Let’s Celebrate Pumpkins! 2019 Year of the Pumpkin

by Heather Stone

Fall orange pumpkins sitting on straw.

photo courtesy of Pexels – 160662

When you hear the word pumpkin what comes to mind first? Is it autumn, Halloween, jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice latte perhaps. There are so many things to love about pumpkins. They are fun to grow and fun to eat. This year the National Garden Bureau named 2019 The Year of the Pumpkin, so let’s celebrate the pumpkin. https://ngb.org/year-of-the-Pumpkin/

Pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae family along with squash, cucumbers and melons. There are a wide selection of pumpkin varieties ranging in size from as little as 4 oz to some weighing over several thousand pounds. Just this past fall a New Hampshire man grew the largest pumpkin on record weighing in at 2,528 lbs. Now, that would make a lot of pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins are easy to grow. They can be started indoors or directly sown into warm (70 degrees), rich, fertile soil when all danger of frost has passed. Sow the seed into “hills” of 4-6 seeds and thin to the 2 strongest plants per hill. Make sure to give your pumpkins plenty of room to grow to get the best fruit. Depending on the variety you are growing, pumpkins need anywhere from 12 sq.ft. to 48 sq.ft. of growing space. Water your pumpkin seedlings regularly and fertilize throughout the growing season. When it comes time to harvest make sure to cut the pumpkins from the vine when the skin is hard and leave a 3” piece of the stem attached to decrease the chances of decay.

Photo of a jar of pumpkin soup on a green placemat with wooden spoon.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay -congerdesign

 

Pumpkins aren’t just fun to grow. They are fun to eat too! We use pumpkins to make soups, breads and pies. We put pumpkin in smoothies, yogurt and even pancakes. Check out some of these great pumpkin recipes. But the flesh of the pumpkin isn’t the only tasty part. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a great snack too. Pumpkin flesh is rich in vitamin A, potassium and beta carotene. The seeds are a good source of protein and are rich in minerals such as manganese, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc. Not all pumpkins are created equal. There are pumpkins for carving and decorating and there are pumpkins for eating.  Look for pie pumpkins and cooking pumpkins for the best taste. Two of my favorites are Cinderella and Long Island Cheese, but there are countless choices.

So what kind of pumpkin will you grow this year?

 

Anise Hyssop- Herb of the Year

By Heather Stone

Photo of a yellow bird sitting on an anise hyssop blossom.

photo courtesy of pixabay

Every year since 1995 the International Herb Association has named an Herb of the Year. This year’s selection is Anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum. This North American native wildflower has a lot to offer in the garden, the kitchen, the medicine chest and to the pollinators.

 

Anise hyssop is native to the Upper Midwest, Great Plains and into Canada. It’s found growing in prairies, dry upland forests, plains and fields from Northern Colorado to Wisconsin in the US and from Ontario to British Columbia in Canada. Anise hyssop is a member of the mint family. It grows best in full sun to part shade in dry to moderately moist soils with good drainage. This low maintenance perennial thrives in zones 4-9 reaching heights on average of 1-3’ tall by 1-3’ wide. Beautiful lavender flower spikes bloom in summer and with regular deadheading will continue until fall. The flowers are edible and make for a nice cut and dried flower. Both the flowers and the leaves can be added to baked goods or salads. My favorite way to use them is finely chopped in a fruit salad.

 

Anise hyssop is easily grown from seed and established plants will spread by rhizomes or will self-seed in the right growing conditions. It also transplants easily. Deer tend to leave this plant alone, but the same can’t be said for rabbits. Anise hyssop works well in the middle or back of the border and is at home in native, wildflower and herb gardens as well as in prairies and meadows. Great companions for anise hyssop include Black-eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Bee Balm and native grasses. Anise hyssop also looks fantastic in pots mixed with flowering annuals.

 

While the flowers of this plant have no scent, the leaves of anise hyssop smell and taste like licorice with notes of lemon, pine and sage. Native Americans found the scent uplifting and used the leaves to help treat depression. This was but one of many uses the Native Americans had for Anise Hyssop. It was also used externally as a poultice to treat wounds and burns and as a wash for itchy skin irritations such as poison ivy. Internally, it was used for treating diarrhea, fevers and coughs. Anise hyssops’ antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties make it an excellent herb for soothing coughs and relieving chest congestion. I find it to be especially effective in children. The best time to harvest leaves for use is just past full bloom when the oil content in the leaves is at the highest.

 

Anise hyssop is also a favorite plant of many pollinators. The lavender flowers are a good nectar source and highly attractive to bumblebees, native bees, honey bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and beetles. Goldfinches love to feed on the seed so make sure to leave some flowers standing in the garden at the season. So let’s celebrate 2019 by adding a plant or two of Anise Hyssop to the garden this year.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SNAPDRAGON IN 2019

Photo of many snapdragon flowers in bloom.

photo courtesy of pixabay

By Engrid Winslow

 

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) are one of the most widely grown and well-known flowers in the garden for many reasons. Children adore them because of the distinctive bloom of the dragon’s head shaped flowers with mouths that open and close when squeezed from both sides. Many gardeners associate them with memories of their parents’ or grandparents’ gardens and they come in every color of the rainbow and beyond with shades from white to a purple so deep it almost looks black. They can be short or tall, bloom for a really long time and are easy to grow in full sun to part shade. Usually blooming in cooler weather in the spring and fall, they can bloom in hotter months if given additional water and deadheaded regularly. Snapdragons are useful as perennials because they often overwinter or as annuals in planters. They are a lovely addition to a cottage-style garden, pretty in bouquets and are not too fussy about soil type, although they do better with the addition of organic matter. They can even tolerate dry conditions. On top of all that, bumble bees love them and they are lightly fragrant. The National Garden Bureau has named the Snapdragon one of its 2019 plants of the year: ww.https://ngb.org/year-of-the-snapdragon/

Snapdragons are readily available as plants but they are so easy to grow yourself from seed if you decide to give them a try. They germinate better if placed in the freezer for a couple of days before planting and should be started sometime in February for spring planting. They do need light to germinate and since the seeds are tiny, press them into the top of the soil and water them from the bottom. They take 1 to 2 weeks to germinate and should be pinched back once they have 6-8 leaves to encourage a stronger stem. Plant your starts outdoors about the time of the last frost once they have been hardened off. https://www.bbbseed.com/care-planting-seedlings/

For additional helpful information about starting flowers and vegetables from seed check out this past blog: https://www.bbbseed.com/ez-indoor-seed-starting/

Bee Boulder Family Festival!

Photo of a bee on a pink petaled flower.

photo courtesy of Pexels – Phillip Mullen

September is Pollinator Appreciation Month here in Boulder, Colorado.  Boulder is home to more than 550 species of native bees and the city has made a pledge to help recognize, protect and celebrate this diverse pollinator population.  All month long there have been activities for both kids and adults including; pollinator story times, a student poster contest, a native bee lecture, and a hive tour to name a few.

This Saturday we wrap up Pollinator Appreciation Month for 2018 with the Fourth Annual Boulder Bee Festival.  Come to help us celebrate our pollinators at Central Park in Boulder from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM. It will be tons of fun with educational activities, live music, face painting and prizes.  Come by the BBB Seed tent to chat pollinators, flowers or whatever you like. We will have crafts for the kids, stickers, seeds and much more.  Hope to see you there!

Photo of a bee keeper holding up a frame of a bee laden honeycomb

photo courtesy of Pexels – Timothy Paule II

Honey Bee Swarms

HONEYBEE SWARMS: CA– USE FOR CONCERN?

Swarm of Honeybees on tree branch

Swarming is a large cluster of honeybees (tens of thousands!) hanging in a ball from a surface, and it begins in the spring.  It is reproduction of honeybee colonies. How, you ask?

The hive is considered a super organism, which means all parts are uniquely necessary to the survival of the colony as a whole. Not a single honeybee can survive without the hive. The colony grows and eventually needs to split to reproduce more super organisms at additional nesting sites. This is where swarming comes in.

The “old queen” is programmed in her second year of ruling the hive, to prepare for swarming. This means she will leave, along with tens of thousands of her worker bees, including foragers and house bees alike. Some of the colony will be left behind with a virgin queen bee. The queen is very heavy whilst living in the hive fulfilling her egg-laying duties, and is unable to fly. Thus, she must go on a diet when she knows it is time to swarm. The house bees cease to feed her and she stops laying eggs. Once she is slim and trim enough to take flight, all the bees gorge themselves on honey for the exhausting task ahead.

How does the hive decide to swarm?

Pheromones, otherwise known as chemical messages. Bees use many pheromones to communicate different messages throughout the colony. The queen releases pheromones from mandibular glands (adjacent to the jaw line), which are passed to her worker bees through feeding. Her pheromone “cocktails” can instruct worker bees to collect food, create swarming cohesion, and prevent the maturation of eggs in other female worker bees. This form of communication unifies the colonies survival tactics. One mode of survival is reproducing the hive, and this happens when the colony has become so large that some of the worker bees are not feeding the queen and thus not receiving her pheromones. Such a population believes there is no queen, and begins raising a queen of their own. The existing queen must leave before the virgin queen emerges from her cup.

Meanwhile, the “old queen” is trimming down and sending out scouts to find a location to cluster. A cluster is a ball of bees hanging in strange places.  It could happen on a stroller, car, tree, house, pretty much any surface!  The cluster location isn’t far from the hive, and the swarm will only cluster as long as it takes to find a new nest, which is very brief. So, if you happen upon one, you are one lucky individual to be witnessing such an important part of a hive’s life cycle. Enjoy the view!

During the cluster some of the best foraging bees are sent out as scouts to find the next nesting site. Upon returning to the cluster, the scouts will do a waggle dance. The degree of enthusiasm the bee is waggling will encourage other scouts to verify the nesting site is indeed a good one. Finally, the entire swarm will leave together to begin building their new home.

What should you do if you see a swarm?

Please do not be afraid, but do show respect.Bees are not in the mood to attack at this very vulnerable moment in their life cycle. Stand back, give them space, and watch and listen (the hum of a buzzing colony is music!).  If you are concerned, contact your local beekeeping association for a list of bee rescue contacts.  Do not spray or exterminate honeybees, or any bees for that matter, they are critical to our survival!  1 in 3 bites of the food we eat comes from bee pollination!

I hope you enjoyed learning something new today!   Thank you for joining the movement to save our bees!
Jessica

 

 

Gardening for the Native Bees: 4 Easy Tips For Making Your Garden Solitary Bee Friendly

by Sam DollA cavity-nesting native bee.

There are nearly 4,000 species of native bees in the United States alone! With the exception of bumblebees, nearly every native bee species in North America are solitary. They come in a variety of shapes in sizes, from enormous carpenter bees to the tiny Perdita genus.

If you want to learn more about bumblebees, check out our blog about how you can make your garden bumblebee friendly!

Unlike European honeybees or bumblebees, solitary bees are stingless, do not have a queen, live in a colony, or make honey and wax. Instead, female solitary bees build tunnels to use as nests, where they lay their eggs in a series of chambers packed with a pollen and nectar “paste” for their young to munch on when they hatch. Since males will hatch and emerge from the nest first, the mamma bee will lay the females in the deepest portion of the nest and males in the front.

Around 70% of solitary bees are known as “mining bees” because they tunnel underground to build their nests. The other 30% of bees are cavity-nesting bees and will nest in anything from hollow or pithy stems to dead wood, or even abandoned snail shells!

Native bees are incredibly important pollinators. Unlike honeybees, which carry pollen in a “pollen pouch” on their legs, native bees are a bit less tidy, covering their whole bodies in pollen to carry it home. This messiness means they lose much more pollen as they go flower to flower and it actually makes them much more efficient pollinators. Some plants actually need native bees to be pollinated at all! Squash and gourds and any other members of the Cucurbita genus all rely on very specialized Squash Bees!

For more on the Squash Bees, check out our Blog on the topic!

These bees are pretty neat! Here are some tips for Making your garden a native bee paradise!

1.    Preserve and manage nesting sites

One of the most important things you can do to help protect your local native bees is to make sure that your yard is full of potential nesting sites. For mining bees, leave sunny patches of bare earth for nest sites and try to avoid laying down anything that could be a barrier (like landscaping cloth, gravel, or mulch) for bees accessing or emerging from potential existing nest sites. Also, leave unused areas of your garden with old wood, stones, or branches undisturbed as a cavity-nesting bee haven.

You can also install a bee hotel in your yard. Often made from wood or bamboo, these hotels are great for cavity-nesting bees like the Blue Orchard Mason Bee or Leafcutter Bee! You can build one yourself or buy them from reputable suppliers like our friends at The Bees Waggle.

2.    Make your garden a bee buffet

To ensure that your garden is a Mecca for bees of all shapes and sizes, you need to make sure that there is a diversity of forage as well. Plant a mix of perennials and annuals so that you will have a mix of different blooms at the same time throughout the entire growing season. Also, try to have blocks of color in your garden so bees can easily find their way to the flowers they like over and over again, without having to hunt all around for them. Of course, native bees like native plants, so make sure to dedicate a portion (or all) of your garden to wildflowers. The Xerces Society has a variety of region-specific plant guides for pollinators that can get you started toward planting for native bees.

We did the hard work for you and made our Bee Rescue Wildflower Mix that will provide great season-long forage for both native and honeybees!

3.    Lay off the pesticides

Pesticides can’t discriminate between the bad and good bugs. These insecticides pose a particular danger to mining bees since they are often applied to bare ground areas around structures that are ideal nesting sites for these bees. These insecticides also pose the risk of washing into other areas of the garden and contaminating nest sites.

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are systematic pesticides that live inside the plants that they are trying to protect. These have been particularly harmful to our various pollinator species because they work their way up through the plant into the nectar and pollen that various pollinators are attracted to. Flowers with neonics applied are actually luring bees and other insect pollinators to their deaths!

For tips on how to protect your garden and the bees in it, check out our eBook on Organic Pest Control!

4.    Take a closer look

One of the most important things your can do to protect native bees is to learn! Take some time to watch all the bees that visit and live in your garden. Visit the Xerces Society website and use their identification guides to try to figure out which bees you are seeing. Most importantly, SPREAD THE WORD! Educate your friends and family about all the bees that don’t make the nightly news and how vital they are to our future!

Other Resources

Check out these resources for more about pollinators and how you can help them

It’s National Pollinator Week

by Heather StoneLogo for pollinator week from pollinator.org.

Eleven years ago the U.S. Senate approved the designation of one week in June as National Pollinator Week to bring attention to the urgent problem of our declining pollinator populations. This year June 18-24th 2018 is National Pollinator Week. There will be many activities to celebrate across the nation and the globe.

 

Want to find a way to get involved? Check out the listing of activities by state at http://pollinator.org/pollinator-week.

 

Here is a sampling of what is happening here in our home state of Colorado.

 

Garfield County is hosting its first annual Pollinator Palooza! There will Pollinator Gardening for Junior Master Gardeners on June 19th. On June 22nd there will be Building Mason Bee Houses for Pollinators.

For more information check out their website. http://garfield.extension.colostate.edu/programs/gardening-horticulture/

 

In Salida, CO, Blessed are the Pollinators Project is working on a collaborative art project involving the making and hanging of 1000 prayer flags for pollinators. Check out their website to see how to get involved. https://www.blessedarethepollinators.com

 

The Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, CO will be celebrating all week long with guided garden tours, arts and games, beeswax candle making, milkweed seed giveaways and more. For the 21 and over crowd there will be a sommelier-led honey tasting & food pairing on the evening of Saturday, June 23rd. Find out at the details on their website at https://www.butterflies.org.  Check out this interview with Butterfly Pavilion’s head beekeeper Mario Padilla at https://cbsloc.al/2K65c16 

 

On June 20th at 6:30 pm the City of Greeley as part of their Landscape Lecture series will be hosting The Native Plants: Bees Butterflies & Beauty class. Discover ways to create beautiful gardens while providing good habitat for bees, butterflies and other wildlife. For more information and to register for the class go to http://greeleygov.com/services/ws/conservation/about/#event|native-plants|14147

2018 is the Year of the Beet

 

The National Garden Bureau has proclaimed 2018 as the year of the beet and you can enjoy them in so very many ways. Try some new recipes to enjoy this nutritious and underused vegetable this year.Photo of a bunch of Chioggia Beets showing the red and white circles inside.

  • Beets can be dried and made into chips, juiced, roasted, baked, pureed into soup, glazed, pickled or steamed,
  • Beet greens are delicious in salads, soups or sautéed.
  • Beets come in a range of colors, shapes and sizes and some have a sweet mild, rather than an earthy flavor.
  • Beets are full of fiber, vitamins A and C and have a higher iron content than most other vegetables.

Say farewell to kale and hello to beets this year.

Packet picture of Golden Detroit Beet seeds

The Windy Garden

By: Sandy Swegel

This could be a perfectly beautiful early Spring. We’ve had a week of warm sunny weather that is waking up the daffodils and tulips. Birds are flitting about and energetically singing out mating calls. It’s a joyful break from dark winter days. But then there’s the wind. Chinook winds. Or as they were called the year I lived in the Alps, “scheiss foen.” Everyone understood if the foen had arrived that you could be in a foul mood because of the irritability and headaches from the air pressure changes these mountain-made winds caused.

Wind can have devastating effects on a garden. Sure the strong winds can break stems and tree branches, but the greatest stressors comes from the drying effects of the winds. Plants close their stomata (leaf pores) to reduce water loss, but that slows the plants’ ability to grow. The winds desiccate the plant tissue and dry out the top inches of the soil meaning the plants need more water. Even plants under snow cover can get very drought stressed because the winds evaporate the snow before it can melt.

If it’s going to be a windy season, I make a few mental changes in my garden plans. Here’s things to consider if you have a windy garden:

Use more drought tolerant plants.
Increase your watering after the winds die down.
Grow shorter plants.
Grow plants like lavender with thinner leaves that won’t desiccate so easily.
Plant some tall ornamental grasses through the flower garden. They look beautiful in the wind and provide some wind break protection.
Plant evergreens as windbreaks.
Consider a garden wall.

And take an aspirin for your sinus headache.

 

Photocredits:

http://clarenbridgegardencentre.ie/
Top Tips for Windy Gardens
http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/waterton/ne/ne-galerie-gallery-2.aspx?a=1&photo=%7Bdfae32e8-4d1e-47e4-a909-08c9ea68dd13%7D

Crevice Gardens

By: Sandy Swegel

Some crevice gardens look like regular gardens where flowering plants cover all the rocks. Others look more like rocky alpine mountainsides. The Denver Botanic Gardens latest crevice gardens combine sculptural placement of the rocks with native plants.

So keep at eye out for a crevice garden near you. Botanic Gardens around the world are investing millions of dollars installing crevice gardens that highlight the art of stone and alpine gardens, and that provide us with ideas of how we will keep growing beautiful plants and flowers even as global warming reduces our available water in some places.

 

 

Photo credits :
www.nargs.org
www.rockstarplants.com/
www.architectureartdesigns.com/18-effective-ideas-how-to-make-small-outdoor-seating-area/
www.yampariverbotanicpark.org/gardens.php