All Things Natural: Try landscaping with native plants

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre Society offers up a few tips for dealing with ticks, landscaping with little water and keeping bears away

Q: Recently my wife and I were hiking the BX Creek Falls trail with our kids and dog and two of us were bitten by ticks. I found it particularly difficult to remove the ticks from our family dog, is there a good way to get ticks off?

A: Yes, one of the best ways to remove a tick, which works in those places where it’s sometimes difficult to get to with tweezers — between the toes, in the middle of a head full of hair, etc. — is to apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20); the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away. This technique is very effective and it’s much less traumatic for the patient and easier for the person tasked with removing the unwanted critter.

Q: I’d like to landscape with native plants. What are some shrubs, flowering plants and grasses that I could include?

A: Landscaping with native plants is an excellent way to lower your day-to-day yard maintenance, reduce the need for water and attract native pollinators and other beneficial insects to your yard. There are lots of native shrubs, flowering plants and grasses, many of which are drought-resistant by nature, which could be included in your landscaping project. Kinnikinnick is an excellent evergreen ground cover shrub; Shrubby Penstemon and Tall Oregon-grape are also attractive evergreens. Mock-orange, Wax Currant, and Saskatoon are all taller shrubs that produce an abundance of fragrant flowers. Scarlet Gilia is a native biennial plant that produces a stunning stalk of flowers. Golden-aster and Western Blue Flax are two other herbs that produce wonderful colours. Giant Wildrye, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Rough Fescue, and Idaho Fescue are four native grasses locally available and worth considering.

Q: I found bear scat in my yard this week and wondered what can I do to prevent this bear or any others from coming back?

A: Natural curiosity of bears brings them into our communities. Depending on how close you live to potential bear habitat there are some simple behaviors that are important that you change to deter bears.

Bears are ruled by their stomachs; if they cannot find the food they need, they soon leave the area. However, while exploring our residential areas, bears often become ensnared in a web of garbage and other attractants. Bears are most active at night and can smell garbage and rotting fruit from kilometres away so, instead of placing your garbage out the night before pick-up, doing so in the morning will prevent a bear from being rewarded and likely returning for a meal on another occasion.

The most important thing you can do during the spring and fall is to make sure bear attractants like garbage, bird feed or fruit are not available to bears.

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All Things Natural is a public education and community engagement project of the Allan Brooks Nature Centre Society that is aimed at promoting public enjoyment and increasing awareness and appreciation of nature in the Okanagan. The project includes a nature-themed photo contest, an online searchable database, as well as this bi-weekly column in The Morning Star. If you have a question of nature that you have always wanted to know or recently wondered, please send your question via e-mail to askanaturalist@gmail.com. Answers to your questions will be sent back to you, will be posted on the Allan Brooks Nature Centre website, and may also appear in a future newspaper column.

The photo contest is currently open to youth 14 years and under. Please encourage youth in your life to get outside, embrace your sense of place, ask questions of nature, and capture nature-themed photos that could be entered into the contest. Enter the photo contest by submitting up to three images every two weeks to atn.photocontest@gmail.com and include the photographer’s name and age and a title for the photo(s).

The All Things Natural project has been funded in part by generous support from The Rotary Club of Vernon.

The All Things Natural Column is written by Aaron Deans, executive director of the Allan Brooks Nature Centre Society.

 

 

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