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Wednesday.March 29.2017 Powell River Peak » prpeak.com

Spring

HOME AND GARDEN

JENNIFER DODD PHOTO


B2 Wednesday.March 29.2017 | Powell River Peak » prpeak.com

Spring season shines light on maintenance Spring has arrived, or at least the calendar indicates as much. Despite lingering cooler temperatures, certain aspects of winter are slowly fading away as days become longer and outdoor activities beckon. For passionate home, garden and yard enthusiasts who have patiently waited through an unusually cold, wet and freezing winter on the Sunshine Coast, the time has come for outdoor projects, maintenance and gardening. Whether tasks involve relatively simple checklist items, such as weeding and prepping garden beds, cleaning outside surfaces and painting, or more complex projects, such as building a bee house, constructing a greenhouse or even lifting a rancher to add another level to a home, time and weather are becoming more favourable as each day passes. Before heading outside though, let’s not forget the vernal season also represents a time for organizing, cleaning, reducing clutter and touching up the inside of the home.

Enjoy the outdoors, but remember, the interior of your house can always use a little TLC as well. In addition to stories about local home and gardening projects, our Spring Home and Garden section includes checklists for indoor, outdoor and garden tasks that serve as reminders for keeping all areas of your home in tiptop shape. Checking off everything on these lists may take a few days, weeks or longer if major or additional tasks are added, but using a little elbow grease will be worth it in the end. Taking care of home maintenance during spring, inside and out, not only saves money and prevents possible decay, rot or deterioration in a number of areas, it also means the to-do list is done and out of the way by the time summer rolls around, when the fun really begins. Preventative measures can result in lower hydro bills, prevent unnecessary, costly repairs in the future and add to the value of what is, for most people, their most important assets: their home and garden.

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SPRING HOME AND GARDEN 2017


SPRING HOME AND GARDEN 2017

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JASON SCHREURS publisher@prpeak.com

When Bill Sirota and his wife Brigit Sirota-Goldammer saw the house they had recently purchased on Michigan Avenue being lifted by a local contractor, they immediately knew the choice they had made was a solid one. “As the house rose, right away that vision that we had of having it higher up really resonated with us,” said Sirota, a carpenter who has been building houses for 20 years. “Even though we weren’t sitting on the second floor looking out, we thought, ‘Oh, wow, the view is going to be so much nicer.’” According to contractors who do this kind of work, lifting a house is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase the floor space of a residence, as well as its value. In fact, experts estimate that for every $1 put into lifting a house, the value of the home is being increased by $1.50 or more. For Sirota, who settled in Powell River two years ago after moving from Pemberton, the idea of lifting an existing house was a much sounder property investment than trying to renovate an exist-

ing multi-floor home. A cost of approximately $10,000 to lift the house just under three feet will be recouped with an attractive, longterm rental suite, he said. “What we noticed as we were looking around for a house to buy in Powell River is that a lot of basements here are not full height. So we were looking for a house that had a good foundation, and solidly built, but not necessarily a full-height basement,” said Sirota. “Lifting is the easiest and least expensive way you can add a full floor to your house. So we found one, took out the poorly done renovations, and lifted it.” The process of lifting a house is not as daunting as it may seem, said Sirota, and with proper city permits and an experienced contractor to help with the job, it can be done safely and relatively easily. But there are other perks as well, he said. “One of the other advantages is it allows us to bring everything else up to code without starting all over again,” said Sirota. “We can reinforce the main floor, redo all the wiring and plumbing, we can re-insulate, and take care of all of those things that weren’t considered when this house was built in 1935. I can now address all of those things in a manner that’s cost-effective.” According to City of Powell River building inspector Graham Stewart, as long as everything is done to code, including a height limit of 30 feet in most city zones, and proper building permits are applied for, lifting a house is something the city endorses.

Bill Sirota and Brigit Sirota-Goldammer recently lifted their newly purchased house on Michigan Avenue in order to increase floor space and create a full-height suite. JASON SCHREURS PHOTO

“We’re actually a proponent of these kinds of projects because in order to raise the house, homeowners are going to put it on a new foundation that is up to code,” said Stewart, “and we’ve seen some of these older houses just sitting on dirt, so we would encourage homeowners to bring their foundations up to code, especially being in a seismic zone.” Stewart warned against homeowners trying to lift their houses themselves due to the unknowns associated with a job of that magnitude.

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house’s aging, substandard or even non-existent foundation, should consider having their house lifted. “It doubles their floor space, for one thing. But it depends on what their goal is; if they want to expand their home, or whether they need to put a foundation in,” said Pequin. “For example, Townsite houses are really unique and very few of them had proper foundations, so if you want to keep the style of house that you bought, it’s a good thing to improve the foundation.” Pequin said some house-lifting B4

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“I don’t suggest that a homeowner undertake this kind of operation by themselves. They should hire a contractor,” he said. “Also, they have to be informed about the cost and procedure, because every house is different.” Now retired, contractor Dave Pequin began lifting and moving houses in 1970. Over the years, he lifted hundreds of houses and relocated even more. Pequin said anyone with an undersized basement or crawl space who is looking for more living space, or to improve on their

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Extra floor creates options B3« LIFTING projects provide challenges and can be tricky, but a licensed contractor would be able to determine whether lifting a house is going to be a smooth job or not. “It can be nerve-wracking; some houses are designed to not be lifted, because they have very poor building construction,” said Pequin. “Some have smaller floor joists or lots of add-ons, so that’s why it’s always best to have somebody take a look before you consider doing it.” According to Stewart, homeowners are more likely to be delayed by the limitations of their house, especially if it is older and not up to code in areas such as electrical and plumbing. The houselifting process is not usually the problem, said Stewart. “In our case, it’s the existing house that might be the red flag, not what the proposal is for lifting it,” he said, “because I can approve all of the new foundation and the

homeowner can have everything else about the house brought up to code at the same time.” In Sirota’s case, lifting the house on Michigan was a relatively easy job and took less than a day for his contractor to complete. “They came in and set up a series of jacks and just pumped up the house,” he said. “They do a little bit on one side, a little on the other side, and then gradually the

house just lifts that way. It was really cool for a number of reasons, one of which was the ease with which it lifted.” By having the house raised, Sirota and his wife gain the ability to put in a full-height, walk-in basement suite and create different living options for their investment. “There was a suite in there when we bought it, but the ceilings were just over six feet tall, so it was not a comfortable place to live,”

BEFORE

said Sirota. “By doing this, it gives us a full suite downstairs. You can either live upstairs and have a suite below or you can choose to make it into a complete house as your family grows; it has so much more potential now.” Sirota said his biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to lift their house is to not be intimidated by the idea, and always ask for help. “It’s not as hard as you

think it is, and can really make a huge difference,” he said. “I do know people who have done it themselves, but

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Inside the house Heating system

Paint touch-ups

Replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters, or at the very least, clean them. In some cases, attention is required more than once per year. Dirty filters make the system work harder, which means, you guessed it, more money toward the hydro bill.

Paint not only provides a protective barrier from the elements, it makes houses look fresh, inside and out. While some people find the preparation part tedious and time-consuming, painting is relatively easy, inexpensive and a smart way to improve the look and add value to a home.

Hot-water tank Because sediment continually builds up in water tanks, draining annually can reduce hydro bills and add to the length of the tank’s life. Look for a tap or spigot near the bottom.

Laundry room Inspect washing machine connections and look for cracks in the fill hose. A leak can cause major damage in a short period of time. Clean your dryer, and not just what you find in the lint trap; some of the fluff makes its way into the dryer vent. Plugged vents add to drying time, which increases hydro bills, and can also start a fire.

Refrigerator Most people think of cleaning the fridge as just wiping and washing its shelves. Pull it away from the wall and clean off the coils with a brush, cloth or vacuum as well. Coils coated with dust make the fridge work harder and run with less efficiency.

Smoke detectors Checking and/or replacing batteries should be done annually in all homes, whether it takes place in spring, fall, when the clocks go back or forward, or on January 1. It can be a matter of life or death, so whatever date

is best suited to the household, make sure all occupants are on board and aware.

Windows and doors This is more of a combination of inside and outside tasks, but very

important regardless of how it is classified. Over winter months, cold and wet weather can crack and harden weather seals and caulking. Inspecting and repairing damaged areas can reduce airconditioning bills once warmer weather arrives and prevent water and moisture from entering the home.

Window screens Keeping windows open at night during warmer months is another way to reduce hydro bills. The process cools the house naturally and negates or reduces the need for turning on an air conditioner. Patch any holes and carefully wash the screens with soap and water.

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Outside the house Cracks in sidewalks and driveways caused by freezing and expanding water are easy to repair if taken care of before the problem becomes extreme. Many options are available for do-it-yourselfers to fill gaps in concrete or asphalt. If all else fails, call a professional for guidance or a quote.

Gardens Healthy soil is essential to producing quality vegetables and plants, not to mention quantity. Remove weeds and feed each garden bed with sufficient compost to add nutrients and give seeds and seedlings a strong growing environment.

Grass Due to annual weather conditions, keeping grass green, healthy and free of weeds and other invasive el-

ements can be challenging, especially on the Sunshine Coast. Before a lawn gets out of hand, consider hiring a professional or looking into do-it-yourself moss removal, aerating, dethatching, lime treatment, soil addition and reseeding.

Gutters Gutters protect house structures and roofs by moving rain away. Clogged gutters can lead to water infiltration, which, if unnoticed, can lead to costly damage and repairs.

Machinery Change the oil in your lawn mower and sharpen the blade, or take it into a local shop for a tuneup. Don’t wait until the grass is too long. If it doesn’t start then, how long will it be once the mower is good to go? Make sure other tools are primed and ready to trim, hack and whack.

Paint touch-ups See inside checklist and repeat. What applies in also applies out.

Roofs Roofs come in many shapes and sizes. Whatever material it is made of, the roof is key to preventing leaks and water damage. Delaying in necessary repairs will not only lead to roof and house structure damage, but any water finding its way inside the home will have a negative effect on interior items as well.

Surfaces A pressure washer makes sprucing up decks, sidewalks, patios and driveways much easier. For those who do not own one, rent from a local business, borrow from a neighbour or, better yet, hire a professional. While cleaning, key an eye out for

JENNIFER DODD PHOTO

Cracks

any damage incurred over the winter months.

Trimming Break out the hedge trimmer, edging tools and weed eater to spruce up areas around garden beds, patios, sidewalks and under fences.

of the home. Providing a ladder for insects can lead to an infestation inside the house, so cut it back at least a foot from the house. Also, to work efficiently, heat pumps and air conditioning units require good airflow. Prune away plant growth that can possibly deter that.

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Growing outside your comfort zone Plant enthusiasts expand Powell River’s range of garden crops IONATAN WAISGLUSS Peak contributor

When it comes to growing exotic species, local plant enthusiast Benjamin Tucker is not afraid to choose plants that are recommended for warmer climates. “I suffer from a condition known as growth-zone denial,” he said, jokingly. Tucker grows plants such as cashew, cassia cinnamon, papayas, coffee trees and Tasmanian mountain pepper, using microclimates such as greenhouses on his Edgehill area property. Tucker said his interest in growing exotic plants started in 2012. “It was so hard to find a lime that year,”

A cluster of avocados hangs from mature trees grown from seed. BENJAMIN TUCKER PHOTO

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he said. “You couldn’t order them in drinks and they were expensive in the stores.” The sudden limitation on limes made him think about Powell River’s food security, said Tucker. Tucker’s property measures a third of an acre made up mostly of a north-facing slope. “It’s exactly the opposite of what you want for a microclimate,” he said, “but you shouldn’t let suboptimal factors stop you.” The property came with established cherry trees, figs, plums, kiwis and blueberries. “We started growing lemons and ended up with more than we knew what to do with,” said Tucker. “We just started giving them to our friends and neighbours.” For Tucker, the plants represent a hobby, but also something more, he said. “We bring surplus plants to the farmers’ market, but it’s not a significant source of income,” he said. “I like this idea of making our food systems a little more local.” Exotic plant enthusiast and Cranberry B8

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Citrus, bananas, moringa and other exotic plants growing in Powell River. BENJAMIN TUCKER PHOTO

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resident Chris DeCap first became interested in plants through art and tattooing. He has been landscaping professionally for more than five years. DeCap takes advantage of microclimates to grow exotic plants on his own property, using cold frames and an inground greenhouse called a walipini. Among DeCap’s favourite plants to grow locally is the artichoke. “It’s a beautiful plant,” he said. “It’s actually a type of thistle.” DeCap first encountered local artichokes in Victoria after a friend bought one at a farmers’ market. “I love things that are spiky and gnarly,” said DeCap. “You just have to remember to mulch them well in the winter.” DeCap also grows red bananas and carob, among other things. “Carob is tricky,” he said. “You keep it indoors for three to four years and at that point the plant can be grown outside. Even then you will probably have to bring in for winter.” According to DeCap, grow-

ing exotics comes with many of the same challenges as growing more common plants. “My biggest problems are slugs, finding space in the yard for all the plants and trying to find shade for plants that need it,” he said. In addition, the cost of bringing in exotic plants can be prohibitive, said DeCap. According to Tucker, pesticides on imported plants

in Japan, von Gerichten models her systems based on those results for better yield. “Many people think wasabi is challenging, but I find it quite easy,” she said. “Like orchids, wasabi is specific about its growing requirements. As long as those are met, wasabi performs quite well.” Bringing with her more than 40 years of experi-

We started growing lemons and ended up with more than we knew what to do with. BENJAMIN TUCKER

LOCAL PLANT ENTHUSIAST

can be a concern as well. In Wildwood, Nora von Gerichten grows a number of exotic plants, including orchids and wasabi. For many of her plants, she uses an aeroponic system, which involves spraying plant roots with water at timed intervals. By tracking the weather of commercial wasabi regions

ence growing orchids and other plants, von Gerichten moved to Powell River from Vancouver last December. When it comes to growing outside your comfort zone, she said gardeners shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. “Any grower worth their weight,” she said, “has killed many plants learning about them.”


SPRING HOME AND GARDEN 2017

B9 Wednesday.March 29.2017 | Powell River Peak » prpeak.com

Garden Club turns 50 Gardeners share similar goals within welcoming organization IONATAN WAISGLUSS Peak contributor

For seasoned and beginner gardeners alike, garden clubs can help members increase their skills and knowledge while building a sense of community. Powell River Garden Club members consider its upcoming 50th anniversary a milestone worth celebrating. “50 years is a long time for any organization,” said club publicity director and longtime member Lin Morrison. “It’s inspiring to see it grow.” Club president Marcie Mehaffey said the local club provides a forum for gardeners and garden enthusiasts. The club offers a lot to its members and prides itself on holding monthly meetings, said Mehaffey. “We keep the business part short and bring in speakers from Powell River and out of town on a variety

of topics,” said Mehaffey. Recent topics have included invasive species, ornamental grasses and soil microorganisms. Other highlights of the meetings include a master gardener booth, gardening magazine exchange rack and an opportunity for members to socialize over tea and coffee, said Mehaffey. In addition to the meetings, Morrison enjoys the club’s local and out-of-town garden tours, as well as the yearly plant sale, she said. “We organize a plant sale every year,” said Morrison. “It helps fund our speakers and hall rental.” According to Morrison, club members donate plants to the sale or sell their own plants with a percentage of sales supporting the club. This year’s plant sale takes place on Sunday, May 7. The garden club is responsible for flower displays at popular local events such as Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy and Kathaumixw, said Morrison. “We receive a lot of support from local nurseries,” she added. To commemorate the 50-year anniversary, the club is hosting a

celebration for current and previous members on Saturday, June 3, at Cranberry Seniors Centre. Live music and a glimpse into the club’s history will be part of the celebration, said Morrison. Garden club volunteer researcher Debbie Joslin is looking into that history and said her involvement with the project started with her love for gathering history and genealogy. “We needed to compile what we could find,” said Joslin. “It’s been said to me that the early founders were men; they met before the club even registered with province.” Mehaffey said many different people now attend the meetings, including lots of women and more young people. Membership coordinator Michael Stewart said the club has more than 160 current members. “People really get along because they share similar goals,” said Stewart, adding that the club has grown from its original focus on showy flowers to include food gardening and everybody is welcome. Garden club member Katie McLean has been attending regular meetings for about two years. “I still consider myself very much

Powell River Garden Club meets monthly, hosting a variety of speakers. IONATAN WAISGLUSS PHOTO

a beginner gardener, but the group at making a contribution to the city for its 50th anniversary, likely is very welcoming,” she said. McLean said gardening can feel in the form of a dedicated tree, said intimidating at times, but she Mehaffey. For its 25-year anniversary, the finds the meetings inspiring. “It seems like there are a few club planted a pink dogwood tree getRiver a bonus General Hospital. more people joining who are my at Powell Powell River bundle Garden Club is a own age and skill level,” she said. trimmer member of BC Council of Garden “I’m picking up all sorts of interest- when you purchase a 400 Series ® Husqvarna Automower ing tidbits from the talks.” Clubs. For more information, go In addition to its commemora- to powellrivergardenclubblog. retail value tive celebration, the club is looking blogspot.ca. $349.99

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B10 Wednesday.March 29.2017 | Powell River Peak » prpeak.com

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Fungus grows among us Homegrown mushrooms gain momentum in Powell River region IONATAN WAISGLUSS Peak contributor

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In the spring of 2012, Edward Sanderson started a patch of king stropharia mushrooms in his backyard. Over the last five years, the patch has stayed active and continues to produce fruit-

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ing bodies, said Sanderson, who has a background in traditional Chinese medicine and runs an acupuncture clinic in Powell River. Sanderson said he first became interested in the mushrooms when he heard they could be grown alongside garden plants and help build better soil in gardens. “I was surprised to see mushrooms that same summer,” said Sanderson, “and the following year they came again with the summer rains.” King stropharia is one of many edible mushroom types that can be grown at home, though Sanderson does not grow them for food, he said. “I’m more keen on the mycelium of the fungus, the part living in the ground,” he said. Sanderson said the soil in his garden is quite sandy and that the mushroom mycelium can help with soil structure and water retention. Permaculture gardener Erin Innes has an interest in mushrooms and soil biology. In 2015, with support from Lund Community Society, Innes and a dozen volunteers installed two species of edible mushrooms at Northside Community Recreation Centre. “The idea was to grow these species out as genetic

SPRING HOME AND GARDEN 2017

Edward Sanderson holds a handful of mycelium from king stropharia mushrooms in his garden. IONATAN WAISGLUSS PHOTO

stock, which could then be made available to the community,” said Innes. “We chose king stropharia as one of the mushroom species because of its ability to build soil and grow well with garden plants, and oyster mushrooms because they can breakdown carbon-rich material, so they are really useful beside a compost pile.” According to Innes, edible mushrooms can be a good fit for land that is not suited for conventional agriculture. “On my own property, we have lots of shady areas by the creek,” she said. “We also have lots of brush to clear, which we can mulch and use to grow mushrooms.” Innes said cultivating mushrooms fits into her philosophy of farming. “I like to grow a bit of everything and mushrooms are a part of that,” she said. Powell River newcomer Sandra Lopez has been growing mushrooms since the spring of 2016.

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Erin Innes and workshop attendees prepare a mushroom bed at Lund’s Northside Community Recreation Centre. IONATAN WAISGLUSS PHOTO

“A year ago, mushroom cultivation was a total mystery to me,” said Lopez, who attended a workshop in the spring. “When I saw the process, I found it so exciting that I decided to try it myself.” In a matter of weeks, Lopez was eating mushrooms she grew herself. “Right now, I’m growing white oyster mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, blue oyster mushrooms and shiitakes,” she said. Lopez said she uses a method called liquid culture for growing and multiplying the mushroom mycelium. Using sterilized mason jars and syringes, Lopez inoculates rye grains with liquid mycelium, which is then used for inoculating other substances, such as wood chips and coffee grinds. “I haven’t tried any other way,” said Lopez, “but as far as I know, this method is great for small-scale cultivation because you don’t need to have a lab, and the necessary equipment can be found locally.” According to Lopez, mushroom cultivation is a worthwhile hobby. “I have not only learned how to grow healthy, fresh food,” she said, “but also very interesting and inspiring facts about the world.” Sourcing the spawn for growing edible mushrooms can be a bit of a challenge, according to Sanderson. He added that he would love to see a spore and spawn bank (a seed bank for mushrooms) in Powell River.


SPRING HOME AND GARDEN 2017

B11 Wednesday.March 29.2017 | Powell River Peak » prpeak.com

Hobbyists provide for bees Early pollinators increase production in orchards and gardens IONATAN WAISGLUSS Peak contributor

In the early spring, mason bees can be a fruit grower’s best friend. Mason-bee hobbyist C liff Ickringill has been caring for the flying insects for more than five years, a hobby that started out of concern for his fruit production, he said. Before the bees, Ickringill’s fruit trees were blossoming every spring, but fruit production was low. “Since starting to care for mason bees, we’ve been getting lots more fruit,” he said. According to Ickringill, mason bees are pollen-eating and only live for a few months; they do not hive, sting or make honey, but can help pollinate fruit trees and other flowering crops. Throughout the growing season, females deposit eggs in tube-like

cavities they cover in mud. Building mason-bee houses can provide the right habitat for that stage of their life cycle, said Ickringill, who recently started making the houses available for purchase. Ickringill designs and builds the houses himself, incorporating a quick-release system for dismantling them in the fall. “It’s important to do maintenance at the end of the season, to protect them from mites,” he said. “That means harvesting, cleaning and drying the mason-bee cocoons, as well as cleaning and sterilizing the bee houses.” Another mason-bee hobbyist, Doug Cooper, has been caring for eight nests in Westview for nearly 10 years. Living on a property with many fruit trees, Cooper recognized the value of mason bees as early pollinators, often emerging before honey bees. Cooper said mason bees are just another layer of life in his garden system. “I keep them for the same reason I mulch and compost,” he said. “I love seeing all these different life forms in the garden.” In maintaining the mason-bee homes, Cooper separates the hous-

es into their component pieces and picks the mason bees out for cleaning. “Every now and then you find other things in there, such as leafcutter bees, wasps or grubs,” said Cooper, “but the real problem is the mites; they can be all over the cocoons.” Originally, Cooper started with simple mason-bee houses consisting of a block of wood with holes in it, but these became inhospitable to the bees over time as mites took over, he said. “I prefer using models that can be taken apart and cleaned,” said Cooper. To clean mason-bee cocoons in the fall, Cooper uses various methods, including sand, hot water and water with bleach. “It’s hard to say how effective each of these strategies is, but you can take a couple of metrics,” he said. Cooper said he often measures the number of cocoons in each house when he cleans it, and later measures the number of bees that hatched from cocoons in the spring. “Some years, you think you’re missing something, only to find

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Doug Cooper cleans out a floor from his mason-bee house, getting bees ready for the spring. IONATAN WAISGLUSS PHOTO

out everyone else has been having issues with mason bees that year as well,” he said. When distributing the clean cocoons to their new nests in spring, Cooper makes sure to include a mix of large and small cocoons, corresponding to female and male bees respectively, he said. “That way, you make sure your bees are reproducing,” he added. In the first couple of years, Cooper noticed the mason-bee houses tended to attract certain bird species.

“Birds with sharp, pointy beaks could poke holes where the mason bees were nesting,” he said. Cooper now uses a cedar shingle to protect bees from avian attacks, he said. In order to keep bees happy, Ickringill said it is important to keep a pot of clay-rich soil nearby and make sure there is always water available. “You don’t want your bees to tire themselves out,” he said. “You want them to have what they need in your garden.”

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B12 Wednesday.March 29.2017 | Powell River Peak » prpeak.com

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