phase yet. Yet. But the wild phase is the magic phase: when I see insects in numbers I haven’t seen for years, when I hear birds sing in the middle of the city, when I feel like the land is becoming what it wants to be. I know I’m on the right track.

By encouraging Kingston residents to experience some of that intentional wilding, some of that magic, even for a month, is worth the time and effort of this council and of our citizens. Thank you again for your time and attention.”

No Mow May Motion

Here’s the motion passed unanimously at City Council Tuesday evening

Moved by Councillor Tozzo
Seconded by Councillor Stephen
Whereas insects, especially bees, serve a significate role as pollinators of plants,
including agricultural plants; and
Whereas the pollinator bee population is in decline; and
Whereas the ideal pollinator-friendly habitat is one comprised of mostly native
wildflowers, grasses, vines, shrubs, and trees, blooming in succession throughout
the growing season; and
Whereas the foundational period for establishing pollinator and other insect
species, and urban wildlife species that depend on them, occurs in late spring and
early summer; and
Whereas Kingston’s City Council declared a climate emergency on March 5, 2019;
Whereas on December 20, 2022, Kingston’s City Council passed a motion
permitting pollinator gardens on private properties; and
Whereas “No Mow May” is an initiative that encourages residents to limit lawn
mowing practices during the month of May, to provide early season foraging
resources for pollinators that emerge in the spring; and
Whereas the Kingston Frontenac Rotary Club (“KFRC”) has offered to provide
lawn signage, to the first 1000 participants who contact KFRC, that wish to
participate in the “No Mow May” initiative: and
Therefore Be It Resolved That the City of Kingston encourage interested
residents to increase pollinator-friendly habitats by promoting pollinator-friendly
lawncare practices on their own properties from May 1, 2023 to May 31, 2023; and
That Council direct staff not to enforce Section 4.42.3 of By-Law Number 2005-
100, A By-Law for Prescribing Standards for the Maintenance and Occupancy of
Property Within the City of Kingston, as amended, from May 1, 2023 to May 31,
2023 and the month of May during this Council term; and
That the City of Kingston use social media and other platforms to be one of the
leaders to actively promote and educate the community about “No Mow May” and
its benefits for generating crucial pollinator-supporting habitats; and
That Council recognize and express its appreciation to the Kingston Frontenac
Rotary Club for its support during this initiative.

Reserve a No Mow May sign

Interested in a free No Mow May sign? Rotary Club of Kingston-Frontenac are giving away Bee Friendly No Mow May signs to the first 1000 people who sign up.