gabriola garden

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Buzzing bees, ringing cell phones, pollination void

Those that are dazzled by the advances in our communication technologies would do well to read a new German study linking the proliferation of cell phones with the disappearance of the honeybees.

In parts of North America and Europe, honeybees are vanishing in great numbers from their hives. According to another study, the total disappearance of the honeybee would cost the New Zealand economy two billion dollars per annum in lost agricultural revenues. One can only surmise how these numbers would rise transposed to the United States and Canada.

Sara and I noticed last summer how our bean garden had many, many flowers, but comparatively few bean pods. There was a noticeable drop in bean production from the year before. Coincidentally, we noticed fewer honeybees buzzing around our bamboo bean house, than in previous years.

Professor Jochen Kuhn of Landau University in Germany announced the results of a small study that suggests that radiation from widespread cell phone use may interfere with the bees’ homing abilities. In other words, they are unable to find their way back to the hive after pollinating your flowers.

More specifically, it seems that cell phone radiation interferes with the bees’ neurological mechanisms that govern learning and memory. It also hinders the insects’ ability to communicate with each other.

Beekeeper acknowledge that high frequency radiation from cell phones could be a factor in the disappearance of a large percentage of bees in the past few years, but they also say that other causes, such as climate change, cannot be discounted.

The Canadian Honey Council’s website lists 10,000 beekeepers overseeing 600,000 honeybee colonies in Canada, with the majority being commercial operations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. They produce 154 million kilograms of honey each year.

Of Ontario’s 76,000 bee-hives, 23,000 have been lost recently, due to severe winter weather—and cell phone use, if the German study is to be believed. Since each hive houses 60,000 bees at the height of summer weather, the loss amounts to $5-million in honey producing insects.

But the loss to agricultural production is harder to quantify. No studies have been done on the partial disappearance of honeybees, as far as I know, and what this costs the average farmer in Canada—and the United States, for that matter.

The way pollination works is that inside the petals of each flower are the stamens, or the male parts of the plant. Each stamen consists of a stem called the filament and at the top of the filament is the anther, which contains the pollen that the plant manufactures.

Within the ring of stamens is the central column called a pistil—shaped sort of like an oriental vase—and on top of the pistil is the stigma. The pistil and the stigma are the female parts of the plant. When the sticky powder called pollen is rubbed on the stigma by the honeybees, pollination occurs.

Pollination is extremely important. Without it, the flower is unable to produce fruit, thus no crop to harvest. Vegetables like tomatoes or peppers or beans are actually the fruit of the tomato, pepper, and bean plants. What gives birth to the edible vegetables is pollination.

But it’s not just vegetables that we would be deprived of without the pollination process. More importantly, we wouldn’t have any seeds. Without seeds, the continuity of each of the plant species that Sara and I are growing in our garden, would be interrupted.

Now imagine no pollination all across North America because the bees might disappear completely, then where would we be? Yes, some plants could be propagated by other means—for instance by cloning—but you can only stretch the life of each species so far without seeds to rejuvenate the gene pool.

That’s why it’s important not to use chemical pesticides on our plants. I spray our roses with Scorpion Juice, in order to impart induced systemic resistance against most pathogens and pests, and we mix Barricade into our nutrient solution each week to make sure that the potassium silicate is making the cell walls of our flowers and vegetables really strong.

These strong cell walls keep sap-sucking insects from being able to tap the vital liquids that keep our plants healthy, and also make sure that bacterial, viral, and fungal infections are kept at bay.

We saw some small signs of life in our butterfly bush this past week, so we’re hoping that this plant with its fragrant blooms will revive and attract some butterflies. It’s not only honeybees that pollinate plants, butterflies help as well. Also, there are other kinds of bees, other than honeybees.

Sara has been watering her flower garden with Iguana Juice Grow, and I’m wondering whether or not to add Iguana Juice Bloom to the mix, after all her garden is filled with flowers. Not only are the Tulips in full bloom now, but also some Daffodils are still vibrant, lots of Hyacinths are still fragrant, and the English Daisies and Primroses that Sara planted are flourishing from the outstanding plant food and supplements we give them.

Hedgehog selected small flowers for her very special barrel and the Delphiniums and Monk’s Hood are springing up and spreading like gangbusters. The Melva and other container plants on the back steps are slow in coming around. Perhaps the deep freeze of February took its toll and the containers were not able to protect the slumbering perennials inside.

I think I will add some Iguana Juice Bloom to our nutrient mix, after all those using Advanced Nutrients synthetics always mix in a little Bloom with their Grow and Micro, even during the vegetative stage. Organic B is also very important at this stage, since only by removing the stress are we able to grow the most beautiful flowers and eventually, the best vegetables possible.

Sara reminded me that we have to construct our bamboo bean house this coming weekend and since May is around the corner, the germination of the bean seeds is not too far away. We gathered some more driftwood last weekend, and Sara was able to raise the level of some of the flowerbeds, by adding more compost.

I added Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid to the composted soil, in order to recreate that rich, black, humus like organic layer that grew all those robust flowers and vegetables for our forebears. Then I said a little prayer for the return of the honeybees.

posted by Tim at 9:39 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Five New Roses, the First Tulips, Hyacinths Galore

Sara’s flower garden is bursting with Tulips and the hardier Daffodils are still sticking around. We’re totally intoxicated by the scent of the Hyacinths, which come in blue, pink, and white. One of these blooms on your table will fill your whole house with the scent of Spring.

Hedgehog and Sara went Rose hunting at the garden shop the other day and returned with five new varieties. The climbing rose All Ablaze grows to be 8 to 12 feet tall and will be planted next to our tallest fence. The floribunda Sun Flair is a medium, upright bush rose offering a cluster of brightly-colored blooms.

Gentle Giant is a Hybrid Tea Rose that produces unusually large, pinkish blossoms with an inner yellow glow. The tag says it will grow from three to four feet tall, but an American website gives its potential dimensions as 5’ x 5’. We’ll see which source is right.

Hedgehog chose Stainless Steel because of its cool name, but I must admit that the metallic white bloom on the tag does look attractive. Had she known that her next choice, Cecile Brunner, used to be known as the Sweetheart Rose, she probably would have put it back on the shelf. As it is, this China Rose has been gracing North American gardens for over 100 years.

Cecile Brunner also comes as a climber, but my wife and daughter bought the bush type, which will hopefully flower from June to October, contributing double or cluster blooms of smallish pink to our garden.

Our other roses, such as Purple Passion and Black Magic are starting to burst with shoots, as well. I did very gentle pruning while the roses were still dormant, since Sara trusts me to take care of the roses. Three weeks ago I sprayed them with a solution of baking soda and horticultural oil, then yesterday it was time to use Scorpion Juice as a foliar spray on all the Roses.

The salicylic acid in Scorpion Juice stimulates the plants’ immune systems, tricking them into thinking that some kind of an invasion is about to take place. By triggering the immune mechanism of the roses, Scorpion Juice actually helps to immunize each plant against many pathogens and pests.

Provided this spraying is repeated once every three weeks during the growing season, our Roses will have a fighting chance to ward off black spot, rust, spider mites, and fungal infestations. This way they can repeatedly bloom and bring beauty and fragrance into our lives uninterrupted by bothersome intruders.

Each newly planted Rose is watered by our pre-mixed nutrient solution, which includes Iguana Juice Grow as our basic fertilizer. Sara and I can’t rave enough about Iguana Juice, both Grow and Bloom. This fish based 100% organic fertilizer perks up any garden within a matter of days. The expert blend of macro and micronutrients in Iguana provide our plants each time with a first class meal.

What the newly transplanted rose plants need are the root colonizers in our nutrient mix. The live beneficial fungi in Piranha will colonize the roots of our new Roses and help the plants resist harmful fungal infestations. The helpful bacteria in Tarantula do much the same thing against invasive bacterial infections.

Voodoo Juice contains microbes which also reside in the root system. These three root colonizers, along with SensiZym, will enable our roses to absorb nutrients through larger, more elaborate roots and root hairs. The live enzymes in SensiZym munch on plant debris in the soil and turn this debris into easily absorbable nutrients for our flowers.

I mentioned that I only did light pruning on our existing Roses, even though some gardening books recommend cutting hybrid tea roses to within a foot off the ground. With some of the smaller bushes I did exactly that, but with three climbers I didn’t have the heart so I only trimmed some of the blackened branches.

It’s a good thing I had this foresight, since with the warmer weather we’ve been having these Roses have started to shoot leaves like crazy and are climbing up the trellis with renewed vigor.

The drastic pruning recommended by some gardening books is probably aimed at Roses that grow in colder climates, where the bottom foot of the stem is protected by a mound of mulch or soil for the winter, allowing bud formation on the lower part of the stem. The other parts of the rose are injured by the cold in these climates, so it’s best to prune the plant drastically in early spring, before the growth spurt caused by the arrival of warmer days.

Severe pruning can be risky. I urged Sara to severely prune her Butterfly Bush last Fall, since it was starting to overshadow its corner of the garden. The bush started to shoot during some warm days in January, but then the cold spell in February killed all new growth on the plant.

Sara and I just transplanted it into a bigger container, but to be perfectly honest, I doubt the poor plant will make it. It hasn’t started any Spring growth, it’s just a bunch of three-foot long woody branches.

Other ingredients in our nutrient mix are Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid. Coupled with all the horse manure and kitchen compost that Sara has worked into our garden soil, these two Advanced Nutrient products help establish a rich, black humus-like growing medium.

A layer of organic, calcified “leonardite” can be found on top of coal beds. It has to be mined from deep within the earth. Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid are derived from this substance, and these very effective products used together have a synergistic effect in providing essential minerals to our roses and other flowers.

Humic Substances have been proven to increase total protein levels in the leaves of our plants, and Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid is a rich source of chelating molecules called humates. These in turn have a tonic effect on the nutrient uptake of all our garden flowers and vegetables.

Advanced Nutrients has a very convenient online store, just in case you can’t find some of their products in your local garden shop. A visit to their website, and especially the Advancedpedia, is warranted before you undertake your gardening plans in this wonderfully inspiring season.

posted by Tim at 9:56 PM | 1 comments