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 (English, French) and sign a standard waiver (EnglishFrench). A brief orientation session is also provided. After that, volunteers join in working on whatever needs doing this week. You bring your interest and enthusiasm, and we will put you to work.

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. High school students to retirees volunteer at the FWG. Age is not a limitation; we have jobs with levels of physical activity for everyone.

All equipment and tools needed to carry out work will be supplied. The work can be grueling 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; the start date, and the end of season date, and weekly work group activities are weather dependent.  Read more about each group below, and email us at volunteer-fwg@ofnc.ca if you have questions or want to join!

Snacking after a work bee

Work groups

We have several groups that meet every week and most participants 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. Each work group is under the supervision of a team leader who is responsible for short-term and long-term planning, instructions on how to use tools and equipment, and volunteer safety. Our regular volunteers have a wide range of knowledge and expertise they are most happy to share with new volunteers.

  • Backyard Garden Group – Friday mornings, 9 a.m. to noon, starting at the beginning of May, and going until the snow flies. A detailed schedule, posted in the Resource 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 Resource Centre is tidy and stocked with necessities (like cookies), and short-term projects that need to be done throughout the property. Others take on seasonal work like garlic mustard control. The Backyard Garden is probably the most visited part of the FWG, and so you know that your work will be seen and appreciated by a large number of visitors.

  • Butterfly Meadow Volunteer Group – Wednesday evenings, 5:45-7:45 p.m., starting in May. Volunteers arrive on time at the Resource Centre (building 138) to gather tools, find out the tasks for the day, etc., or join the group later in the Butterfly Meadow. Volunteers are advised to wear sturdy footwear and bring drinking water and bug spray. Volunteers create space for flowers to attract butterflies and other pollinators to the Butterfly Meadow, and maintain and improve this part of the FWG, which includes a certified Monarch Waystation. Tools and work gloves provided; fabulous opportunities to see and hear FWG inhabitants.

  • Tuesday in the Old Woods – Tuesday afternoons, 1:30 to 4 p.m. starting in April. We are still restoring this habitat after more than 50 ash trees had to be removed in 2014. In addition to planting a variety of locally native species of trees and shrubs, work also involves removing invasive plants, such as Garlic Mustard and Dog-strangling Vine. We are slowly replacing these unwanted species with forest wildflowers, ferns, mosses, etc. If you are interested in recreating a woodland habitat, please come and help. Meet at 1:30 pm sharp at our building (138) to collect tools and other equipment before moving to the woods to work.

Node worker

Many people would like to help at the FWG, but do not want to be tied down to a particular day and time. We have created a strategy that allows you to work on your own, at your own pace. Under the guidance of one of our long-time volunteers, you will be helped to choose a small area of the garden that you would like to adopt. It will then be your responsibility to take care of your “node,” which will likely require removal and control of invasive species, planting native plants/shrubs/trees, mulching to discourage unwanted plants, etc., for the entire growing season. Time commitment can vary from one afternoon a month to weekly chores – it’s up to you! Tools, instructions, advice, and feedback will be provided to assist you as you work on your node. Our node workers have shown how one dedicated volunteer can make a major impact: a real source of satisfaction.

Corporate work parties

Many companies now have community service days, where employees are given the opportunity to get out of the office and participate in activities that give back to the community. At the FWG, we are able to organize and coordinate half-day or full-day groups of up to 15 volunteers. We often have work that is best done by a group in a short time frame that may require a little more physical effort. Jobs, such as building a brick walkway, digging out tree/bush roots, or resurfacing a trail with wood chips, have been done by our corporate volunteers in the past. No previous experience is necessary. Sturdy shoes, sun screen and a hat, bug spray, and a bottle of water are all you need. We supply garden gloves, tools, and equipment.

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 spreading. 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.

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.

Many of our volunteers have retired from their “real jobs” to work even harder volunteering at the FWG and elsewhere

Volunteers repotting plants for annual plant sale

Wednesday evening group concentrates on the Butterfly Meadow, in 2012 creating a model monarch waystation

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.

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Group employees repairing the Bill Holland Trail

This page was revised 16 February 2018
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