Month: March 2016

what do you plant for a bee sanctuary?

I have been so pleasantly surprised every time I dig a hole for a tree on this land. I’ve heard the term “fertile river valley,” before — but never experienced it to this degree! The soil is gorgeous.

Since part of this adventure is a hope to share what we learn, I wanted to post about what we have planting on the farm in our past three months of stewardship. The season is right for planting trees now, so we are trying to get the year’s plantings in now. I’ve also included our wish list for the future.

Pictured above is our peach tree of the Frost variety. In speaking with neighbors we learned that was the best variety for the region. (Some said the only one that would give us peaches.) Fruit trees are generally a great bet for bees. Others we have planted include: crabapple, two plums, and quince. There were already four old apple trees, so I gave those a good pruning.

 

IMG_2613-1Above is a photo of heather. Two days after we planted it there were 5-7 bumble bees on each of three plants! In the bushy category we have also added three ceanothus plants, lavender, red osier dogwood, Indian plum, daphne, and flowering currant.

Here’s the flowering currant, right by the bridge to welcome visitors.

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I also chose that general location for the magnolia, so that at the first of the season we’ll have a burst of colorful blooms right at the entrance.

As far as flowering trees goes, I did a previous post about the Arbor Day Foundation, where you can buy very affordable seedlings. Of course, this is an exercise in patience since it will take years (decades) for them to grow into large trees. We have ordered, Northern Catalpa (2), Sourwood, Red maple (free with order,) Washington Hawthorn, Tulip Poplar, Forsynthia (2 free with order), Little Leaf Linden, Witchhazel, Black Tupelo, Sugar Maple, and Eastern Redbud. These are all spectacular bee forage trees. I encourage you to research them all. Gorgeous trees.

I’ve also ordered some willow. Most willows are great food for bees. I have a pink pussy willow known as Mt. Aso coming, as well as a curly willow and a basketmaking purpuera. The purpuera is also good for creating living willow structures, which I am excited to try out!

Last, but not least, we have some things started in the veggie garden. For the bees we have borage, poppies, and echinacea. For us we’ve put in an asparagus patch, ginger, and tumeric. Much more to come!

One challenging aspect that we are not very familiar with is how wildlife (including quite a large herd of elk!) will impact what we plant. We have caged the trees for their protection. We have a fence around the veggie garden, which we will fortify in time. We might build quite a bit more fencing than we have now… we will have to see how it goes. So far it seems that the elk avoid the areas near the house, but I have heard that can change pretty quickly.

Here’s some of our wish list for the future: (some for bee forage, some for perennial edibles)

More bee trees and bushes (with groves of like-species, but we’re starting with one of each to see how they do.) Japanese snowbell, winter jasmine, serviceberry, lilac, beautyberry, aralia, vitex.

Persimmon, pomegranate, paw paw, pear, hardy kiwi (I am rooting starts right now!) figs, grapes, rhubarb, artichoke, ramps, sea kale, sweet potato, ground nut, good king henry, lovage, french sorrel, plus every herb and medicinal plant we can find (with plans to build a formal herb garden.)

I’m sure more will get added… if you know of a great bee plant or perennial / self seeding non-invasive edible that would do well in Coastal Oregon, please let me know!

We love this land. Thank you for reading about our adventure!

Weeping Willow

It might not look like much now, but that spindly stick of a tree pictured above is going to grow into a Golden Weeping Willow.

Weeping Willows are beautiful trees. However, all willows get a bad reputation due to their habit of seeking water and, therefore, wrecking havoc on pipes. In the right setting, however, they can be wonderful trees.

An interesting fact about weeping willows from Vermont Willow Nursery is that all varieties contain genes from the Chinese Salix Babylonica, which is the only willow that has the weeping gene. The Golden Weeping Willow, which is a quite popular variety, is a hybrid of S. Babylonica and S. Alba v. Vitellina.

One exciting thing about willows (if you have the right space) is how quickly and easily they root and grow. You can put a dormant branch into moist soil and it will make a new tree! And they can grow up to 10 feet a year!

I recently spotted a gorgeous Golden Weeping Willow in Portland that had a bunch of suckers growing out from the bottom of it. Suckers are not a great thing for the mother tree in a confined space. I decided to rescue this one (always ask permission!) and plant it at Blossomwood Farmstead, since we have the perfect setting next to our pond.

I’ll post updates as to how it does over time. And don’t let me forget to mention, they are great trees for bees! Here’s a great source of information about willows for bees.

Arbor Day Foundation

Are you looking to do some landscaping? Check out this amazing resource!

The Arbor Day Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to helping people conserve trees. Their mission statement: Founded in 1972, the centennial of the first Arbor Day observance in the 19th century, the Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with over one million members, supporters, and valued partners.

I have a running list of trees that are great for pollinators, all of which I would like to eventually add to Blossomwood Farmstead. The Arbor Day Foundation had quite a few of them available for purchase — for such reasonable prices! Plus, with a $5 membership I was able to get their membership prices (a few dollars off each tree.) They also added a free Red Maple and two free forsynthias.

This is the list of trees I ordered: Northern Catalpa (2), Sourwood, Washington Hawthorne, Tulip Poplar, Little Leaf Linden, Witchhazel, Black Tupelo, Sugar Maple, and Western Redbud. My total? $76.61. I’m a fan!

I also wanted to point out this program they have to get 10 free trees! (With membership purchase of $10.)

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

We all hear the same advice: eat your fruits and veggies. However, many people don’t realize is that there is a huge variety in the amount of nutrition you get from your food depending on the specific varietal, storage, and way it is prepared. This book is an amazing resource to learn how to maximize the nutritional value of your produce.

Robinson talks about how to choose produce in the store, how to best store it, and how to prepare it to maximize benefits. It is full of little hints that can make a big difference. Some veggies are better consumed raw, some cooked. In general the more intense color a veggie has, the more benefit it will convey.

The history of where our food comes from is endlessly fascinating. For each type of produce, Robinson talks about what it was like when it was wild and how it was changed by humans. Corn, for example, came from a plant called Teosinte which bears little resemblance to the super sweet varieties many people enjoy today. Part of corn’s history involves mutations caused by nuclear reactions. I encourage you to read the whole story.

As a gardener, I quite appreciate that this book lists specific varieties of different plants and which have the highest nutrient content. If we are going to spend time nurturing and growing food plants, why not choose the ones that will give the most back?

Some of my favorite tidbits include: carrots retain more nutrients if you cook them whole and then cut them up to serve after. Potatoes are better for you if you eat them one day after cooking. Red lettuce has more health benefits than green.

All in all, I wanted to share this with you all because I found it very interesting and helpful. I hope you enjoy too!

Home Orchard Society Fruit Propagation Fair

The Home Orchard Society has an annual Propagation Fair at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. For just $5 (members) or $7 (general) attendees are treated to an amazing collection of cuttings and scions!

I got there right after 10am and there was a line down the block. Entry went pretty quickly once the doors opened. The event was packed! Everywhere you looked people were crowding in to grab the cuttings they wanted. I saw some people with huge bundle-loads that had to have been a foot wide!

Next time I have to remember to bring labels and a permanent marker. Luckily someone nearby was kind enough to share his.

I gathered a small collection, then set them up to start this afternoon. Here’s to hoping they root!

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Some of the things I chose:

three varieties hardy kiwi, including red princess

three male hardy kiwis

grapes: concord, venus, reliance seedless, canadice seedless, Himrod seedless, bronx

cherries: lapin, ostheimer weischel, montmorency, sweetheart

persimmon: jiro, fuyu

plum: italian, mirabelle

fig: desert king, negrone

I’m so very excited to see what happens with these!

Gardening for Pollinators

I teach a class called Gardening for Pollinators. It includes information about honey bees, native bees, butterflies, habitat creation, best plants for forage, and emphasizes organic practices. Please let me know if you would like me to teach it for your organization.

This class relies on a Powerpoint presentation, so we will need to arrange a digital projector.

Please email me at larenleland (at) gmail (dot) com to schedule!

 

Here are some great resources that I’ve collected to share on the topic.

Great organizations and information:

Portland Urban Beekeepers

OSU Extension Master Gardener Metro Area

USDA Forest Service pollinator site

Pollinator Partnership

Xerces Society fact sheets

OSU Extension 12 Plants to entice pollinators to your garden

Wikipedia: list of plants pollinated by bees

Southern Oregon Beekeepers Basics of Pollination

PDF’s with valuable information (plant lists!) that you can print out or read on your computer:

Oregon State University attracting pollinators guide

OSU pamphlet on butterfly gardens

USDA Forest Service pamphlet on attracting pollinators with native plants

Xerces Society pamphlet on conserving bumble bees

Puget Sound Bees pamphlet on bee friendly plants

Seattle Urban Bee project pamphlet on pollinator plants

Pollination Partnership Pacific Northwest lowland selecting plants for pollinators

Sonoma County Beekeepers plant for bees

OSU pamphlet How to Reduce Bee Poisoning for Pesticides

App for your phone:

Bee Smart

Help track bumble bees:

Bumble Bee Watch project

Free milkweed seeds:

Live Monarch project

Documentaries:

Queen of the Sun

Vanishing of the Bees

More than Honey

A few of my favorite books:

A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees

Victory Gardens for Bees: A DIY Guide to Saving the Bees

100 Plants to Save the Bees: The Best Blooms to Nourish and Sustain Native Bees, Honey Bees, and Other Pollinators

Top Bar Beekeeping

The Hive: A Story of the Honey Bee and Us

Nectar and Pollen Plants of the Pacific Northwest

Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping

Attracting Native Pollinators

Honeybee Democracy

Thank you for your interest in helping pollinators!

Blossomwood Farmstead

I’ve been quite busy with property management lately, the reason being…? My family bought a farm!

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It’s a beautiful 42 acre property in Yachats, Or. (That is between Florence and Newport on the coast.) It includes a small 1916 farmhouse, which was one of the original homesteads in the area. In addition, it has a 2004 guest house, barn, cabin, and wood shed. There are 1,400 feet of river frontage, a pond, a bog, 12 acres of pasture, and 30 acres of forest. The land backs onto the Siuslaw National Forest.

It’s about 7 miles in from the ocean and south-facing, so is perfect for gardening. It’s been keeping me busy with quite a number of projects! (More details to come.)

  1. Refinishing the upstairs floors.
  2. Fixing quite a bit of deferred maintenance.
  3. Figuring out all the systems.
  4. Getting to know the land.
  5. Furnishing both houses.
  6. Planting things!

My short-term goal is to set up both houses as Airbnb rentals. (Keep an eye out for when it is ready if you would like to visit!) Long term goals include creating a bee sanctuary and a permaculture garden.

I’ve learned so much already just in the first three months of being a steward to this land. I absolutely love it and feel very grateful! I can’t wait to get to know it better as the seasons progress.

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