Bees, Birds and Blooms

Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Gardening | 0 comments

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 a variety of flowers in your garden that will bloom at different times of the year. Bees are especially attracted to blue, purple, and yellow flowers. Native wildflowers provide bees with the most nutritious pollen and nectar, whereas many hybrid varieties are often all show, offering little or no nectar. Wildflowers also require less care than other imported varieties of flowers; often requiring less water, fertiliser, and pesticides than showy exotics. Single flowers are best – those with one ring of petals provide more nectar and pollen than double flowers, in which extra petals have replaced pollen-laden anthers. Similarly choose...

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It’s About Time We All Learned How Quinoa Grows

Posted by on June 3, 2017 in Gardening | 0 comments

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 ― which can taste quite bitter. AIZAR RALDES VIA GETTY IMAGESA quinoa processor in Bolivia. 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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Indigenous hybrids

Posted by on June 3, 2017 in Gardening | 0 comments

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

Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Gardening | 0 comments

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 you want to attract butterflies you need to provide them the food they love. Another benefit of going indigenous is that you encourage and help indigenous insects which dependent on these specific species of plants. For instance the Cabbage White butterfly was introduced to South Africa and thrives on non-indigenous (alien) garden plants from their home country. Going indigenous will help our indigenous butterflies compete against these introduced species. Go Wild While a formal manicured garden is beautiful, we prefer our garden a bit more wild. A wild garden is a better mimic of nature than a formal garden. Birds,...

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