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Roselle Plant Feature

Published by Jollean Smith in Plants · 28/9/2019 11:21:32
Tags: RoselleFlowersFoodPlantGarden

The number one plant in my garden that people stopped to ask me about this year, is my Roselle.

It forms into a delicate bush with beautiful glossy red flower pods. Those pods open for a day and an Okra like, flower emerges. You never seem to have many flowers open at once, but there is always an abundance of beautiful red flower pods. The stems and flowers are a deep red, which is really what makes it stand out.

The plant is native to India and was early on brought to Africa. Today, it is grown all over the world.

I grew the plant easily from seed. I started the plant indoors in March and placed it into terrible soil after the last frost and it grew very well. I would describe this plant as Southern hardy. I have rarely watered, not fertilized it and it has grown just fine. Some of the Roselle plants I have not watered at all. I love it when a plant can be drought tolerant. If you were to grow in colder zones 2 - 5 you would need to start early indoors and keep it mostly indoors until the threat of frost has passed. In colder temps the plant may not grow as big. But if you babied it or if you have a greenhouse you might do quite well.

Edible Roselle buds.

Here are some fast facts on the Roselle plant:

  • Although it looks like an Okra plant it is actually a member of the Hibiscus family.

  • The leaves and flowers are edible.

  • The flower flavour is said to be cranberry like.

  • The plant is used to make jelly, syrup, candy, tea and used to add flavour to meals.

  • It is high in Calcium & Iron.

  • Annual to most zones but in Zone 10 - 11 it is a perennial

  • You can trim them to get bushier plants, which lead to more flowers.

At the farm this year we are going to test making candied flowers and we will let you know how that goes. < --- it didn't go well, video coming soon!

In the meantime if you would like some seeds we have some for sale in the farm store for $2.00.

Watch more.
Roselle Plant YouTube video
Harvensting Roselle Seeds YouTube video

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Read more.
Medicinal plants for bees.

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How to fill your yard with butterflies.

Published by Jollean Smith in Pollinators · 26/8/2019 21:26:55
Tags: ButterfliesPollinatorsNativeTreesFlowersUSACanadaMexico

Imagine stepping out into your yard and seeing a non stop flutter of all sorts of butterflies, leaping from flower to flower in your garden. Sounds like a Disney movie doesn’t it?  You can have this and it is easier than you would think.

The first important thing to understand is that to have butterflies it means you have to have caterpillars.

The very basics of their life cycle is:

  • Butterfly visits a specific host plant and lays eggs.

  • Eggs hatch caterpillars, which for a time period will need to eat the host plant.

  • Caterpillars go into the pupa stage where they cocoon for a time period.

  • Finally a new butterfly will emerge, ready to visit certain flowers for nectar.

Some of these stages are not loved by gardeners. Eggs on leaves can be thought to be future pests. Caterpillars devour plant leaves. These behaviours can result in actions like pesticides or squishing, which in turn prevent the butterflies from becoming a reality.

So this leads us to our first 2 rules of How to fill you yard with butterflies.

#1 No pesticides.
#2 No caterpillar killing.

Pesticides kill in all of the stages of a butterflies life and if you squish the caterpiller, there will be no butterfly. It's a bit of a no brainer here.

Before I can give you the last 2 important steps, you need to understand how butterflies are closely tied to specific plants.

Butterflies will choose a specific plant to lay its eggs on. They do this as they instinctively know the plant they are placing their egg on will provide their caterpillar with the right nutrition or protection from predators it needs.

Let’s take a look at the most well known example, the Monarch Butterfly.
They need the Milkweed plant to survive as it provides the right nourishment for their caterpillars. This is the host plant they lay their eggs on. The native Milkweed dies off at the right time for the Monarch to migrate, encouraging their journey to Mexico. If they did not migrate they would not survive the cold. Other plants can help provide great nectar sources for Monarchs, but their life cycle is dependent on native milkweed plants.

Note: Planting the wrong Milkweed can be very harmful to Monarchs. If you plant a non-native milkweed these plants can live longer, this encourages the Monarch to stay and not migrate to Mexico. In turn the Monarch will be wiped out by cold weather before it can migrate.

So rule number 3:

#3 Plant the native flower,plant or tree that hosts the butterfly you want to exist in your garden.

If you are like me and want a yard just filled with butterflies, then you will want to plant all the host plants you can. So here are some quick examples of what you can plant:

Zebra Swallowtail - Plant Paw Paw Trees
Location found: Southern USA

Eastern Tailed Blue - Plant Crown Vetch, Cow Vetch, White Clover, Milk Vetch
Location found: Eastern and Southern USA

Monarch - Plant Common Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Blood Flower
Location found: All of the United States, Southern Canada, Northern Mexico

Red Admiral - Plant False Nettle
Location found: North America (Excluding high northern regions in Canada & US such as the Yukon & Alaska)

Morning Cloak - American Elm, Aspen Tree, Common Hackberry, Elm Tree Paper Birch, Willow Tree, Sugar Berry
Location found: North America (Excluding some high northern regions in Canada such as North West Territories)

Gulf Fritillary - Plant Passion Vine
Location found: Southern USA and Northern Mexico

Checkered White - Plant Passion Flowers, Milk Vetch
Location found: Most of the USA, Lower Central Canada and Northern Mexico

Giant Swallowtail- Plant Prickly Ash,
Location found: Southern USA and parts of Eastern USA. Northen Mexico.

Western Tiger Swallowtail - Plant Flowering Ash, Aspen Tree, Willow
Location found: Northenr Mexico, Parts of Central USA, Western USA and Southern British Columbia

Painted Lady - Plant Hollyhock, Shasta Daisy, Sunflowers, Mallow
Location found: USA, Northern Mexico and most of Canada excluding northern territories.

Research butterflies common for your area and they look up their host plants.

Finally, the last rule of filling your yard with butterflies, rule #4.

#4 Plant native nectar flower sources.

These butterflies will also have different plant requirements for nectar sources. Make sure to plant varying varieties of native plants and flowers to ensure the full life cycle of a butterfly is supported.

Check out my YouTube video on creating a pollinator patch to help provide nectar sources.

Let’s recap how to fill your yard with butterflies:
#1 No pesticides
#2 No killing of caterpillers
#3 Plant host plants
#4 Plant native flowers

For some additional great resources on butterflies visit:
Gardens with wings - Includes a Zip Code tool, to enter your zip code and find the butterflies for your area. Sorry no Postal Code system, but I just googled a USA zip codes and used them to get a list of butterflies and used their individual maps to find ones n Canada.
National Wildlife Federation - How to attract butterflies.

Great places to buy native plants:
American Meadows - For flower and plant seeds.
Ty Ty Nursery - For native Trees

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Our blog includes Google Advertisements. These advertisements can generate revenue from Google.10 cents from every dollar made at Smith's "Nature Friendly" Farm including ad revenue from Google will be donated to the charities we work with. Learn more about how we give back.

Medicinal plants for Bees

Published by Jollean Smith in Bees · 4/6/2019 14:13:30
Tags: BeesSaveMedicinalPlantsFlowers

Just like humans, bees need nutritious plants. That tropical plant from Asia may look stunning on your patio and may even be visited by a bee, but it may not be providing the bees the nutrition they need to fight off disease.

First, it’s important to understand that there are many things making life for bees very difficult.

Pesticides - Makes them weak and/or kills them.
Disease - Makes them weak and/or kills them.
Loss of native habitat - The bees need proper food and nutrition to be strong enough to fight off 1 and 2, loss of habitat means less natural plants.

For example, a honey bee colony does not usually get wiped out in one fell swoop. In fact, it is slowly killed off by a process of slow weakening.

Let's take a look at the slow weakening:
1. A healthy bee colony can become more weakened from chemicals, poor nutrition, cold snaps and parasites.
2. When a be becomes sick it will fly off away from the hive to protect the hive.
3. If a large number of bee’s are sick and fly away, natural hive maintenance behaviours cannot continue.
4. When a hive loses bees, it becomes a vicious cycle. There are less bees to complete the tasks that keep the remaining bees healthy, such as cool the hive or provide food for young bees.

Eventually, the colony will die.

This is even harder on native bees. These bese don’t always operate in large colonies. They may just have one bee or a few bees and not 50,000 bees like the honey bee. They will face all the same impacts, but with significantly less bees to sacrifice per se. There is much less of a chance for recovery which is why native bees are endangered.

How can you help?
1. Add more native plants to your garden. Let those native flowers that show up in your yard, grow! Or research native plants from a reputable source
2. For love of bees stop using pesticides. Fight against your community associations who do mass spraying of pesticides for things like mosquitoes. These are weakening your bees. Back away from the Round Up or whatever new fancy name they come up with for weed killers.
3. Plant medicinal flowers. Bees need flowers that help them fight disease. If they are weakened by a parasite research shows that bees will go to certain plants that help them fight it. See a list of a few below.
4. Be super careful with your big box store plants. Although there is increasing pressure on greenhouses and retailers to provide plants free of chemicals, it is still out there. So many of those pretty plants are grown with chemicals such as neonics which impact a bees immune system. I am still trying to get a straight answer from Proven Winners on if their seeds are neonics free. They keep skirting around a direct yes or no. Ideally, get your plants from a native plant store who specializes in chemical free flowers. You can also grow your own from chemical free seed (check your seed supplier carefully) or practice cultivating flowers that grow naturally. If the greenhouse cannot assure you that their plants did not originate from chemical free seeds, walk away.

Here are a couple of plants that offer medicinal benefits to bees:

Home: Native to North America.
Plant needs: Full sun and moist soil.
Medicinal value: Offers bees iridoid glycosides which is important in helping bumblees fight off parasites.
Buy seeds: Prairie Moon Nursery, Joyful Butterfly and Swallowtail Seeds.


Home: Native to North America.
Plant needs: Likes full sun and tolerates many different soils.
Medicinal value: Offers bumble bees help with reducing pathogens.
Buy seeds: Seed Needs, Swallowtail Seeds and Bakers Creek Seeds.

Purple Giant Hyssop
Home: Native to North America.
Plant needs: Likes full sun and tolerates many different soils. I find it drought tolerant.
Medicinal value: Relief from parasitic infections.
Buy seeds: Prairie Moon Nursery, Select Seeds and Everwilde Farms.

Common Yarrow
Home: Native to North America.
Plant needs: Likes full sun and tolerates many different soils.
Medicinal value: Relief from parasitic infections.
Buy seeds: Bakers Creek Seeds, Swallowtail Seeds and American Meadows.

For a longer list of flowers and further information please read an excellent article written by Becca Redomski-Bush. Some information in my blog today was learned from her facinating page.

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See how I turned all of this into a Bee Bar, keep reading!

Growing Lavender from seed

Published by Jollean Smith in Flowers · 22/1/2019 13:06:43
Tags: LavenderLavendarFlowersSeedsGardenSteps

Lavender is a much loved flower. It looks great in a pot. Smells amazing in a sensory garden and nature loves it. But growing it for many gardeners can be a challenge. I know it certainly challenged me. It took me 2 packs of seeds and 4 planting attempts to finally have a seedling thriving. So here is what what I learned.

Step 1
Lavender seeds need a period of cold before planting. I learned to place my seeds in the fridge for a minimum of 2 weeks.

Step 2
After the cold period is complete place the seeds onto a wet coffee filter or paper towel within a covered tupperware container. Leave in a cool but bright space. Direct sun is not recommended.

Step 3
After a week start checking your seeds regularly for sprouting. Keep seeds moist.

Step 4
Take sprouted seeds and place them into a 60% perlite and 40% potting soil mixture. Initially provide a light watering. Do not over water. Do not fertilize.

Step 5
Water only when its very dry. Lavender actually thrives best in drier climates. Overwatering killed at least one of my seedling trials. I found it best if I waited until the soil looks dry and then left it a few more days still, before I would water. When I watered I did not let the soil get soggy. I aimed for more of a survival amount of water. Just enough to survive.

Other tips:
Lavender thrives in poor, dry soils. Fertilizing should be rare. But the big thing is not to let them get soggy.

So far these steps have left me with my first healthy seedling. Now on to repeat and duplicate the number of seedlings this year!

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Learn how some flowers are harming bees.

Learn how some flowers are harming bees.

Published by Jollean Smith in Flowers · 14/11/2018 18:02:48
Tags: BeesFlowersSaveBees

I see so many wonderful posts about people planting flowers with the intention of savings bees. With certain bees hitting the endangered species list, we do need to plant more flowers along with keeping natural areas to help save our bee populations. In reality though, you may actually be hurting bees with the types of flowers you are planting. Many plants and flowers developed by growers and sold in big box stores may contain high-levels of neonicotinoids.

What is neonicotinoids?

In the simplest of words, it is a pesticide. It is designed to develop stronger plants and prevent pests. Its intent was good, but its impact devastating to pollinators. Neonicotinoids are often used on commercial farms or with large scale ornamental plant companies to make more resilient plants. The problem is that neonicotinoids do not discriminate and harms pollinators and their intended targets. The pesticide travels through the plants tissue, getting in the nectar and pollen. All of which can be ingested by pollinators and us.

What can happen when a bee goes to a flower with neonicotinoids?

It can impact their immune system. Weakening the bee and making it susceptible to more diseases. Along with mites, a major cause of decline with bees has been due to fungal diseases and viruses. When you consider that bees work and live in large groups, the spread of these diseases can happen rather easily. Especially if they have a poor immune system after returning from a neonics laced flower. It's no different than humans. You take the common cold to an old folks home and probably everyone is going to come down with it. Take that same cold to the gym and likely only a small portion are going to get it. Neonics is creating weakened bee colonies and turning all colonies into old folks homes.

Is the only way a bee can get neonicotinoids from a plant is through the pollen or nectar?

No, during the coating process for seeds, the chemicals can get airborne and impact hives (and any other bugs) nearby. Some plants treated with neonics secrete pesticide laden water (dew) that many different bug species rely on.

Do neonicotinoids spread?

Yes, if a plant has heavy levels of neonics, it can be spread to other plants through the pollen and soil. It can take many years to rid a yard of these chemicals.

You are seeing plenty of bees, so is it really an issue?

It’s important to understand that bee decline is not being experienced at equal levels in each area. For me I have had a first hand experience with this moving from Alberta,Canada to Mississippi, USA. In my town in Alberta I saw maybe 3 - 5 bees a day if lucky. Some days none at all. I had to self pollinate squash plants or I would never grow any. Each year I saw less and less.

Here in rural Mississippi it is an incredibly different story, and I have a theory as to why.

I grew a huge number of squash plants this year in Mississippi. Far more than I ever had planted in Alberta. Even if I had wanted to self pollinate my flowers in Mississippi I would have had to be up before the bees. By 7:00 am I would go out to the squash plants and every one of my squash plant flowers were cleaned of any pollen. It was amazing. At any given time my Salvia plant would have an upwards of 10 - 15 bees on it. Meanwhile many more hung around the garden, the bird bath and the other flowers. You can sit and just listen to the bee activity. So it’s understandable why some folks don’t see the problem.

The difference and my theory, is simple, vegetation. One thing you will see in a lot of Mississippi is an insane amount of vegetation. Often people here own many acres of land and only manicure a portion of it. The rest grows so fast that it is left to create a jungle of vegetation. In that vegetation are mass amounts of native plants and flowers. This jungle also leaves enough untouched space for native bees to nest and lots of pollen to collect. Odds are, some of that pollen will be chemical free as there is so much jungle and space between a farm or manicured area.

However, this does not mean that Mississippi is not being impacted by bee declines, it is just as likely to happen here. They may just feel the impact later than other areas.

How are things changing?

Due to consumer pressure a lot more big box stores are starting to label if the plants contains neonicotinoids. When I first learned about neonics a few years ago, I emailed a lot of retailers and flower suppliers to ask if their plants were free from neonics. The usual response was “there is no way to know for sure” or “no”. A few seed places were able to state they were neonics free.  Now it seems through public pressure and the very apparent decline of bees due to some new research, that this is changing. More big box stores are declaring they will phase out neonicotinoids. Many big box stores are requiring growers to label if the plants are neonicotinoid free.

So what can you do?

Check for Neonic plant labels - If plants are not labelled ask the store why not. Use social media to be loud about it and educate others to help drive the demand for change.
Don’t buy any plants without labels or that are labelled that they have neonicotinoids. - Big box stores need to have mass amounts of those plants not selling to be able to go back to the grower to tell them to change their ways.
Put up with plant imperfections. - It's time to view plant imperfections and weed speckled yards as a badge of honour. If you yard is perfect then chances are you killed something to get it that way. Harsh, but a likely reality.
Add native plants and flowers to your landscape and leave spaces for native areas to grow wild. - Native plants often turn up as the weeds in your garden. As long as they are not an introduced invasive plant, then the flowers that naturally appear when you don’t mow an area or pop up in your corners is designed for the native bees and pollinators in your area. They will withstand your weather better and will bloom at the right time to ensure pollen and nectar supplies are available at all times of the season. Ask for native plants at your local greenhouse and if they don’t supply them search for seeds online.

So please do not underestimate these things:
Your buying power.
Your social media voice.
The impact of small changes.

Now get back to gardening and planting an abundance of neonic free flowers!

Thanks for being here with us, want to read more? Read about Create a Nature Station or Fast facts on seeds.

Reference materials: - University of Vermont

Mother Nature Network- Tom Order

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