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Why you should grow Kale in your garden.

Published by Jollean Smith in Vegetables · 26/11/2018 12:54:35
Tags: KaleGrowVegetableBrassicaGardenPlant

It amazes me how many people still don’t grow and eat Kale. Kale is such a healthy and resilient cruciferous vegetable. It even looks great in your garden. Here are some great reasons why you need to start loving this great garden vegetable.

Reasons to grow Kale.

It’s healthy. Low in calories, high in vitamins. Kale has Vitamin A, C, K, Iron and calcium. Not to mention protein!
It’s frost hardy. In the north, if you want to adventure into cold frame growing, Kale is likely your best plant to grow. In the South, all winter you can grow Kale which will handle frosty temperatures with only some minor plant sitting in sub zero temperatures.
It tastes better. Although I like all Kale, I find the store bought Kale to be a bit more bitter. Garden grown Kale has a much nicer flavour.
It’s pretty. This plant grows in pretty bursts of curly leaves. You can also plant ornamental Kale which really adds some nice hardy plants to your fall gardens.
Not bad for bugs. I find that the first few leaves tend to take bug damage as its starts out and then as the plants get established they are relatively left alone. There is the odd bug hole in a leaf but I have always been ok with passing on pesticides and sharing with the bugs.
Less Pesticides. Now not all gardens are the same, you may need some sort of organic pesticide plan, but so far in the Canadian and Southern location I have grown it pesticide free without any issues. Store bought version may include pesticides as green leaf vegetables can be some of the most sprayed vegetables on the shelf.
It's a big producer. As long as you leave a few leaves for solar panels, you can keep  picking Kale over and over for a few months.
It's easy to harvest. There is no guessing when your Kale is ready. When you see the big beautiful leaves you can start snapping them off with no tools, just your hands.
It’s freezable. I freeze a giant bag of Kale for use in shakes and soups. Frozen kale won’t make a good salad but you can still get the health benefits and protein added to your soups and shakes.
It’s cheap. Growing Kale from seed will produce a lot of Kale for about $3.00 a pack of seeds. You can eat Kale for weeks on $3.00 or you can buy a hamburger at Mcdonalds for one day. Kale would be the smart choice.

There are just so many reasons to love growing Kale. If you are looking for some seeds, a great place to get some is Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds. I like this company as they remain vigilant against GMO seeds and their quality and value is excellent.

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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:
PHYS.org - University of Vermont

Mother Nature Network- Tom Order

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