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Wild bees

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Wild bees

so what will pollinate the crops?

It’s not just honeybees that are in trouble. Wild bees are disappearing from much of the nation’s farmland — especially in Minnesota and much of the Upper Midwest. Researchers at the University of Vermont found that there are places now downright inhospitable to wild bees.

Wild bee

Wild bee

Professor Taylor Ricketts says farmers are going to be looking at inconsistent yields.  Wild bees provide $3 billion worth of pollination services to the nation’s food system. Some crops, like almonds, blueberries and other fruits, are totally reliant on either domesticated honeybees that are trucked at a high cost, or wild insects that live around the fields.

Ricketts

The researchers found that 39 percent of the croplands that need insects face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a dwindling supply of wild bees.  Hot spots in trouble are central California, northwest Washington, Michigan and a vast stretch from western Minnesota through Iowa and the Dakotas. Minnesota alone accounted for nearly 13 percent of the overall decline.  Ricketts said that the decline is driven by the conversion of natural land into intensely managed row crops.

Corn rows

Corn rows

natural prairie

natural prairie

“Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone,” notes Ricketts. “Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect. If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food.”

Earlier this year the White House released a pollinator protection plan that calls for bringing back 7 million acres of land as pollinator habitat.

But what does the average person do?  Plant pollinators in your home landscape!

The Metropolitan Field Guide planting pollinators

Pollinator habitat

wild bee 1

 

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Rusty Patched Bumble Bees – Endangered

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Rusty patched bumble bees

For the first time in US history,  a species of bumble bee has been declared endangered.  Just last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) is now protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

Over the past two decades its population has declined 87 percent.  Once common and abundant across 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota, the rusty patched bumble bee has experienced a swift and dramatic decline since the late 1990s.   What’s left of the this bumblebee is scattered populations in 13 states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

Why?  That’s a big question with a lot of different answers.  The Xerces Society has several hypotheses including loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size.  If you click on the link, you’ll find out even more information.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee 2But what’s a gardener to do?   Plant native flowers, even in small plots in urban areas, using a variety that will bloom from spring through fall. Limit or avoid use of pesticides if possible, and always follow label instructions carefully. Foster natural landscapes and leave grass and garden plants uncut after summer to provide habitat for overwintering bees.

Use native plants in your yard such as lupines, asters, bee balm, native prairie plants and spring ephemerals. Don’t forget spring blooming shrubs like ninebark and pussy willow! Avoid invasive non-native plants and remove them if they invade your yard. For more information on attracting native pollinators, visit www.fws.gov/pollinators/pdfs/PollinatorBookletFinalrevWeb.pdf.

Bee balm - native

Bee balm – native

Pussy Willow blooming

Pussy Willow blooming

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Five ways to kill a houseplant

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Five ways to kill a houseplant

Seriously, most of us can easily kill houseplants – it’s the WHY we don’t always know.

Spider plant

Spider plant

Here are 5 reasons houseplants die:

  • Poor light – either too little, too much or not the right spectrum of light (I’ll talk more about this tomorrow)
  • Overwatering – it’s almost instinctive to poor water on a plant that doesn’t look well and that’s almost always the wrong answer.
  • Faulty fertilizing methods – over fertilizing will burn your plants.  Don’t fertilize when your plant is not actively growing
  • Planting in the wrong medium – for instance, Orchids do not grow in soil
  • Not enough humidity – our homes are usually very dry in winter and most of our houseplants are tropical.  They need about 30% humidity.  Group your plants together, placing the containers of plants on top of trays of pebbles with water.  Not IN the water!
Elephant Ear - Imperial Taro

Elephant Ear – Imperial Taro

fern

Fern

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Restful herbs

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Restful herbs

I don’t know about you but after the holidays, I was really looking forward to some restful downtime.  It hasn’t really happened yet!

snoopy sleep

Mostly that’s my own issue, so in that light, I looked up some restful herbs that might help and it just so happens we can grow them ourselves.

Chamomile flowers have been used through the centuries for many medicinal purposes including insomnia and anxiety.  Brew the flowers from German Chamomile – the most popular of the varieties.

Chamomile - german

Chamomile – German

 

Lemon Balm leaves promote relaxation.  As a member of the mint family, lemon balm is easy to grow yourself.  On a side note, growing spearmint is super easy and I LOVE grabbing a few leaves, rubbing them between my fingers and taking a deep breath!  It’s so refreshing!

Lemon balm

Lemon balm

Valerian is another easy grower that you’ve likely seen on the market as a sleep aid.  Pour boiling water over water over chopped, dried roots to make a restful tea.  You’ll likely need to sweeten this.  Honey would be a great additive or Stevia, you can grow that too.  While valerian is easy to grow, it may not be a favorite as it grows large and doesn’t really smell the best!

Valerian

Valerian

One herb that DOES smell good is Lavender and that’s precisely why it’s used for sleep.  Tuck dried handfuls of lavender flowers  into a small pillow and place near your head for a restful snooze. There are different cultivars of lavender, to grow it in zone 4 choose ‘Munstead’.  It requires full sun and good drainage.  It’s really a wonderful low growing shrub like plant once established.  I’ve used lavender to infuse sugar, it’s really tasty in tea.

Lavender - Munstead

Lavender – Munstead

Taking a bath is always relaxing but throw in fragrant rose petals and it’s just like a spa!  The rose bush below smelled fantastic!

Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)

Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)

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Terms for the tenderfoot

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Terms for the tenderfoot

As you all know by now, I could spend countless hours curled up on the couch with a good plant and seed catalog!  I know, I live on the edge!   While many gardeners already know what many of the terms used in the catalogs mena, others might not be so familiar.  So today’s garden bite is an effort to clarify some of those terms for you.

farmers-seed-nurseryA mini glossary to get you started:

  • Slow to bolt – this term is usually associated with lettuce and is a good thing.  It means the plant doesn’t flower to early
  • Determinate – this is associated with tomatoes (and a few peppers) and means that the plant will grow only so big and stop.  It’s a good thing for patio plantings or if you don’t want a HUGE plant with a lot of green tomatoes late in the season.
  • Indeterminate – again, this goes with tomatoes and means it will continue to grow and produce.  You need room for these plants and you can make Green Tomato Pie at the end of the season!
  • Bareroot – bareroot stock means that the plant comes to you with no soil around it’s roots.  These plants are cheaper but need your attention right away.
  • Field grown – refers to a more mature plant that’s been grown in a field for at least a year, they’re usually more expensive but hardier plants

Burpee ‘Gourmet blend

Bareroot shrub

Bareroot shrub

Nasturtium, kale, lettuces

Nasturtium, kale, lettuces

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Pollinators – they’re not just bees

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Pollinators – they’re not just bees

While it’s important to continue work on figuring out what’s up with the loss of bees, it’s also important to continue to provide habitat of other pollinators too!

Bee covered in pollen

Bee covered in pollen

Northwestern University’s definition of a pollinator is an animal that causes plants to make fruit or seeds. They do this by moving pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. This pollen then fertilizes the plant. Only fertilized plants can make fruit and/or seeds, and without them, the plants cannot reproduce.  While bees are the most efficient, thus their importance, there are other species that act in the same way.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Hummingbirds and butterflies rank right up there.  In order to pollinate a plant, the pollinator must touch parts of the flower of the plant. Because of this, animals like bees, hummingbirds and some kinds of butterflies are the best pollinators, because they get their food from the flower of the plant and so brush up against parts of the flower. Other insects such as spiders and flies or wasps may use the flower for a hiding place, or may occasionally scavenge from the flower.

hummingbird sphinx moth

Hummingbird Sphinx moth enjoying Trumpet honeysuckle

After dark, moths and bats take over the night shift, visiting nocturnal blooms heavy with fragrance and large amounts of dilute nectar.

I’ll be diving into this discussion further as we move out of winter toward Spring.

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Norfolk Pine

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Norfolk Island Pine

Many years ago I gave my brother a Norfolk Pine for his birthday in December.  Lots of you may have received one, or bought one for yourself as decoration for the holidays.  Oh, but it can be so much more than that!

norfolk-pine

These beautiful evergreen trees can become a wonderful houseplant with the right care for many years to come.  The University of Minnesota straightened me out as they explain that Norfolk Island Pines, isn’t actually a pine tree. It is a coniferous evergreen native to Norfolk Island in the South Pacific near Australia.  They have short dark green needle-like leaves with broad spanning branches that give it a tiered appearance.  In its native climate they can reach 200 feet tall with a ten foot diameter trunk.   More knowledge from Brisbane Tree and Gardens.

Norfolk Island Pine, Aust.

Norfolk Island Pine, Aust.

As a houseplant it is very slow growing, only growing about 3-6 inches per year.  With time and care it can reach a height of 5-8 feet.  Put this lovely plant in a bright, sunny location.  It does like the light, so spin that baby each week so it doesn’t lean.  Sort of like us reaching for the holiday cookies!

norfolk-from-uncle-john

In general Norfolk Island Pines are a little like humans, they like the temperature between 65-72°F but can tolerate about a 10 degree difference at night.  What they don’t like is extremes of cold OR hot.  Humidity is important for nearly all houseplants.  Consider placing a humidifier nearby to help alleviate the dry winter air. Fertilize when plants begin to put on new growth, typically March through September.  Water thoroughly once the top one-inch of the soil is dry.

What CAN happen if there's enough light

What CAN happen if there’s enough light

Here’s a link to great indoor care information:  Pennington nurturing Norfolk Island Pine

Unfortunately I don’t have the right space in my home for these beauties…

 

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Deer and bunny busters

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Deer and bunny busters

What won’t deer or rabbits eat?  Short answer, none – if they’re hungry.  However there are some plants they find less appetizing.  Most of these plants are pungent, prickly or just not their thing.

Monarda ‘Bergamo’ from Park Seed

Monarda aka Bee Balm is a plant these critters don’t care for, however, they can get powdery mildew.  The above variety is powdery mildew resistant.

Perennials:

  • Bleeding Heart
  • Snow on the Mountain (invasive)
  • Lamium
  • Purple coneflower
  • Shasta daisy
  • Sedum
Bleeding heart

Bleeding heart

Annuals:

  • alyssum
  • cleome
  • grape hyacinth
  • zinnias (extremely easy to grow)

Shrubs and trees:

  • Cotoneaster
  • lilac
  • snowberry
  • spruce
  • birch
  • catalpa
  • redbud (Canadian variety)
  • honeylocust
Honeylocust in Spring

Honeylocust in Spring

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Rambling thoughts in a snowfall

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Rambling thoughts in a snowfall

As I write this, the snow is falling and the birds are feeding like crazy at the feeders.

cardinals-in-winter

What a beautiful sight.  The snow offering that wonderful protective cover for our plants, the moisture it will provide after the thaw.  Oh even the bunnies are out enjoying the snowfall.  The snowcover I put over the roses seems to be doing it’s job in protecting them from those gnawing bunnies – for now.  This is a respite time for gardeners, the moment in the circle of life where we just ponder the beauty of a winter snowfall.

winter-scene-2

I lived in Australia when I was a kid and for 2 years had no real seasons.  Just what they called The Wet and The Dry.  While the ocean was wonderful, I love our seasons.

Nhulunbuy, Australia

Nhulunbuy, Australia

Oh yes, it can get so cold that your eyes water and then it freezes on your eyelashes, the spring can be a muddy mess and summer’s can get pretty humid but then there’s the fall!  Ahh, fall!  Harvest time, leaf color changing, warm days, cool nights.  Yes, I suppose fall is my favorite,

tree-lined-neighborhood-in-fall

although Spring is when we get all excited about what to plant, seeing the new growth, yes, I suppose Spring is my favorite.

spring iris

But summer brings such spectacular flowers and the beginning of garden bounty like green beans and beets, Yes, I suppose summer is my favorite.

perennial

And now we’re back to the quiet beauty of a winter snowfall, the cold, invigorating  trek through a snowy trail in the woods.  I suppose all the seasons are my favorites.  Each offering some special time, some special moment in the circle of life.

winter

Check out my Garden Bite facebook page.  Send me your comments, questions and suggestions for future garden bites.  I really love hearing from you.  It’s always fun to exchange ideas.  Email me at teri@gardenbite.com or tkgardenbite@gmail.com

 

 

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2017 AAS flower winners

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  2017 AAS flower winners

Perhaps it’s a way of flushing out all the sugar of holiday cookies but I’ve been on a veggie kick lately.  I made some fantastic White Bean and kale soup that’s just delicious (and today this vegetable minestrone) and have shared with you some interesting new options for this year’s vegetable garden.  However, today, let’s talk about a couple of new flower introductions that have been declared 2017 AAS winners!

Vegetable Minestrone - just look at that color!

Vegetable Minestrone – just look at that color!

Celosia ‘Asian Garden’ will add a beautiful softness to your garden with delightful spiked bright pink flowers.  If you click on the link, scroll down and find out much more information on this lovely plant.  It blooms from summer to the first frost and is pollinator friendly.   It grows to about 40 inches in full sun.  It’s heat and drought tolerant!

Celosia 'Asian Garden'

Celosia ‘Asian Garden’

This spiked beauty claimed victory in North America’s trial sites to become the first ever AAS Winner from Japanese breeding company Murakami Seed. The judges gave this entry high marks in the greenhouse for the good branching, almost bushy growth habit and early to bloom flower spikes.

This next plant gives people mixed feelings.  It’s a red geranium.  Said THAT way, I can hear groans from some folks who think they’re overrated.  But ‘Calliope® Medium Dark Red’ was unmatched in the AAS trial gardens.  This AAS Winner has a mounded, semi-spreading growth habit with strong stems supporting the flower heads that are loaded with deep red blossoms.

Calliope Medium Dark Red

Calliope Medium Dark Red

These plants work great in containers, combination plantings, hanging baskets as well as in an in-ground landscape. Gardeners will enjoy exceptional landscape performance in normal conditions as well as in more challenging high heat and drought conditions.  It’s really gorgeous and so versatile.  It’s also long lasting.  Pinch off the spent flowers and you’ll just keep getting more.

Do you need a “tough as nails” plant?  Try Verbena EnduraScape™ Pink Bicolor.  This little annual will deliver flowers from cool Spring through the heat and drought of summer.  It grows 8 to 12 inches tall in full sun and is tolerant of just about everything!

EnduraScape Pink bicolor

EnduraScape Pink bicolor

verbena-with-other-plants

 

 

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