GMO Kick: Part 3- Solutions

The first part of this post is the important part if you want to know how to avoid GMOs. The second part is important part if you want to save the world from GMOs. But if you want the super short version, the picture says it all. Grow your own food even if you can only manage a tiny amount. Look for heirloom seeds, hybrids if you must comprise. Gardening, waiting may be less convenient than just going to the store whenever you need something, but it’s the only way you’ll know for sure what you’re eating.

The problem with GMOs is enough to cause insanity, but I take comfort in knowing that there is something I can do about it, something we can all do about it. Immediately after this comfort I am depressed by the knowledge of how many people are not doing any of these, but then I remind myself that it all starts with the choice of the individual. I am an individual and so are you and we have a choice.

In order to avoid GMOs, try to do the following:

(1) There are two labels that you want to watch out for. USDA (or other agency) certified organic doesn’t ensure much, but it does tell you that you’re looking at something that shouldn’t, at the very least, have GMOs in it. The None GMO Verified seal from the non-GMO project, a non-government group that inspects foods from provider members. View the seal here (http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/non-gmo-project-seal.html).

Unfortunately, neither label is an absolute 100% guarantee that there are no slight traces of GMOs. Nearby GMO crops of the same type you purchase can pollute even organic crops and still be USDA approved as organic.

(2) Almost all corn, and soy crops in the USA and Canada are genetically modified. A lot of cotton is and canola is genetically modified. Avoid those cotton seed and canola oils. Beet sugar can come from genetically modified beets. Unless you’re getting it from an absolutely reliable source then avoid these crops at all costs. Corn and soy is, in some form or another, present in virtually all processed foods. Unless it’s certified organic or a fruit or vegetable, it probably has GMOs in it.

(3) Nearly 80 percent of packaged foods contain GMOs. These need to have one or both of the labels mentioned earlier. Besides causing liver damage, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or corn syrup sweeteners come from GMO corn. Another toxic sweetener, aspartame, is also a GMO.

(4) Realize that the term “natural” on a food product is meaningless for determining an organic or non-GMO food product. It’s simply deceptive marketing.

(5) Non – organic milk and milk products are usually from cows fed GMO corn or soy. Even worse, one-third of commercial milking cows are injected with patented Monsanto GMO growth hormones called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).

If dairy is not labeled organic or grass fed, at least look for a labels that says no hormones or rBGH. Traces of pus or blood from rBGH cows’ udder infections is not nutritious. Meat eaters should avoid factory farm meats that are fed GMOs and injected with antibiotics. Look for organic grass fed.

(6) Avoid packaged cereals unless the logos from section (1) are present. If you have children, train them patiently to not demand those cereals in brightly colored boxes. Most are full of GMOs, even if they say “natural” or appear in health food stores.

Here’s a handy free shopping guide to help you maneuver food aisles without buying GMOs (http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/download.html).’

I got in an interesting debate with a couple of people over an article about whether our food should be GMO labeled. The first guy said started by saying that labeling would raise food prices. I can’t find the article, so I can only tell you the general outline of our conversation. A lady jumped in and said there was nothing wrong with processed foods and she said something about it being the food she trusted to feed her family. I almost vomited then, but I tried to explain what ‘real food’ was and that it was not the twinkies, chips or anything else that has all the nutrients processed out of it like the fast meals that only have to be stuck in the microwave. Just because it’s edible doesn’t mean you should eat it.

I don’t think I ever got my point across. The guy kept saying stuff like everything was technically a GMO. He called the process of cross-pollination and selective breeding the same as genetically modifying in a lab. He had several classes in bioengineering to thank for this. The lady at some point said that GMOs were needed to feed  the world. I told her that we didn’t need them and even if we did, they are not the answer. I didn’t have the health evidence that I do now, I couldn’t find anything more than probable health complications, and I’m not sure what exactly I told her, but it was more or less my gut instinct. They can’t be good because of how unnatural they are. Her response was that if I didn’t recommend GMOs then what was my solution to world hunger? It was a good question. If someone is going to complain about the answer someone else came up with then they better have a different answer. My answer is less convenient, but it’s still an option. I typed up my response on a word document because I couldn’t do it all at once, so I needed to save it and that’s why I still have it. Here is what I said:

Well first I’ll say that it’s not a snap your finger and it’s done answer. There are many things that have to change if we are to have a sustainable way of feeding people. GMOs are a short term answer for a long term problem. Because there are many things that have to change in our food system, I don’t have all the answers and they won’t be as in depth as they need to be because I’d need a novel in order to cover it all. Second, my answers aren’t something I can do by myself. It can only work if people are willing to work together. Third, it is my personal belief that the Earth doesn’t belong to us. Us as in people, as in people currently living on the planet and us as in humans in general. We’re sharing it with animals, insects, plants, everything else (which no matter how much we modify food we can’t live without. Our success depends on theirs so we should try harder to keep them around) and we’re borrowing it from the generations that are coming after us. People think that they can live whatever kind of life they want and never have any consequences and that just isn’t the case. Nature is not the problem. Humans are the problem. That being said there are a couple of major problems. Overpopulation is a problem. At some point it will be impossible to feed everyone. If we don’t run out of food then we’ll run out of clean water and air. We need to realize that and the sooner the better. Another problem is the meat industry. Cows were meant to eat grass and only grass despite what those big corporations tell you about their healthy diet of corn, soy and whatever else. Over 70 percent of the corn we use today is fed to cows. The other 30 percent is fed to humans, pigs and poultry. If we went back to feeding cows grass then it would free up the space of the corn that we’re feeding them and also the space of feedlot. Not only that, but we wouldn’t be polluting the water with our huge amounts of cow crap. Cow dung is actually supposed to help fertilize soil. The way our system is set up with cows here and crops over here and more specifically that most farmers grow corn and only corn is that the soil isn’t being fertilized properly. Chemical fertilizers aren’t fixing that and can’t fix it. If there are no nutrients in the soil then we can’t grow anything. GMOs won’t fix this.

They aren’t just growing extra corn to feed corn, but they’re putting it in gas. Is that something people should do if the world was starving?

We are actually overproducing food. The world produces enough grain to feed every person at least 3,500 calories a day. http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/spring01/denlinger/problems.html  Some say more than 40 percent of food produced in America isn’t eaten, which makes that about 29 million tons of food waste and that they say can fill the Rose Bowl every three days. Food scraps make up 17 percent of our waste in landfills. It seems to me that if we really cared about those hungry people we would at least stop taking more than our fair share and throwing it away.

http://www.culinate.com/articles/features/wasted_food

Once I read an article that said a quarter of the food sent to Africa was wasted because it went bad before it even got there. The problem isn’t growing the stuff; it’s getting it to its destination.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/weekinreview/18martin.html?pagewanted=all

That’s my first suggestion. Stop wasting. My next would be to start growing our own food. Everyone can grow something even if it’s having a cherry tomato plant or a blueberry bush, every little bit helps keep pressure off the food system, which means they don’t have to take such drastic measures to feed everyone. Also supporting local farmers help. This doesn’t help people in Africa where it’s dry and nearly impossible to grow things, but what we don’t use can be sent to help them.

http://www.naturalnews.com/025699_food_garden_life.html

I have read several articles that claim and have proof of the idea that medium sized organic and non-organic farms are the answer. They can produce more than the giant corporations who are responsible for the all the processed foods.

http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=8764

As far as what real food is, as simply as I can put it is fruits and vegetables. That’s my definition, but here’s a better one. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/magazine/28nutritionism.t.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=pollan+happy+meals

Because I’m no expert and I wrote this late, late last night so I’m sure it’s poorly written at best I’m going to suggest a couple of things. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I’ve heard really good things about it. It should show just what these corporations that you’re trusting to feed your children will do in order to take your next dollar. There is a movie, but it’s horrible and does nothing to explain anything so don’t watch it. Folks, this ain’t normal by Joel Salatin. This book does a good job explaining what is wrong with the current food system. Food, Inc. is a movie. If nothing else watch this movie. It will change the whole way that you see food and it’s only a couple of hours as opposed to a whole book.

The lady had nothing to say after this. That left me with only one person to worry about, but interestingly enough just happened to work in the meat industry. He, of course, said what I said about the meat industry wasn’t true. Some of those people who work in the meat industry think they’re saints. Trying to argue with that wouldn’t have done any good, so I moved onto his next point, which was if the food were rotting before they got to the recipients, what could be better than growing the food where the recipients are? It’s a good point, but if GMOs are going to kill them anyway then what’s the point of that? Also, road infrastructure isn’t like it is here where we have roads to take you where you want to go. Harvesting and transporting would still be a problem. I’m sure we could still be discussing the subject now, but I said that we may have to agree to disagree and gave my last response. I don’t let things go, so as long as someone says something then I’ll say something back. Luckily, this guy was the bigger person and he let us go.

Composting 101

We have a number of trash cans in our house. One in my room, one in my parent’s room, one in both the bathrooms, one under our kitchen sink, and then the biggest one which used to be the garage, but we moved it into the kitchen. My mom has a daycare and the changing table is her room along with the diaper trash which is taken out every day except for the weekend. The kitchen trash and the garage trash were also usually taken out every day. With the day care comes a lot of extra food. Some kids are pickier about what food they eat than others, but still a lot of food is used and wasted which is why we had so much trash. We started recycling which cut down the garage trash a little, but it wasn’t until my mom started composting that we really saw a difference. We put the recyclables under the sink until it gets full and then we take it into the garage, I still take out the diapers every day, but the kitchen trash I take out about once a week and twice usually at most.

My mom has tried to compost before, but because our house and pretty much our city is low compared to surrounding areas, so most of the water drains to the town and then part of it makes it way to our yard. Because of that the food wouldn’t decompose like it has to in order to make the compost. I’m not sure what all she tried, but there was a variety of different things. The picture below is our solution.

I’ve been putting off writing this kind of thing before because I wanted to make sure that everything was going to work.

Yard and kitchen waste make up about 30% of the waste stream.Most of it from the kitchen was probably stuff that was bought and then wasted because it was never eaten. And that’s why composting is so beneficial. It takes that waste and creates something that is useful again. It’s the food version of recycling and it’s organic!

Composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that enriching garden soil. It is the way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal.

Composting is not a modern invention. In the natural world, composting is what happens as leaves pile up on the forest floor and begin to decay. Eventually, the rotting leaves are returned to the soil, where living roots can finish the recycling process by reclaiming the nutrients from the decomposed leaves. Composting may be at the root of agriculture as well. Some scientists have speculated that as early peoples dumped food wastes in piles near their camps, the wastes rotted and were terrific habitat for the seeds of any food plants that sprouted there. Perhaps people began to recognize that dump heaps were good places for food crops to grow, and began to put seeds there intentionally.

Compost does several things to benefit the soil that synthetic fertilizers cannot do. First, it adds organic matter, which improves the way water interacts with the soil. In sandy soils, compost acts as a sponge to help retain water in the soil that would otherwise drain down below the reach of plant roots (in this way, it protects plants against drought). In clay soils, compost helps to add porosity (tiny holes and passageways) to the soil, making it drain more quickly so that it doesn’t stay waterlogged and doesn’t dry out into a bricklike substance. Compost also inoculates the soil with vast numbers of beneficial microbes (bacteria, fungi, etc.) and the habitat that the microbes need to live. These microbes are able to extract nutrients from the mineral part of the soil and eventually pass the nutrients on to plants.

Good composting is a matter of providing the proper environmental conditions for microbial life. Compost is made by billions of microbes (fungi, bacteria, etc.) that digest the food you provide for them. If the pile is cool enough, worms, insects, and their relatives will help out the microbes. All of these will slowly make compost out of your yard and kitchen wastes under any conditions. However, like people, these living things need air, water, and food. If you maintain your pile to provide for their needs, they’ll happily turn your yard and kitchen wastes into compost much more quickly.

Keep in mind the following basic ideas while building your compost piles:

AIR

Composting microbes are aerobic — they can’t do their work well unless they are provided with air. Without air, anaerobic (non-air needing) microbes take over the pile. They do cause slow decomposition, but tend to smell like putrefying garbage. To avoid this, make sure there are plenty of air passage ways into your compost pile, use a mixture of ingredients that get slimy and mat down the pile such as grass or wet leaves and ones that don’t like straw which will help the pile breathe better.  Turning, completely breaking apart the mixture with a spade or another gardening utensil and then putting it back together, is also a good way to add air to your pile.

WATER

Ideally, your pile should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge to fit the needs of compost microbes. At this moisture level, there is a thin film of water coating every particle in the pile, making it very easy for microbes to live and disperse themselves throughout the pile. If your pile is drier than this, it won’t be very good microbial habitat, and composting will be slowed significantly. If your pile is a great deal wetter, the sodden ingredients will be so heavy that they will tend to mat down and exclude air from the pile, again slowing the composting process (and perhaps creating anaerobic odor problems). If you are using dry ingredients, such as autumn leaves or straw, you’ll need to moisten them as you add them to the pile. Kitchen fruit and vegetable wastes generally have plenty of moisture, as do fresh green grass clippings and garden thinnings. Watch out for far-too-soggy piles in wet climates (a tarp may help to keep rain off during wet weather). In dry climates, it may be necessary to water your pile occasionally to maintain proper moisture.

FOOD

In broad terms, there are two major kinds of food that composting microbes need.

‘Browns’ also known as carbons are dry and dead plant materials such as straw, dry brown weeds, autumn leaves, and wood chips or sawdust. These materials are mostly made of chemicals that are just long chains of sugar molecules linked together. As such, these items are a source of energy for the compost microbes. Because they tend to be dry, browns often need to be moistened before they are put into a compost system.

‘Greens’ (nitrogens) are fresh (and often green) plant materials such as green weeds from the garden, kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps, green leaves, coffee grounds and tea bags, fresh horse manure, etc. Compared to browns, greens have more nitrogen in them. Nitrogen is a critical element in amino acids and proteins, and can be thought of as a protein source for the billions of multiplying microbes.

A good mix of browns and greens is the best nutritional balance for the microbes. This mix also helps out with the aeration and amount of water in the pile. Browns, for instance, tend to be bulky and promote good aeration. Greens, on the other hand, are typically high in moisture, and balance out the dry nature of the browns.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

If you live in a cold climate, your compost pile will probably go dormant in the winter. No problem — it’ll start back up again when the springtime thaw comes.

A common misunderstanding about compost piles is that they must be hot to be successful. This just isn’t true. If you have good aeration and moisture, and the proper ingredient mix, your pile will decompose just fine at temperatures of 50 degrees Farenheit or above. Hotter piles will decompose faster because it gives the microbes faster metabolisms.

For a pile to get hot and stay hot for a long period of time, the typical minimum size for the pile is one cubic meter (a cube one meter, or about three feet, on a side). A pile this size has plenty of mass in which those billions of heat-generating microbes can live, yet is also large enough that the center of the pile is well-insulated by the material surrounding it. Smaller piles just cannot insulate themselves well enough to remain hot for long, if at all. You can also provide additional insulation to a pile by stacking bales of hay or straw, or bags of dry autumn leaves, around your bin system.

There is no single point at which the compost is finished. What you’re looking for is for it be dark in color and has an earthy smell (like the smell of soil). Usually, it’s difficult to recognize any of the original ingredients, although bits of hard-to-decompose materials (such as straw) sometimes can be seen. If you plan to use compost in seed-starting mixes, though, you’re best off having a well-finished compost, because seedling roots may be attacked by decomposer microbes if the roots contact unfinished compost.

To make sure that you’re your compost is safe here are some things to avoid:

Chemically-treated wood products or sawdust from those products. For example, take pressure-treated wood (sometimes called CCA), which usually has a greenish, and sometimes other colors, tint to it. It contains arsenic, a highly toxic element, as well as chromium and copper. There is evidence to suggest that arsenic is leached into the soil from these products when they are used to make compost bins or raised beds, so composting the sawdust would certainly be a mistake. Avoid other chemically-treated wood products and sawdust as well, such as wood treated with creosote or ‘penta’ preservative.

Diseased plants. Many plant disease organisms are killed by consistent hot composting, but it’s difficult to make sure that every speck of the diseased material gets fully composted. It’s best not to compost diseased plant material at all, to avoid reinfecting next year’s garden.

Human feces. It can contain disease organisms that will make people very sick. Composting human feces safely requires that the compost pile reach high (thermophilic) temperatures over a period of time. It isn’t necessarily that difficult to reach these temperatures in a home compost pile, but the potential health costs of improper composting are high. Composting of human feces should not be attempted, except by experienced ‘hot pile’ composters who are well informed of the temperatures and times required to kill pathogens, and who are willing to take 100% responsibility for the process and product.

Meat, bones and fatty food wastes. These materials are very attractive to pests (in an urban setting, this could mean rats…). In addition, fatty food wastes can be very slow to break down, because the fat can exclude the air that composting microbes need to do their work.

Weeds. Morning glory/bindweed, sheep sorrel, ivy, several kinds of grasses, and some other plants can resprout from their roots and/or stems in the compost pile. Just when you thought you had them all chopped up, you’d actually helped them to multiply. Don’t compost these weeds unless they are completely dead and dry (you may want to leave them in a sunny place for a couple of weeks before composting). Remember also that composting weeds that have gone to seed will create weeds in next year’s garden, unless a very hot pile temperature can be maintained to kill the seeds.

Pet wastes. Dog and cat feces may carry diseases that can infect humans. It is best NEVER to use them in compost piles. Some people do bury them 8″ deep in the soil, but ONLY in areas where food crops are never grown.

There are a tremendous number of options for containing your compost. Some people choose to go binless, simply building a compost pile in a convenient spot on the ground. Others build bins from materials such as recycled pallets, or two-by-fours and plywood. And, of course, there are many commercial bins on the market.

You’re going to want to avoid treated lumber for the same reason you don’t want to put it into your compost pile. It contains arsenic, a highly toxic element (it also contains toxic levels of copper and chromium). There is evidence to suggest that arsenic will leach into your compost if you use CCA lumber in the bin. Unfortunately, many extension services and local governments actually recommend using this stuff for building compost bins.

A great variety of things can be composted at home, saving them from a one-way trip to the landfill, and turning them into a valuable soil amendment for home use.

There are a tremendous number of options for containing your compost. Some people choose to go binless, simply building a compost pile in a convenient spot on the ground. Others build bins from materials such as recycled pallets, or two-by-fours and plywood. And, of course, there are many commercial bins on the market.

The question arises, “Which system is best?” Each system has advantages and disadvantages that you should consider when making your choice. There are some very attractive and well-engineered commercial bins out there, as well as plans for excellent do-it-yourself models. But why not find out about all the options?

One Bin Systems:

A one bin system is the simplest way to make a compost pile, and is a great way to get started. If you plan to make a lot of compost, one bin may not be enough capacity, but adding another can be a simple matter. The basic idea of a one bin system is to make an enclosure for your bin that is at least three feet (or about one meter) across, although you may also choose to use no bin at all if you don’t need to keep everything tidy. Possible construction materials include free wooden pallets from local businesses, lumber, cinder blocks, or even steel posts and wire fencing. Once you’ve made your bin (or decided not to), you might build a pile all at once if you have the ingredients, but it’s more likely you’ll build the pile over time as you generate compostable materials.

If you build the pile over time, the stuff on the bottom will decompose first, since it will have been there the longest. When there is finished compost at the bottom of the bin, and you want to use it, simply remove the unfinished compost from on top, take out what you need, and throw the unfinished compost back on top. If your pile is not a high-temperature pile, you may want to let redworms (a kind of earthworm) help make the compost. They’ll make the process go more quickly, and can create a very high quality finished product.

Two Bin and Three Bin Systems:

These systems consist of two or three adjacent bins, and may be made out of the same materials as a one bin system. The advantage of having more than one bin is that one can have a bin for the pile being built (as ingredients are accumulated over a period of time) and another one (or more) for a pile already built that is in a more advanced stage of decomposition. If you have the space for such a system, and are generating or gathering enough materials to keep the bins in use, this can be very convenient. When you start using a system like this, build your pile in one of the bins. When this bin becomes full, ‘turn the pile’ by transfering it to the adjacent bin (a garden fork or similar tool will help). This will aerate the pile and hasten decomposition.

In a three bin system, you might start by building a pile in the leftmost bin. The original pile is turned into the middle bin when it’s time to begin building another pile, aerating it to accelerate the composting process. Another pile is then built in the leftmost bin. When that pile is completed, the old pile (which is now in the middle) is turned a final time into the rightmost bin for finishing, and the just-built pile is turned into the middle bin, making the leftmost bin available for yet another pile. Finished compost will eventually be removed from the rightmost bin.

Rotating or Tumbling Systems:

The cost of rotating or tumbling systems can be quite high, and they are somewhat small (they work for us and we have the leftover food of seven kids. We put about a 100 gallons of food into our first one), but these factors are balanced out by the speed at which drum/tumbler systems can generate finished compost. Under ideal circumstances, compost may be finished in three weeks in a rotating drum composter. Fill the container partly full with a mix of greens and moistened browns, and then give the unit a turn every day or so to aerate the ingredients and remix them. It’s important not to pack the container full, because the ingredients won’t tumble and mix if packed in tightly.

While one batch is composting, you can accumulate the materials for the next batch. When the first compost is finished, you can dump in the materials you’ve saved to make more. It’s possible to maintain relatively high temperatures in drum/tumbler systems even if they are small, both because the container acts as insulation and because the constant turning keeps the microbes aerated and active.

I mentioned our drainage problem earlier. Because our ground is so wet, this is the thing we have found to be successful so far.

Sheet or Trench Composting:

This may be the ideal system for people that have garden space who don’t want to fuss with bins and piles. Simply bury your kitchen wastes in a trench 8″ deep dug in the garden, leave the buried materials to rot for a few months, and then plant above them. By the time you plant, the materials will have rotted into stuff in which plant roots will thrive. If you have copious amounts of materials to get rid of all at once, such as autumn leaves, you might want to spread them around the garden and rototill them into the soil (this is best done in the late autumn, or at least 2 months in advance of planting in the area).

Commercially Available Bin Systems:

Commercially available bins are typically somewhat expensive compared to do-it-yourself bins, but they do keep your compost neatly enclosed and can provide an ‘instant solution’ to the question of how to set up a composting system. In performance, many of the plastic bins may help to insulate the compost somewhat, allowing decomposition to occur later into the cold season. However, I don’t feel that there are major advantages in the actual composting performance of commercial bins — they function more or less the same as a one bin system. A few brands seem to claim that they are able to harvest some kind of special cosmic energy or the power of the pyramids in assisting decomposition. Nonsense. They certainly can function just fine as compost bins, but there is no magic involved.

Many of the companies selling plastic bins manufacture them from recycled plastic. If you plan to get a pre-built plastic bin, keep your eyes open for ones made from reclaimed plastic — support recycling and businesses that sell recycled products!

http://www.composting101.com

Small-space Gardening

Having enough space for a garden is common in a small town in the south, but it’s very rare in the bigger cities. Farms, gardens and other local produce producers are such a huge asset and it would be a shame for people to miss out because of where they live. Gardening is one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting a good quality product and it would be a shame for people to miss out because of where they live.

While it isn’t impossible to garden in a small space, there are limitation and things you should consider before starting a garden. Choose wisely. When you don’t have a lot of space don’t grow plants that take up lots of space, have a long growing season or you don’t love to eat! Grow vegetables that are hard to find and not usually on the supermarket shelves, and select varieties for superior taste rather than crop size.

Choose plants suited to your small space. Some plants need more shade, some need more sun. ‘Dwarf’ varieties are ideal for small spaces because they produce a lot in a little space. Herbs are among the easiest categories of food plants to grow. And because fresh herbs can be rather expensive, these easy growers are cost-effective in a small-space garden. For individual advice, watch your gardening area for a full day and calculate how many hours of direct sunlight it gets, then read seed catalogs or visit a local garden center and ask for advice for your climate.

Grow fewer vegetables of each type. In a large garden 20 celery plants can be grown, in a small space garden you may want to grow only half a dozen, and in a balcony garden two or three plants will provide fresh stalks for cutting. In courtyards and against a warm wall you can often get planting long before the soil in a traditional garden has warmed enough for planting out and seed sowing.

Succession planting. Plant a few at a time, this avoids surpluses of produce and ensures that three is always something ready to eat in the garden.  Growing a few seeds in a propagator or on a windowsill means that you can jump-start the season. Avoid planting all the seeds at once so they won’t be ready all at once. Fold over the top of the seed packet and store in a cool, dry, dark place, the back of a kitchen cabinet is just fine. The seedling plants can then be introduced into the garden when they are a few inches high to grow to maturity.

Growing in containers is a great option. Even if you don’t have any soil you can still grow a few choice vegetables. There are many striking plants that make attractive and productive container plants.

Make sure the container is big enough for the plants root development.

Remember that plants in containers and with limited soil use up available nutrients more quickly, and shallower soil can’t hold as much water as the ground can. Make sure to regularly supplement your soil with organic compost, kelp meal, bone meal or organic cottonseed meal to give plants the nutrients they need to thrive. Also keep an eye on water. It’s important that plants receive the water they need, and also that containers drain well so plant roots don’t drown. Over- and underwatering have similar symptoms. The best way to make sure you’re providing proper water is to put your finger about 1 inch into the soil. If soil is moist, don’t water. If it’s dry, do.

Intercropping or interplanting is an ideal technique in the small garden. It involves planting two different vegetables, one fast maturing and the other slow maturing, in the same space. Radishes planted with celery can be harvested before the celery takes up space. Lettuce can frequently be placed between slower crops.

Plant the slow maturing veggies first, and then fill between with the fast maturing crop. By the time you have harvested the speedy veggies, the slower crop will have begun to fill out the spaces left by the earlier, harvested crop. Feeding the second crop with a liquid fertilizer of mulch with compost gives it a boost after the fast-maturing vegetables have been harvested.

Additonal Resources:

http://www.mastergardenproducts.com/gardenerscorner/smallspacevegetablegardening.htm

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/small-space-gardening-zm0z12fmzsto.aspx?page=4 This site has a lot of great, specific information.

http://www.gardeningchannel.com/how-to-grow-a-small-space-vegetable-garden/

http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-home-living/small-space-gardening-zb0z1203zglo.aspx#ixzz1wUAAH4i2

http://ohmyapt.apartmentratings.com/gardening.html

For small spaces, you basically have two options. Container plants and trellises. For container plants you want to be careful to make sure that their root system isn’t one that needs tons of room. Here is a list of plants that have fairly shallow root systems:

Beets

Carrots

Lettuce

Peppers

Scallions

Tomatoes

Herbs

Potatoes

Green Beans / Runner Beans

Turnips

Peppers and Chilli’s

Blueberry

Green Onions.

Strawberries

Parsley

Basil

Radish

Cabbage

Here are some container ideas:

Container 1

http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2010/06/14/12-savvy-small-space-urban-gardening-designs-ideas/ has lots of ideas for small space gardening. There aren’t instructions for everything, it all looks pretty straightforward.

Container 2

http://www.restoredstyle.com/vertical-gardening-by-randy-raburn/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RestoredStyle+%28restored+style%29 This doesn’t say what kind of materials he is using, but I believe it’s wooly pockets. I would think that for some of these ideas you could use shoe organizers.

Container 3

http://www.brooklynlimestone.com/2012/04/diy-vertical-herb-garden_03.html#.T4gz8xz-tmw – I’m showing this idea because of the wall. You could go the more eco-friendly route and instead of buying new terracotta planters use some of the ideas from yesterday or come up with your own genius plan.

Container 4

http://www.squidoo.com/garden-crafts-projects – I like this idea too. You’ll have to scroll a while to find it on the site.

The key is to make sure that whatever you choose will work well in the environment you have. Make sure you do plenty of research before deciding.

Trellises are the other option. For this you want plants that grow on vines or have a tendency to grow up such as:

Zucchini (or Courgette)

Tomatoes

Peas

Cucumbers

Egg plant

Pole beans

Gourds

Melons

Squash

Grapes

Trellis 1

http://ecosalon.com/homesteading-chicken-coop-urban-gardening-bee-keeping/

Trellis 2

http://www.kvpermaculture.org/blog/permaculture/bike-wheel-trellis-hard-luffa/ – love this idea! No DIY, but it doesn’t look too hard.

Trellis 3

No DIY, but it talks about how to grow on a trellis. http://www.patiogardentips.com/vertical-gardening-on-the-patio/

Trellis 4

http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Organic-Vertical-Planter/

This guy has a lot of cool ideas for planters and he also talks about how to grow on balcony space and how to arrange everything.

So there you have it. Some ideas and tips for small-space gardening. Yesterday, also had some some ideas for vertical gardening, so don’t forget to check it out. Happy Gardening!

Natural Bug Repellents

Yesterday I talked about why having your own garden is a good way to go. In a perfect world evil pests would stay away from these gardens and so would weeds, but I think we all know that this is no perfect world. Pesticides are deadly and even in small doses they can cause cancers, neurological problem and reproductive problems even in people thousands of miles away from the source. If they can harm us then you can bet that the lower and more important parts of the food chains are also being harmed. Bees are also hugely impacted by these poisons. Why should we care about bees? Of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees. Some 35 per cent of our diet depends on pollination of crops by bee. And thanks to the pesticides that we and the food industry are using, we are now losing them by the thousands. It is suggested that if all the bees disappeared we would have about four years to live.  I don’t know about you, but that concerns me and you can read more about that here. So below I’ll be listing natural solutions for the real pests.

Crazily enough, most herbs and flavoring plants like lemon and such are bug repellents.

  1. Basil– There is hundreds kinds of basil, so take your pick. They all are supposed to keep asparagus beetles, tomato heartworms and thrips away.
  2. Bay leaf– dry and fresh works well.  You can put one bay leaf in fifty pounds of wheat berries or organic white flour, Barley, Oatmeal and similar items and it will keep the weevils out of it. If you don’t happen to buy flour in those quantities you can add a bay leaf to a smaller sized container with similar results. Scatter a few leaves on the pantry shelves to repel moths, roaches, earwigs, and mice.
  3. Mint– ants, aphids, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, imported cabbage worms, squash bugs, white flies and mice.
  4. Pennyroyal- fleas, ants, flies, and mosquitoes. Large amounts of pennyroyal can be toxic to pets and children.
  5. Rosemary– mosquitoes, imported cabbage worms, slugs and cats.

http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/herbs-deter-flies-naturally.htm

  1. Sage– cabbage loopers, carrot flies, flea beetles, imported cabbage worms and tomato heart worms.
  2. Thyme- Cabbage loopers and white flies.
  3. Garlic– aphids, cowpea curculio, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, Mexican been leaf  beetles, root maggots, spider mites and squash vine borers.
  4. Catnip– aphids, corn earworms, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs and mice.
  5.  Oregano– cabbage butterflies and cucumber beetles.
  6. Cilantro– aphids, Colorado potato beetles and spider mites.
  7.  White Sage– asparagus beetles.
  8.  Fennel– aphids, slugs, snails, and spider mites.
  9. Dill- aphids, cabbage moths and spider mites.
  10. Parsley- Asparagus beetles and carrot flies.

Petunias repel leafhoppers, Mexican bean leaf beetles and squash bugs. Marigolds repel aphids, corn earworms, leaf hoppers, Mexican bean leaf beetles, rabbits, squash bugs, thrips and tomato heartworms. Lavender repels moths, mosquitoes, mice, rabbits, ticks and fleas.

Some vegetables interestingly repel bugs, too.

  1. Green Bean – Colorado potato beetles
  2. Tomato – asparagus beetles
  3.  Lettuce – carrot flies
  4. Borage – cabbage worms and tomato heart worms
  5. Radish – cowpea curculio, cucumber beetles, harlequin bugs, Mexican bean leaf beetles, squash bugs and stink bugs
  6. Onion – bean leaf beetle, cabbage loopers, carrot flies, flea beetles, harlequin bugs, Mexican bean leaf beetles, mice, rabbits, spider mites and squash vine borers
  7. Potato – bean leaf beetles
  8. Turnip – bean leaf beetles and harlequin bugs

If gardening isn’t your thing, but you still want non-toxic pesticides then you could always make your own non-toxic pest repellents or insecticidal soaps.

  • Grind 3 large onions, 1 bunch of garlic and 3 hot peppers. Mix with water and leave overnight in a covered container. In the morning, strain through fine strainer or cheesecloth and add sufficient water to produce approximately one gallon (16 cups) of pesticide.
  • Soak 10-15 diced garlic cloves in a pint (2 cups) of mineral oil for 24 hours. Strain and add to a spray bottle.

Annie B. Bond, Care2 Green Living Executive Producer, offers a recipe for all-natural insecticidal soap spray, which uses 1-2 tablespoons of a natural liquid soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile soap in a quart (4 cups) of water. Once this solution is mixed, it can be added to a spray bottle.

Attract Beneficial Predators Such as Ladybugs, Praying Mantises, Dragonflies and Spiders

Another method of natural pest control is attracting ladybugs to your garden. Ladybugs are voracious consumers of aphids and other garden pests. Plants that attract ladybugs include Angelica, Caraway, Cilantro, Coreopsis, Cosmos (particularly white), Dandelions, Dill, Fennel, Geraniums, Tansy and Yarrow. Ladybugs that are purchased at supply stores supposedly carry diseases and parasites that can be released in your yard and disrupt the ecosystem there and also kill the native ladybugs. http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/why-you-shouldnt-buy-ladybugs-natural-pest-control-your-garden.html

There are other insects that can aid in pest control, such as praying mantises and dragonflies. Spiders (which are arachnids rather than insects) are also highly beneficial.

http://jennifercopley.suite101.com/natural-garden-pest-control-a54194#ixzz1vbwpKQvv

Why Garden?

Okay, so I have some maybe good news and maybe bad news depending on who are and how you feel about my enthusiasm. And probably how you feel about gardening. This week and probably part of next week will be dedicated to gardening which is the good news. Or that bad news depending on how you look at it.  If I can motivate just one person to even grow a cherry tomato then I will be okay with that.

Gardening. Funny story. My mom has tried many, many times to start a garden or grow things, but everything kept dying. She owns a daycare and some organization offered the local daycares and centers the opportunity of getting raised beds. It was whole program. They were taught how to garden from this expert guy and he gave them tips specific to this area. They were taught where the best places to garden (Sunlight, shade that kind of thing). They were given seeds that grow well in this area, they were given teaching objects (play vegetables, fruits, puzzles and other teaching materials). It was a cool deal. This program started just as I was getting into the whole environmental thing, so we made a lot of changes all at once. The times before when my mom tried to make our lifestyle better she was met with an army of resistance. I’m a stubborn idiot and my dad isn’t usually on board either. If I had started trying to change our lifestyle myself then my mom probably would have jumped on board without much trouble, but it’s just better that it worked out the way it did.

Anyway, the program fell through. The people in charge didn’t follow through which I wasn’t too surprised about. There seems to be very few people who can follow through and get anything accomplished. I don’t think that is specific to this area, but it sure is annoying. After fighting tooth and nail for it, my mom and her friend got the raised bed part, but I think they’re still waiting on the soil and seeds. Everyone else in the program is still waiting for both last time I heard. One thing my mom has discovered is that the reason she can’t grow anything is because of our soil. It’s mostly clay and rock. So the raised bed has now giving her the ability to actually grow something.

I have never liked the idea of gardening. I tried to stay away from anything that was ‘girly’. That was stupid, but sometimes I’m pretty stupid. Another problem was that I hate the heat and that’s mostly when you have to put the work into gardening. Weeding and heat are not a good combination for me, but that can be lessened with the cloth underneath and killing the grass before setting the bed. A summer or so ago, a friend of a friend’s hired me to water her plants while she was gone. It was so hot like 117 degrees or so and I made it out alive. Faced my distaste and came out the other side with appreciation for one thing and the idea that maybe it really wasn’t so bad. I wasn’t burrowing through our house declaring that we should get a garden or anything, but it was when something in my head kind of clicked.

Throughout the years I have grown to hate the idea of being dependent on the huge corporations and hate all the power that they have over us. With that mindset I have grown to love the idea of getting a garden. With the exception of the materials that are needed to start and the wood or whatever to make the raised bed if you need one, it’s practically free. And it’s definitely a lot cheaper than getting it from the grocery store. It just seems so logical and I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. And even when my mom started the garden, I was glad that she was doing it and I knew that it was something I wanted to do when I moved out, but now I didn’t really wanted anything to do with it now. But recently my mom showed me all the stuff that was growing and it was so cute. It looked like a place filled with hope and pride and such cuteness. So now that I have explained my history with it, I will now go into more detail on why gardening is a good idea.

  1. Better Nutrition and Better Taste. This benefit doesn’t take a study to prove it true. We all know the minute we bite into a homegrown tomato that the taste is superior—and can intuit that the nutrition is vastly increased as well. Remember, all fruits and vegetables grown and picked for mass consumption lose much of their nutrition on the way to the market.
  2. Stress Reduction. Gardening is therapeutic. According to Eva Shaw, PhD, author of Shovel It: Nature’s Health Plan, gardening reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and helps fight depression. A study done by Kaiser Permanente showed the brainwave activity of a gardener mirrored that of someone praying or meditating. A related study done in the Netherlands compared gardening to reading. It reported that, “Gardening and reading each led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. Positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading. These findings provide the first experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress.
  3. Added Health Benefits. A study at Texas A & M University and hosted by the Horticultural Society of the America revealed that gardeners reported more physical activity, claimed more energy, and rated their overall health higher than non-gardeners. In fact, these studies show that merely looking at a garden or plants can generate changes in such things as blood pressure, heart activity, muscle tension and brain and electrical activity. (I think in my case this was definitely true.) Reporter Carl Hoffman states, “Gardening – as every devotee knows – provides an individual with almost irresistible stimuli, regardless of his or her physical, cognitive or emotional limitations. Even for the sick or disabled, a garden can provide the counterpoint of order and self-empowerment against the feelings of helplessness and loss of control that often accompany serious illness.” Author Eva Shaw, PhD says, “Hospitalized patients’ wounds heal faster and they require fewer pain killers and antidepressants when they are merely looking at a painting of a garden. Imagine the effect a real garden can have”? Finally, another health benefit is found in the area of addiction recovery. According to www.garden-field.com “For those who are dependent on harmful substances, have been through an accident or a traumatic experience, have an illness, or are in a correctional institute – horticulture therapy is said to be one of the most effective methods for recovery.”
  4. Keeps Your Brain Healthy. David B. Carr, MD, a geriatrician at Washington University in St. Louis, says, “It has been my experience that those patients (with Alzheimer’s or dementia), doing activities (gardening being one example) do better in the long haul and have a slower rate of decline than those who don’t do anything,” says Carr. “Gardening is one of the non-prescription interventions that has the ability to slow the rate of cognitive decline.”
  5. It’s Good For The Planet. One of the greatest benefits of your own garden is that it puts you in touch with the world around you. Suddenly you become much more aware of the seasons—when to plant, when not to plant. What grows easily where you live? What won’t? Is there a chance temperatures will drop below freezing? When will the sun rise and set? Has there been any rain? How much to water? All of these questions come up much more regularly when you need to know to keep your garden happy. And the more in tune we are in nature, the more likely we will be to take care of it. And lastly, everything we grow that is green is helping to reduce our carbon footprint. The crop industry is a nasty one. Our produce is driven thousands of miles to get to our grocery store and they’re usually sprayed with deadly pesticides which aren’t good for the environment, the bee population, animals, or us.
  6. Reduced Costs. According to, http://www.healinglandscapes.org/gardens/prisons.html you could save anywhere from $27 to $2,000. (I think the savings may be higher depending on how much produce you needed before as opposed to fast food and such) That is quite a lot of money. Even $27 is almost a whole tank of gas. And whatever you didn’t eat, you could sell which give you more money or you could give away which would give some else a chance to save money and gas.
  7. It’s Easy. I have never been interested in learning to cook. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do about it because even a year ago I wasn’t too keen in eating out all the time, so I knew I would probably have to learn eventually, but how was the question. My plan now is to be vegetarian which leaves out the problem of learning to cook meat and the problem of undercooking it and giving myself some horrible deadly disease. And all of meals can just come from outside after I take a few minutes to go outside and pick it. This won’t always be an option, but it would solve a lot of problems most of the time.
  8. It’s Fast. Maybe not at a farm, but in your own personal garden it takes just a few seconds to pick your food after you plant it, of course. I would even go as far as to say that it’s faster than waiting in a fast food line right when everyone else is getting off work.
  9. Creates Less Problems. One problem that keeps coming up when talking about organic farms and corporation farms is that organic farms can’t feed the whole world. Whether because it takes more attention, more crops are destroyed by bugs from lack of pesticides, takes more time to grow so there is less food available, it’s too expensive (which having your own garden is practically free) whatever people seem to think this is a problem is, the reality is that organic probably can not feed the world alone. ALONE is the key word. If most people or even more people had their own garden and got the majority or even some of their fruits and veggies from it then there would be a lot less pressure on organic farmers. If not that then there needs to be MORE organic farmers and that would also reduce stress on organic farmers. Commercial farms are HUGE. There are only three MAJOR commercial farms in the U.S. If three farms can feed the world then I’m sure broken up, divided and a bigger number of organic farmers can feed the world too.
  10. 10.  One thing that my mom learned about in her class is the therapeutic benefits of gardening. It even helps prisoners. One study in San Francisco showed that 29 percent of prisoners were re-arrested within four months of their release, while only 6 percent of those who partook in a gardening program were re-arrested.” http://www.healinglandscapes.org/gardens/prisons.html In one prison program, the prisoners were given the things needed to have a garden outside of prison in whatever environment (apartment, house etc) they were going to be living in. I’m a huge fan of prison programs like the one where they raise puppies and all that (and no I’m not in support of prisons like the one in Norway that was recently in the news. That’s just ridiculous. I believe in rehabilitation and I don’t think that non-violent offenders should be mixed with violent ones, but it shouldn’t be a vacation.) And this is one is awesome because it helps with living costs and gives them kind of a trade. The reasoning on why this works is that most of the inmates have never known how to take care of anything or how it feels to be taken care of. It lets them know how pride feels or anything and this gives them a chance to experience that.

 

So this is just a couple of reasons why I believe everyone should have their own garden. If you have or had a garden, feel free to leave a comment below and share how it’s affected your life.

The Bees’ Starring Roles

When I first started this project, I didn’t think there would be this much information on bees and their role in the environment. Well, turns out they’re very important and it shows by the massive amounts of information I got. So once again, this subject will be divided into three parts. This post which is about the bees’ role in the environment, why the bees are disappearing and how to help them and make sure that we’re not the next extinct species.

ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/012/i0842e/i0842e04.pdf

Bees are pollinators and as pollinators strongly influence ecological relationships, ecosystem conservation and stability, genetic variation in the plant community, floral diversity, specialization and evolution. Bees play an important, but little recognized role in most terrestrial ecosystems where there is green vegetation cover for at least 3 to 4 months each year.

In tropical forests, savannah woodlands, mangrove, and in temperate deciduous forests, many species of plants and animals would not survive if bees were missing because the production of seeds, nuts, berries and fruits are highly dependent on insect pollination, and among the pollinating insects, bees are the major pollinators.

In rain forests, especially in high mountain forests where it is too cold for most bees, other pollinators like bats and birds play a greater role in plant pollination. In farmed areas, bees are needed for the pollination of many cultivated crops and for maintaining biodiversity in ‘islands’ of non-cultivated areas.

The main role of bees in the different ecosystems is their pollination work. Other animal species are connected with bees: either because they eat the brood or honey, pollen or wax, because they are parasitic to the bees, or simply because they live within the bees nest.

 To understand just how important bees are, we must secondly, understand how exactly they accomplish their role. Pollination is transfer of pollen from the anther (the male part of the flower) to the stigma (the female part of the flower). Some plants can pollinate themselves: in this case, the pollen passes from the anther to the stigma inside the same flower, and this is called self-pollination. Other plants need pollen to be transferred between different flowers or different individuals of the plant. This is cross-pollination. Many plants can be pollinated both ways. Plants can be pollinated by wind or animals. Some plants have only one method for pollination, others use a combination.

Bee pollinated flowers have evolved in such a way that a visiting bee has to brush against the flower’s anthers bearing pollen, or there may be a special mechanism to release the anthers to spring up or down to cover the bee with pollen.

Compared with other insects, bees are extremely hairy. Each hair has a branched structure that makes it highly effective at catching pollen. While flying to the next flower, the honeybee will brush herself and move many of the pollen grains, to arrange them in the pollen baskets made of stiff hairs on her hind legs.

Some pollen grains are so dry that they cannot be formed into a clump. To prevent the pollen falling off during flight, the bee will regurgitate some nectar and mix it with the pollen. This gives the sweet taste when eating pollen balls collected by bees. It also makes the pollen a little darker so that it can be difficult to see from which plants it comes. Some bees do not have pollen baskets – they transport the pollen in the hair on their abdomen (e.g. Osmia bees and leaf cutter bees). When the honeybee with pollen is landing in the next flower, there will be pollen enough left on the bees’ body hairs to pollinate the new flower, by delivering some grains to the flower’s stigma.

To create a seed, the pollen grain has to grow a small tube inside the stigma to the ovary of the flower. Then a male gamete can travel through the tube, fertilize the egg cell and start development of the fertile seed.

Some plants need several successful visits from bees to ensure that all the flower’s eggs are fertilized. For example, some varieties of strawberry need about 20 pollen grains – requiring visits by several bees, an apple flower may need four or five bee visits to receive enough pollen grains for complete fertilization. If the fertilization is inadequate because of lack of bees, not all seeds will develop, and the shape of the fruit will be poor and small. Fertilization is the beginning of a new seed, which perhaps will grow and develop into a new plant. The new plant will bloom, provide the bees with food, be pollinated, and be fertilized, and in this way, the story continues.

Some general rules can be used to detect whether a plant is pollinated by bees, flies, beetles, wasps, butterflies, moths, thrips, birds, bats, marsupials, slugs or rodents. Flowers pollinated by bees most often bloom in daytime, they can have different colors, but seldom red. The scent of daytime bee pollinated flowers tends to be less strong than that of night pollinated flowers, often pollinated by bats or moths. Honeybee pollinated flowers have nectar tubes not more than 2 cm long. They have nectar guides (patterns to direct the bee towards the nectary) and often a landing place for bees. Bees are especially attracted to white, blue and yellow flowers. Plants pollinated by insects are called “entomophilous”, and insects are generally the most important pollinators.

 Bees and most flowering plants have developed a complex interdependence during millions of years. An estimated 80 percent of flowering plants are entomophilous i.e. depending more or less on insect pollination to be able to reproduce, and it is estimated that half of the pollinators of tropical plants are bees.

The efficiency of honeybees is due to their great numbers, their physique and their behavior of foraging on only one plant species at one time. The bees have to find their food in flowers. The food can be nectar or pollen. Nectar is produced to attract the bees. Pollen is also attracting the bees, but it has another function too: it is produced to ensure the next generation of plants.

The forager bee returns to the honeybee colony with her pollen loads, which are placed in the nest in areas of comb close to the brood. Bees have to learn where in a flower the nectar is to be found. To guide the bees, many plants have bee-tracks, which are lines of color leading the bee towards the nectar. These can sometimes be seen by humans, but some are in the ultra-violet part of the spectrum and visible to bees, but not humans.

In this way, the plant also guides the visiting bee to pass the anthers or stigma in the right way. Bees have no problems in finding the nectar in flat, open flowers, but in flowers that are more complex, they have to learn it by trial and error. After some visits in the same type of flower, the bee has learned where the nectar is, and learns this for the next visit.

Pollen is the protein food for bees. Without pollen, the young nurse bees cannot produce bee milk or royal jelly to feed the queen and brood. If no pollen is available to the colony, the queen will stop laying eggs.

Usually a honeybee can visit between 50-1000 flowers in one trip, which takes between 30 minutes to four hours. In Europe, a bee can make between seven and 14 trips a day. A colony with 25,000 forager bees, each making 10 trips a day, is able to pollinate 250 million flowers.

The ability of the honeybee to communicate to other bees in the colony where to go for collecting more pollen and nectar is very important for their efficiency as pollinators. When a scout bee has found a good nectar or pollen source, she will return to the colony and communicate to other bees where they can find the same food. This is done with a special dance indicating the distance, quality, and direction from the nest. Flowers closer than around 200 meters are just announced with the waggle dance without indicating any direction.

When bees begin foraging for pollen and/or nectar, they will visit the same species of flowers and work there as long as plenty of nectar or pollen can be found. For example, if a honeybee starts collecting in an Acacia tree, she will fly from Acacia flower to Acacia flower, and not behave as many other insects do, visiting different species of plants within the same trip without any great pollination effect. This behavior of bees is called foraging constancy.

Some flowers are open and with nectar all day and night, but others are open only for a few hours in the morning, afternoon or night. The single worker bee learns and remembers what time the different flowers are worth visiting. One bee can remember the opening time for up to seven different types of flowers. The honeybees are pollinating a great number of different plant species, and they do it effectively. Some solitary bee species are much more specialized for pollinating specific plant species.

 There are tons of examples out there, showing just how much we rely on bees. The Brazil nut tree grows wild in the Amazon Forest. Brazil nuts are one of the economically most important wild products growing trees in the area, with more than 50,000 tons of the nuts exported from Brazil every year. The Brazil nut trees cannot be grown in plantations, because they need to be pollinated by one special bee species, the small shining Euglossa bee.

This bee is dependent on the presence of an orchid species that is found only in the rain forest. They are also the only pollinators for a number of orchids in the forest. In some species of Euglossa, the male bee collects some scented material from the flower, which they distribute to attract other males – who do the same and multiply the effect with a scented cloud, in the end so strong, that it attracts female bees so that mating can take place. During the collection of the scented material, male bees transfer pollen from orchid to orchid and pollination takes place.

The female Euglossa bees live from nectar from the Brazil nut tree and pollinate it. This means that without the orchids, there would be no Euglossa bees and no Brazil nut trees, and none of the many other plants, insects and animals associated with that tree – including the people whose livelihoods include collection and sale of the Brazil nuts.

Studies in the Amazon forest have shown that many Euglossa bees do not cross open areas. That means that great parts of forest lose its pollinators when the forest is cut, and open parcels of land are created between remaining forest islands. This example is only one of many important specialized interrelations between bees and trees. In spite of this, the bees perhaps play a minor role as pollinators in the rain forest compared to their role in temperate forests, monsoon forests and savannah woodland.

In tropical rain forests, many trees are pollinated by birds, bats and insects other than bees. Animal pollination is of greatest importance, because there is no wind between the trees and because the distance between trees of the same species may often be great. In that way, it is most convenient for the trees to use animals as pollination vectors. In tropical forest, there may be rather few flowering plants on the ground because of the trees’ shade.

In European deciduous forests, the forest floor can be totally covered by flowering plants in springtime, before the trees produce their leaves. These plants often need fast pollination from a great number of honeybees. Not many other insects are present in high numbers in early spring.

In Denmark, the presence of bees in forest areas help to protect the newly planted trees from being eaten or spoiled from gnawing by roe deer, compared to other plantations with no bees. The reason is because bees secure a better pollination and seed production of so many other plants, which the roe dear can forage on instead of the tree seedlings. By pollinating trees, bushes and herbaceous plants, the bees are important for the food production of all the other animals and birds in the forest ecosystem dependent on it for food berries, seeds and fruits.

 Bees and trees belong together. The honeybees and stingless bees have originally developed in forest biotopes. Given the choice, wild honeybees chose nesting places in trees rather than in an open landscape. Most often the honeybees prefer to build their combs or nests high in trees instead of close to the ground, but bees nests can be found everywhere in a tree. In savannah areas with bushfires in the dry season, a high nesting place is an advantage.

http://iecoliving.com/home-and-garden/why-bees-are-so-important-to-the-ecosystem-and-to-humans/

Bees’ pollination efforts are responsible for a wide diversity of wild flowers and many crops depend on them. Without bees’ pollination of flowering crops and flowers, there would be far less food in general and diversity in particular. If bees did not pollinate in the wild, some vegetation would become extinct, leaving space for invasive, problematic species to take over. Animals that eat the extinct vegetation would then die off, followed by the carnivorous animals that eat the herbivores.