Gardening Advice

The Bee Project – Hydrating The Bees for Increased Abundance

Bees are one of the most useful insects in the world as the help with pollination, without which some plants cannot reproduce and create seeds. Besides being so useful, I personally find them to be really cute! Their big black eyes and fuzzy little bodies…and if you have ever seen a bee drink water you will also think they are adorable, they seem to gulp down the water  – the bee’s whole body bobs up and down. Too cute!

I have a tiny little garden in front of my flat near Johannesburg, and although the space is tiny, there is SO much life brimming in this little space. I have herbs, flowers, shrubs and vegetables, since I cannot exist without things growing and thriving near me. Recently I added a little glass bowl so that the birds could have something to drink, and I was blown away by the result! The bees love this hydrating mini pond! At any given time there are at least 6 bees drinking water. Less now with the spring rains and increased nectar available.

The reason my bee hydrator works so well is because there are no fish that might eat the bees or running water that will drown them. The pebbles ensure that the bees always have somewhere to “perch” and drink water, not like a swimming pool that is too large. What happens is that bees tend to flip over onto their backs in the water and then they can’t fly out or grab onto something nearby to lift them off their backs and they eventually drown. Swimming pool water is also chlorinated so it is probably toxic to the bees too.

Most people shudder at the thought of bees flying everywhere but there is no reason to be. All creatures and even plants sense dangerous intent and neither myself nor my daughter have ever been stung. I use the opportunity to teach her valuable lessons about life and how to respect Nature. I would rather that she learn to stay away from the bees and respect them, rather than keep her away and let her become scared of everything. I often have to work right next to the bees, planting seeds or doing some weeding, and they are completely at ease at the “bar”.

What is the benefit of this? Well, nearby plants that need bees for reproduction will produce more flowers and thus higher yields. Looking after bees literally increases abundance in the plant kingdom. It is an honor to assist Nature in this way.

And do you want to know something else? That little section of my garden now smells like honey 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

How To Grow Broccoli

Broccoli is a brassica, and should not be grown with other brassicas like cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts,  savoy, kohlrabi and kai-lan. They are very healthy. The plant grows a stem with leaves developing in the middle, and then specialization occurs and a broccoli head develops. It likes full sun, cool moist conditions and of course plenty of fertilizer. Once the main head is harvested, numerous side shoots develop.


Taken from one of my plants on 10 June 2016, JHB, South Africa
Taken from one of my plants on 10 June 2016, JHB, South Africa

Seed saving Tutorial

Once the pods are dry on the broccoli plant, remove the plant from the ground and hang to dry for up to 2 weeks. Remove the dried pods from the broccoli plant and crush them in your hands or with a rolling pin to remove the seeds. Separate the chaff from thebroccoli seeds. Broccoli seeds remain viable for five years.Feb 29, 2016

How Much Water Does Oregano Really Need?

In this article I will compare two sets of leaves, one set was grown during a time when the plant’s soil frequently went dry, and the other set was grown when the soil hardly went dry and remained relatively moist.

I frequently research information about herbs, particularly their light and water requirements, because I want them to grow optimally. Not only for the highest yield possible, but also because I save seed and to get the best seed you need strong healthy plants. There is a plethora of information out there – much of it conflicting advice. Many websites said that oregano liked to go a bit dry, that it enhanced the flavour of the herb, and that most herbs don’t like to be overwatered. Overwatering is quite dangerous, more dangerous than underwatering, and is actually the most common cause of death in potted plants. This is why many websites say let the top of the soil dry out before watering again, because they know many people overwater. Overwatering is more dangerous than its opposite because plants can store water for those dry spells that occur in nature, but if their roots are constantly waterlogged the roots will die and the plant will struggle.

For optimal growth and the healthiest plant, you don’t want the plant to go too long without water and getting the water requirements right for your plant is almost an art form. It is a very good skill to have. Oregano definitely does not like to go dry and I advise people to treat it like mint, but a full sun version of mint. That means that it likes sun and the soil should be moist. Oregano should NOT be treated like lavender for example. Both are herbs, but lavender doesn’t mind really hot dry conditions and will survive quite well. Do the same to oregano and you have a poor specimen of plant.20151229_073219

The first photo shows healthy oregano leaves. These leaves were grown in conditions of what I call half sun. This means that the plant received about 5 hours of direct sun, maybe even less, and the plant was watered almost daily. This is because the plant is quite large and in a pot, so watering needs to be done carefully because the plant cannot grow roots in search of deeper water sources. The plant would appreciate more sun, but because it is in a pot I can’t risk it going dry from sitting in the sun all day so I have placed it in a place where it gets shade, to conserve water. It grows just fine. Of course, I hate potting up plants and prefer them to grow in the garden but sometimes it is just not feasible.

 

The second picture shows leaves that were grown in full sun of about 8 hours per day, in the hottest p20151117_152404art of the garden, and the soil frequently went dry. This photo is of the plant after I moved it to another garden, and then it still wasn’t doing well so I potted it so that I could shade it more. So this is a bit worse than how it normally was but still quite accurate. You can see a marked difference. The leaves have become PERMANENTLY curled. I say permanently because oregano leaves curl a little when conditions are dry, to conserve water, but this is now a permanent feature. I noticed this about this plant when it was younger – I thought oregano leaves were normally a little curled, but after a very misty morning one day I saw that the leaves were flat, not curled. This explained why my oregano never looked the same as in photos on the internet! And also, I watered the plant almost every day but it wasn’t enough evidently. So as you can see, this poor plant really had dry conditions – so much so that the leaves have now become permanently curled inwards.