Category Archives: Gardening

Planting, Growing, Care

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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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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Growing Beets

This superb summer vegetable can be eaten cold, hot or even pickled.  Greens can be juiced, steamed or picked as baby greens and tossed into salads.  They come in some snazzy shapes and colors as well.  If you have never tried golden beets, I think you should give them a try!  We love them roasted!  Chioggia beets are beautiful and have pink and white rings.  Once cooked though, the colors bleed and become mostly one color.  We grow the Giant Yellow Eckendorf beet for our goats.  They love it and it makes a great feed for them.  There are plenty of choices to try from for variety.

We plant beets as early as March 1st and sow till the end of May, or even on cooler years through June.  Sow seeds every two weeks starting in March for longer harvest times.

Beets like rich soil that has a pH around 6.5.  Work in plenty of well-rotted compost into your garden beds and add rock phosphate natural rock dust fertilizer to help pump beets up.  If they are sluggish during the growing season, you can feed with a liquid fertilizer right on there foliage to stimulate healthy growth.

You can hasten the germination by placing your beet seeds into a sieve and running cold water over them for a few minutes.  Sow seeds 1″ apart, with 1/4″ of soil over them.  You can plant them in narrow rows or in wide patterns.  Once beets are big enough to thin, thin to about 3-4″ apart.  Many times I take the thinnings and transplant them to another spot in the garden.  I guess I just can’t let a good seedling to waste!  Otherwise, use the tender greens in tossed salads.  No waste here!

Keep weeds out by pulling carefully so you don’t disturb the roots.  Mulch through the growing season to help suppress weeds and keep soil moist and cool.  We use compost for mulch.  It feeds at the same time!

Harvesting is a matter of preference in my opinion, but it should be before they become woody.  Early harvesting of baby beets are are done at golf ball size and are the most tender.  Main crops are lifted when the beets reach the size of a tennis ball.

 

 

 

 

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