Since the article that I shared yesterday included using elderberry to boost the immune system, and I frequently do this during cold and flu season, I felt it imperative that I share the following article which explains that elderberry may be harmful or even deadly when fighting COVID-19. I will be putting my elderberry away for now – better safe then sorry.
Click here to learn more about my “55 Things” and here to view previous posts in this series.
Added 3/20/20: Two days after this post was originally published I can not in good conscience let it go unedited. I am changing it to include this article regarding cytokine storm. It seems as if a strong immune system that I mention below may not be the best way to handle COVID 19. Please consult a medical professional regarding any health concerns you might have.
Original Post: Hello Readers. It seems I am a bit late with this post as up until this point I had been posting “55 Things” each Monday. Perhaps you understand that with everything going on in the world I seem to have lost my focus for a minute. I do however hope to publish two “55 Things” posts this week and that should put me right back on track.
Wash You Hands
If we have heard it once we have heard it a thousand (or more) times over the last few weeks – washing your hands and now coupled with social distancing is the first line of defense against COVID 19. However if this invisible enemy is as powerful as it is reported to be then should we not have something in place in case the enemy penetrates that first line?
Beyond Hand Washing
The good news is that in varying degrees we do. It is called our immune system.
Now before I go any farther let me just say that I am not a doctor or medical professional and nothing that you read here should be considered medical advice. I am however a Mom so I am going to give you the same advice I gave to my kids. Try to keep your immune system healthy.
The following article shares 11 tips for doing so many of which I am personally practicing.
This is the final post in the series that was published in 2016. Click to see Part I or Part II. After reading it again I realized that I have discovered a few things since it was first published.
We have grown some more plants that I have observed the honey bees foraging on heavily. They include chamomile and chives which blooms in the spring, oregano which blooms throughout the summer, and spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and anise hyssop which all flower in late summer and fall, so these can be added to the others you will read about in the original post.
The other thing that I recently read and thought would be worth including with this post is that honey bees will only forage one type of plant during a flight. Knowing this it stands to reason that they would be foraging a type of plant that is plentiful in the area. Thus if you are planting with honey bees in mind it would be better to plant several of one type of plant than to plant only one of several types of plants.
I hope you enjoy the original post.
Since we decided to become beekeepers I have read many recommendations about what to plant for the bees including the above picture. I feel very strongly that it is important for the health of the bees that they have a variety of foods (plants) to forage. Although it is not our only consideration when deciding what to plant, planting for the bees is something that we have been doing since we bought the farm and decided to become beekeepers.
Other things we take into consideration are:
1. Is the plant annual or perennial? Except for food and herbs we usually don’t plant annuals.
2. To know if a perennial will survive it is important to know the hardiness zone that you live in. Some plants that are perennial will not survive the colder temperatures of our winter and some will not even grow long enough to blossom.
3. It is also good to know the growing conditions that the plant requires – type of soil, wet or dry, and sun or shade are all important considerations when deciding where to plant something.
4. I love things that have multiple purposes. So I consider other uses for the plant – are they edible, medicinal, a good cover crop that will nourish the soil, or simply planted for their beauty ?
5. I also have to consider what critters will eat these plants before either we or the bees can benefit from them. I have found some plants that the deer and rabbits simply don’t bother with, yet there are many others that have to be fenced in order to protect them.
6. When planting for the bees, another thing to consider is the bloom time of the plant. It is good to have plants that blossom at different times of the year. Early spring is probably the time when the bees are most in need. As they emerge from their hives in the spring, their winter food stores are running low if not depleted, they need to be able to find food in order to survive.
What we have planted:
Lavender was a plant of choice before we ever knew we were going to become bee keepers. I originally planted lavender at the house because I loved the plant, loved the fragrance, loved the dried flowers that could be made into sachets, sleep pillows, tea, or infused into oil. I also add them to my chamomile/lavender soap. It was on the plants at the house that I first observed honey bees foraging and realized what a good bee plant it was. When we bought the farm, planting lavender was a no-brainer and it is now a large part of our prayer garden. Another thing that I appreciate about lavender is that deer and rabbits leave it alone.
Thyme is also grown in our prayer garden. It is a low creeping plant that makes a nice ground cover. It has both culinary and medicinal uses. http://www.delallo.com/articles/thyme Last spring, when the thyme was flowering, I noticed that the honey bees were all over it. I was happy to see this because thyme essential oil is recommended as a natural treatment for varroa mites. While I haven’t seen it written anywhere, my theory is that by feeding on thyme, perhaps, the bees can extract the thymol that is reported to be effective for controlling the varroa mites, thus not requiring human intervention. Thyme is another plant that is not bothered by deer or rabbits. This year I will divide the roots and spread thyme throughout the prayer garden.
Sage and Salvia are of the same family. This link provides a growing guide for the different types. http://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/guide-to-salvias/ When planting sage/salvia it is important to note the hardiness zone for the variety you are planting. I have grown several varieties of sage. They grow well during the summer, and I have been able to harvest their leaves, but since they are not hardy in our (zone 6) growing area they have never blossomed and some have not survived our winters. Since they do not flower they are not useful to the bees. On the other hand I do have a salvia plant (I’m not sure what variety it is) that has beautiful purple spiked flowers in the spring and summer. I have had it for three years and the honey bees love it. Salvia and sage seem to be plants that the deer and rabbits leave alone.
Basil – I have grown basil for many years. I use it fresh during the summer and dry it to have on hand year round. I pick the leaves off before it begins to flower and continue to pick them until I want it to flower and go to seed. Late last summer, when I let the basil plants flower, I noticed the honey bees were heavily foraging them.
Sunflower is one of the annuals that we grow. I can not speak for all varieties of sunflowers but our bees visit the Grey Stripe Mammoth and black oil seed varieties often.
Once you plant sunflowers, don’t be surprised if they come up voluntarily the following year in surprising places as these did. They always made me smile 🙂
Asters grow wild in our field. They blossom in the late summer and fall and last year we witnessed the bees feeding heavily on them.
Clover is the one thing that we plant most often, that is great bee food. We sometimes use clover as a cover crop to nourish the soil for future crops, but most often we use it combined with grass seed when we landscape areas. Call me crazy, and you might if you’ve been paying a lawn care company to keep your lawn weed free, but I feel that white clover compliments the grass. It grows at a similar rate, it fixes nitrogen that helps the grass grow, and it is soft to walk on. I also like that if I mow the white clover when it is blossoming, it will blossom again.
Buckwheat – Another plant that we have used as a cover crop that the bees seem to enjoy. Buckwheat makes a dark honey with a strong flavor. It also makes a good cover crop as it grows fast and is said to choke out competing weeds.
Last summer my husband and I were in the garden center department of one of the local home improvement stores. I was looking for more of the salvia plant that I have, but was unable to find any. We noticed honey bees visiting several different flowering plants. You should probably know that for me going to a garden center and not buying plants is almost like going to the Dairy Queen and not buying ice cream. I absolutely hate shopping and the only exception is going to a green house or garden center. I could spend way too many hours and way too much money in these places. That being said we ended up buying some of the plants that we saw honey bees visiting.
They included a Coreopsis also known as Tickseed.
and a Balloon Flower that I don’t have a picture of. After planting these in our prayer garden I didn’t notice any bees on them. I suspect that there were so many other things blossoming in the area that the bees did not pay any attention to these flowers. Thus, the lesson I take from this is that my focus should be on sticking to what we already have. I will add more lavender, (I started some by seed) I will divide the thyme and let it spread, and perhaps I will divide my salvia in order to have more plants. I will cherish the clover, the asters and the golden rod that grow wild in our field, and I will not curse the thistle (much).
2020 update – While the mallow plant pictured above did not come back the following year, the balloon flower has continued to grow but I have never observed bees on it. The tickseed has continued to grow and spread and last summer I often saw bees foraging it.
Will you be doing any planting this year? Have you observed bees foraging on specific plants in your area? I would love to hear from you.
Click here to learn more about my “55 Things” and here to view previous posts in this series.
The nearly full super moon was only intermittently visible through last night’s cloud cover. It is the first of three super moons that we will see this spring. The March full moon is also known as the worm moon, named this by Native Americans, since this is the time of year that worms begin emerging from the ground. Learn more about it here. I attempted to take some photos but since my photography skills’ are lacking they are not nearly as impressive as it seeing it in person.
The following photos are unedited and are posted in sequence as taken. I am not sure what happened in the second photo, but while I would like to think that I captured some stunning other-worldly event, I suspect there is some type of technical explanation.
While the actual full moon will occur tonight (March 9) the thick cloud cover will prevent us from viewing it. I guess I will have to try again in April.
This awareness of the full moon did remind me of a gardening method that we have talked about trying in the past but have not yet done. Since we have not yet started planting, I think this is the year to try planting by the phases of the moon.
This article from explains what types of plants should be planted during each phase of the moon.
First quarter moon cycle (new moon to half full) – Things that are leafy, like lettuce, cabbage and spinach, should be planted.
Second quarter moon cycle (half full to full moon) – Planting time for things that have seeds inside, like tomatoes, beans and peppers.
Third quarter moon cycle (full moon to half full) – Things that grow underground or plants that are perennials, like potatoes, garlic and raspberries, can be planted.
Fourth quarter moon cycle (half full to new moon) – Do not plant. Weed, mow and kill pests instead.
The article also says that while several studies have shown evidence that gardening by the phases of the moon can have positive effects there is no actual proof that it does.
In order to at least start planning for planting I found this handy chart which tells the date of that the moon enters each phase throughout the year. Planting season will begin soon. 🙂 Wish us luck.
Did you get to see the full moon? Have you ever planted by the moon?
In the origin Part II of this series, which was written in 2016, I wrote about planting 4 Basswood trees with the intention that they would grow and the blossoms would provide food for the bees. Despite our best efforts the trees did not do well and to date only two of the trees are struggling to survive.
I first thought I would just skip Part II and repost Part III in the series. Instead I decided to share my thoughts on a subject has been identified as contributing to the decline in bees/pollinators.
You have probably heard that insecticides, more specifically neonicotinoids, are thought to be partly to blame for the decline in bee/pollinator populations. It would the stand to reason that if our goal is to help save the bees then we should try to avoid use of these chemicals.
Repel Bugs Instead Of Poison Them
Here are a couple of ways to do that. The first is companion planting – that means to plant different types of plants together that support each other’s health and well being. This companion planting guide provides a chart that includes what plants will repel specific insect away from other plants which are susceptible.
The second is this homemade garden bug spray. Like companion planting this spray acts to repel insects rather than kill them. In the past we have tried various recipes for bug sprays – some work some don’t. Last year when I saw this recipe on 5 Acres and A Dream , a homesteading blog that I follow, I decided to try it. Two things that inspired me to try this recipe were first that it was easy to make with simple ingredients – mint, garlic, cayenne and a few drops of biosafe dish soap (see link for complete recipe). The second was Leigh’s (author of 5 Acres and A Dream) testimony that it worked for her. I am not sure of all the bugs that it is effective against but in our experience it worked well against aphids and some other, unidentified, bugs. Leigh says it saved her cabbage and basil plants from whatever was eating them.
Know What You Are Buying
The other thing regarding insecticides that I wanted to bring to your attention, for those who might be purchasing plants from a greenhouse or garden center, is that the plants may have already been treated with neonicotinoids. Since it is not required that treated plants be labeled as such, it is best to ask if they have. While I generally promote shopping local and supporting small businesses, it is probably worth mentioning that two large retailers in the USA, Home Depot and Lowe’s, had planned to stop selling treated plants by 2018-2019. According to this article Home Depot seems to have largely followed through with their plan. (I have not yet been able to find evidence that Lowe’s has done so.)
Of course there is always the option of starting your own plants from seed rather than buying plants and that is what we plan to do more of this year.
Have you ever done companion planting? Do you have any tried and true methods for repelling insects?
Thanks for reading and be on the look out for Part III of this series (Planting For Bees).