The Amazing Flight of the Monarch Butterfly

The Amazing Flight of the Monarch Butterfly

Humans are a fickle bunch, and try as I might, they are hard to figure.  Say one thing, mean another.  Say one thing, find out it wasn’t true.  Commit to one thing, then change courses.  Not saying I’m any different, but the dependability of nature (well maybe not weather) is something that brings me a lot of comfort.  Cycles that repeat;  you sort of come to depend on them.  Geese come south, geese go north.  Jenny wrens nesting in the same clay pots they used the year before.  My mother in law’s daffodils emerging in late February, as they have been since she planted 30+ years ago.  Even the sturgeon have decided the river is clean enough to make a comeback.  We brought them to the brink of extinction, then we decided to bring them back.  See what I mean?  Fickle.

Well there is one cycle that is truly a wonder:  the migration of the monarch.  Their life cycle is equally awe inspiring but let’s focus on this trip!  There are so many wondrous aspects of this flight, described as ‘epic’, so let’s start with this:

The monarch migration is the longest known insect migration on earth.

Chew on this:  a monarch can leave Nova Scotia, Canada and travel to the mountains west of Mexico City, which works out to somewhere around 3,000 miles.  A butterfly, mind you.  Miracle? (more…)

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population. Monarch’s exist because of milkweed plants.

The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.

The monarch butterfly population has declined over 80% in the last 20 years.

The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies. (more…)

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Ever since humans discovered the many, powerful uses of herbs and spices, they’ve been fascinated by their smells, their tastes and their medicinal purposes. What many people fail to realize, is that the simple herbs and spices that are growing in their gardens and sitting in their kitchen cabinets have had important roles in the history of human civilization. Before modern refrigeration, spices were one of the only ways that people could keep their food from spoiling or enhance its flavor.

Herbs were around before the advent of contemporary medicine, so mixing plant ingredients together in a homeopathic remedy was the only option for relief from some illnesses. From the opening up of the spice trade in Asia in the Middle Ages to the misdirected spice seeking voyage that led to America, spices and herbs have played a powerful part in our legacy as a people. Here are some of the most storied tales of the most popular herbs and spices used today. (more…)

Plant for the Bees, Please

Plant for the Bees, Please

No doubt, you are somewhat familiar with the plight of the pollinators.  If you listen carefully, it feels as if so much of our natural world is facing a challenge, and it is, but there is something that all gardeners can do to help.  Plant a garden packed with the right plants for these pollinators.

We are placing our focus on bees right now, as bees are the most critical pollinator we have.  To refresh your memory, the issues facing bees are simple:

  • Loss of flowering plants
  • Loss of habitats
  • Pests and diseases
  • Climate change

We want to think that all of us can affect change, and make a difference, and in this case you can.  If we focus on the loss of flowering plants, we can definitely be of service to bees in our world.  If the problem is the loss of flower-rich habitats, the solution is to plant the best varieties of plants that provide both pollen and nectar.  We grow herbs, and over 60 of our herbs are considered bee friendly. (more…)

End Times for Bees?

End Times for Bees?

Truth be told:  I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic or dystopian fiction.  Or, a fancier term, ‘speculative fiction’.  Meaning the ‘what ifs’ in life;  what if there was a pandemic, a nuclear explosion, or some cataclysmic event that creates a VERY challenging world for those left behind.

I’m no writer, but if I was, I think an interesting topic that could jump start one of these novels would be the elimination of pollinators from our natural world.  Oh, wait.  That is already happening.  Let’s consider the bees.  We, and I’m including myself in this collection, are terrible for bees.  We’ve caused pollution, we’ve destroyed a lot of their habitat and the use of certain pesticides have threatened their existence.  There is also the issue of a parasitic mite that is a huge contributor to their decline.

Bees. Did I mention that we can’t live without them?

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The Importance of Soil: The Foundation of Your Garden

The Importance of Soil: The Foundation of Your Garden

We’ve written a lot about soil over the years, mainly passing on information that we’ve gathered over 40 + years of gardening.  And, although this basic element is so essential to the success of any herb garden, and you’d think we ‘knew it all by now, there is always more to share!

We can’t emphasize this enough:  knowing your soil, and understanding what to do to improve your soil, is the most important thing you can do to guarantee healthy and happy herbs.  Nutrients must be available to plant roots. Too sandy and porous means that the nutrients are not going to stay in the soil, and will not get to the plants.  Too compact and heavy, the soil won’t give up the nutrients and compaction around the roots means that you run a good chance of losing your herbs.

Good soil is the foundation for healthy herbs:

  • Soil provides access to nutrients, water, & air
  • Soil stabilizes a plant’s roots
  • Soil assists a plant’s natural resistance to pests and diseases

We classify soil in terms of its consistency:

  • Sandy soil is easy to dig, but it doesn’t hold nutrients or moisture.  On its own, sandy soil cannot provide your plants with the necessary ingredients for growth.
  • Heavy Clay soil is heavy and the clay tends to bind the soil, not allowing air to penetrate and holding water risking rot of your roots.  Additionally, that sticky soil will not release the needed nutrients.
  • Loamy soil is a perfect balance that provides your plants with moist and crumbly soil that smells rich and ‘earthy’.  A significant component of this wonderful blend is compost, decomposed organic matter sometimes referred to as humus.

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