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BBB Seed’s Wildflowers to Attract Butterflies and Birds

by Heather Stone

Photo of two birds on a birdbath.

Photo courtesy of pixabay

It brings great pleasure to see more birds and butterflies about the garden and we as gardeners can do a lot to attract and protect the birds and butterflies that visit our garden. These critters simply need a safe place to live and healthy food to eat.

Wildflowers to attract butterfly and birds seed packet.

Butterflies

For butterflies, providing food (host plants) for caterpillars, nectar sources for adult butterflies and a safe place to overwinter can all be accomplished in a small area. Caterpillars of some species of butterflies have very specific larval host plants, while some will eat a wide range of species. Nectar is the primary food source for most adult butterflies. Planting nectar-rich plants in the garden is sure to attract more butterflies. Depending on the species, butterflies overwinter in all stages of life from egg to adult. Some places they overwinter include leaf litter, the bases of bunch grasses, rock piles, brush or wood piles, behind loose tree bark and near their host plants.

 

Birds

Just like butterflies birds need healthy food to eat and shelter. Start by planting native plants in your garden that provide seeds, berries, nuts and nectar. Shrubs and trees, especially evergreen species, provide excellent shelter and nesting sites for birds. Birds also need a year-round water source such as a bird bath. Providing nesting boxes and offering food in feeders will attract even more birds.

Photo of an orange and yellow butterfly on a marigold bloom.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Try planting our Birds and Butterflies mix to attract more birds and butterflies to your landscape. The mixture of annuals, perennials, introduced and native wildflowers is designed to attract butterflies over a long season of bloom from spring until fall and a variety of birds to the seeds come autumn.

 

Sources:  Gardening for Butterflies, The Xerces Society

https://www.nwf.org/sitecore/content/Home/Garden-for-Wildlife/Wildlife/Attracting-Birds

 

Grow Your Own Sprouts in 6 Easy Steps

Photo of seeds sprouting.

photo courtesy of pixabay

 

by Heather Stone

  1. Choose a container and lid                Sprouting seeds in a jar is easy and convenient. Make sure to choose a jar that is large enough to accommodate the seeds when sprouted. I find a quart jar with a wide mouth to work well.  You will also need a mesh lid of some kind or thick cheesecloth to easily drain your sprouts after rinsing.  Sprouting lids can be purchased at most health food stores, online or you can easily make your own.

 

  1. Rinse and pick over your seeds

Carefully rinse and pick through your seeds removing any stones or debris.

 

  1. Soak your seeds

Fill your jar about ¾ full with cool water.  Soak your seeds overnight (8-12 hours). Soaking time will vary depending on the size of your seeds.

 

Sprouted seeds

photo courtesy of pixabay

 

 

 

  1. Drain your seeds

After soaking you will want to thoroughly drain your seeds. Tip your jar on its side and let it drain for several hours to be sure all liquid is removed.

 

  1. Continue to rinse and drain

For the next 2-4 days, you will rinse and drain your seeds three times a day. Using cool water, gently rinse your seeds so you don’t damage any sprouts and drain well.

 

  1. Final rinse and drain

When your seeds have sprouted and reached the desired length give them one final rinse and drain well.  Enjoy in salads, on sandwiches or stirred into soups. Sprouts can be stored for several days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

 

Some great seeds for sprouting include:

Beans (lentils, mung beans and chickpeas)

Alfalfa

Broccoli

Sunflower

Radish

Clover

 

Additional resources:

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/sprouting/how-to-sprout-seeds-jar/

https://boulderlocavore.com/sprouting-101-homemade-sprouting-jars-tutorial-diy-mason-jars-giveaway/

 

 

Tools to be a Better Gardener

by Sandy Swegel Photo of the bbbseed $25 gift card.

Today I’ve been thinking about how the tools I use have made me a better gardener. I have spent a lot of money over the years on tools that break or tools that seemed clever but end up unused. I garden at least twenty hours a week for other people, so my tools need to be effective and efficient as well as durable. 

(Keep these in mind if you are trying to figure out a good holiday or birthday gift for a gardener friend or relative!  One of these and a great gift card for seeds is sure to be useful and welcome!)

My Must-Have Tools include:


Good Hand Pruners naturally. Felco pruners are great if you can afford them. A sharp edge is the more important feature of a hand pruners and you need a high-end pruner that does have cheapo soft metal that dulls the first time you use it. I like Felcos, but Corona and Fiskars both have high-end pruners that are good. For my use, I need a replaceable blade because no matter how much you sharpen, at some point you need a fresh blade. I have hand pruners in two sizes…a smaller pair for perennial maintenance because they are lighter weight and a larger pair for shrubs, roses and trees. Last year Costco had a great deal on a generic version of Felcos in a two-pack.

A Soil Knife. The original name of this tool was a hori-hori knife and my first one came right fromSoil knife with orange handle Japan. Now I like the bright orange soil knife from AM Leonard. The plastic resin handle holds up better than wood and the bright orange is easier to find when I lose it. You have to be careful of the extremely sharp edges (one side serrated and one side flat) but this is my combo trowel, weed digger, shovel, tool for dividing perennials etc.
Pruning loppersFiskars Power Gear Bypass Lopper 15 or 18 inches. I love the Fiskars PowerGear line. They really do give you more power per effort than any other lopper. I use the smaller loppers the most because they are lightweight and because they fit more easily between dense branches.

Black and Decker cordless (18V) sweeper. They don’t call this a vac because it’s not strong enough for big piles of leaves…but it ‘s the perfect quick cleanup at the end of working in the garden whetherCordless Yard Sweeper you’re “sweeping” a path or blowing debris lightly off of rock mulch. I also use it to sweep my kitchen floor. Sawsall pruning blade

Milwaukee Sawzall pruning blade. This vicious jagged blade is one of the secret weapons that let me do the work of your average 20-year-old male landscaper. Perfect for cutting trees or cutting right in the soil through old roots.

Mini Shovel and Mini Mattock Pickaxe. OK, laugh if you want, my friends do….but then they goMini Pickaxe out and get these mini tools when they see how much work they let me do. They are the same tools the aforementioned 20-year olds use in full-sized versions, but lightweight enough for me to use without ruining my rotator cuff, a common gardening injury. I use both while kneeling in the soil up close and personal to my job. Don’t get a wussy camping pick or a garden pick made of thin metal…get the real thing in the hardware store.

Those tools and a colorful TubTrug or two, (those bendable colorful garden buckets that are worth every nickel) and you’ll find yourself able to work faster and stronger in the garden without trying too hard.

Orange garden trug

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Graphic that says, "This Pumpkin Seed Recipe Is Scary Delicious."

by Sam Doll

There are so many reasons to enjoy the month of October, but one of the truly special traditions is carving spooky jack-o-lanterns for Halloween! While making funny faces and creative carvings can be a blast, I get most excited for turning the slimy guts of the pumpkins into crispy, salty, roasted pumpkin seeds.

If you are interested in other Halloween Crafts, check out these 9 great craft ideas!

Pick the Right Pumpkin

Pumpkin seeds are a delicious, healthy seasonal snack that can be as creatively flavored any way you want!  The first thing you need to do is pick a pumpkin!

Want to grow your own pumpkins? The Jack-O-Lantern Variety are perfect for eating and carving.

Wandering through a pumpkin patch, it might seem impossible to know which pumpkin would be good for carving and roasting seeds. Lucky for you, the easy part is figuring out which ones are chock full of seeds. Just pick it up! The heavier the pumpkin, the more likely it is to be full of seeds.

If you need help picking out a perfect pumpkin for carving, check out this guide.

Harvest the Seeds

This is the fun part! Once you cut the top of your jack-o-lantern off, it’s time to get your hands dirty.

Set up two bowls. Scoop out as much of the guts and seeds as you can with your hands. Separate as many of the seeds from the pulp as you can and put them in one bowl. It’s okay if they are still slimy and still have a little pulp on them, you’ll clean that off later.

As you get near the end, use a large metal spoon to scrape down the inside walls of the pumpkin to clean out any remaining strands and straggling seeds. Wash up and finish carving your pumpkins!

If you need ideas or templates for carving, here are all you could ask for!

Prepare the Seeds

Place the seeds in a colander and rinse the seeds under cold, running water. Use your hands to remove any pulp still attached. Once clean, remove them and set aside

Here are four other great pumpkin craft ideas.

Boil the Seeds

Depending on how many seeds you have, fill a sauce pan or pot with water and salt it until it tastes like the sea. Bring to a boil and add the cleaned seeds.

Boil for 5-8 minutes until the seeds begin to look translucent. Remove the seeds to a baking sheet and pat them dry.

The boiling gives the seeds a pleasant salty flavor throughout and ensures that they cook evenly and without burning in the oven.

Roast ‘Em

Pre-heat the oven to 400-425 (this isn’t an exact science) and add the seeds. Roast until golden, crispy and delicious (about 10-15 minutes).

Remove them from the oven and add them immediately to a clean mixing bowl for seasoning.

Check out these incredibly delicious pumpkin recipes while you’re at it!

Season ‘Em

This is the fun part. No matter what seasoning you go with, you’ll probably want to use 1 tbsp of high-quality olive oil and some course kosher salt as a base. The oil helps the seasoning stick to the seeds and the salt helps elevate the other flavors.

Now, you can keep them simple and enjoy these classic fall snacks! If you are feeling a little wild, here are some other delicious flavoring suggestions.

The amount of seasoning will depend on how many seeds and what size you have, so start with a little and keep adding until it is just perfect

  • Sugar and Cinnamon: I like a mixture of 4 to 1 white sugar to cinnamon (here is more information if you are curious). If you want it a little hotter, add more cinnamon to the mixture
  • Curry: Any pre-made curry powder will work here, but you can make your own if you are feeling ambitious. I like this Thai Curry Powder
  • South of the Border: Use a 1:1 cumin to red chili flake mix. If you like it really spicy, add some cayenne powder.
  • Spicy and Savory: Use a 2:2:1 garlic salt (omit the kosher salt above if using this or just use garlic powder), lemon pepper, and cayenne to create a savory and hot mix.
 

Mexican Sunflower, Pollinator Magnet!

by Heather Stone

Close up photo of an orange Mexican Sunflower blossom.

photo courtesy of pixabay – impradip

Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia rotundafolia is a must for the butterfly garden and is a favorite of our beloved monarch butterfly. This 4-6’ tall annual (perennial in USDA zones10-11) is covered in vibrant orange flowers the monarchs can’t resist. But it’s not only a favorite of monarch butterflies. Mexican Sunflower is also equally adored by many other butterfly species including painted ladies, fritillaries, eastern tiger swallowtails, giant swallowtails and more. Honeybees, bumblebees and hummingbirds flock to these nectar-rich flowers as well.

Mexican Sunflowers are easy to grow. Plant seeds indoors 1-2 months before your average last frost date or directly in the garden in late spring when the soil has warmed. Once germinated, these plants take off reaching heights of 4-6’ by 3-4’ wide so place them in the back of the border. Staking these tall plants helps to avoid any toppling over. The vibrant orange blooms appear mid-summer and last until the first frost. Deadheading every 2-3 days ensures continual bloom, equaling more visitors. Mexican sunflowers make great cut flowers too and are easy to grow in containers. Don’t leave this beauty out of your pollinator garden.

Mexican Sunflower blossom against blue sky.

photo courtesy of pixabay-4924546

 

 

 

 

Check out this cool video of Monarch butterflies enjoying the blossoms of Mexican Sunflower.

https://www.facebook.com/MonarchButterflyGarden/videos/895905987113736/

 

 

 

Hooray for Hummingbirds!

by Cheryl Soldati Clark

Hummingbirds may be cute little-winged creatures, but really they are tough as nails! These extremely important pollinators have the highest metabolic rate of any other animal on earth. They also have a high breathing rate, high heart rate and high body temperature. Their wings flap up to 90 times per second and their heart rate exceeds 1,200 beats per minute. In order to maintain their extremely high metabolism, hummingbirds have to eat up to 10-14 times their body weight in food every day for fuel. In preparation for migration, they have to eat twice this amount in order to fly thousands of miles.
A huge portion of a hummingbird’s diet consists of sugar that they acquire from flower nectar, tree sap and hummingbird feeders. They also have to eat plenty of insects and pollen for protein to build muscle. Hummingbirds cross-pollinate flowers while they are feeding on nectar because their heads become covered with pollen and they carry the pollen to the next bloom as they continue to feed. Several native plants rely on hummingbirds for pollination and would not be here today if it wasn’t for these efficient pollinators.
Hummingbirds are found in several different habitats, including wooded and forested areas, grasslands and desert environments. They also occur at altitudes ranging up to 14,000 feet in the South American Andes Mountains.
The male hummingbirds are usually brightly colored while the females are dull colored in order to camouflage them while nesting. Female hummingbirds rely on males for mating only and after that, they build the nest and raise their young as single parents. They have been known to fearlessly protect their young against large birds of prey, such as hawks and have even attacked humans that get too close to their nests. They usually lay up to two eggs which hatch within a few weeks. Hummingbirds can live 3-5 years in the wild, which varies by species, but making it through their first year of life is a challenge. Fledglings are particularly vulnerable between the time that they hatch and the time that they leave the nest. Larger species may live up to a decade.
In order to conserve energy at night, because they lack downy feathers to hold in body heat, hummingbirds enter a state of semi-hibernation called “torpor”. This allows them to lower their metabolic rate by almost 95% and also lower their body temperature to an almost hypothermic rate. During this time, hummingbirds perch on a branch and appear to be asleep. When the sun comes up and starts to warm the earth, it takes about 20 minutes, but the tiny birds will awake from their torpor state and start their feeding rituals.
Planting a lot of reds and purples in your garden and hanging hummingbird feeders around your yard will attract and help feed these little pollinator friends. In fact, BBB Seed has a Hummingbird Wildflower Mix specifically designed with these little guys in mind.  Please help to support these amazing creatures in your own backyard!  Pollinator Week is a reminder to support pollinators all year long!

Hummingbird Favorites:
• Penstemon• Columbine • Delphinium • Autumn Sage • Four O’clock (Mirabilis jalapa) • Scarlet Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) • Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea) • Chuparosa • Ocotillo • Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) • Baja Fairy (Calliandra californica) • Bottlebrush • Desert Willow • Indian paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) • Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) • Lantana • Agave • Lily of the Nile

FUN LINKS:

How to make a Hummingbird Feeder with your Kids!

Video on Hummingbird Tongues

Hummingbird Coloring Pages for Children

Baby Hummingbirds

 

Oh, Sunflowers!

By Engrid Winslow

Sunflower photo courtesy of Christy Short.

Gorgeous Sunflower Photo Courtesy of Christy Short

Sunflowers (Helianthus sp.) are such a great annual for so many reasons. First of all, they are so darn cheerful with their big, bright blooms during the hottest part of the summer.  They are also easy to grow.  Just poke them into the ground and keep them well-watered until they germinate and then stand back because they thrive in rich soil and heat.  The pollen is loved by bees and the seeds are attractive to birds.  Sunflowers come in so many varieties with sizes ranging from 12” to 15‘ tall and the colors vary from pale lemon yellow to bright yellow, orange, red and bronze.  The petals can be single, double or in fluffy multiple layers (check out Teddy Bear Sunflower).

Tag for Teddy Bear Sunflower packet with bushy foliage has multiple 3 - 6" golden-yellow, double blooms

It can be fun to watch the birds eat the seeds or you can make a fun project out of roasting them. To do this: soak the seeds in salted water for 24 hours, then roast in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at 350 for 35 minutes, stirring frequently. Let them cool and store in an airtight container. If you want to serve them warm after roasting toss them with a bit of melted butter for a delicious treat. Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin C, E and are high in fiber which supports digestion, they also contain antioxidants, magnesium (for bone health) and can help lower cholesterol.

The roots of sunflowers have an allopathic quality which inhibits the ability of other plants nearby to grow properly. This makes them a great choice for weed suppression but keep them away from other flowers that you love.

Half awake sunflower photo courtesy of Christy Short.

Half Awake Sunflower (Photo Courtesy of Christy Short)

 

 

Quit Working so Hard This Fall

by Sandy SwegelFall work

The old adages say cleanliness and hard work are virtues. That may be true in your kitchen, but in the garden, a little sloth canFall Work save many lives and make your life a little easier.  Mother Nature isn’t just messy when she clutters up the Fall garden with leaves and debris….she’s making homes for her creatures.  Old dead leaves may look like clutter that needs to be tidied up, but it’s really nice rustic sustainable homes for many of a gardener’s best friends.

Here’s who is hiding in your garden this winter if you DON’T clean up.

Ladybugs in the garden beds next to the house.  Ladybugs want a nice sheltered home safe from wind and exposed soil. I most often find them under the leaves and dead flower stalks in the perennial garden.

Butterfly larvae (aka caterpillars) in leaf bundles. Sometimes in winter you’ll see a couple of leaves looking stuck to a bush or tree or in a clump on the ground.  Often there’s a butterfly baby overwintering there.

Lacewing at the base of willows or in the old vegetable garden.  Insects don’t work very hard in the fall either.  Often they are eating happily on the aphids in your vegetable garden or your mini forest and just go through their life cycle right there.  They lay their eggs on the bottom of leaves and the leaves fall to the ground.  If you clean up too much, you’ll clean up all the beneficial insects eggs

Slugs in your hosta garden. Even slugs are a good thing to leave for the winter.  They will be plump food for baby birds nextFall work Spring.

The bottom line is don’t do a good job of cleaning up in the Fall.  Take away any very diseased leaves.  Clean up the thick mats of leaves on the lawn so they don’t encourage lawn fungus.  But leave the flower stalks with seeds and the leaves in the beds.  They insulate and protect plants and insects.

Another good reason to be a little lazy this Fall.

Photo Credits http://www.nashvilleparent.com/2013/07/fall-for-fun/http://antsbeesbutterfliesnature.blogspot.com/2009/11/overwintering-caterpillars.html

 

Saving Tomato Seed

 

by Sandy SwegelTop view photo of heirloom tomatoes of many different colors.

To get the best tomato plants, you need the best seed.  If you want to save your own tomato seeds, you need to select from the very best tomatoes this year.

Timing is critical. My friend Frank is a wonderful market farmer who has taught many of us a lot about organic growing.http://www.fatherearthorganicfarm.com/aboutus.htm. Yesterday, he emailed us an alert saying,

“So pick your best, most ripe (even to the point of over-ripe) tomatopepper, etc., and save and dry the seed. Choosing an over-ripe veggie will ensure the seed has fully developed. If you wait for a frost or freeze before you pick the fruit or veggie, most of the seed will not be developed enough to be viable next year. “

That makes perfect sense, but many years it’s not been until the first frost that I remember that summer is over and I’d better save some seed.  Although I’m not as bad as my friend who had planted a mixed pack of heirloom seeds and just realized she had served the last of the best tasting of those tomatoes in a sandwich to her daughter.  Dear daughter still tells the story of crazy mom running across the room to yank the sandwich out of her hand and claim the tomato for its seeds.

 

Once you’ve selected an overripe tomato to be next year’s seeds, be sure to taste the tomato to make sure it’s the perfect tomato.  A restaurant critic I know calls this the Platonic Tomato….the tomato that in its very form and essence defines what a tomato is.

You’ve probably read lots of online info about saving tomato seeds…you need to let them ferment a bit in a saucer before letting the seed dry and then save it in a cool dry place for next year.  Even though this is easy, I have to admit most the time I let the organic farmers who grow for us at BBB Seed just do all that work and I buy the seed in the cute packet in January.

That said, I’m off for my morning breakfast of slices of tomatoes with my morning egg from my backyard chickens with some melted Swiss cheese.  It doesn’t get better than this!!!

 

 

Saving Tomato Seed

 

Best Heirloom Vegetables

Wildflower Seed Mixes

Grass Seed Mixes

 

Why Won’t my Garden do What I Say?

by Sandy Swegel

That’s the kind of questions I’m hearing these days.  Why won’t my plant bloom?  Why aren’t my tomatoes red? Why does my garden look so bad? Why is my tree dying?  Let’s tackle a few of these questions so you can figure out why it seems your garden is disobedient?

Why won’t my pineapple sage bloom?  It’s so beautiful in the magazines. Salvia elegans or pineapple sage smells deliciously of pineapple and hummingbirds flock to it.  Alas, what I discovered after a season of coaxing and fertilizing is that it will never look so beautiful in Colorado as it does in the Sunset magazine pictures of California.  It’s one of those plants that bloom according to day length and short days to stimulate blooming.  So no matter what we do, it simply is not going to put out blooms till late August.  Since our first frost can be in September, this is a very unsatisfying plant to grow in a northern area with long summer days.

The second part of this question is “Why did all the other fancy hybrid flowers I bought in Spring quit blooming?”  Some may be day length sensitive like the pineapple sage.  Most have issues with our hot dry summer heat.  If you keep deadheading as soon as the weather starts to cool, the blooms will restart.  And there’s no changing Nature’s mind with more fertilizer or water.

“Why won’t my watermelon plants get big?” a friend asked over afternoon tea.  The answer to most questions is to put my finger in the soil. It was dry, dry, dry.  There was one drip tube on the plant but that’s not nearly enough for a watermelon which needs lots of water.  I looked up. The garden was right next to a big spruce tree. The tree was on the north side so the plant had lots of sun, but the sneaky tree roots ran all through the garden sucking up irrigation water. If you’re going to grow a plant with a name like “water”melon…you have to put a lot of water in the system.

The second most-asked question is “Why do I have so many weeds?” The answer is alas, because you didn’t spend enough time in July keeping after them.  Who wants to weed in the heat of summer?  And summer weeds grow really fast and tall.  You can’t even blink.

The most-asked question of course is “Why won’t my tomatoes turn red?”  This year everybody has lots of green tomatoes but not nearly enough red tomatoes. The truthful answer is “D***d if I know. I wish mine would turn red.”  A Google search shows thousands of people ask this question.  People who answer have all kinds of pet theories about leaves and fertilizer and pruning the plant etc. I’m just learning to wait and making a note to grow more early tomatoes next year.

Nature just doesn’t work the way we want sometimes.

Photo Credit: http://eugenebirds.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html