Bees, Honey, & Benefits

As a gardener I’ve always appreciated to gentle flutter of butterflies or the special appearance of hummingbirds, however bees aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. That being said bees have a great importance in our gardens and our ecosystem as a whole. By holding back our instinctive reaction to swat at them we should really be doing the reverse and try to attract them to our gardens and reap the rewards of having an abundance of bees.

One of the greatest rewards of having bees as a mainstay in our gardens is that they are natural pollinators. With more pollination, you will yield more crop from a vegetable garden and more flowers in your flower garden. Another benefit of having or aiding bees in their journey back to the hive is for that liquid gold that they make. Both honey and bees wax have amazing properties that just can’t be reproduced by man and that alone is one of the main reasons bees are truly a treasure.

Basic Principals for attracting Bees to your Garden

  • Be willing to have some plant damage
  • Choose a pest management regime that does not include pesticides
  • Opt out on the bug zapper. If you have one, these generally kill more beneficial bugs than actual pests
  • Provide water source a small dish of water with some sand and pebbles so the bees do not drown preferably by flowering plants
  • Provide a diverse variety of blooming plants throughout the seasons for the long haul

Oh, HONEY! How sweet it is?

Honey has a long history of human consumption and is used in various foods and beverages as a sweetener. Honey is also used to treat many different ailments such as promoting a rejuvenating sleep. Strengthening those weakened by illness or stress, replenishing energy, enhancing physical stamina, soothe a cough and is also used to treat minor skin wounds and chapped lips.

When buying honey it is always best to read the label. Now days nothing is as it seems to be. Raw honey is the best kind of honey you could get. But why? Raw honey is honey fresh from the comb. It’s not pasteurized and it still contains the healthy enzymes that enable its medicinal properties.

It is said that store-bought pasteurized honey is no better than white sugar not to mention some of these retailed honeys actually water down their product or are artificially flavored. The heat from pasteurization kills the beneficial enzymes making them useless to the body. One thing to also keep in mind is raw honey does have variations in color, taste, and texture. This is because some species of bees only pollinate certain flowers, and also what sources of nectar producing flowers were available to the bees. Monofloral honey is made from the nectar of one type of flower. To produce monofloral honey, beekeepers keep beehives in an area where the bees have access to only one type of flower. Some examples of monofloral honeys are clover, orange blossom, blueberry, sage, buckwheat, mesquite and many more.

Herb of the Month “Lavender”

French lavender Norfolk Lavender - French Lavender English Lavender
What I look like: There are many different varieties some of the most popular are the Sweet Lavender (36″ height, Purple blooms), French Lavender (24″ height, pale blue lavender color) Hidcote lavender (24″ height, dark purple), Munstead lavender (12″ height, deep blue-purple) , Goodwin’s Creek Lavender (24″-36″ height, lavender color).

History:Lavender comes from the Latin word “lavare” which means “to wash”. In ancient times lavender was used for perfume and baths. Queen Elizabeth used lavender as a perfume. She also drank lavender tea to ease her migraines. Queen Victoria used lavender to wash floors, and furniture. She would put lavender among her linens and used it to freshen the air. Even today, the French send their lambs to graze in lavender fields, to make their meat tender and fragrant.

Uses: English lavender is most frequently used in cooking because it has the sweetest fragrance. The flavor of lavender flowers increases when dried. A little lavender goes a long way, so start with a small amount and add to your taste. The best time to harvest lavender blooms is when the flowers begin to open up. This is when the essential oils are the greatest. Lavender is a very versatile herb not only can it be used for flavoring food but it also has some medicinal properties as well and is also used in aromatherapy. Medicinally it can help ease stress and headaches simply because of the scent.

Availability: Very easy to find. Lavender is carried at Bluebonnet Herb Farms throughout the year

Extra Tip: Lavender’s aroma is loved by bees. When planted in vegetable gardens and orchards, the shrub enhances pollination.

Lavender Mint Chip Cookies

The mint chips, lavender and chocolate in these cookies create a new and very interesting flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup Andes Crème De Menthe baking chips
  • 6 tsp. of ground lavender

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mix. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa and ground lavender. Add to the butter-egg mixture – beat well for one minute. Add pecans and chips.

Mix well, and spoon onto un-greased cookie sheet 3 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until the cookies look puffy with cracks on top. They should fall and flatten as soon as you take them out of the oven. Do not over bake.

Recipe Provided by: Chappell Hill Lavender Farm

August 2013 Gardening Tips for the Backyard Gardener

For most of us summer is a second dormant season, or at least most of us want it to be one. In August the true gardeners are most evident. Even in the heat of August there is still much to be done. Okra, southern peas, sweet potatoes, peppers, and melons can all be planted. Just keep them watered and they will thrive. If you want to have a fall tomato and pepper crop now is the time to get plants into the ground.

August is a good time to prep your gardens for fall planting. Weeding, mulching, trimming back trees and shrubs, deadheading and removing spent blooms and plowing are all things you can do at this time. August brings more fall planting into the garden, summer squash, cucumbers, green beans, can all be planted now for a fall harvest. Also seeds of cole crops (broccoli, kohlrabi, and cabbage) can all be started indoors. As mentioned in our March/April newsletter now is a good time to sow your bluebonnet seeds for spring color.

As you already know watering and keeping your garden hydrated is top priority at this time of year. Be sure to saturate the soil thoroughly so the roots will not be drawn near the surface of the ground. It’s also important not to overwater especially in the heat of the day, doing so might cause your plant(s) to yellow and possibly die.

In September check the acidity of your soil and mulch your azaleas. Chrysanthemums should be given a commercial liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks until buds appear, then weekly until buds show color. For large flowers, leave the center bud in each cluster and pinch off all lateral buds before they begin stemming. Fertilize beds if needed.

Herbs that can be planted include: chives, coriander, dill, garlic, lovage, and winter savory. September is a good time to prepare your vegetable garden. 1 part soil, 1 part sand, 1 part pine bark mulch or moistened peat moss approximately 12-18 inches is a good soil for beets, carrots, onions and turnips.

August/September 2013 Newsletter

Beat the HeatSummer is among us once again and so are those lazy dog days, and we have been blessed with some rain and a few little breaks from the intense summer heat.

Surprisingly we are still in full swing around these parts. We are still getting regular exciting new items in our antique and unique shop. We have also received an order of gift items and home accents and are looking forward to introducing some new product in the near future.

The Landscaping crew is working round the clock keeping everyone’s beds weed free, lawns mowed, and giving all of our clients a beautiful yard to relax in after a hard days work. Be sure to check in with is us often; you never know at your next visit you might find the treasure you’ve been waiting for.
Until next time, Happy Gardening!

Bluebonnets Forever

Each year sometime around January or February, the same question begins to form on every Texan’s lips as sightings of bluebonnet seedlings begin to appear, when will the bluebonnets bloom? Bluebonnets are as free-willed and independent as the people who love them.  Though it’s easy to say that between March and April is when bluebonnets raise their little violet-blue heads to salute the sky above.   Bluebonnets are not only our state flower; they are a symbol of the Texas Sprit.  Leave it to a Texan to write songs about them, Sprinkle bluebonnet seeds along every Texas highway and bluebonnet trail, have festivals that showcase them, designate entire cities to bluebonnets.   Yes there is no doubt that both the Texas bluebonnet and Texans alike to do things in such a rebellious way.

Many gardeners have either mastered the art of growing bluebonnets and others well I’m sure could use a few pointers

Basic Principles for Planting and Growing Bluebonnets

  • Plant in full sun, in soil which drains well and doesn’t stay wet for long periods of time.
  • Barely cover seeds with soil, don’t bury the crown of transplants
  • Water seeds only on the day of planting and transplants only when the top one inch of soil dries
  • No applications of fertilizer are required but are helpful and will cause more abundant bloom
  • The best time to plant seed is in August or when already established bluebonnets go to seed

For those that have had trouble growing bluebonnets are those who simply try too hard by overwatering and not choosing a location that meets then needs of bluebonnets.  Over the years I’ve heard my fair share of interesting bluebonnet facts.  Did you know that there are five different varieties that grow in the state of Texas, they include:

Lupinus texensis – grows in central Texas, has blue flowers with bits of white and occasionally has a tinge of pink, has 5-7 leaflets and grows 20-40cm tall   *only grows in Texas* Is the easiest variety to grow and is the same variety that the state distributes along Texas highways.

Lupinus havardii – aka Big Bend Bluebonnet can reach up to 4ft tall and has approx. 7 leaflets its bluish/purplish in color with a white tip

Lupinus subcarnosus – aka Buffalo clover or the sandyland bluebonnet grows in the sandy, rolling hills of coastal and southern Texas with sheets of royal-blue in the early spring *only grows in Texas*

Lupinus plattensis – is the only perennial species in the state and grows to about two feet tall. It normally blooms in mid to late spring and is also known as the dune bluebonnet, the plains bluebonnet and the Nebraska Lupine

Lupinus concinnus – is an inconspicuous variety of bluebonnet, growing from 2 to 7 inches, with flowers which combine elements of white, rosy purple and lavender. Commonly known as the annual lupine, it is found sparingly in the Trans-Pecos region, blooming in early spring.

March 2013 Gardening Tips for the Backyard Gardener

Yes, spring is knocking on our door and I can’t wait to be back in the garden tilling, fertilizing, planting and weeding.  A garden is becoming a necessity, especially with the price of food and fuel.  March is when most of the Gulf Coast area begins planting corn, beans squash, cucumbers and peas.  Eggplant, pepper, and tomato plants can be put out now also.  Though is quite unlikely, keep an eye open for an unexpected frost and cover to protect your new transplants.

As April kicks the growing season into high gear.  All kinds of melons can be planted now.  Pumpkins, zucchini, black eyes, limas can all be put in.  In late April, okra and sweet potatoes can be planted.  If you would like your okra seeds to germinate faster, pour hot water over the seeds and let them sit overnight in the water.  The next day, they will be ready to plant.

March is the time to plant some color.  Before the heat sets in, lobelia, petunias, coreopsis, cosmos, zinnias and many more plants can be put in beds, containers and hanging baskets.  A few weeks after you have put in your flowering plants, give them a little boost with a 3-1-2 or a 4-1-2 ratio fertilizer.  With the warmer temperatures of April, you can plant vinca, caladiums, pentas, impatiens, and celosia.  Be sure to mulch your beds about 4 or 5 inches deep.  This will make weeding a lot less time consuming and it will save you money on your water bill.  If you find that you have extra seed, place in an envelope, then put the envelope in a glass jar with lid and store in the freezer.

March will bring on a beautiful array of color if you have azaleas, spirea, camellias, redbud, dogwood, mock orange or spring blooming roses.  Sometime in April though, the blooms will be fading and when they are finished with their performance, it will be time to trim any unsightly shoots or branches.  Try not to cut them back hard, just what is necessary, then you can fertilize them. Container grown roses can be planted and enjoyed now too.  

When March approaches, the fruit trees will begin to bloom and what a wonderful scent they have.  Mulching them out to the drip line will help keep more water for the trees and less for the weeds.  I hope your garden and beds are a great success this spring.  Until next time.  Happy Gardening!

Herb of the Month “Parsley”

Flat-leafed parsleyWhat I look like- parsley is a bright green, hairless herb with either flat or curly leaves (depending on the variety) and has tiny yellowish green flowers that eventually produce seed.

How I Grow-Parsley grows best in moist, well drained soil, with full sun.. Parsley can reach up to 12-18 inches in height and 9-12inches wide.

How parsley can benefit your garden- For those of you trying to achieve the ultimate butterfly garden, Parsley is a must have.  Some swallowtail butterflies use parsley as a host plant for their larvae; their caterpillars are black and green striped with yellow dots, and will feed on parsley for two weeks before turning into butterflies.  Bees and other nectar-feeding insects may also visit the flowers.  Birds such as the goldfinch feed on the seeds.

What I’m used for- Parsley has many medicinal and culinary uses.  Medicinally Parsley is used as a diuretic that purifies the blood and aids in digestion and metabolism.  Parsley can also over time if consumed on a regular basis lower blood pressure.

Parsley and its culinary uses has slowly become more of an underappreciated herb since it is most often used as a garnish.  Though it is a favorite in Italian cuisine, used in soups, breads, pastas, and on many meats, you can add parsley to most dish that you want a more savory flavor to.

Availabity: Very Easy to find

Savory Herb Spread

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 6 gherkins or 1 regular-size pickle, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup I Can’t believe its Not Butter! Spread
Preparation
  1. Combine all ingredients except I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Spread in medium bowl.
  2. Combine mixture with Spread in medium bowl. Serve, if desired, with grilled bread or use as a dressing on any sandwich. Try a spoonful on top of grilled fish, roasted chicken or a bowl of pasta just before serving.   Enjoy!