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Flowers that Attract Bees and other Pollinators

Flowers that Attract Bees and other Pollinators

There are many flowers that attract bees and other pollinators and other beneficial Insects. I prefer using native and popular perennials, as they don’t need to be replanted every year. They are likely to thrive for some years with proper care, such as adding compost annually and periodic division when they become oversized or overcrowded. The chart below is meant as a guide to help in your selection of the colors you want to incorporate into the garden, depending on the perennial and specific variety that you choose.
The blog provides insights into attracting bees and other pollinators to gardens, emphasizing the use of native and popular perennials that don’t require annual replanting. It also highlights the importance of flower diversity and timing to ensure continuous blooming throughout the year. Additionally, it discusses the significance of leaving certain vegetables behind to attract bees and the impact of pesticides on bee populations. The article aims to encourage readers to contribute to the preservation of pollinators by creating bee-friendly environments.

Garden the Organic Way Book!

Garden the Organic Way Book!

The book “Garden the Organic Way” is now available in softcover and would make a perfect holiday gift or reading material during the offseason gardening months. The book serves as a comprehensive guide to organic gardening, covering all stages from being an absolute beginner to harvesting delicious fruits and vegetables. It also emphasizes soil restoration and sustainable practices. It can help plan upcoming gardens, increase crop production, and enhance overall garden productivity. It’s available on Etsy via the link provided on the website.

Right time to Harvest

Right time to Harvest

Harvesting at the right time can be just as important as planting

There is a point of maturity in a vegetable where taste is at it prime, either in sweetness or texture and also for its defense mechanism against diseases and insects. This is the right time to harvest.

Mustard greens passed their harvest.

Sometimes the vegetable looks so beautiful that you don’t even want to harvest it, or maybe you planted so much that you want to wait a week or two, or you have been harvesting all along until they eventually bolt.  Depending on these circumstantial aspects and on what plant it is, it may work to wait.  But, for many vegetables, once it’s time for harvesting, it’s best to do so right away.

A few examples to help clarify my point.

Let’s take lettuce or mesclun mix, which contains various types of lettuce (oakleaf, red lettuce, black seeded Simpson, Lollo Rossa, arugula, radicchio and some other greens like kale, Chinese greens, beet greens, etc., depending on the producer).

  • Lettuce will grow very nicely when the temperatures are cool, and you can harvest for about two to three months until it gets really hot.
  • If you planted it a bit late, it will come to full size relatively fast.

Once it reaches maturity, is the right time to harvest – especially the lettuce, as it will start to grow upward.  This is called bolting.  Once it bolts, the leaves become bitter in taste and not really edible. By waiting,  you may lose your crop.

The same will happen with mustard greens.  They can tolerate a bit more heat but the taste will be stronger.  Real mustard taste is hot.  Eventually, it will flower. https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/vegetables/growing-lettuce-greens-organically/

Radishes will stay in the ground a bit more but, at some point, if they are not harvested, they will split or get woody so they can’t be eaten, and they will also go to flower.  Once they flower, the root will have become woody.

To learn a greater understanding about these topics purchase my book ‘Garden the Organic Way’   https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Another way to lose a crop is when you wait too long.

  • Despite having a row cover, I still found some caterpillars in my garden.
  • I harvested a large amount of kale and decided to wait another week or two before harvesting the rest.  I did notice that I had found some imported cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and a few cross-striped cabbage worms in the patch.  I went through the whole patch and looked for them, killing everything I found.
  • A word of warning, you never get them all.  Sure enough, I came back to leaves that were totally
Maggot damage

eaten and lots and lots of caterpillars that were quite big and well fed. I lost around half my crop.  I should have known better and harvested the kale to freeze it.

Thankfully, I did find some carrot fly maggots on my carrots, and quickly harvested the whole crop before it spread anymore, which would mean I’d just be feeding the maggots!

Organic Fertilization

Organic Fertilization

The post distinguishes between organic and non-organic fertilization, explaining organic fertilizers utilize naturally produced components rather than synthetically produced ones. Examples include blood meal from animals, though lack of organic feeding may make it less organic, and bat guano, which is typically organic due to bats’ natural food sources. Each fertilizer should be thoroughly researched to ensure its organic nature.

How To Build a Raised Bed

How To Build a Raised Bed

The video “Building a Raised Bed” demonstrates how to construct a raised bed for gardening. Raised beds are efficient, requiring fewer resources and producing larger yields, while preserving soil structure. They offer a fresh start with desired soil types and minimize organic matter addition. Using a raised bed also prevents soil compaction and improves aeration and root development, fostering healthier plants. The book “Garden the Organic Way” and my Udemy course on soils are recommended for deeper understanding.

Straw Mulch versus Plastic or other Mulches

Straw Mulch versus Plastic or other Mulches

Materials to Mulch: Some materials like straw mulch I really love, and they are very beneficial.  Others- like plastic, I wish they didn’t exist.  Everyone has a prerogative to use what they like. Since I’m into organic gardening and healing the planet, I will write of those that make no impact on the environment. Some of the advantages of those that, although they have their purposes, should not be used as regular mulch. 

Mulching with straw

Straw Mulch:

Using straw mulch has so many benefits, and they far outweigh the few problems that it may cause.  Here is a list of benefits and the various uses:

  • Everyone knows straw is great for mulching. I’m not sure you can get a better product than this in northern climates.  It allows water to percolate right through to the plants.
  • Straw mulch keep the soil at a moderate temperature in the heat of summer.
  • Prevents soil from drying out and does not increase its temperature like plastic or other black mulches.
  • Readily available and reasonable priced.
  • Decomposes and can be incorporated into the soil or removed and placed in the compost bin.
  • Straw mulch is one of the best things to protect plants over the winter. Some plants, like asparagus crowns, can heave if they have been recently transplanted. By applying a cover of straw over the winter, it will be protected against heaving. It will also protect the roots close to the surface from frost damage.
  • It protect plants that have germinated in the fall and have grown some – like garlic. I like to apply a layer of straw to help them overwinter.
  • You can cover any one area or the bed you will be using in the spring with straw. Mark it well so you know where it is located- and mark the perimeter as well. Once the spring season approaches, you can remove the snow from the bed along with the frozen straw on top of the soil. Then the bed will get direct sun and be ready to plant that much sooner.  You can pick up a good two to three weeks of planting season this way. 

To learn greater understanding about mulches and other techniques purchase my Book ‘Garden the Organic Way’ https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

There Are a Few Problems With Straw Mulch:

  • Some animals, like voles, can hide under straw but they can also do a great job of hiding under black plastic and black cloth. Even more so with plastic or cloth, as there are no cracks in them, so there is no way for predators to get at them.  Back plastic and cloth are considered to help increase the vole population due to their ability to hide under these materials. To read more about voles https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/maintenance/voles-in-your-garden/

When you think of all the benefits versus this small disadvantage, I see no reason not to use straw.  Instead, inspect the area for voles or other insects hiding underneath the straw, and see if you can find a method to control these.

Black or Clear Plastic Have Some Advantages and Uses:

  • It can be used to help heat a bed faster in the spring. Apply a layer of plastic for a week to ten days and it will cause the soil to defrost from the winter, allowing you to start your spring garden as soon as possible.
  • You can use clear or black plastic to sterilize the soil, or solarization, which is its official term. They recommend clear plastic for the best effect but I have seen it done with black plastic as well.  It is best you do this when you have an infestation of a particular disease caused by a bacteria or fungi in the soil or if you have some bad nematodes. Read more about this in y book ‘Garden the Organic Way’ https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com
  • Plastic can be very effective as a weed preventative but it will increase the soil’s heat and can be detrimental to the root system of the plants during hot summers.

Disadvantages:

  • Must use a drip irrigation to allow watering of plants.
  • The biggest disadvantage of plastic is that it’s not recyclable. It’s made from oil, which is a non-renewable source.
  • Creates a lot of garbage and has to be disposed of.
  • Harbors voles and other potential rodents.
  • Doesn’t allow rainwater to water the bed and only where the hole of the plant is located can water enter, not sufficient usually to maintain the plant.

There are many other mulches. Depending on the region or continent, some can be easily decomposable and thus used for mulch. I have spoken regularly on using partially decomposed compost as mulch.  See my blog on compost to read about the benefits. https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/soil-improvement/turning-compost-pile/

Then there are waste materials that prove excellent for mulching, like compost, ground coconut husk, dried fallen leaves, dried grass clippings, black or soy ink newspapers.  I’m sure there are many great and decomposable materials that I have missed listing here.  Feel free to comment and add them.

Ordering Seeds

Ordering Seeds

Planning and ordering seeds in winter involves deciding on the crop variety, checking which ones performed well in past seasons, and choosing a reliable supplier, preferably offering organic seeds. Potentially damaging factors like dealing with disease-prone varieties it’s best to use F1 varieties and staying away from today’s controversial genetically modified (GMO). Some companies sell seeds with fungicides that destroy soil microorganisms, shifting you away from organic growing. The advice emphasizes awareness of seed viability and endorsements against using harmful GMO seeds.

Factors that Influence Watering

Factors that Influence Watering

The amount of water necessary for a garden depends on factors such as the type of soil, weather, vegetables being grown, mulch used, and watering mechanism. Sandy soil drains quickly and needs more water, while clay soil retains water longer. Mulching can help conserve water, especially in hot summer months. Certain vegetables require more water during key growth periods, while others tolerate dryness. The application of organic matter can facilitate better soil percolation and moisture retention, while breed selection can match watering needs to the garden’s conditions.

Harboring Insects and Diseases

Harboring Insects and Diseases

How To Prevent Harboring Insects and Diseases

There are times when I’m so busy I don’t have time to do the things I recommend. This past season I had two separate gardens in two different locations.  I had moved and I no longer lived near one of them. My energy was focused on my new location. In turn my compost pile at one location had fully decomposed and I could see it was mostly soil. As a gardener one must always keep in mind any actions that can lead to harboring of insect and diseases.

Prevent insect infestations like Japanese grubs

Once the season was over, I realized the folly of holding on to the one garden and decided it was time to dismantle everything and relocate to my new site.  I started moving my fresh compost and everything was great until I found myself digging a foot and a half deep.  There they were an abundance of grubs!

Turning Your Compost

As you can see from the picture on the right, I was breeding lots of grubs. This can happen, as the environment is ideal. I had kept adding new vegetable scraps and other materials, and covering with a layer of soil, but never turning the whole compost pile.  Maybe it was the warmth provided from the decomposition and the safety of undisturbed soft compost that drew such a high breeding ground of grubs.  Lesson learned: turn your compost at least once a month no matter how small in order to prevent insect infestations like this. See video on turning your compost https://youtu.be/030HTgPO_Eo

Clean-up After Harvesting 

Sometimes it’s easy to just walk away and leave the dead plant material behind. Whatever insects and diseases were present will hibernate and come back as pest infestation the following year. Therefore, cleaning, removing and disposing of infested plants along with taking note of where certain crops were grown is very important.  This way you can rotate your crops and plant a totally different family the following year. If rotation is tough due to limited space, see if you can share with a neighbor and make an arrangement for each to grow different vegetables, thus allowing you to rotate your crops.

Precautions When There are Mild Winters

One advantage of mild winters or a very long fall is that you can continue to harvest your greens as well as other fall season crops.  These are: lettuce, mustard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, bok choy and many more. They will continue to develop, and you can harvest them if they are protected against that occasional frost with row covers. Warm winter or a long fall also means that your insect population can continue to thrive and if there are no preventive measures like using a row cover you can end up harboring insects and diseases . To learn more about row covers: https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/maintenance/fabric-row-covers-keeping-bugs/

Following these simple suggestions can go a long way in the prevention of insect infestations.

Disadvantages of a Warm Winter

  • Many insects and diseases die when there is a hard winter as the cold kills them. If the temperatures are very mild, the following season, the populations of insects tends to be higher and so are the diseases which can result in heavy insect infestations.
  • If the weather stays warm or a warm spells comes along and is long enough, fruiting trees can bloom early; then, when the frost comes, the blooms die and you will lose the crop.

To learn more about growing vegetables, crop rotation, and controlling insects purchase my book ‘Garden the Organic Way’ https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Carrots are Not Germinating?

Carrots are Not Germinating?

Carrots have a slow germination rate, taking up to 30 days to germinate. It is recommended to use a fast-germinating companion plant like radishes or mark the seeding spot. More insights can be obtained from the book ‘Garden the Organic Way’ or the respective YouTube gardening videos.

Growing Sorrel

Growing Sorrel

Sorrel, a perennial herbaceous plant, belongs to the buckwheat family with two common types being Garden and French sorrel. It is recognized for its citrus or sour flavor, and its leaves add a tangy taste to salads. Sorrel is hardy, adapted to various climates and its roots are invasive, thriving even in poor soil conditions. It grows best in moist, sandy soil, and its leaves should be harvested when young for a milder flavor. It’s recommended to eat in small quantities due to the high level of oxalic acid.

The Loss of Farmland – The Diminishing Of Our Food part 3

The Loss of Farmland – The Diminishing Of Our Food part 3

PART 3

My goal is to emphasize the importance of local food production and encourage more people to get involved in the process. The loss of farmland has made us dependent of food from far away, potentially making us vulnerable to food shortage.

Growing some of our own food will help us be better prepared to address food supply challenges, ensuring that people have access to food, regardless of their location.  prior posts

Parthttps://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/food-for-thought/loss-farmland-diminishing-food/

Part 2 https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/food-for-thought/loss-farmland-diminishing-food-part-2/

flooded land
Flooded land

Extreme weather Conditions

“This is the only planet we’ve got. Years from now, I want to be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eyes and tell them that we did everything we could to protect it.” President Obama on combating climate change.  April 18, 2015.

Most people have come to the conclusion that the climate is changing. How does it impact our food?  Pages could be written about this topic but a few examples will suffice to bring to our attention how fragile our food system is, due to climate change.

In 2014 alone, in the Northeast we had a strange winter with many fluctuations in the weather.  The temperatures were extremely cold for days and then it warm up suddenly.  This is confusing to us; imagine what it did to the plants.

Some local farmers have pick-your-own fruit farms; for apples, peaches and cherries.  People come to come and pick the fruit and purchase it. Farmers cancelled the harvest as they had none.  When the trees were in full bloom and a dramatic, unusual drop of temperature happened it causes the flowers to drop, and the crop was complete lost.

Loss of Food Due to Climate Change

Summer apples and other fruits are readily available locally. Instead of depending on far away places, be it California, Chile or Israel, we see the supermarkets announcing ‘locally grown’. This makes everyone happy, as they associate freshness with goodness. It becomes irrelevant if it’s organic or not. In the year 2014, there was no local produce available during the spring. The fruit continued to come from faraway places until the late season apples finally came in. This is what aroused my curiosity as to why we were dependent on food coming thousands of miles away so late into the season.

There have been losses in other states from all types of freaky weather patterns, be it extreme floods, droughts, sudden temperature fluctuations, tornadoes or the many other possible conditions that continue to happen regularly. Crops are lost, food is lost. We have become more dependent on food coming from overseas, be it Mexico or other Central American countries, to South American and countries that are even further away.

Food from Overseas

The more our food production is stressed, the more we will draw from other countries to feed us. These countries, in particular, are those in Latin America. Some farmers in countries like Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia are growing organic food and exporting it to the US. But most of these countries are not regulated like we are in the US. They can spray whatever they like to the food and, as long as it doesn’t have any disease or insects, it’s placed on your shelf.

Eighteen years ago, I remember visiting my family in Colombia. We decided to go to the mountains to be away from the city. I recall how there were no birds around, not one single bird did I see flying, nor did I hear their sounds. I questioned this and no one had an answer. But there were a lot of farms in the area with coffee fields and all sorts of plantations. Where was the wildlife? Why was there such silence and lack of birds? DDT or some other similar chemical? 

These countries are also suffering from climate change. They are undergoing floods as well as loss of farmland and crops. So, when we hear that we can switch over to eating grains and imported foods, it may not be the best choice.

Next time you are at the supermarket, see where your produce comes from. Take the time to check what regulations exist regarding pesticides and chemicals on food in these countries. The US still produces DDT  even though we don’t use it in this country for farming, it is sent overseas.

Food For Thought

Some children are already hungry.

What about those who will come after us?  Will they have enough to eat? 

Today, we all want to know what we can do the help save and heal the planet. The answer is simple and often overlooked: it all starts with the food we eat. We have the ability to make a significant change to our planet by growing some of our food organically. My mission here is to show you how you can grow your own food (even if it is just a small portion of all the food that you eat).  If many do this, no one will grow hungry.

Buying from local growers and small farmers, and joining community-supported agricultural farms and demanding organic food will cut down on carbon emissions.  Support local, small-scale sustainable agriculture and create a healthier you and a healthier environment.

To learn about growing your own food and offset the carbon footprint get my book ‘Garden the Organic Way’.https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Most importantly, learning how to grow some of your food will educate you and your family on how to subsidize your food.  If food prices continue to rise, and we face serious food shortages as populations continue to grow, and climate change increases, you will be prepared.  “Soldado avisado no muere en guerra”.

The Loss of Farmland – Diminishing Of Our Food part 2

The Loss of Farmland – Diminishing Of Our Food part 2

The importance of local food production is emphasized to address food supply challenges. Loss of farmland due to drought in California is highlighted and the need for solutions like water conservation and technology implementation is discussed. Corporate farming and chemical pollution’s impact on the environment and food quality are also addressed.

The Loss of Farmland- Diminishing of Our Food- Part 1

The Loss of Farmland- Diminishing of Our Food- Part 1

The author discusses the diminishing availability of wholesome, chemical-free food worldwide due to the loss of farmland. Increasing urban sprawl and the conversion of farmland into housing projects or for corporate use are the main contributors. The author highlights the need for measures to protect farmland, promote localized food production, and raise awareness about the long-term implications of this issue through a blog series.

Growing Broccoli

Growing Broccoli

Broccoli ready to be harvested

Growing broccoli is a staple in my garden. It is part of the cabbage family like kale, cauliflower, collard greens among others. To learn about some members of the cabbage family: https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/vegetables/how-to-grow-cauliflower/ Broccoli is extremely high in vitamin K and C and has lots of minerals, as well as phytonutrients and flavonoids that protect against different cancers. It also has more protein than the average vegetable and a low calorie count. You can eat the leaves; I wash them, freeze them and add them to smoothies. These whole family  are highly nutritious vegetables, and broccoli is definitely a superfood. 

Starting Plants

To grow broccoli you need transplants in the north east during the spring to accommodate the shorter spring  growing season. If it warms up early the heads bolt (opening into full fledge flowers) before the heads are able to develop. Transplants should be started six to seven weeks before the last spring frost prior to planting them outdoors. Seeds will germinate when the temperatures are as low as 40°F, which means that, technically, you could direct seed them in the spring but they will germinate faster if the soil is warmer. It is best to keep the plants in an environment of 60°F and in direct sun to avoid them getting leggy. Once the plants have four to five true leaves, then transplant them outdoors, planting about 18” to 20” apart.

‘Garden the Organic Way’ book

For a fall planting, you can direct seed them from late May to late July or midsummer, depending on location and how fast the frost arrives. Once the plants have enough development, then place them in the correct location with proper spacing. To learn all about organic gardening you can purchase https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Plant Care

Broccoli grows in full sun and cooler weather. It can get up to three feet tall depending on the variety and it can spread between two to three feet apart. The leaves tend to be greenish, while other varieties have a bluish cast.

The soil should have good amounts of organic matter but don’t over fertilize. Too much fertilizer can cause hollow stems to develop. The plant will then not be able to hold itself up or be strong enough to hold the head. Mulching them will not only prevent weeds and keep moisture even but also prevent root damage, as the roots are shallow, and they can get damaged when weeding.

A well-drained soil is necessary to prevent diseases. They do well with a pH ranging in the area of 6.0 to 7.5, which means they tolerate some alkalinity. The plants do need good amounts of moisture for proper development. Once the plants begin to produce heads, then add a side dressing of organic fertilizer or water them with compost tea.

Side shoots of broccoli. Cabbage white butterfly (cabbageworm) laying eggs on the leaves.

Harvesting

Different varieties will mature at different stages. Some are early and will mature in early summer versus others maturing in mid to late summer and other varieties are best suited for fall. Therefore, plant different varieties to stretch the harvest season from May all the way into August. Heat-tolerant varieties should be planted in the spring versus the fall. The head should be between six to ten inches in diameter when harvested.

Once the main head develops, and before it opens, you should harvest them. Broccoli, unlike other plants, continues to produce from the side shoots. The heads will be small and abundant, and you can continue to harvest them for another month. You can choose to let some of these side shoots open into full bloom and let the bees and other insects enjoy their nectar. The fall harvest will tolerate a light frost but not a hard frost.

Growing broccoli seedlings under cloth cover in the spring.

Insects and Pests

This whole family has a lot of pests that are a real nuisance. Growing broccoli can be a real challenge unless you use cloth row covers to keep the pests out. From the time I place the transplants outdoors in the early spring I cover the seedlings. I do remove the cover once it gets too hot. If I did not, then the plants would get overly tall and the heads would take extra-long to develop or be relatively small. Once the protective cloth is removed, you have to apply BT or be constantly checking for larva and eggs from multiple pests. In particular, it is likely to be the cabbageworm.

In the fall, you can leave the protective covers on for the length of the season as the days get cooler. The plants may get big, since they are planted in the late summer. You can also spray with BT early on for the fall planting, and once the temperatures drop more in September, cover them before the heads begin to develop. I choose to keep them covered and to then air them out every day, since I’m dealing with a small planting versus a large farm area where this may not be practical.

Other insects that attach this family and make growing broccoli a real challenge are flea beetles, cabbage aphids, cutworms and cabbage root maggots. To avoid a buildup of diseases, I recommend a three year rotation of the whole family. If you do get clubroot, then add some additional lime to raise the pH above 7.2, and this will help kill off the disease.

You can also get the ‘Garden the Organic Way’ eBook http://Amazon- Garden the Organic Way