BE the Solution to Help Save the BEES

Day 140 – As a small child, I was never a fan of bees. I had been stung a couple times and it was painful. So, I made sure to stay clear of them and I was never concerned about their well being. It wasn’t until I was older, did I understand the importance of bees. Sadly, there are plenty of people who do not completely understand how vital bees are to our own existence.

Many of the 20,000 species of bees pollinate 85 percent of food crops and fruits around the world. Without them we would all be in a great deal of trouble. So, it’s worrisome when reports come out about the declining numbers of bees. Global agriculture has led to bee habitat loss. Pesticides and the increasing global temperature has killed countless numbers of bees.

So, what can we do to help?

  1. Choose native plants for your garden. As mentioned on Day 99, native plants offer a variety of benefits.
  2. Make sure something is blooming spring, summer and fall. Different species of bees are active during specific months.
  3. Don’t cover your garden in mulch. Some species of bees will dig a nest in the ground to raise their young. The mulch prevents them from digging.
  4. By introducing natural pest eater plants to your garden you will decrease the need for pesticides.
  5. You can participate in citizen-science programs for pollinators such as Pollinator Conservation Program (Xerces Society), The Great Sunflower Project (San Francisco State University), or I-Pollinate (University of Illinois).

So, on this World Bee Day make a commitment to be a friend to the bees and help them continue their work to help us.

Click HERE to read about how the Evanston Host Plant Initiative is working to save endangered bee species.

Tomorrow, extending the life our cell phones.

Caring for Your Lawn and Garden without Harmful Chemicals

Day 117 – Having a lush, healthy lawn is a big priority for many homeowners. Many hours and dollars are devoted to making front lawns and accompanying gardens aesthetically appealing. Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, collectively known as pesticides, have been a mainstay in the lawn care industry. They have successfully helped many homeowners reach the pinnacle of green grass grandeur. On average, 70 million tons of fertilizers and pesticides are applied annually to residential lawns and gardens. Unfortunately, many of them are harmful to humans and the environment.

Thankfully, there are some simple tips you can do to achieve a great lawn without the chemicals. I compiled a list from various resources. (Old World Garden Farms, Earth911)

  1. Don’t cut your grass too low and don’t take more than 1/4 off at a time. Removing too much at once can cause a lot of stress on the grass, which in turn can cause long term damage.
  2. Keep your blades sharp. Worn out blades can cause the tips of grass blades to be damaged and turn brown. This can result in homeowners overwatering, thinking the brown grass is caused by lack of water.
  3. Don’t bag your clippings. You are taking away a great source of nutrients for your lawn when you bag your clippings and toss them in the garbage.
  4. Relax when it comes to a few weeds. Realize that a weed here or there is not the end of the world. The diversity actually helps create a healthier lawn and landscape.
  5. Plant native plants in your garden. As mentioned on Day 99, native plants do not need artificial fertilizers or pesticides. They have adapted to conditions in their environment and are very low maintenance.
  6. Call in the Ladybug army. Instead of using pesticides, consider using Ladybugs. They gobble up aphids, scale, mites, and mealybugs. Also, the larvae of lacewings feast on spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies, and can devour as many as 100 aphids a day.
  7. Water your grass thoroughly, but infrequently. A good soaking once a week, should be sufficient.
  8. Consider making homemade weed killer. Pesticides and herbicides used in traditional lawn maintenance can harm beneficial insects and animals. And if not fully absorbed, these chemicals can soak through soil and contaminate groundwater. Or they may run off into streams and lakes where they endanger aquatic life. Check out Lawn Love and their recipe for homemade weed killer.

Other resources to check out:

  1. Consumer Report’s list of organic solutions to weeds and pests.
  2. Consider companies like Sunday, when deciding on lawn care options. By using all natural ingredients, they can offer you a safe and environmentally friendly way to achieve that perfect lawn.

So, think twice before spraying your grass and garden with chemicals that could harm you and the planet.

Tomorrow, celebrating “Stop Food Waste Day.”

Native Plants: They should be in your garden

Day 99 – I have the opposite of a green thumb. Not sure what color that is, maybe brown. I am the place where plants go to die. It’s sad, really. My Dad, practically has a jungle growing in his home. I just haven’t quite figured out what I’m doing wrong. Thankfully, I have had success with my outdoor gardens. That’s probably do to the fact, I’m not in charge of taking care of them.

I do have a say as to what flowers are purchased. The go to place is the local Home Depot and I typically go by color and overall appearance, with a slight interest in whether the plant will do well in sun or shade. I don’t even look at the name. Crazy, right?

This year, I’m doing things differently. I attended a webinar about native plants a few weeks ago and purchased a few from the presenter. I’m excited to include Virginia Bluebells, Butterfly Milkweed, Purple Coneflower, Wild Bergamot and Wild Petunia to our outdoor space.

So, why are native plants important?

  1. Native plants are low maintenance.
  2. Many native plants offer beautiful flowers and produce colorful fruits and seeds.
  3. No need for artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides when growing native plants.
  4. Native plants help conserve water. They are adapted to local environmental conditions.
  5. Native plants attract pollinators and they need our help. Bee and butterfly populations are decreasing year after year.
  6. Native plants help feed and provide shelter for wildlife.

If you would like to know which native plants are found where you live, check out Audubon’s Native Plant Locator. You just need to enter your zip code.

Instead of planting ornamental plants this season, consider the natural beauty that native plants have to offer.

Tomorrow, celebrating 100 days!