Author Archives: Ali

About Ali

Gardening is a peaceful place for me. I have loved it since I was a very young child. I want to share with you my journey in my small half acre lot in the middle of our city what you can achieve, such as gowing a garden, orcharding, caring for bees, goats and poultry. Going back to the simple life. Using what you have to the best of your ability.

A Bee Friendly Garden

Yes, I do love those bees! Whether it be bumblebee, honeybee or masonbee.

Where would we be without our pollinating insects, especially bees! There importance is extraordinary.  Although not all our crops rely on insects to pollinate them, it is estimated that more than 70% of food crops rely on bees and other pollinators.  Even higher percentages with wild plants.

With the decline in bee population we can do our part by helping attract bees to our gardens with bee and pollinator friendly plants.  Even in the vegetable gardens.  You don’t have to have a specific bee garden, just add beautiful plants that attract these insects, here an there throughout your landscape.

There is a plethora of bee friendly plants but they do like certain types.  Flowers with flat landing places (umbel) and those with wide trumpets like squash flowers in sunny locations.  Bees also prefer white, yellow, violet, purple and blue flowers.  Native and heirloom varieties are best as many new hybrids are pollen-free.  Try to have at least four or five different types of plants flowering at any one time.

Some great examples of open and flat flowers are calendula, poppies, and those from the Apiaceae family such as flowering dill, parsley, fennel, carrots and Queen Ann’s lace.  Sunflowers offer a great landing pad with plenty of pollen and adds a cheeriness to the garden.  Yarrow, echinacea, tansy, clover, alyssum, catmints are all beautiful popped in here and there in sunny locations offering nectar-rich pollen.  Most plants that butterflies love, bees enjoy as well, such as the butterfly bush.  Think about edging a garden with lavender, sages and salvias.  Even sedums when flowering are wonderful attracting plants.  Edible herbs like basil, sweet marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, winter savory and lemon balm serve more than a purpose for the kitchen!  By adding pollinator plants you increase the biodiversity in the garden, overall better health for your garden and you!

Keep your garden clean of harmful chemical sprays!  Even organic types of pest controls should be used responsibly.  Don’t go on a spraying party for just a few pest.  Hand removal is best for those small problems.  When you truly need to spray, spray in the late evening, when all bees have returned to their hives and never spray the flowers!!

Beekeeping is becoming popular these days.  Get informed.  Take some classes from your local county extension or join bee clubs.  Become bee friendly to preserve our future!

Looking for a seed collection of bee friendly plants?  Click on the link and you’ll find a A Bee Seed Collection .

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Beautiful Monarda Attracts Beneficials

Brillant beautiful Monarda lands in many places in my gardens as a favorite perennial.  This easy to care for perennial has a lot going for it!  Besides its easy care, it attracts nectar seeking hummingbirds, butterflies, honey bees and the humble bumble bee.

Monarda is commonly known as bee balm, but is also known as wild bergamot, bergamot mint, horsemint, wild oregano and Oswego tea.  It comes in an array of pink, red, white and purple colors and some even have double-flowers.

Monarda is not to persnickety in our garden, but in hot climates light shade keeps the leaves from burning out and it does best if it isn’t allowed to dry out the first year while establishing its root system.  Most Monarda varieties seem to adapt to most soil conditions, but bloom better in well-drained rich soil.  Prepare planting site by loosening soil to the depth of 12-15 inches with a digging fork, then add a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost.  Each spring add a new layer of compost to retain moisture.  Remove spent flowers to keep plants looking tidy.  After frost arrives in fall or winter, plants will die back to the ground and it’s time to cut back to one or two inches above soil line.  Plants can be divided in early spring to keep them looking healthy and the bonus…More plants!

My favorite herb garden has a nice clump of Monarda of various sizes and colors.  I suggest a chair nearby to take a few minutes and enjoy the bumblebees and other flying friends that come and visit!  Now if that doesn’t relax you, I don’t know what would!

Monarda isn’t just for looks though, it’s a fabulous remedy for a sore throat.  Harvest a handful of leaves and flowers and let them wilt. Once they have wilted (12 hours will work), infuse/submerge them into some local raw honey and let them sit for at least 4 weeks.  Strain out the plant material after the four weeks and transfer honey into a dry bottle and label. Take 1-2 teaspoons as needed for sore throats and coughs.

 

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Filed under Bees, Flower Gardens, Gardening, Herbs

Check Your Stored Garlic Now!

Garlic that was harvested in the summer and stored for winter use should be looked over now!  Garlic bulbs start to sprout as spring approaches. 
Discard any soft bulbs and set out any with green tips.   We roast any garlic that shows the smallest signs of green shoots.  Once the bulbs begin green shoots, the rest will quickly follow.  Roasting is a great way to store longer.  

Remove any green shoots off the cloves, drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.  Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft.  

Put them back into storage!  Once garlic is cool, slip the cloves out of their skin and place into a clean sealable jar and cover with olive oil.  Cover tightly.  Adding a sprig of thyme or rosemary adds more flavor.  Use the sweet-tasting cloves to flavor soups, stews or use in artisan breads (my favorite)

Sprouting Garlic

Sprouting Garlic

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Growing Brussels Sprouts at Home

As with all vegetables, Brussels sprouts taste better grown at home.  These miniature cabbage looking sprouts are a delight for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as well as a tasty side dish during winter months.

Pick a spot with plenty of sun, minimum of 8 hours each day.

Brussels sprouts require fertilizer, hummus-rich soil, so dig in plenty of well rotted compost in prior to sowing in the spring.   If your soil is acidic, sprinkle in agriculture lime, or if your soil is alkaline, add a small amount of sulfur.  Brussels sprouts prefer a pH of 6.5 – 7.5.

You can start sowing seed in mid-March to mid-April .  Sow thinly to a depth of 1/2″.  Once your little sprouts have reached 2-3″ tall, thin them to 2 to 2 1/2′  apart to allow them plenty of growing space.  As they grow you can draw the soil in around the base to give them support in the wind.  Compost can also be used to place around the plants rather than drawing soil up.  By using compost, it helps add nutrients as well as suppress weeds through the growing season.  Extra tall plants may need additional staking.   Keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy.

Once Brussels sprouts have reached 6″ tall add some general fertilizer around the base of each plant.  Fertilizing every six weeks through the growing season.

Brussels sprouts general take 36 weeks from sowing.  So by patient!   Pick the buttons from the bottom of the stalk upward when they are about 1″, or the size of a cherry tomato.  They are sweeter after a frost.  The top leaves of the plant can also be cooked.

If you have problems with clubroot, lime your soil if it’s acidic.  Place collars around the base of each plant, or cover with insect netting to protect from cabbage root fly.  Cabbage white caterpillars will feed happily on leaves of Brussels sprouts, so protect early with lightweight row cover or spray with Bt once butterflies are present.

DSC_0032.jpgGreat taste in the kitchen:

Brussels Sprouts with Cheese & Walnuts

Stem Brussels sprouts till just tender then place them in a grill pan.  Sprinkle cheese over the top and grill till cheese has melted.  Add chopped walnuts, and black pepper to taste.

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