spring strawberries
spring strawberries

I reblogged a post last week about the hardship bees are having in nature. I am working every day to create a “bee friendly” or “pollinator friendly” city lot on the street with so few people that plant flowers ( for pollinators) or grow food. This morning as I watered some of my new plants I looked up and down the street for yards with blooming late spring flowers that would provide food for pollinators. I only saw a sea of cement and grass. I have been so busy working to produce food and feed pollinators on my lot that I hardly take time to look up and see what others are doing, but today I did and it made me sad to see nothing but green or gray and very few pollinator friendly plants.

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just have to beat the resident raccoons + chipmunks to eating them since they like to take bites out of each one!

I sometimes wonder if some of the sickness we are all facing later in our life is from lack of enough organically grown healthy food closer to home( traveling miles decreases the nutritional value of our food) which provides more nutritionally dense food. We need to use our food as medicine since many of us have to fight illness every day. When we grow our own medicine or use our food as medicine to heal our bodies, we are less dependent on “synthetic drugs.” All  we have to do is  get outside and turn our lot, yard or back porch into a place where we grow food for ourselves and   provide for the pollinators that help create our food! It can be as simple as scratching the earth and scattering a few seeds. The act of going outside and being in nature while working your soil will not only keep you fit, but lift your spirits since science has found dirt is the new Prozac!

I mix edibles, pollinator friendly annual flowers,herbs + also historical pansy flowers since we like to eat them in our spring salads.
I mix edibles, pollinator friendly annual flowers,herbs + also historical pansy flowers since we like to eat them in our spring salads.

Sometimes I just go outside and sit and listen. I find it is at those time that I feel the most connected to nature and it just takes  5 minutes( trust me you won’t stay just 5 minutes) of your time. Us humans are just too busy running around from our car to our home and never  take the time to go and sit outside. If we don’t start taking the time to care we will see a lot less food in our food aisles, our health decline, our pollinators disappear as the bees and butterflies. I use to use the “red flag” concept when telling my kids to avoid certain situations. I would say, “Well, that is a ‘red flag” maybe you need to  avoid this or that or maybe go in a different direction. Well, we have a lot of red flags around us +  mother nature is waving her red flags. Please, go outside and sit and observe this weekend….it is that simple….if we all do a little it will make a big difference!

spring salads include chard, parsley, strawberries, red lettuce, baby red russian kale, and pansy flowers
spring salads include chard, parsley, strawberries, red lettuce, baby red russian kale, and pansy flowers

I have a huge pollinator friendly garden in my front yard which is carefully created to provide food throughout the seasons for our local pollinators. I do have some edibles in our front yard up closer to our home, but  since most of our neighbors spray chemicals or use them occasionally on their sea of green. I create “buffer zones” that provide some protection, but I do most of my food growing in my backyard since they can’t spray there and I rotate my crops to keep the soil healthy every year.

Marigolds in Urban Potager Attracts Beneficials

Over the years, I have noticed our  neighbors are using less of the “big spray trucks” that would pull out their hoses and spray chemicals all over their sea of grass.  I would see them spraying and go inside my home to close my windows for I did not want their spray to get into my home, I have created “buffer zones” of bushes between our properties to help with their chemical use, but I am sure it is only a band-aid on the problem. It is no different from the organic farmers out in the country that are trying to grow organically. They have to create ‘buffer zones” around their property + hope it  will protect their crops, but how does it help when the wind blows or pollinators travel miles….chemicals have been found in the bee hives!

pots mixed with a variety of pollinator friendly plants can help just sitting on a porch...and some fun plants like my Big Daddy Petunia for scent which I like to smell when I am sitting out in the garden!
pots mixed with a variety of pollinator friendly plants can help just sitting on a porch…and some fun plants like my Big Daddy Petunia for scent which I like to smell when I am sitting out in the garden!

use to frequent the farmer market  before I tore up my local yard and I have found as the year’s roll on I frequent them less and grow more of my food on my city lot.  I support local farmers when I need an item I can’t grow in my space, but I am finding that I can usually find a similar vegetable or herb that will work in my small space, for an example I love radicchio as a salad green,but it takes up too much space in my small lot. I have grown several types on my city lot, but I need the space for other succession plants. I finally decided on red-ribbed dandelion chicory which is a leaf type which fits in my pots and works great in salads. You just have to adapt to developing different foods that provide good nutrition and fit your urban growing area. 

 A bee on a Mahagony Midget Coreopsis
A bee on a mahogany Midget Coreopsis

I have noticed that many sites will sell seed and claim it is “bee friendly” or “pollinator friendly”, but if you don’t observe the plants in your own growing region, it may not be useful to your area. I have found some are just worthless in my growing region for pollinators and have had to replace them with natives or annuals that truly are “workhorses” in my gardens. It is by sitting outside and observing the visitors to my plants that I capture an understanding as to which are truly providing for the many pollinators that visit our city lots. Do you remember the movie  Field of Dreams,”If you build it, he will come”…. well it is the same with our pollinators, “grow it and they will come”….

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I have been creating a sea of pollinator friendly plants on our city lot for several years and every spring my “pet” spring bees come early with spring and I see them wandering the carefully orchestrated menagerie  of plants from early spring to fall I have created on my city lot.  I see the early bees since there are not as many, but as the flowers go through their choreographed seasonal dances, I notice other pollinators arrive large and small. The dance starts out solo, but as it ends it includes many other pollinators that join with their own beautifully created costumes of color and wonder to work in my small space to provide food for myself, family, friends and neighbors to keep us all healthy!

They will be crawling in and out of your flowers all season long if you plant the right flowers....
They will be crawling in and out of your flowers all season long if you plant the right flowers….

Mother nature is raising her red flag, do you see it? Let us all get out there and do something about it!

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

38 comments

  1. A great post. I love the way you mingle flowers and veg to create such a wonderful space, obviously much loved by you and all your local bees. And you get plenty to eat too, an ideal situation. Food for the soul and the stomach.

    1. Oh Chloris, you get it:-) That is the key “food for the soul and the stomach”…could not of said it any better!!!:-)

  2. I get the feeling that we are pretty resilient as a species BUT the distance that we are putting between ourselves and the natural world is like shooting ourselves in the foot (or worse). Where do we expect to connect with who we really are if we are so busy distancing ourselves from reality and what truly matters? Another gorgeous post full of honesty and a lifeline of hope. The BEST kind of posts :). I love your garden. It’s truly beautiful and has inspired me to create our own garden out of hardy flowers that the wallabies and possums don’t want to eat. It might be toxic to the natives but it should be happiness on a stick for the bees ;).

    1. you are so right, we need to get back to the basics and connect again with what really matters:-)I just love your ability to “express with words”…you truly are gifted with words! “happiness on a stick for the bees”…lol..just LOVE IT!!! Today as I worked outside, I started noticing the “response from nature” to many of the new plants I have introduced, I am having new vistors. I am seeing diversity among my bee population, but have to work on the butterflies! I see a lot of the small ones, but the large ones need a place to land, and I want to set it up, so they will stop by and visit me once in awhile:-) I believe what motivates me to create with my garden, is that it makes me feel good when I see natural beauty around me….nothing compares in the world..it truly is a precious gem that sparkles brighter than any other I have seen!

      1. Who needs pricy gems that you have to lock away from thieves when the true gems are right there in front of us sparkling away on our flowers and we never see them! 😉 Seriously, I love watching nature do her thing and being part of that “thing” is a true privilege and honour that I take to heart. If you are willing to sit and listen to the real world underneath the world that we humans have created, you learn SO much and it feeds your soul 🙂 (I WISH my spellchecker would STOP telling me to change my Australian spelling for your American spelling! 😉 )

  3. A truly wonderful and inspiring post Robbie! I love your dogged determination to garden on despite anything your neighbours do, or do not do! I look about my own urban street and see nothing much except grass and concrete too – there are some gardens but they are few and far between and usually managed with little spray cans of poisonous substances! My tiny little courtyard though is still giving me food, despite it being near mid-winter here – I have learned [from you] it can be done! I am so excited for spring to arrive and to begin my vertical garden!

    1. Pauline, I can’t wait to see your vertical garden. I find it intersting when we are starting fall you are starting spring/early summer. It is a great exchange since I get to see your beautiful courtyard and how you are creating your own urban oasis!

      1. It does empower us to help..it makes us feel like we can DO something! We can help them and us. I just wish everyone would do a little something + then it will all make a “big” difference…keeping my fingers crossed the message gets out there!

  4. Well said Robbie and what a great achievement your plot is. I love the colourful mix of flowers and food and your dedication to providing a food source for insects. I know that I would want to sit for much longer than 5 minutes in your garden!

    1. Thank you, Julie:-) I find sitting sometimes is easy until I look around and see weeds peaking through the flower beds, but to me working in the garden is relaxing and lifts my mood every time! I also love the humming all around me:-)

  5. They should be celebrating you as the poster child of sustainability in your city. Wake up people! How can they keep sleeping through life? You have created an oasis in a desert. Thank goodness the bees have someone on their side.
    I still think you need to give garden tours – you’ve built it – therefore they will come! You are a shining example. Thanks for all you are doing for the planet, Robbie!

    1. Eliza, it feels so good when you see all those little happy bees dancing between all the flowers. Today I noticed different type bees I have never seen before! I found some wonderful annuals that the bees love in my vegetable gardens such as Iberis sempervirens-Candy Tuft. It is planted in all my vegetable beds and tiny little pollinators are dancing all around them this year! It feels good when you find a little flower they enjoy visting + it does make one feel like you are helping!

  6. That saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world” springs to mind here. Possibly, in time, your beautiful garden will inspire those around you to plant their own little oasis in the city. I love the look of your salad Robbie, it looks delicious. I am very appreciative we live in a rural area, green all around…but few here actually have garden either. Trees and hedges but few planted gardens, at least though it is just a sea of green and natural landscape. I love your posts, they are always a gentle reminder to me to stop and spend time just sitting, watching and listening than just working.

    1. I remember seeing your space and how you are surrounded by such beautiful greenery:-) Yes, I do tend to find it hard to sit still since there is always something to do in a garden. I am out there and it is like an extension of our home. Our home is about bringing the outdoors inside + it sure feels good when it all works together. I have to admit, I do sit down later in the afternoon when I am just too tired to do anything else. I have a special sitting area I can rest and I love to watch the bees, butterflies and birds dancing across our small lot…tee hee, sometimes they forget I am human and run into me-lol

      1. I love to lie out on the lawn in summer, often the only time I do stop out there to just relax. Being winter now I am certainly missing those times. Io listen it is lovely just to the birds and watch the insects, I often fall asleep 🙂

      2. I do that too sometimes:-) I have a favorite spot under a tree with a chair….I don’t miss winter now, but I know after a few more months, I do like the “winter nesting” that goes on-lol…warm fire, comfort food + time to think:-), but only for a few months at best-not like this year!!! too long!

  7. Wonderful article Robbie. You are so inspiring with all the good work you do. I aspire to get my garden in as good a shape as yours is. I try to plant as many bee and bird friendly plants as i can and almost always have something in bloom. Right now the hummers are loving the delphiniums I planted a couple of years ago. It’s a treat to watch them and to see the bees hovering around the columbine. You’ve really created a haven for insects and beneficial creatures and it’s appreciated by them I’m sure. And by me and other gardeners who are moved to emulate your own good work. Keep it up and you’ll be feeding yourself all year long as you are almost doing now. I’m so very impressed! 🙂
    Cheers,
    Steve
    PS, thanks for your kind words to me about my absence from the blogosphere for awhile. I think I’m back, for now at least… 🙂

    1. Hi Steve!!!! So glad you are feeling better and back to writing:-) I know you were in your garden during time away because it is your healing garden,too.
      You are too kind, but if you look closely, I have SO MANY weeds tucked in between all my bee friendly annuals. shhhhh…:-) Don’t tell anyone, ( lol-yeah right here it is on the intenet), I let the annual bee friendly flowers grow tall enough then I weed, so it looks a bit messy for a few weeks. I have a lot of birds in my yard that help with the weed distribution! Once the annuals get tall enough they squeeze out the weeds-tee hee…my new “trick” to avoid weeding as much-lol…you learn to adapt to these sustainable yards:-)

  8. Exactly Robbie! I think food is a big factor in why our people are so sick. You are what you eat. The Earth is energy and once you lose that connection – well, you lose life energy. I have been careful to plant many natives and each year I discover new insects and birds even in my Village garden where cement surrounds. My problem now is that I have created an oasis and the rabbits and cats flock here and well, the cats don’t get along! I sit on my porch or out in the garden almost daily in the evenings and just “wait” for the sense of peace to fulfill me. It does not take long but I will say five minutes wouldn’t be enough for me! Herbs and vegetables provide much needed nectar for pollinators and having flowers intermingled just attracts them all the more. I was in the shed yesterday and heard the baby wrens from the birdhouse tucked in the grapevines …

    1. I was sitting there the other day watching a mother wren feed her baby…so relaxing and healing:-) Nothing I do compares to being out there with all the dashing around under, around and near in our gardens-lol. The other day 3 birds started fighting and landed right in front of me and hitting me on the way down as they fought-lol. The living critters ( butterflies land on me!) run into me all the time in my urban potager, I guess they see me in it and assume I am there all the time-which I am:-) I feel doing the physical work also makes one healthy which we do not do anymore…we drive to the grocery store and many people don’t even know where or how they get their food! You don’t need much to grow your own food and make a dent in your food bill, but the most important thing is the nutritional value of food closer to home + helping nature while you do it:-)

      1. 🙂 I am happy to link to your garden anytime since we are moving in the same direction:-)Hope it is catching what we are doing + others start getting out there and observing. I just came inside from weeding since we had a lot of rain the last day. I am seeing more butterflies this year, but still not a monarch:-( It is getting hot here ( 90’s today), so the gardens is starting to hum with activity!

  9. Thanks so much for standing up & speaking out! It’s really not that difficult (or expensive) to create a bee-friendly habitat and I just don’t understand how we got so into the industrialized lawn look (except, maybe, advertising-induced cultural habits–see my upcoming blogpost on this very topic!) It’s not cheap to spray all that stuff, it’s not good for people/plants/animals and what the ducks kind of price are we paying for those vast green moats anyway? *sigh* Thanks for sharing a piece of your critter oasis with us!!!

    1. I try not to lecture,but do plant the seed- tee hee:-)I read some where, years ago( many-lol) “clover” was in the lawn mix, imagine that! People were not obsessed with carpet lawns, and plants that do nothing for our polliantors. I have a few “fun” plants in my garden, but I would say 80 percent are for the pollinators and us to live on!

      1. OK, talk about great minds thinking alike…I was just going to write about clover, too! I went to a garden conference a few weeks back and they had one of those comment boards so I wrote: PLANT CLOVER! For the bees, it’s so easy. Of course, mind, the bunnies like it, too. 😉 In feeble defense of the average homeowner which I used to be, I don’t think most folks even think about it since “everyone” does it, it’s advertised on TV and for sale at the local box store. U r in the avant-garde, er, garden-wise!!!

      2. I also read that some farmers were growing egg plant in clover + it protected the plants from pests. I tried it last year + it worked! I even planted some for the bunnies as a cover crop:-) I always liked “avant-garde” art, too!

      3. abstract BEE sign! OH, we could have fun with this, but seriously, I have thought about putting a NO CHEMICAL sign on my yard…but that would just “brand” me-lol

      4. + I love “Surrealism”:-) Surrealism Sustainable Gardening movement….it looks really strange to them, but eventually it will become the norm if all ” us FORMER average homeowners” that first started our gardens…have now gone sureal!!!

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