The Bee-Friendly Garden – Book Review

February 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Adult Book Reviews, Gardening

Book title:  The Bee-Friendly Garden

Authors:  Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn

Release date:  February 9, 2016

My rating:  4 stars

Review:

About 10 years ago we moved to this gorgeous place we still call home. One of the attractions about moving here was that there were two large gardens on the property. I had great dreams of gardening the spring and summer away.  It didn’t quite work out that way.  My passion level, my other responsibilities and the overwhelming amount of weeds did me in.  I now have two large weed patches on my 3 acre space.  🙁

But I’m still intrigued and still consider myself a wanna-be gardener and hope, some day, to make that a reality.  That’s one of the reasons I was excited to get this book.

Isn’t it pretty?  The cover is lovely and the entire book is full of gorgeous garden photographs. I love it just for that. Do yourself a favor and get the paperback book rather than the kindle version of this one – you’ll be glad you did.

If you’re a homeschooling family, or just a family that loves to do projects together, this book can be your textbook for a unit study on bees.  Talk about hands on learning!  The first section of the book gives fabulous details about various species of bees and the rest of the book will help you to study and plant a gorgeous bee (and other beneficial insects) garden no matter how much space you have.  The format is pretty user friendly and you don’t have to be a master gardener to make it work.

Even if you don’t plan to plant a bee-friendly garden, this book would make a great coffee table book and will create some great discussion around the table with family and friends.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend this lovely book!

 

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I received no compensation for this post nor was I required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

 

Tips for Extending the Life of Your Outdoor Wooden Deck

June 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Gardening

If your deck gets damaged or begins to become structurally unsound, repairing or replacing it can get pretty costly. Maintaining your deck is a much better option that’s more economical in the long run. To help prevent expensive problems from developing, here are some tips for extending the life of your outdoor wooden deck.

1. Regular Inspections

Twice a year – usually in spring and fall – it’s a good idea to check on the structure and overall state of your deck. Look for moisture build-up on joints, especially the butt joints, and also on the posts and beams of your deck. If water is pooling anywhere, it will affect the structural integrity of the deck. So you’ll want to make adjustments to see that the water drains, perhaps by adjusting the angle of the joints and beams so that gravity will take care of the water.

While you are inspecting your deck, remember to look for insect damage, too. Old wasps’ nests, carpenter bee holes, and other damage will need to be repaired. Wood putty works for repairing holes and gauges; wasps’ nests can be scraped off (just make sure they are not occupied!).

2. Keep It Clean

Regularly spray your deck with a garden hose. If there is some dirt build-up, algae, mold, or mildew, use a scrub brush and mild soap and water to scrub these areas. Just a note – make sure the scrub brush you use has nylon or natural bristles. A wire brush or steel wool pad can cause deep scratches with metallic stains.

Using a power washer every year or so can take this hose cleaning up a notch. Keeping the PSI under 2500 is recommended.

3. Sweep and Rake

Don’t let leaves, sticks, and so forth pile up on your deck. If you do, they will rot and stain your deck. They will also hold moisture close to the wood, leading to rot. So periodically get the “fall out” off your deck and let the air and sunshine dry the wood.

4. Paint or Sealant

Applying a coat of paint every five years is recommended. A fresh coat of paint or stain helps keep certain insects at bay, too, particularly carpenter bees. If you are using a sealant, you can stain the deck first and then apply the sealant. You might prefer a combination product that will seal and stain. Power washing before staining, painting, and/or sealing is recommended.

5. Prevent Insect Damage

Take steps to prevent insects from eating your deck or making their homes in it. Keeping it sealed and painted is a good first step. Also, be on the lookout for bees and wasps that may be building nests, and treat the area accordingly. Don’t have lights on all night around your deck, as this attracts bugs – if you want lighting on your deck at night, choose a variety that does not attract insects.

Why Spiders Are Good In Our Garden

June 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Gardening

A lot of people tend to react to spiders – especially big ones – with fear. Garden spiders can get quite large, but before you run, scream, or squish, stop and think about the benefits of having spiders in your garden.

Yes, spiders can be beneficial. They eat insects that cause problems for humans, such as wasps and mosquitoes. They do tend to be secretive and reclusive, which contributes to their creepy reputation. They move quickly when startled, and you never know when you will come upon one.

But spiders are not trying to be sneaky in order to scare you; this elusiveness is how they survive. They can sneak up on their prey and remain still and out of sight for hours, keeping them safe from predators that would like to eat them. Let’s take a look at some of the types of beneficial spiders that can be found in your garden.

* Crab spiders are the chameleons of the arachnid world. They can change their colors and patterns to match their environment, and take up residence deep inside flower blossoms. When one flower fades, they move into another one, changing color and pattern to match whichever flower they are living in. They prey on wasps, bees, flies, caterpillars, and just about any other insect that crawls along the ground (or a flying insect that has landed).

* Wolf spiders are rather scary looking, but you need not fear them unless you are a garden pest. Like crab spiders, wolf spiders hunt their prey rather than spinning a web and capturing it. They lie in wait or stalk their meals that consist of almost any insect pest.

* Yellow Garden Orb-Weavers are spiders that weave large, beautiful webs that sometimes look as if they have writing down the middle (hence another name for these yellow-and-black striped beauties: writing spider). These spiders are quite large, and their elaborate webs are lethal to all kinds of flying pests, such as mosquitoes, moths, wasps, hornets, etc. Such webs can be annoying to humans, but there are few things more breath-taking than one of these orb webs covered in dew drops on a sunny morning.

You can encourage spiders in your garden by not spraying broad-spectrum insecticides (spiders are not insects, but they will succumb to insect sprays). Another thing you can do is spread thick mulch that gives hunting spiders a place to hide and spend the winter. Encourage web-weavers with an outside light that attracts flying insects. Spiders will weave their webs near the light to take advantage of the bugs.

Safety

While very few spiders possess the mouth parts capable of breaking human skin, it’s a good idea to leave them alone. Wear gloves in the garden, especially if you are working among wood logs, in mulch, or other spidery hide-outs. Tell your children the same thing, without inciting fear. Spiders are beautiful, beneficial creatures to watch but not touch.

The Natural Beauty of Living Roofs

March 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Gardening

English: A modern house with a living roof The...

English: A modern house with a living roof The roof of a building that is covered with vegetation and soil (or with a growing medium) is called a living or a green roof. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_roof (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year when I was driving to a friend’s house I noticed this beautiful roof off in the distance. It had beautiful flowers and greenery growing on it… so smart.  The idea of using living materials for a roof is not a new one. Applying it to modern buildings, however, is relatively new. How is the ancient art of a living roof compatible with modern building methods? And why would anyone choose a living roof for his or her home?

The Living Roof – What Is It?

A living roof, also known as a green roof, can be constructed on an existing roof or incorporated into a new structure. It can be used on commercial or private buildings. A corrugated, aluminum sheet is placed on the roof, followed by a waterproof membrane. Some builders will then apply a sheet of foam and another waterproof membrane. Drains are incorporated into the design.

 

 

Over all of the weatherproofing layers, about 4 inches of soil is placed and various greenery is planted. Many green roof builders like to focus on native plants for their rooftop “garden.”

So what are the main advantages and disadvantages of having a living roof? Read on to find out.

Green Roof Workshop

Green Roof Workshop (Photo credit: Rob Harrison)

Advantages of a Living Roof

* Less Reflective Heat – The sunlight and heat that are reflected off of urban buildings’ roofs can greatly increase the temperature within a city. Green roofs eliminate the reflective factor, absorbing and utilizing the sun’s light.

* Insulation – Earth is a good insulator, and having four or more inches of it on your roof will keep your building cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

* Protection – The soil and plants on a living roof protect the roof structure beneath from the elements, thus preventing the wear and tear (and the subsequent leaks) that can result from exposure to the weather.

* Wildlife – Green roofs provide wildlife habitat, especially if native species are planted. Particularly in urban areas, living roofs can act as an oasis to wildlife.

* Clean air – Plants clean the air, soaking up carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen. The air around your structure will be cleaner as a result, and the more living roofs that are planted, the cleaner the air over a wider area.

* Absorption of rainwater – This helps control storm run-off, which can cause problems when it is excessive. It can also be a source of pollution.

Disadvantages of a Living Roof

* Initial expense – Living roofs can be expensive to construct. Some of the cost can be offset, though, in the savings on heating and cooling, or if you grow your own food on the living roof.

* Maintenance – Like a garden, a living roof will need some maintenance. It might need watering during a dry spell, or fertilizer may be necessary. Choosing native plant species will reduce the amount of maintenance.

* Weight – Soil is heavy, and some roof structures cannot support it.

Living roofs are beautiful, green structures that combine the necessities of building with the beauty of a garden.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Eco-Friendly Lawn Tips

February 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Gardening

Lawn

The green American lawn, with its well-groomed, square patch of grass, can come at an environmental price. Because a lawn that is nothing but grass (all clipped to a uniform length) is a rather unnatural thing, achieving it often means the use of gas-powered machines, pesticides, and weed killers. You can achieve a beautiful lawn, however, without damaging the environment. Here are some tips for caring for your lawn in an eco-friendly way.

1. Use a rain barrel. These handy containers are not hard to hook up – just attach one to your downspout – and you will have gallons of free rainwater to maintain your lawn. A rain barrel will fill up astonishingly fast.

2. Invest in a reel mower. Gasoline-powered lawn mowers are not only noisy; they pollute and, of course, they use fossil fuel. Reel mowers are powered by human muscle, so you’ll get a good workout and a nice lawn. Your neighbors will appreciate the quiet, too. When you do mow, keep the grass clippings on the lawn. They act as a mulch, reducing the need for water.

3. Do more things manually. Americans are trying to get in shape by joining health clubs, but you can work off a lot of calories by raking, sweeping, and clipping by hand. And you will use much less fossil fuel and electricity that way.

4. Think beyond grass. If you have to make a lot of artificial adjustments to grow grass, maybe grass isn’t the right lawn plant for you. Clover, moss, and other interesting plants – particularly native plants – make excellent and beautiful lawn cover. If you plant the right herbage for your area, it will be much easier to maintain, too. Investing in native plants is one way to cut down on invasive species that can dominate and destroy local ecosystems.

5. Consider planting a garden, especially an informal, “English” garden that is meant to look a bit unkempt. You could also be even more eco-friendly and plant a vegetable garden where your lawn used to be.

6. Re-think the weed. Do you battle dandelions, ground ivy, clover, plantain, or other plants considered “weeds”? Take a moment and research some of these tenacious plants and you will probably be impressed with their usefulness.

Plantain, for example, makes a superior treatment for insect bites; dandelions have edible, nutritious greens and beautiful, fragrant flowers that can be used to make wine. Dandelion roots can even be roasted, ground, and drunk like coffee. Once you learn some of the uses for these plants, you may find yourself treasuring them rather than trying to eradicate them!

7. Use natural pesticides and herbicides if you feel the need to eradicate pests or certain weeds. These are generally available even in mainstream garden centers, or you can make your own.

Enhanced by Zemanta

How to Choose the Right Composting System for Your Home

February 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Gardening

Compost

Compost (Photo credit: nancybeetoo)

It’s the middle of winter but that doesn’t mean it’s too early or not a good time to think about your spring gardening chores.  Composting is an excellent practice for young and old alike and easy for kids of almost all ages to help with at various levels.

There are as many composting systems as there are gardeners out there! From small space to large farms, gardeners have all sorts of creative ways to compost their waste. Which system is right for you and your family?

Here are some questions to ask yourself before starting your compost project, and a list of some of the more common systems. This should help you determine what the best system is for your situation.

How much do you compost?

Do you have a lot of acreage? Do you mow and rake a large area and end up with a lot of lawn waste? Or do you basically want a system to compost kitchen scraps? Consider how much waste you generate before deciding on a system.

How big an area do you want to enrich with compost?

Whether you have a small garden, an indoor garden, or multiple, large gardens, they all need compost. Take a moment to calculate how much area you are going to be enriching with compost before beginning, so you don’t end up with too much or too little compost (although your neighbors may appreciate any extra you have!).

Here are some of the compost systems available:

1. Pile it up
The least complicated compost system is simply a pile on the ground in a location that receives a balance of sun and shade. Simply start with yard clippings and add kitchen scraps, and use a pitchfork or shovel to keep it heaped so that it will decompose. This kind of compost will need to be turned by hand. The open pile system may be a problem in certain cities or neighborhoods, so check with your local zoning officials to find out if this kind of system is allowed.

2. An open bin
Also a fairly simple method, an open bin can be constructed with wood and wire netting. This is a good way to use scrap wood such as old packing pallets. Such a bin can have a slatted wood bottom, or simply sit on the ground surrounded by the wood and wire structure. You don’t even need wood scraps; an open bin can consist of a cross section of perforated metal sheeting, or an upright, cylindrical loop of wire. Again, this is a potentially problematic system for those who live in cities or suburbs with close neighbors.

3. A closed compost bin
These look like large, plastic barrels, and that is essentially what they are. Most municipalities accept this kind of composting system, and your local waste management authority should have information about where to obtain such a bin. In fact, some waste management authorities have such bins available for sale. There are quite of few styles and varieties of commercial bins available, including some that can be turned from the outside. Generally speaking, those offered by municipalities are less expensive that those sold at garden centers or online.

4. A worm bin
This is a method of compost that can be done indoors in a garage or basement. Sometimes called vermicomposting, a worm bin uses the natural habits of worms to break down kitchen and yard waste into usable compost. You can purchase a worm bin or make your own – just be sure it is waterproof, has air holes and is opaque (worms like it dark).

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

How to Make Your Own Birdseed Mix

January 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Gardening

English: Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes ery...

Red-headed Woodpecker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to Make Your Own Birdseed Mix

Last week we talked about the importance of your commitment when you decide to start feeding the wild birds in your yard.  This is especially important in the winter.

 

There are a lot of premixed bird seed mixtures

A bird-seed dispenser

A bird-seed dispenser (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

on the market and you can buy them at any discount store and even in bulk at most do it yourself stores and warehouse stores.  People who enjoy watching birds know it is important to offer them food to entice them to your yard. You could buy those expensive pre-mixed birdseeds, but why spend the extra money when you can make your own birdseed mix. Here ís a recipe birds will love.

Ingredients:

4 cups black-oil sunflower seeds
2 cups whole oats
1 cup corn meal
1 cup dried fruit

Step 1  Put the sunflower seeds into a food processor and grind for two seconds. You donít want the seed to be entirely ground but broken up to make it easier for the birds to eat. Pour the sunflower seeds into a large bowl.

Step 2  Pour the whole oats into the processor and grind them in the same manner as the seeds. Pour the oats into the bowl with the seeds.

Step 3  Add the corn meal to the bowl and then stir it together.

Step 4  Chop the dried fruit into small bits to make it easier for the birds to eat. Use cranberries, raisins, apricots, or other dried fruit. Add that to the other ingredients and blend it together.

Step 5  Pour the entire mixture into a storage container which seals well.

Step 6  Place some of the mixture into your bird feeders. Take time to see how many different birds come to your feeder to enjoy what you made.

You can alter the above recipe by adding or substituting any of the following:

* White proso millet
* Safflower seeds
* Cracked corn

Enhanced by Zemanta

How to Attract and Feed Wild Birds in the Winter

January 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Gardening

The Black-capped Chickadee is the state bird o...

The Black-capped Chickadee is the state bird of Massachusetts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to Attract and Feed Wild Birds in the Winter

One of my favorite parts about living where I do is that every morning, when I look out my kitchen window, I see a bunch of juncos and chickadee birds waiting in the evergreen tree for me to open the window just a bit and sprinkle some birdseed on the ledge.  I barely get the window closed again before the first chickadee sails in to start eating. They’re so cute and I’m glad I’m able to provide something for them during the cold winter months.

Bird seed mixture in a bird feeder

Bird seed mixture in a bird feeder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

During the winter, food becomes scarce for wild birds and many people like to provide food for them. Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to feed wild birds this winter.

1. You are making a commitment

There is a certain responsibility in taking on wild bird feeding. Bear in mind that you will need to purchase bird feed, and make trips out to your bird feeder at least several times a week to replenish the feed or clean up the area. And once you begin, the birds will come to depend on your offerings.

2. The right food

Certain birds like certain foods, and you are more likely to attract birds to your backyard if you have feed specific to their needs. Find out what kinds of birds are in your area and which ones you want to attract. Then buy the feed accordingly.

Here are the preferred diets of some of the more common backyard birds.

– Sunflower seeds: black-capped chickadees, blue jays, dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, gold finches, evening grosbeaks
– White millet: mourning doves, house finch, gold finch
– Cracked corn: cardinals, mourning doves, pigeons, blue jays, starlings
– Peanuts: tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, red and white-breasted nuthatches, hairy and downy woodpeckers
– Suet: black-capped chickadees, evening grosbeaks, house and gold finches

Sparrows will eat all of the above except peanuts.

3. The right feeder

Some birds, such as mourning doves and black-eyed juncos, prefer feeding on the ground. If you want to attract ground-feeders, be sure you have some sort of covering in the form of shrubbery or fencing, as ground-feeding tends to attract predators. If you have a hanging feeder, it’s still a good idea to provide protection for ground-feeders because some of the seed will fall to the ground, attracting ground-feeding birds. For hanging feeders, get one that is sturdy and has a guard against squirrels and raccoons.

4. Plant trees and shrubs with winter berries

Another way to attract birds to your back yard is to have plants that bear fruit in the winter that some birds like. Examples include dogwood, American holly, wax myrtle, and firethorn. These are also lovely landscape plants, and they provide protection for their feathered partakers in the form of thorns or dense growth.

5. Water

A water source such as a birdbath also attracts birds. In the winter, you will need to keep the water from freezing either by hand (such as pouring warm water into it periodically) or by purchasing a commercial birdbath that uses electricity to heat the water.

6. Be patient

It often takes a few days for the birds to discover your buffet. If you are willing to wait, however, some feathered friends will eventually show up. As word gets around, more and more birds will come to your feeder.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...