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Bee Health ImageApples, broccoli, cherries, almonds-they all have something in common that may surprise you.

Besides the fact that they may be in your kitchen right now, each one of these foods is available thanks to the honey bee and other pollinators. In fact, about one-third of the human food supply depends on bees and other pollinators. Chances are, honey bees have a hand in producing some of your favorite foods. And with all of their hard work, bees need to eat, too.

However, bees are struggling to find adequate, diverse food sources due to habitat loss. Recently, the White House launched the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge to create ways for everyone to support the issue and increase forage. With a global population expected to rise to more than 9 billion people by 2050, 70 percent more food will need to be produced. This means we all have to pitch in to help feed the bees so they can continue to produce the fruits, nuts and vegetables that people need for a healthy diet.

Join the effort to create a million pollinator gardens and feed the bees.

Here are three ways you can help increase forage area for bees and other pollinators:

• Learn more about native bee-attractant plants.

The Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Smart mobile app can help you choose the best plants to grow in your garden to attract bees and other pollinators.

• Ask the Feed a Bee initiative to plant flowers on your “bee-half.”

Feed a Bee is an initiative to increase forage areas for honey bees and other pollinators.

By visiting www.FeedABee.com, you can ask the Feed a Bee initiative to plant flowers for you that produce the pollen and nectar that bees need to survive and thrive. Nearly 200,000 people have pledged to plant 50 million flowers in the U.S., and it doesn’t stop there. Feed a Bee is also partnering with government and nonprofit organizations and businesses across the country to plant thousands of acres of forage for bees.

• Grow your own bee-attractant plants.

Through FeedABee.com, you can also commit to planting your own bee-attractant plants using a helpful growing guide and tips for creating bee-attractant habitats for pollinators. Additionally, you can share your planting photos using #FeedABee on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

Whether you own acres of land or a flowerpot on your balcony, have a green thumb or struggle to keep fake flowers “alive,” you can play a part in helping to feed a bee and, in turn, help them feed the world.

To learn more about bees and why they are important, visit http://beehealth.bayer.us/home.

*Article courtesy of NAPS. Image courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.*

Outdoor Space ArticleHere’s the buzz when it comes to backyard fun: Before you plan those barbecues, pool parties and bonfires, you need to transform your outdoors into a great entertaining environment and stop insects from making themselves at home.
To keep your backyard looking its best this season, try these six tips:

1. Good gardening: Choose a lively combination of colorful plants and flowers to brighten your outdoor spaces during the day and light them at night to add drama. Try citronella plants and marigolds to naturally repel mosquito populations and be sure to eliminate standing water as it attracts mosquitoes.

2. Check your equipment: Make sure the lawn mower, weed-whacker and the like are primed and ready, blades sharpened, tank refilled and so on.

3. Rake it in. Get rid of last year’s dead leaves and twigs that can keep your lawn from soaking up the sun. Consider composting the debris.

4. Beating the pests: Fortunately, protecting your yard against insect-borne diseases such as chikungunya, West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) does not have to be a challenge, nor does it have to involve chemical sprays. Instead, you can use environmentally friendly solutions to keep bugs at bay while enjoying the outdoors.
For example, Dynatrap insect traps can provide relief from mosquitoes, biting flies and other flying bugs without pesticides. Since they come in a variety of styles and finishes, you can even find one to match your deck decor.

5. Grilling idea: Clean the grill after each use to save yourself time and trouble when you want to fire it up for your next get-together. That will also help keep bugs from hovering on the deck.

6. Deck design: Your outdoor space can make or break your backyard, so be sure it reflects your style and makes a statement. Keep in mind the primary use of your outdoor space and remember to think about mosquito control as it relates to the size of your yard. Position the insect trap where it will draw bugs away from where you spend most of your time.

For further facts, visit www.dynatrap.com, Frontgate and other retailers, or on Facebook, Twitter@Dynatrap or Pinterest.

*Article and image courtesy of NAPS.*

Composting from the Ground Up – How to Start a Home Composting Bin

By Brent Hardy

While the idea of composting may make some homeowners squirm, the process isn’t nearly as complicated – or stinky – as some may think. A walk through the woods is a good example of composting at work.

Does the forest smell like a garbage bin or did it smell earthy and almost sweet in the warm sun? All those leaves, weeds and organic material are constantly breaking down, adding rich layers to the forest floor.

Compost, once broken down, has a pleasantly organic smell to it, and even during the process it doesn’t give off an incredible amount of odor if one is adding the right ingredients. For those who are restricted to small spaces such as postage stamp-sized backyards or apartments with balconies, there are enclosed compost bin options. Though the composting process moves more quickly with open bins, the enclosed containers are still a practical and viable option.

Don’t waste those eggshells!

Whether one decides on an enclosed bin for a small space, a standard composting bin from the local hardware store or http://epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/rrr/composting/by_compost.htm”>home composting.

To everything, turn, turn

Once the composting pile is started, it needs to be turned every once in a while to make sure all those composting microorganisms are getting enough oxygen. Not enough air and the compost will become dense, slimy, stinky and potentially unusable. For this reason, don’t pack down materials when they’re added to the pile. Leave room for some air flow. For those homeowners using a rotating composting bin, turning it is as easy as giving the bin a couple good spins every few days or so. If the bin is a simple box design or just can’t be turned, use a pitchfork or shovel to turn as much material as possible every few days. This is another reason why it’s good to keep home bins small. Anything larger than a 3′ x 3′ x 3′ bin might be a touch unwieldy. And though that space may seem small, keep in mind that material, as it composts, degrades by about 70 percent.

Additionally, be sure to keep the compost pile moist. Not soaking wet as that might kill those microscopic composters, but not bone dry as those little beneficial bugs might dry out. Adding green materials, such as grass clippings, will help add to the moisture content, but just checking it every once in a while and soaking it with a hose if too dry should keep the moisture content steady.

Starting to get a bit stinky? Add some more carbon to the mix. Too much nitrogen results in that strong ammonia smell that turns off a lot of potential composters. But by adding more brown materials to the bin, the nitrogen amounts will even back out.

How long will it take?

An average home composting bin will take from six months to a year to compost entirely. For those using an enclosed composting bin, it might take up to two years because of the tight environment. If there’s enough space in the backyard, keeping two compost bins will keep available composting in regular rotation by filling up one over six months, then filling up the other. Once the second one has been added to for six months, the first one should be ready to go.

About the Author

Brent Hardy is Vice President of www.extraspace.com responsible for all corporate construction & facilities management. He writes about corporate sustainable practices at blog.extraspace.com/category/sustainability</.

Rainbow Gardens – A Bright and Colorful Idea

Are you thinking about adding a rainbow of color in your garden? Rainbows certainly inspire a feeling of joy and hope, don’t they? A rainbow-colored design of flowers and other plants could be a gorgeous way to showcase lovely flowers on your property. Some people design a bow on their front lawn or around the center of their yard to section off different areas. A lovely mixture of colors like red, yellow, orange, violet, and green in a bow shaped design could make your garden the envy of the neighborhood.

Whether you hire someone to help bring your garden fantasy to reality or decide to do the planting yourself, here are some helpful tips for great flowerbeds:

· Plan carefully. Flowers you might envision looking lovely in your rainbow garden beds may or may not work well together and may or may not grow well in your space. You’ll want to pick the right flowers for your area with consideration for the amount of sunlight the area gets. If you’re new to gardening, your first year might be a bit of a gamble but getting some skilled advice can increase the chances of everything turning out the way you hope it will. You can talk to a landscape gardening company or the expert at your local garden centre to get some expertise.
· It’s wise to plant a rainbow garden with plants, rather than with seeds. This will make it easier to arrange everything to look the way you envision and will help you achieve the look you are going for as you won’t be as likely to have a sparse looking flowerbed where flowers bloom at different times.
· Sketch out your plan. A bit of planning can go a long way in achieving your desired goals. Writing down a game plan with a list of the things you’ll need is a good idea and the map of your flower arrangement can help keep things straight, especially if you’re getting help with the planting. If you’re planting perennials, be sure to leave a bit of room for expanded growth.
· Carefully construct the bow. Higher maintenance plants are probably best to go to the front where they will be easiest to reach (depending on what sort of accessibility you’ve got, of course)
· Consider installing some sort of edging to help shape the border initially and to help you keep grass and weeds from creeping in to your flower garden.
· Don’t forget to set up a nice sitting area nearby so that you can sit, relax and admire your handiwork!

About the Author

Jen Byiers writes for Gardens Galore, a company with green fingers and a passion for garden landscaping.

*Image: kenfotos / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Teaching Your Kids to Eat and Grow Organic Foods

Children are like miraculous sponges. They love to learn and the quicker that you teach them things, the longer it will stay with them; sometimes, well into their adult years.

So, when it comes to teaching your kids how to eat and grow organic foods, this essentially means that you’re instructing them on how to be proactive about their health as well as being sensitive about the needs of the environment. That’s definitely a set of tools that they can add to their lives that will pay off for years to come.

Why You Should Teach Your Kids to Eat Organically

There are many reasons why organic is best. Organically grown food is free of a lot of the pesticides, preservatives and other chemicals that are used with conventionally-grown foods. It’s not genetically modified. When it comes to organic meats, there aren’t synthetic drugs and other hormones that are oftentimes found in the traditional store bought brands. Because the soil is well-replenished, organic produce has been proven to be packed with more nutrients. And, if you ask a lot of people why it’s ultimately their first pick, it’s because all of these things combined result in organic foods tasting better.

How to Get Your Child to Eat Organically

If you start them on this diet from the very beginning, this really won’t be a hard sell. Therefore, the sooner you get them accustomed to an organic eating lifestyle, the easier for them it will be. But, if you have recently discovered for yourself the many benefits that come with going organic and your children are older, there are a couple of creative approaches that you can take to get them adjusted to the transition. Why not hold a taste test contest? Serve up some raw fruits and vegetables: one bowl filled with conventional foods and the other with the organic kind. Blindfold them and then ask them which one tastes the best. Another option is to have a cooking contest where everyone in the family has to cook one dish from an organic recipe. Have everyone write down their grocery list and take your kids shopping with you while you pick up the foods for the various meals. This will get them acclimated to not just seeing organic foods, but understanding how to make the best selections. Give a prize for the best dish and in no time, you’ll have your kids suggesting to you some organic meals that they’d like to try (or try again).

Gardens Are a Great Organic Family Activity

There’s a wonderful way to get in some quality family time while instructing your children on how to grow organic foods and that is to grow a garden. You can start out by having everyone pick a fruit or vegetable that they would like to grow. Then, you can either build one from scratch in your backyard or you even grow some in containers from the comfort of the inside of your home. TLC’s HowStuffWorks.com section has an article on how to grow up to 66 different foods in your house; everything ranging from apples and cherries to tomatoes, peppers and summer squash. If you would like to take on the great outdoors and you’re new to the food gardening experience, YouTube.com has a lot of videos that can walk you through all of the steps that you need. Just put “Grow a Garden” in the search field.

As you’re getting your children used to the organic way of life, remember that education is best for children when it’s fun. So, as you’re teaching about organic food, make sure, most of all, to make it a light and tasty (pun intended) experience. That will make them want to repeat it and that’s the most effective way that anyone can learn.

Plant Your Own Butterfly Garden

What could be more evocative of summer than to see your garden filled with brightly-colored butterflies fluttering from flower to flower – beautiful to watch, but perhaps even more beautiful to see close up. Their fascinating life-cycle will prove irresistible to kids, too! But with their habitats under threat and numbers falling, what is the best way to attract them to feed and breed in your garden?

Habitat

As is so often the case, creating the right habitat is key. While doing any of the steps set out here will help, if you are really serious about creating a healthy population of your favorite butterflies, it’s best to think about the whole life-cycle, from egg through to the mature butterfly.

Butterflies have evolved over millions of years to fit into the wild landscape, so it’s that wild landscape that we need to try and mimic – because many of the things we do and the plants we grow in our modern gardens might look pretty to us, but really are not enjoyed by the butterflies!

Look after the Caterpillars

When looking for a place to lay their eggs, butterflies will look for plants that will give their caterpillars the food and shelter they need. There are several well-known favorites: holly, ivy, stinging nettles, buckthorn and thistles for example. Leave a patch of your garden a bit wild.

Vegetable growers will not look forward to their cabbages and kale being devoured by caterpillars though – and it can be a problem. The last thing you should do of course is spray with insecticide. Instead, try moving any caterpillars you find onto less valuable plants by hand, while planting nasturtiums in amongst your crops can help as well, as these are well liked by the insects.

Feed the Adults

Butterflies feed on nectar of course, so you need to choose nectar-rich plants that have flowers throughout the season, not just at the height of summer.

Some early flowerers include: bluebells, dandelion, honesty, primrose, sweet william, wallflowers and violas.
Buddleia, hebe, lilac, lavender, valerian, forget-me-not and honeysuckle, thyme and ivy will flower later on in the summer and autumn.

If you have space for a patch of native wild flower meadow, they would love it – pretty too!

Plant your flowers in the sunniest spot you can find, and wait. They will find you!

About the Author

Stephen Bailey is an experienced gardener and garden designer who writes and blogs extensively on the subject. His website Tern Gardening Reviews has all sorts of information on gardening tips, tools, equipment.

*Image: wiangya / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*