Bees, Birds and Blooms

Bees, Birds and Blooms

August 2016 by Karen   (“Earth Probiotic Recycling Solutions”.) Forget about honey, pollen and royal jelly. Think of a world without beans, tomatoes, onions and carrots; not to mention hundreds of other vegetables, oil seeds and fruits that are dependent upon bees for pollination. These industrious insects have been around for over 125 million years and, although bee numbers are sadly declining, the remaining survivors continue to be invaluable to our planet in numerous ways. Bees and plants need one another. Insect pollinators such as bees and flower-bearing plants are the perfect example of a symbiotic relationship in nature. Bees need pollen and nectar for food and honey making; flowers need their pollen transported to other flowers, and then another flower’s pollen brought back in order to reproduce and make seeds. Without bees we’d starve to death. One out of every three bites of food we eat has been pollinated by a bee; they are responsible for about 35% of all food production globally. Honeybees pollinate about 50 crops in South Africa such as apples, asparagus, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, celery, cherries, citrus crops, cranberries, cucumber and melons, just to name a few. Their value to the economy is approximately R10,3 billion per annum. Bee pollination boosts yields. The more bees there are, the more fruit you get. In China, wild bee populations have declined to levels where farmers are now hand pollinating their orchards. Imagine the cost of labour to complete this task as well as the inefficiency. The decline of bee populations shows that somethings wrong in our environment One of the prime suspects of bee die-offs is a dangerous new group of pesticides called neonicotinoids. These pervasive killers are found in crops from corn to almonds, and in products around the average home like pet flea treatments and lawn care products. They are believed to damage the immune systems of bees, rendering them unusually susceptible to disease. Bees are the only insect that produces food eaten by man. Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water. It’s the only food that contains pinocembrin, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning. How to encouraging bees and other pollinators to our gardens An insectary garden designed to attract bees and other pollinators will increase your harvest of fruit and vegetables. Insectary gardens play an important role in preserving the diversity of ecosystems in modern times. Native plants, which provide food and nectar for many more insects than non-native plants do, are the foundation of a pollinator-friendly garden. Pollinators depend on combinations of plants that bloom from spring through summer and autumn. It is a good idea to include...

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It’s About Time We All Learned How Quinoa Grows

It’s About Time We All Learned How Quinoa Grows

Julie R. Thomson  Taste Senior Editor, HuffPost.  Quinoa, the protein-packed seed that everyone loves to eat, has taken ahold of our pantries. Even though it hails from South America ― most famously Bolivia and Peru ― many homes north of the equator have found ways to incorporate it into our breakfasts as a porridge, and we’re happy to fry it up into patties for dinner. Not to mention all the different ways you can turn it into a salad. Since quinoa has become such a staple in our diet, we thought it was time to know where those tiny seeds come from. In other words, how does it grow? If you don’t already know, you’re about to. RODRIGO BUENDIA VIA GETTY IMAGESA field of quinoa plants. Quinoa is harvested from tall green plants. While the plant sprouts are slow-growing at first, the plant eventually shoots up to and beyond three feet. The leaves of the plant resemble that of the edible weed lamb’s-quarter. The two are closely related, which means that the leaves of quinoa are also edible (so if you grow your own, feel free to toss them into a salad). RODRIGO BUENDIA VIA GETTY IMAGESA field of green quinoa. Quinoa thrives in cooler weather, and is extremely drought tolerant. It can also tolerate high levels of salt, wind and frost, which allows it to be cultivated in high risk areas. That’s why it was a main crop in the Andes, cultivated by the Incas since before 3,000 B.C. The part of the quinoa plant that we typically eat is the seed. (Remember, quinoa is a seed and not a grain.) In order to get the seed, the plant first needs to flower. This is what flowering quinoa looks like: TEMMUZCAN VIA GETTY IMAGESA field of flowering quinoa. And this is a closeup of the flower buds. DAVID MERCADO / REUTERSA closeup of flowering quinoa. Quinoa is ready to harvest when all the green leaves have fallen off the plant, and the plants are just seed heads on a stalk. Quinoa should be very dry when harvested, dry enough that you can’t dent the seed with your fingernail. Sometimes it’s left to dry on the stalk, other times it is dried post harvest. IMAGE BY CRISTOBAL DEMARTA VIA GETTY IMAGESA field of ready-to-harvest quinoa. Once harvested, the quinoa seed is fairly easy to remove from the seed heads. A hard shake can release most of them. DAVID MERCADO / REUTERSSeparating the seed from the seed head. But in commercial production they might use something a little more advanced. Quinoa needs to be polished or rinsed before eating to remove the seeds’ saponin coating ― the plant’s natural protectant from birds and insects ―...

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Indigenous hybrids

Indigenous hybrids

Our diverse indigenous plants have inspired many plant breeders both in South Africa and overseas. Every year, new hybrids appear on the market. Are these plants really better than the species types. Are they indigenous? Are species types better to use than hybrids or aren’t they? You’ll find that the choice between species and hybrids depends on your requirements.Arctotis makes for a fine example. The creeping species types come in a range of colours and have lovely, large flowers in spring time. They’re also as tough as nails and will cover ground quickly in harsh conditions. The hybrid types on the other hand, are usually clump forming and not quite as drought tolerant. At the same time, they flower more prolifically and will produce flushes of flowers all year round. This makes them ideal for smaller gardens where every plant has to make an impact. Examples would be hybrids such as ‘On Fire’ ‘Radiance Red’ and ‘Sunset Radiance’. This said, the hybrids do come in a magnificent range of colours, so they do make really pretty seasonal fillers to bring a lovely touch of colour to your Garden from July to December and if you’re lucky, they could last for more than one year. May you have a super week! Kind regards, The New Plant Team Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new...

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Gardening for Bees, Butterflies and Birds

Gardening for Bees, Butterflies and Birds

August 2016 by admin From:   “Earth Probiotic Recycling Solutions”. We were sitting in our garden the other evening – enjoying a glass of great South African wine – looking at our garden. Karen has done the most amazing job. Even in Winter we’ve had blooms all around. And have a vibrant colony (two hives) of bees, butterflies and – for the first time – have noticed some nectar feeding birds enjoying the flowers from our honeysuckle. This got us talking (thinking); if one planted for the specific purpose of attracting birds, bees and butterflies to your garden would your garden still be beautiful? This is not such a strange question: planting for beauty has a different purpose than planting for nature. When we moved into this beautiful – we are so lucky – home, the garden was different. The dominant colour was white. Now it is purple, orange, blue and red. Especially at the moment mostly yellow/orange/red. Orange from the Wild Dagga (also known as Lion’s Tail), Aloes, succulents. All beautifully in bloom at the moment (end of Winter). And with these blooms are the bees, butterflies and birds. The lesson for us, if you garden for nature you end up with a beautiful garden which attracts beautiful life. Looking at this accidental purpose, we’ve learnt a few things: Avoid Herbicides, Insecticides and Fertilisers Since we moved into our house five years ago we have never used any chemicals in our garden. We compost religiously, water sparingly and manually pull weeds from the soil (and even these we often leave as they also have a purpose). The main benefit of avoiding chemicals is that you protect and enhance biodiversity – from the little micro-organisms in the soil to the earthworms to the insects to the lizards and the birds. They all are part of the soil-food-web. When we first moved into our house, we were infested with the scary Parktown Prawn and Mole Crickets. Today these are rare visitors – their population is kept in check by the birds and especially the lizards in our garden (we don’t have cats). Go Indigenous The usual benefits of going indigenous include being water wise; planting plants which suit the environment in which you live; and enhancing local biodiversity. But we are also feeding natural food to the indigenous animals and insects which are endemic to the area. I’m always so enamoured by the number of birds nests which populate our South African acacia trees. Which also feed bees when in flower and whose shoots are much loved by the raucous Grey Loerie. Of course, the logic is also that our flying jewels, our butterflies, are very plant specific. So if...

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Rainbow roses.

Rainbow roses.

I came across this latest craze in the USA …. fake roses!  The roses are real but the colour is fake.  Gaudy, but interesting. You can now create a sensational centre piece for the table that will be a subject of much admiration or condemnation …you will certainly keep your visitors guessing! by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated February 20, 2017. Have you seen a rainbow rose? It’s a real rose, grown to produce petals in rainbow colors. The colors are so vivid, you may think pictures of the roses are digitally enhanced, but the flowers really are that bright! So, you may be wondering how the colors are made and whether the rose bushes that produce these flowers always bloom in vibrant colors. Here’s how it works and how you can make a rainbow rose yourself. HOW REAL RAINBOW ROSES WORK The “rainbow rose” was developed by Peter van de Werken, the owner of a Dutch flower company. While special roses are used, the plants are not bred to produce the rich colors. Actually, the rose bush would ordinarily produce white roses, but the stems of the flowers are injected over time with dyes so that petals form in bright single colors. If the flower isn’t treated as it is growing, the blooms are white, not rainbow. While the rainbow is a special version of the technique, other color patterns are also possible. It’s not a science trick you can achieve quite so well with your home rose bush, at least not without a lot of experimentation and expense, because most pigment molecules are either too large to migrate into the petals or else too toxic for the rose to flower. Special proprietary organic dyes, said to be made from plant extracts, are used to color the roses. MAKING RAINBOW ROSES AT HOME While you can’t duplicate the exact effect, you can get a lighter version of a rainbow using a white rose and food coloring. The rainbow effect is much easier to achieve with white or light-colored flowers that aren’t as woody as a rose. Good examples to try at home include carnations and daisies. If it has to be a rose, you can do the same project, but expect it to take longer. Start with a white rose. It’s best if it is a rosebud because the effect relies on capillary action, transpiration, and diffusion in the flower, which takes some time. Trim the stem of the rose so that it is not extremely long. It takes more time for color to travel up a longer stem. Carefully split the base of the stem into three sections. Make the cuts lengthwise up the stem 1-3 inches. Why three sections? The cut stem is fragile and likely to break...

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Dressed Soil is the Best Soil

Dressed Soil is the Best Soil

Article by Karen from Probiotic Team Soil sustains life and without it we would be hungry, homeless and naked! Soil grows 95 percent of the food we eat, yet only 25 per cent of the surface of the earth is made up of soil and only 10% of that soil can be used to grow food. Much of our clothing is made from materials that come from living things that could not exist if it were not for soil. Fabrics like cotton, linen, wool and silk are made by creatures that only exist because soil does. Many medicines including antibiotics such as penicillin come from secretions made by soil dwelling bacteria and fungi. Our homes, offices and schools are built with materials that come from soil and the soil is used as the foundation. Soil is second only to our oceans as the largest carbon repository on the planet. Soil is also the largest source of organic carbon, a vessel for approximately 75% of the carbon on land. Soil has a natural tendency to store carbon is essential for mitigating and adapting to climate change, as well as improving flood and drought resilience. Currently we are degrading this very soil that is meant to sustain life. Farmlands are not only paved over by urbanisation but are often poisoned with chemicals. A dependence and overuse of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides reduces long-term soil fertility, causes soil erosion, pollutes water supplies and poisons fragile ecosystems. There are simple yet affective solutions to rebuild and protect soil: Cover exposed soil with a 10cm layer of mulch – straw, dry leaves, even newspaper. Naked soil is dead soil. Continuously applying compost to soil boosts its ability to retain carbon. Humus is built from CO2 that would otherwise exist in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Prevent soil erosion by growing ground covers to hold soil which in turn prevents water run off. Tillage exposes humus to oxygen resulting in carbon loss, as well as contributes to loss of nutrients and its ability to store water. Topsoil is the top 20cm layer of soil which has the highest concentration of organic matter and microrganisms and is where most of the Earths biological soil activity occurs. Tilling destroys this ecosystem called the soil food web. Scientists have found that the worlds soil is one of our largest reservoirs of biodiversity, containing almost one-third of all life on our planet! A teaspoon of soil contains more microbes than people on earth. The whole of creation depends upon the soil, which is the ultimate foundation of our existence. – Friederich A Fallow Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to...

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