Author Archives: Garden Decor

Colony Collapse Disorder

GREEN GARDENING: Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder

Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem and the success of the agricultural community. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that bees pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops, which constitute a third of everything we eat. A low or non-existent bee population would not only affect the produce we eat, but also the feed supply available to livestock.

The bee population is a waning one. In the winter of 2006-2007 a low hive population was reported to the USDA. With worker bee population losses spanning from 30-90% and an absence of dead bees, the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) gained attention. Although these beehives still had a queen bee and young bees, coupled with an abundant honey and pollen supply, the hives would not sustain without the worker bees.

Why is CCD occurring? Researchers, along with the USDA, have focused their efforts on causes including:

  1. the invasive varroa mite (a pest of honeybees)
  2. the Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema, which are new and emerging diseases
  3. pesticide poisoning used for in-hive insect or mite control
  4. bee management stress
  5. foraging habitat modification
  6. inadequate forage and poor nutrition supply

Although not one particular factor is gaining more credit than another, some believe a combination of the above incidences could be creating CCD. Researchers are using four overall methods of study to determine why CCD is happening. They are collecting data from beekeepers, analyzing bee samples, conducting hypothesis-driven research, and instituting preventive measures to see the effect they have on bee health and habitat.

You can help the bees by providing space in your garden with flowering plants that support their need for nectar and pollen. Use OMRI Listed products to keep your garden chemical free and prevent bees from transporting chemicals to their hive. Provide a shallow water source to allow thirsty bees to drink without the danger of drowning.



Organic gardening has grown from a “fad” to a commonplace way of gardening life. With its popularity growing, so have the products that help support keeping your garden organic. Unfortunately impostors, cheaters, and fakes began to share shelf space with true organic gardening solutions. How do you keep the bad out and understand what is really organic?

For a product to achieve organic certification, it must successfully pass a litany of tests and reviews from third party agencies, which are recognized by the USDA. The leading non-profit agency supporting these efforts is the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which validates and promotes the use of certified organic products.

The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is an independent international nonprofit organization that determines which products are allowed for use in organic production and processing. OMRI Listed® products are allowed for use in certified organic operations under the USDA National Organic Program.

OMRI conducts a range of tests and reviews and assesses if a product is viable to be listed. When a product is “OMRI Listed” it carries the OMRI Listed Seal, which assures the suitability of a product for organic production, handling, and processing.

OMRI Listed products range from fertilizers for your yard to insect killing solutions to fungicides and more.

Zucchini Noodles via Nom Nom Paleo

ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Squash Recipes

You’ve got tons of squash on your hands. Now get it to the table with these awesome squash recipes!

Health Starts Here® Butternut Squash Soup via Whole Foods


1 1/2 cup water, divided

1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 large carrot, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 stalk celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 5 cups)

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Simmer ½ cup water in a large saucepot. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook until vegetables soften and onion turns translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add butternut squash and thyme. Stir in broth, remaining 1-cup water, and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is fork-tender, about 40 minutes. Use an immersion blender to carefully puree soup. Or, let the soup cool slightly and carefully puree in batches in a traditional blender.

Serves 4-6


Zucchini Noodles


4-6 medium sized zucchini

1 garlic clove

Olive oil


Using a box grater you will create spaghetti like noodles to be used in your favorite pasta dishes. Place the grater on its side with the large holes up. Run the zucchini along the grater to create noodle-like pieces.

Zucchini is high in water content, so you’ll need to sweat the noodles before using them. Heat your oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray with paper towels and place the zucchini noodles flat. Lightly salt the zucchini and then place the tray in the oven for 30 minutes. This helps to “sweat out” the moisture and make the noodles ready to cook with.

To cook the noodles place them in a saucepan with olive oil and garlic. Sautee the noodles for 3-4 minutes and they’re ready to be used in your pasta recipes!


Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats via Skinny Taste


3 small to medium spaghetti squash (about 5 cups cooked)

salt and fresh pepper, to taste

1/3 cup part skim ricotta cheese

2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp chopped parsley (or basil)

3/4 cup whole milk shredded mozzarella cheese

For the sauce:

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

14 oz Italian chicken sausage

14 oz (1/2 can) crushed tomatoes (I prefer Tuttorosso)

salt and fresh pepper, to taste

2 tbsp chopped basil


Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and membrane. Season lightly with salt and black pepper; bake about 1 hour or until tender, cut side down. Allow spaghetti squash to cool 10 minutes before adding filling.

In a small bowl combine the ricotta cheese, 2 tbsp parmesan cheese and parsley.

To make the sauce, heat oil and add onions and garlic; sauté on medium-low for about 3 to 4 minutes, until soft in a large deep sauté pan. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces until browned and cooked through. When cooked, add the crushed tomatoes and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add the bay leaf and cover, reducing heat to low. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes, adding in fresh basil at the very end.

When the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to remove flesh, which will come out in spaghetti looking strands reserving the shells. Drain the squash on a paper towel to soak up any excess liquid, and then toss with half of the sauce. Place the spaghetti squash back into the 6 shells and place on a baking sheet.

Top each with remaining sauce, 1 tbsp ricotta cheese mixture, and 2 tbsp mozzarella cheese. Bake the boats in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes, or until everything is hot, and the cheese is melted.

Squash Harvest

ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Harvesting Squash

Your squash plants are in the ground and are ready to grow! We’ve got tips for you to help keep your plants growing and and make your squash harvesting an abundant effort.

Squash are fast-growing crops that offer high yields. Keep garden beds filled with compost to give your plants tons of nutrients. Mulch beds to assist with moisture retention and weed deprivation. When seedlings are about two inches tall apply a layer of mulch to help regulate soil temperature and protect plants. As plants mature apply more mulch to continue helping growth.

Plants need a continued supply of moisture. Supply plants with about an inch of water per week. Ground irrigation systems allow water to feed directly to roots without pooling on leaves. Watering during early daytime is best so that plants avoid sitting in water in cool evening temperatures, which could cause mold to form.

Squash plants have male and female flowers on each plant. Pollination must occur for large fruits to bear. If you do not have enough bees in your region you can manually pollinate plants by transferring pollen from male to female flowers using a paintbrush or Q-Tip.


ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Planting Squash

Now that you’ve decided your squash varieties for your garden, it is time to get to planting squash. Here are a few tips to keep your squash plants happy and healthy!

Summer squash needs full-sun, warm temperatures, and a steady moisture supply. Stock garden beds with plenty of compost matter and make sure drainage is plentiful. If you’d prefer to keep your squash growing contained you can do so. They thrive well in 5-gallon planter containers.

Directly sow summer squash seeds in late spring to early summer, once all threat of frost has passed.  Space your plantings about 1.5-2 feet apart, depending on variety. Typically squash plants can harvest in about 60-90 days. If you want to have a continuous supply, plant seeds in succession.

Winter squash appreciates well-drained soil and warm conditions, too. Prepare three-foot wide planting hills for your winter squash and loosen the soil to at least 12 inches deep. Mix in compost for a nutrient rich base. Plant six seeds per hill to later thin out to three seeds per hill.  Winter squash varieties can be planted throughout the summer up until about 14 weeks before fall frost dates are expected.

Protective row covers should be used on your winter squash varieties. Row covers can be used for various reasons – to hold heat, to keep plants from pests and disease, to guard from weather elements that can be damaging. Using row covers as frost blankets can give them up to 8 degrees of frost protection or can help your almost harvested crops continue to grow even in cooler temperatures.


ALL ABOUT SQUASH: Squash Bugs and Diseases

As with most vegetable plants, squash bugs and diseases can quickly eliminate a garden crop without regret. Keep eyes peeled for damage to leaves, flowers, or fruits to eliminate a garden takeover before it is too late!

Aphids – curled or yellowed leaves indicate an aphid infestation. Use a pyrethrin-based spray like Safer® Brand Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer to kill insects on contact without harming plants.

Cucumber Beetles – chewed holes present on your plants are often a result of cucumber beetles. Cucumber beetles help the spread of disease so using an insecticidal soap will control this issue. Safer® Brand Insect Killing Soap kills insects on contact without damaging the integrity of your organic garden.

Squash Borers – wilted plant leaves and stems are caused by a squash borer presence.  Safer® Brand Bug Patrol will attach to your hose and can be applied quickly and evenly to your squash plants.

Powdery Mildew – although often mistaken for dirt, powdery mildew is a strain of fungi. Yellowing or stunted leaves, a dirt-like presence on leaves and vines, or premature leaf drop all indicate a possible powdery mildew presence. Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide is compliant with organic gardening and effective in powdery mildew control.


ALL ABOUT BEANS: Common pests and diseases

Bean plants are prone to a handful of pests and disease that could wipe out your entire crop. Arm yourself with the proper solutions before the season begins so you can attack an issue at first sight, before it becomes a problem.

Aphids – sometimes with or without wings, these garden pests are also known as plant lice or green flies. They are a soft-bodied insect and range in color from green to orange to gray/black or white. Aphids produce a sweet, sticky excretion known as honeydew and will make your plants feel sticky. If there is a large infestation the leaves of your plant may curl and turn brown. Outfit your garden arsenal with Safer® Brand Insect Killing Soap to manage aphids. Simply spray visible bugs to eliminate them.

Bean Beetles – unlike most beetles that feed on insects, the bean beetle feeds on plants. In colors ranging from red to rusty brown to golden yellow, you will find this beetle doesn’t have a particular bean preference and will feed on most types. If your bean plants’ leaves have a lacey appearance they could be victim, as bean beetles feed on leaves from the underside. A hard-bodied insect killer like Safer® Brand EndALL will kill the beetles on contact. Check undersides of leaves for pupal stage larvae and hand pick them and destroy.

Japanese Beetles – about a half-inch in length, these tiny creatures pack a powerful punch. Shiny bluish-green bodies combined with coppery wings, the Japanese Beetle has small worm-like larvae known as grubs. The adult Japanese Beetle is the predator to the bean plant and will create holes in plant leaves or fully remove the leaves from your bean plant. A preventative measure like the Safer® Brand Japanese Beetle Trap will lure beetles away from your plants and trap and kill them. If you find you have a problem with beetles at the larvae stage you’ll want to employ a grub remedy like Safer® Brand Grub Killer.

White Mold – identified as a white cottony growth on the stem, branches, and pods of bean plants, white mold’s inception begins when the soil surface is cool and moist. Very well drained soil helps prevent white mold, while also using Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide to treat issues as they become visible.



You chose the beans you wanted to grow, you planted and grew them, and now they’re ready to be harvested. So, what’s next?

Beans are ready to be harvested when sizeable and firm pods are present. Snap or cut them off, but be careful to not tear the plant. If you wait to pick the pods the seeds inside will begin to develop and become plants of their own.

Once removed from a plant, bean pods are fresh for about 4-7 days. You can freeze beans, pickle them, or can them for preservation.  Ball Jars gives a great canning tutorial here.

young plants


Now that you are aware that there are many different beans you can plant, it is time to get them in the ground! Each bean variety has its own specifics, so make sure you check their directions when getting ready to sow seeds.

Regardless of the type of bean there are a couple rules of thumb. Follow these guidelines:

  • Starting bean seeds indoors may be detrimental, as surviving transplanting doesn’t always happen
  • Pole beans should be planted in a staked area. Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® Sturdy Stakes® should be placed in the ground prior to seeds being sown in order to avoid injury to the plants.
  • Plant pole beans 3 inches apart, and plant bush beans 2 feet apart
  • Beans can be planted to offer a full summer harvest. If this is your goal you should sow them about every 2 weeks.
  • Plant bean seeds in well-drained, well mulched soil
  • Water bean plants regularly throughout their life cycle. Similar to most plants, water during sunny days to avoid excess water on leaves and resulting mold.
  • Keep plant beds weeded
green beans on the plant

ALL ABOUT BEANS: Vertical vs. horizontal growing

Depending on the bean variety you have you will practice vertical or horizontal growing techniques. Beans are available in four growth patterns: bush, pole, runner, and half-runner.  Bush bean plants are bush-like in form and are self-supporting. Pole beans have vines that grow up structures and appreciate stakes or trellises. Runner beans are cool weather condition pole beans and half-runners have a growing habit that falls between pole beans and bush beans.

Bush beans grow horizontally and should be planted about two feet apart to allow healthy growth. This spacing also ensures you are able to weed the area properly and give the plants enough air circulation which helps minimize mold or fungus risk.

Pole beans have stems that are “runners.” Runners like to grow up and on guiding structures and they have a tendency to grow horizontally when given the option. The garden bed where you plant your pole beans should be outfitted with garden stakes or cages before sowing seeds so that you do not damage the seeds or seedling plants.

As pole bean varieties grow they will be guided up the cage or stakes and create vertical gardens rather than a bush bean horizontal garden. You can assist your pole beans by using jute twine to tie the initial vine. Make sure the jute is loose enough that the vine can grow out of it to wrap around the structure. You can cut the jute when the vine has created its own support.