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After the first 95-degree day, I noticed every squash plant had blossomed overnight. Each plant had several large squash blossoms, with plenty of buzzing bees, because they were so happy to get the kind of overnight heat they like.
Vegetable gardeners who have trouble growing in conventional in-ground vegetable beds, may want to give container gardening a try.
From my experience, vegetable gardeners have more control when gardening in containers — in spite of the weather.
This year’s container vegetable garden is about two weeks behind last year’s garden. In 2014 cherry tomatoes were ripe enough to eat in mid-July; this year, it was August First.
There were just two ripe-red tomatoes, but they were worth the wait.
If you’re a gardener who’s been conscientiously composting your kitchen waste and using the rich, crumbly material as a soil conditioner in your garden, it’s time to take your composting to the next level.
By mixing that earthy concoction with water and allowing it to steep, you can create a beneficial tea loaded with the nutrients that plants love.
Digging compost into flower and vegetable beds is an important part of any gardening program, but why stop at adding millions of beneficial bacteria to the soil when you add billions of bacteria instead?
The process of brewing compost into tea not only makes the organic matter more effective, but it improves its usefulness, too.
Compost tea can be used as both a foliar spray and a soil drench.
It’s peanut butter and jelly for lunch; cookies and milk for dessert.
When it comes to the garden, there’s tomatoes and basil; radishes and spinach.
These combinations of vegetables and herbs make perfect partners when grown together in the garden, especially if you’re gardening in a small space.
Basil makes the tomatoes tastier and radishes attract destructive leafminers away from the spinach. These botanical buddies are two examples of how plants team together to help each other.
Companion planting is the art and science of arranging combinations of two or more plants to benefit one another. Planting certain crops together saves garden space, controls pests and encourages healthy gardens.
Native Americans practiced companion planting for centuries by growing corn, beans and squash together. These vegetables are called the Three Sisters because they complement each other when planted in the same hill.
Because there’s a lot of confusion these days about seed and plant terms, I thought I’d share my answers to help you with your seed sorting, too.
Common Seed Terms Defined
GE—Genetically Engineered seed describes the method of incorporating genes directly into an organism. These seeds are not found in nature, but they are genetically engineered in the laboratory. Some examples of genetically engineered crops include corn modified to protect itself from corn borer damage and herbicide-resistant soybeans, canola and other crops. It’s unlikely that home gardeners will see any packets of GE seeds in garden centers or catalogs.
Please keep adding plants to your garden that attract bees with the nectar and pollen they need.
Stop using pesticides in your garden that can harm bees.
Register your pollinator garden with the Pollinator Partnership Network so we can reach 1 million gardens by 2016.
And while you’re at it, consider all the ways honeybees are special:
Bees evolved from wasps, but bees are chubbier and usually quite hairy.
All bees have some branched hairs on their bodies.
Cave paintings show that for thousands of years, people all over the world have risked physical harm in the pursuit of honey.
It’s safe to be around bees in the garden while they’re foraging for food.
Worker honey bees transform floral nectar into honey by adding enzymes and reducing the moisture.
I hope the idea of National Pollinator Week has inspired you to consider ways to help the pollinators in your garden. If you’re looking for even more inspiration, there’s a book I’d like to recommend to you. “Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” is a book from Dr. Stephen Buchmann, an important member of the Pollinator Partnership. The book (Bantam, 2005) will give you new insight into the hive and the vital role bees play in our history, culture and kitchens.
I had the chance to interview Dr. Buchman in 2005 when his book was first released. This interview originally was published in The Denver Post newspaper at that time.
The most overworked and under-appreciated garden helper is the bee.
Like their human commuter counterparts, bees leave their nests early each morning to go to work. Their day is spent flying from flower to flower searching for nectar and pollen. At dusk they return home to rest before the start of another busy workday.
The cocoon looked like a tightly wrapped bunch of leaves and it had some weight to it, too.
He left the cocoon, still attached to its branch on the patio table for me to find. To keep it from getting soaked in the daily deluges we experienced throughout May, I moved the cocoon and branch into the garage and left it on my workbench.
Then I promptly forgot about it.
That is until one day last week when he called me outside to see a moth that was lying on the ground.
“I was in the garage and felt something fluttering at my feet,” he said. “I saw this moth and moved it outside. I hope it’s okay.”
“It looks like it’s drying its wings,” I said. Then I took a few pictures and went back inside the house.
While this week in June is set aside as National Pollinator Week, we really should celebrate pollinators every week of the year.
One way to celebrate is to invite bees into your yard with little bee houses.
The simple “insect hotels” in the picture are part of a display at the Denver Botanic Gardens. There’s a wide variety of found materials here — from bricks to dried bamboo stalks to grasses.
“Many of the more than 500 species of bees native to the region use cavities like these to build their solitary nests,” the signage explains.
The display at my house isn’t as elaborate, but I still have plenty of bees. Orchard mason bees are one of the solitary bees that are especially fond of my landscape.
These bees are smaller than honeybees and have a shiny bluish-black color.
During National Pollinator Week, it’s important to celebrate all of our pollinators — including bats. If you’ve ever enjoyed a refreshing margarita, thank a bat. The blue agave plant, from which Tequila is derived, depends on bats as pollinators. Because bats are valuable, but often misunderstood, I thought I’d republish my bat article that originally ran in The Denver Post in 2005.
When Merlin Tuttle was growing up in Tennessee he made a remarkable discovery. The gray bats that resided in a nearby cave were migratory. His observations contradicted everything he had read about the bats.
“I got my parents to take me to the Smithsonian, where I politely informed leading authorities that I had found gray bats that seemed to migrate,” he recalled. “They were impressed with my observations, gave me several thousand bat bands and suggested I band them to see where they were going.”