gardening

Earth Day Project: Seed Bombs for Bumblebees

Seed bombs for bumblebees

In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to use today’s post to talk a bit about your friendly neighborhood BUMBLEBEE! These fuzzy little flyers are one of our ecosystem’s most important native pollinators, but unfortunately, their population numbers are in dangerous decline.

With their large furry bodies and general foraging habits, bumblebees are uniquely effective pollinators, helping to produce flowers, fruit and food for hundreds of different species, including people! Yet many of our native bees are facing dramatic population declines due to habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and introduction of diseases.

Want to help? Today I’ll share a bumblebee-friendly project for Earth Day that you can make yourself to help restore helpful habitat for native pollinators: Wildflower Seed Bombs!!!

earthday seed bombs
A “seed bomb” is a little nugget made from clay and soil that contains plant or flower seeds. They can be lobbed over fences, tossed out windows, dropped on the ground or planted directly in your yard. Soil or compost acts as a growth medium, while clay holds the bomb together and protects the seeds from blowing or washing away on the surface of the ground. For our bumblebee bombs, we want to use seeds of native flowers that will be attractive and useful for our insect friends.

To make a batch, you will need:
– natural clay or clay powder (I purchased mine from Amazon here)
– seed starting soil or compost
– native wildflower seeds (I made my bombs with Aster, Coneflower, Snapdragon, Butterfly weed, Columbine, and Coreopsis)

When choosing your seeds, there are a few important things to consider. First, you’ll want to pick seeds that will attract and feed bees. Here’s a fun fact: Bees prefer flowers that are purple, blue, and yellow, since they can see the world in UV! Second, you want to choose plants that are native to the region where you live. There are a lot of great resources online to help you determine bee-friendly local plants, but if you are interested to read more, I recommend checking out the Xerces Society website!

making seed bombs
Now for the fun part – getting your hands dirty! In a container, mix together your clay powder, soil, and just enough water to create a muddy paste. Many seed bomb recipes recommend a 5:1 ratio of clay to compost, but the clay that I used directed a 1:1 mix, so thats what I did and it worked out well for me.

Grab a dime-sized amount of the mixture, and press in a few seeds. Exactly how many seed you want to use in each bomb depends on the germination rate of each species, but if you don’t want to get technical, just throw in 2-5. Less for larger seeds, a few more for the tiny ones. Then roll into a tight ball.

guerilla garden bombs
They kinda look like little deer poops, right? It’s okay- it’s for a good cause! Now leave your bombs out in the sun or a warm area to dry, this may take a day or so.

If you’re making these for your OWN guerrilla gardening interest, then you’re all done! Bombs away! But I plan to give some away to friends and family on Earth Day, so of course I had to package them up adorably…

seed favor supplies
I grabbed some scrap fabric and cut it into small squares…

seed ball packaging
…placed a handful of seed bombs onto each square…

wrapping up seed bomb favors
…then tied them up with twine into little bee bomb bundles! (how do you like THAT for alliteration!?) I also think these would make awesome favors for a spring wedding or garden party!

give out seed bombs for earth day
My seed bomb arsenal is ready. Bonus: these babies will also be helpful in supporting butterflies and honeybees (which face their own plight from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder). Plus they’re pretty! :)

HAPPY EARTH WEEK!

P.S. – In case you were wondering, Bumblebees are non-aggressive and rarely sting people!

Air Drying Herbs from your Garden

air_drying_herbs

I love cooking with fresh herbs from my garden, but unfortunately, up here in New England I’m not able to grow these plants year-round. Drying excess herbs in the summer when they are fresh, and storing them for winter use, allows me to get the most out of my garden even in later months.

There are several techniques to dry herbs, and some work better than others for different types of plants. Air drying is the most simple, and perhaps the best if you don’t have a lot of time. It works best for herbs that have sturdier leaves and lower moisture content like rosemary, thyme, sage, or lavender, but with a little extra monitoring and good air flow, leafier herbs like basil, parsley, and mint can be dried using this method as well.
air_drying_herbs_7
To start, pick some herbs from your garden, wash, and lay out on paper towels to dry completely. For the larger leaf varieties like basil, sage and parley, pull leaves from the main stem to reduce internal moisture flow into the leaves while drying. Gather your herbs into small bundles, and tie together using twine or string.
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Hang your bundles upside down in a place that gets good air flow. Indoors is usually better as humidity outdoors can be very variable, and direct sunlight can bleach out color and flavor. If you like, you can cut a hole in the bottom of some small paper bags and drape these over each herb bundle to keep the dust off. (I chose not to this time, but it can be helpful). Leave your herbs hanging to dry. This can take anywhere from 10 days to several weeks, depending on the type of herb and the humidity and air flow in your area. Hot and dry is obviously best for this process, but we can’t always control the weather! Check them every few days, particularly the leafier greens, to make sure that no mold is developing. (If you do get mold on any of your herbs, throw them out and start over!)
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Herb bundles will feel dry and crunchy to the touch when fully dried. Some retain their green color better than others. (If you are not having success with your more tender leaved herbs, you may want to try a quicker drying method, such as oven drying.)
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To prepare dried bundles for storage, remove the dried leaves from their stems and crush. You can use a mortar and pestle for this, or just your fingers.
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Store your herbs in airtight containers for later use. I love these pretty glass jars for mine, since we have open shelving for spices in our kitchen. When you are using theses herbs later in your fall and winter recipes, be sure to crush them up a bit more just before using to release the flavors. Also keep in mind that dried herbs are stronger, so you can use a bit less than you would when cooking with fresh.

Learning this process is all about trial and error, but its really fun, looks pretty, tastes great, and can save you a bit of money on your grocery bill. I can’t wait to make some fall soups with mine!