Archive for the ‘Permaculture’ Category

It’s my pleasure to introduce Denise Ellsworth honey bee and native pollinator education from The Ohio State University Department of Entomology. She’s doing a very special Guest Blog today. Please leave any comments or questions for her below and sign up for her blog at the bottom of this piece. Take it away Denise……

in bloom at Toledo Botanical Garden

March days with temperatures in the 80’s brought many of our native bees out of their winter hiding places. On a visit to the Toledo Botanical Garden a few weeks ago to teach a class of new OSU Master Gardener recruits, I was lucky enough to find an area with hundreds of soil mounds created by ground nesting native bees.

hundreds of native bee nests under oak tree

At first glance, the soil mounds resemble ant hills. but they are larger and have a hole in the center about a half-inch in diameter. As I crouched down to observe the mounds, I saw dozens of adult bees flying across the area from one hole to another. These solitary bees aren’t aggressive and rarely sting (unless handled), so I spent several minutes crouched over the nests to capture the bees on film. When I could keep very still, a bee head would slowly start to emerge from the hole at the center of each mound. Once I moved or created a shadow, the individual bee would quickly pull back into the soil nest.

Digger bees, plasterer bees and polyester bees are all native solitary bees that make this kind of soil mound in spring. Typically found in sandy soils on south-facing slopes, the nests are made by the adult bee. She removes sandy soil particles from the nest as she excavates new chambers for her young to grow. The soil is piled up around the nest exit, forming chimney-like mounds. On sunny, warm spring days, the bees are active, emerging from their nests to mate.

ground bee nest, with acorn for scale

chimney-like soil mound from ground bee

Females fly off to forage on blooming plants (lamium, crocus, azaleas, magnolias and cornelian-cherry dogwood were in bloom that day at the Botanical Garden), then bring the pollen and nectar back to the nest. She lays an egg in the chamber she’s excavated and leaves a loaf of pollen and nectar food (also called bee bread) behind for her yet-to-emerge larva to eat. As a solitary bee, this adult doesn’t tend the nest, but instead provisions the chamber with enough food to bring her offspring from egg to adult.

willow flower offers early food source

These ground-nesting bees aren’t the only bees active in early spring. Carpenter bees have just emerged from their tunnels in wood, and will be starting this year’s generation of baby bees. On a visit to the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, OH, last week, I witnessed dozens of carpenter bees foraging on flowers of the three-flowered maple. This native bee is large like a bumble bee, but has a shiny abdomen. The male carpenter bee buzzes menacingly around the nest opening, but can’t harm you because he doesn’t have a stinger. The female can sting, but she’s reclusive and non-aggressive. Instead, she’s busy chewing out galleries in wood for this year’s brood. Like the ground nesting bee, this mother bee will gather pollen and nectar, then bring it back to the chamber she’s chewed with her strong jaws. She lays a single egg in each chamber and provisions the egg with bee bread.

carpenter bee on three-flower maple

The larval carpenter bees develop inside the wood galleries until late summer, when they emerge as adults. Their mother and father have already died; this new generation will spend the winter in the galleries, emerging to mate next spring. Carpenter bees can cause significant structural damage to wood structures, and can be difficult to evict. Adults return to the same galleries from which they emerged, and will continue to tunnel and cause damage. I once had carpenter bees take up residence in a porch area — they were still a problem even after I added vinyl siding to the home. Read more about carpenter bees, and how to keep them from damaging decks, porches and lawn furniture.

adult bee near nest

Even though they can cause damage to wood, carpenter bees are important pollinators. By leaving dead trees standing or providing brushy habitat, our landscapes can be a haven for native bees. These bees play an important role in pollination of garden crops and native plants. Encourage native bees by planting flowers to bloom from spring through fall and reducing or eliminating pesticide use. Early bloomers, like maples and willows, can be especially helpful to emerging spring bees. Gardeners and homeowners can make a big difference in the conservation of these vital insects.

Cornus mas -- corneliancherry dogwood in bloom

Bee fans are invited to join the OSU BeeLab contact list for updates and workshop offerings. Follow my bee blog at www.OSUpollination.com
Denise Ellsworth
honey bee and native pollinator education
OSU Department of Entomology

Read Full Post »

Step by Step Instructions on how to build your very own Worm Composting Bin. This is a 5 minute project. I completed it in 3 minutes with a cold beer in one hand. You can buy worms locally or from several sources online. I purchased 2lbs of Red Wigglers online for $29.99.

Here’s all you need:
2 Rubbermaid  tubs (or cheap knock-off like these) or some old 5 gal buckets.
2 blocks (in this case a couple 2×4 pieces)
Shredded Paper (I find that worms like bill  collection letters the best)
Kitchen Scraps (no meat or dairy products just veggies)
Crushed egg shells (provide calcium)
Cheerios and coffee grounds (with filter)
Worms (Red Wigglers or Eisenia foetida, are the best compost worms)
Drill (2 bits 1/8″ and 1/4″)

Step 1: Drill 1/8″ holes in the top (for oxygen) and 1/4″ holes in the bottom for worm juices. In 1 tub.


Step 2: Place a couple of 2×4’s (as spaces) in the bottom of the nu-drilled tub. Place Drilled tub on to the spacers, fill drilled tub about a third with shredded paper.


Step 3: Add crushed egg shells (great source of slow release calcium and can also act as a buffer, essentially helping to prevent excessively acidic conditions from developing.) and Cheerios (Worms like Cheerios).


Step 4: Add kitchen scraps (no meat, nothing greasy, no citrus,) veggie scraps and worms.


Step 5: Add some water. Worms like it moist and dark. Drill holes in top and leave em alone. In 90 Days you’ll have the best organic fertilizer and your plants will love you for it.


Interesting Worm Facts:

  • There are over 4,000 species of earthworms.
  • There are only about 6 species that are used for vermicomposting.
  • Earthworms don’t have lungs, but instead breathe through their skin as long as it stays moist.
  • Red Wigglers can consume up to 50% of their body weight per day
  • Earthworms are hermaphrodites yet it still takes two worms to reproduce.
  • Worms don’t have eyes , but are sensitive to light.
  • Worms have no teeth for chewing food. They grind food in their gizzard by muscle action.
  • A worm’s mouth is in the first anterior segment. There is a small protruding lip just over the mouth, called prostomium. When the worm is foraging, this lip is stretching out. The prostomium is for sensing food.
  • You’ll be able to compost your kitchen scraps 10 times faster when compared to composting without them.
  • One pound (16 ounces) of worms equals about 1,000 worms
  • One pound of Red Wiggler worms can eat about half pound of organic matter every day.

Why should you start a Worm Farm?

  • Remove excess waste from landfills & reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Worms produce the best organic fertilizer
  • Worm castings are five times richer in nutrients than the best topsoil and worm castings are pH neutral.
  • Great treats for chickens and great for fishing.
  • Worms make great friends. They just listen to you all day and never interrupt.
  • If you’ve read this far, you’re crazy enough to do it.

What is Vermicomposting?
Worms and microorganisms convert organic materials to a beneficial soil amendment. The worms breakdown food scraps into nutrient rich compost.

Feed Worms:

  • Vegetable scraps
  • Fruit scraps and peels (mold/rot is fine)
  • Bread and grains
  • Coffee grounds (+ filters) and tea bags
  • Crushed egg shells
  • Napkins, paper towels

Don’t Feed Worms:

  • Citrus
  • Meats, fish
  • Greasy foods
  • Dairy products
  • Twigs and branches
  • Dog/cat feces, cat litter

You can leave the bin inside your house (there’s no smell) or you can build up a small army of worms and take over the world or just add them to your compost pile mid-summer. Or even better, start a Worm Farm (like Harry and Lloyd in ‘Dumb & Dumber‘) and call it I Got Worms.

Read Full Post »

The garden is cleaned and ready for tilling. This warm weather is so great. We’ve got such a jump on the season, it’s crazy! How do you feel about tilling? I know a lot of people believe in ‘no-tilling’ What are your thoughts? It works for some smaller plots but is very difficult on larger areas.


Planted about 300 heirloom tomato seeds from http://www.tomatofest.com/ I found some Jiffy pellets greenhouse kits at Discount Drug Mart for $5ea. It was a steal. I couldn’t pass it up. Sure, I could have got some potting soil from the store and used some old yogurt containers but it was just simpler and more efficient to go this route…..


Hold off green judgement till my Earth Day rant coming up in just 35 days. My friend Hanna at This Garden is Illegal does a fantastic Earth Day rant and I liked it so much, I’m going to start it this year too. Thanks Hanna! Anyways, I digress….

We also spent the weekend cleaning up the chicken coop and preparing for our new arrivals in 2 weeks. We gave away our older hens to people in need and we’re getting a brand new flock of 10-12 week old Golden Comets on March 31st. We’ll miss our old girls but instead of killing them, we thought it was better to give them away to a good home.



Our weather in the Midwest is crazy warm, it was 76 degrees yesterday! Normally it snows every St. Paddy’s Day until Halloween in our neck of the woods.. so this is amazing.


Jake, Mindy and I were enjoying the warm weather Saturday by relaxing on the the deck with a few cocktails.

I did find time to hang up Z’s swing. She isn’t sure if she likes it or not yet but I’m sure a few more pushes and she won’t want to be let out of it. I had to move the bird-feeder but they didn’t seem to mind.

Ohh and great news! My friend Denise Ellsworth from Ohio State University Honey bee and native pollinator educator will be writing a ‘Guest Blog’ for us next month.

I’m so very excited. If you haven’t already, sign up for the OSU Entomology Mailing List Have a great Sunday everybody!

Read Full Post »

I want to hear all your thoughts. Please Leave comments. Happy Sunday everyone!

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts