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Saving the Bees - One Buzzzzz at a Time


Saving the Bees - One Buzzzzz at a Time

Why are bees important?

            Bees are responsible for pollination valuing nearly $15 billion in crops such as almonds, other nuts, fruits, vegetables, and berries. In California alone, the almond crop uses 1.3 million bee colonies which is about half of all of the honey bees in the United States. The number of bee colonies has been steadily dropping since the 1940’s while the need for pollination is growing steadily as well. As a result, bees are being imported. This poses a problem in that with the introduction of bees from other areas, there is an introduction in pathogens and pests that are fatal to the bees.   

But, where have all of the Bees Gone?

            While it doesn't appear that any of the bees have common environmental factors that could attribute to their illness, death, and disappearance, 3 factors have been identified. Pesticides could be a cause of issues with the bees, specifically, neonicotinoids. Another possible cause suggested by researchers is a new parasite or pathogen not yet familiar to the bees. The prime pathogen suspect is Nocema: a parasite that not only causes dysentery in the bees but renders them unable to fly due to disjointed wings as well. This parasite is in addition to the better known Varroa Mite.            The third possible cause is an increasing level of stress among the hives. Research has shown that stress in the worker bees can cause decreased immune systems which can make them more susceptible to an array of diseases.

What can be done?

            You can switch to natural and organic pesticides in your garden, ones that will not harm the honeybees in your area. Additionally, you can plant bee attracting plants to boost the honeybees and pollination in your area. Some plants that attract honeybees include:

Dill, Borage, Chives, Mint, Oregano,Thyme, Comfrey, Catmint, Sea Holly, Globe Thistle, Coneflower, Cleome, Zinnia, Aster, Alyssum, Salvia, Sedum,  Asclepias (Butterfly Weed), Lavender, Joe Pye Weed, Sunflower and many more.  Be sure to have plants in your garden for all seasons - spring, summer and fall.


Three Sisters Garden


Three Sisters Garden

If you’re looking for something new to add to your garden this year, sometimes the best gardening ideas are the oldest. The Three Sisters Method of vegetable gardening stems from the Native American tradition of companion planting. The premise behind the Three Sisters method is to create a vegetable garden that requires the least amount of tools. In this incredibly sophisticated garden plan, each plant benefits the other to create extended soil fertility and a plentiful harvest. This specific garden recipe calls for corn, beans and squash.

After mounding the earth to a 1’x2’ mound with the top flatted to a plateau, plant corn in the center. Next plant beans in a circle approximately 6” out from the corn. Beans germinate quite quickly, just pick out your favorite variety. Finally, plant the squash around the perimeter of the mound. When planting the squash be sure to either plant 3 seeds per hole, or if starting with plants keep multiple plants in each cell together.

You’ll want to plant this garden in full sun, it should receive at least six hours of sunlight per day.  Also, when planting corn it’s best to have at least 4 rows as corn is pollinated from the wind.  The multiple rows help aid in the pollination process.

The corn serves as food for the beans as well as a stake from them to grow up. The beans provide food and a nitrogen source for the corn and because they climb around the corn stalks, they actually provide more stability for the corn to stand through all New England weather - which we all know can be unpredictable. The squash plants  drop leaves creating an organic mulch, this prevents the moisture in the soil from evaporating. The squash will protect the garden from even the driest summers. Squash also acts as a deterrent to predators, protecting the beans and corn.

These three vegetables are not only complementary growing partners, but also nutritionally compatible. The corn supplies carbohydrates, while the beans contribute protein, and the squash provides necessary vitamins. In the spirit of maximizing the minimal, this method shakes up the garden as well as providing a great history lesson for kids on some of the lesser known Native American practices!


Quick Guide to Edible Flowers


Quick Guide to Edible Flowers

For those who haven’t used flowers in cooking before, eating a flower might seem like an odd concept.  You’ve likely picked off many of these flowers that garnished your dishes without even knowing they were actually edible. When choosing flowers to cook or bake with ensure that they were organically grown and of course, they are edible.  Some of our edible favorites include:


Daylily (Hemerocallis) Daylilies have a mild flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. They are delicious in a stir-fry and make a wonderful appetizer. Try stuffing them with cream-cheese dips or spreads.

Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) Anise Hyssop has a sweet, licorice-like flavor. The flowers are great in salads, fruit salads, and can also be sugar-glazed for decorating desserts.

Bee Balm (Monarda) – Bee Balm can be used to make tea.


Nasturtium (Tropaeolum) – Nasturtium has a peppery flavor. Both the leaves and flowers add flavor to salads and sandwiches.  I tend to use the flowers in my salads because they add such interesting summer colors to my dishes.


Marigold (Tagetes) – Marigold has a spicy flavor and it often used as a vegetable or salad garnish. The most common Marigold for eating is ‘Lemon Gem’. We grow this variety specifically for cooking and keep in our herb section so it’s easy to find.


Pansy (Viola) – Pansies have a sweet mild flavor.These are great in salads, or sugared for decorating and garnishing. What I love so much about Pansies is you could have them blooming in your garden from March to December if you grow them in partial sun.


Calendula – Calendulas have a tangy flavor almost similar to saffron.  They come in bright Oranges and Yellows  and brighten up any plate. The petals and flowers look great in salads and when used as a plate garnish.


Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – Chive flowers have a mild onion flavor and can be used both raw and cooked.  You can separate the petals for mild flavor in a salad, or use the entire blossom for stronger flavor. These can also be used in a stir fry or when sautéing.

Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) – Garlic Chive flowers have a garlicky flavor. You can separate the petals for mild flavor in a salad, or use the entire blossom for stronger flavor. These can also be used in a stir fry or when sautéing.

Roses – (Rosa) – Roses petals can be used fresh or dried. I prefer fresh because they look so much nicer this way.  They can be used in salads, desserts and teas. Also, they are quite beautiful when crystallized with sugar and used for desserts and garnishes.

Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms – Squash Blossoms are one of my favorites. They are delicious fried or stuffed with cream cheese mixtures. My favorite way to prepare them is to fry them. First I dip them in an egg mixture and then in seasoned flour. They are such a summer treat.

Many of these edible flowers are long bloomers and the key to lots of blooms is to deadhead (remove spent blooms) when past bloom.

There are so many other edible flowers. When experimenting with flowers be sure first; that they are edible and second; that they are grown organically.  What flowers will you be eating for dinner tonight?