Welcome Pollinators to the Garden

Bee with PollenAn old song from the 60’s painted a picture that many farmers and beekeepers are finding pretty ugly and frightening.  This song’s lyric went “where have all the flowers gone, long time passing” and that is what many people fear for our future food and honey production.  Honeybees are accountable for pollinating about 80 percent of all the fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the United States so gardening for them is very important to human survival.  But there does exist other pollinators that are just important and need to be considered when gardening.  These include mason bees, bumble bees, and moths.

All insects can be welcomed into a garden by providing 3 major necessities of life, that is food, water, and shelter.  Honeybees, Orchard Mason bees, and Bumblebees all require bee friendly plants whose flowers are shaped so that bees can get into them.  The easiest way of distinguishing this plant material is to use native plants for your area.  These plants have evolved along with the bees in that area.   Once the bees have found bee-friendly flowers they can drink up the nectar and address one of their basic needs of life.  While eating at the “fast food flower restaurant” the bees also collect pollen and carry it from flower to flower.  This is how they feed us along with the honey they produce.   But remember when gardening, bees do not understand pesticide zones and what they get into they bring back to the hive.  So keep the garden bee-friendly by going organic when possible.

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Dig Up Your Patriotism with a Victory Garden

Victory GardenGardening might be the last thing you think would bring people together during war times. However, in World War II, almost 20 million Americans stepped up to the plate to grow fresh produce to reduce shortages. At the time, the government was rationing common foods like butter, cheese, eggs, coffee and meat — items readily available today — so there was a dire need for increasing productivity. As a result, the victory gardens symbolized unity and patriotism.

Conditions might not be as drastic today, but the threat of compromising weather and even war still exist. Planting a victory garden of your own in the backyard is a way to create some independence for your family. If the produce at your local market is contaminated or killed off by early frost, you’re out of luck. At least with a garden of your own, you can rely less on others and build a pantry of canned goods, which can prepare you for emergencies and save you money too.

Gardening for the Wars

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that victory gardens produced 9-10 million tons of fresh vegetables, which significantly helped make a difference for civilians and troops. Citizens definitely took pride in the home front effort.

One World War II victory garden poster from 1943 read, “Our Food is Fighting: A garden will make your rations go further,” and with the encouragement from the government, people were dedicated to plowing and caring for vegetable plots in parks, schoolyards and baseball fields. In 1917, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the war gardens, and in World War I, five million gardens were thriving and bringing in approximately $1.2 billion. By World War II, the victory gardens were supplying about 40% of the nation’s vegetable produce.

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Rescuing rats, one thousand at a time

San Jose Rodent RescueOutdora’s own team member Lauren Paul of Tech Services was involved in a recent rescue mission for a thousand rats. When she’s not working for Outdora, Lauren runs the Bay Area-based non-profit organization North Star Rescue. North Star is dedicated to the welfare of smaller companion animals including pet rabbits and rodents, and their volunteers provide a network of safe foster homes for hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, chinchillas, and more.

The San Jose Mercury News and the television show Hoarders of the A&E network have both covered North Star’s rescue of 1,000 rats from an overrun home in Los Angeles. One pregnant pet rat quickly turned into hundreds when the litters were unsupervised in the LA home, and the resulting broods were chewing through insulation and burrowing under the house until North Star stepped in.

Now after a large-scale rescue involving over 30 volunteers and climate-controlled trucks for transportation, the rats are taking up residence at Andy’s Pet Shop in San Jose where they will be rehabilitated and ready for adoption December 5.

All animal-lovers at Outdora offer sincere congratulations to Lauren Paul and North Star Rescue for their efforts. North Star is based in Novato, California, and they have additional adoption outposts in Danville, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Visit the North Star website for more information on their adoptable pets or to help shelter a recently rescued rodent.

How To Use A Rotisserie This Thanksgiving

Viking Grill Turkey RotisserieIt is interesting that so few self proclaimed backyard chefs have experimented with rotisserie style cooking. It is the most basic of all grilling methods, and can be traced back thousands of years. Spits were originally used to rotate meat and poultry so that they would cook evenly; in the old days the spits were turned by hand. Today we have the wonderful invention of the rotisserie that allows us to effortlessly evenly roast meat in our own backyard. Many grills, such as the Freestanding Lynx Grill with Rotisserie and ProSear, even come standard with a rotisserie attachment

Because of the constant rotation, meals cooks on a rotisserie, come off the grill wonderfully moist and tender. By rotating the meat methodically a large amount of the juices that would normally be lost to the coals are retained by the meat. There are three main steps to cooking the perfect rotisserie meal. The first is to prepare the meat or poultry for the rotisserie. The second step is to balance the rotisserie. The third step is the most difficult, Patience.

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Designing a Kid’s Weather Station Garden

Jeffersonian Wind GaugeAs school budgets across the nation get cut and kids are expected to know more, parents need to supplement their children’s’ curriculum by creating teaching moments in their own home.  This can be done in a stylish way that incorporates beauty while addressing kids natural curiosity.

To begin this process, analyze what you already have and how that ties into the interest of your child.  Does your child want to explore rain amounts for their local area or is wind something that they always have questions about. Outdora is a great place to explore together these options such as thermometers, hygrometers, Jeffersonian wind Gauge, and/or rain gauges.  After picking the tools needed to create a kids weather station garden, one needs to pick the location for that garden.

Location is very important for this type of garden.  It needs to be placed in an area that is not blocked by houses, trees, or any other type of structure that would impede the natural movement of rain or wind.  It also needs to be placed close to the home so that the child does not have to “hike” to enjoy their weather station garden.  Once all these factors have been taken into consideration the next step is to plant together the plant material that will go into this educational garden.

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Urban Precision Gardening the Square Foot Way

Square Foot GardeningSquare foot gardening has been a mainstay for many years.  The basic concept of this garden design is to mark off a garden space and divide it into square foot sections.  These individual sections are then planted individually with one plant per square foot.  These plants can then have their individual needs met such as water and fertilizer or precision farming.  While precision farming is typically done with GPS systems, farming combines with programmable sprayers and the like, the urban farmer can take this one on one plant concept to their own garden.

Urban gardeners, apartment homesteaders, backyard homesteaders, community gardeners and/or hobby gardeners can all take advantage of precision farming concepts and square foot gardening in the urban landscape.  As land becomes scarcer the need to garden in containers, such as those sold through Outdora, becomes more important.  Square or rectangular containers work best for square foot gardens but circular containers can be used.  Also just like any other type of container/planter gardening, good soil and appropriate environment are crucial to the success of the garden, so plan accordingly.

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Music of the Spheres in Pop Culture (with a 10% Coupon off MOTS Wind Chimes)

Music of the Spheres Wind ChimesThe reverberating sound of chimes can be mesmerizing, and music therapy has been used to heal the mind, body and soul. Does your mood change when you listen to classical or upbeat music? Well, the wind chime can also have a profound effect on your overall state of being. From reducing stress and anger to connecting your mind with a sense of peace, the elegant chimes can have a restorative power. They are also an element of Feng Shui and can re-establish balance and harmony in your space.

Music of the Spheres wind chimes can add elegance and entertainment to your outdoor space. These chimes are made from black, powder-coated, aluminum alloy tubing, which gives them a chic look. You can choose from six sizes that span four octaves, and one model is an astounding 14 feet high! These wind chimes can make a lasting presence in your home and bring a rich sound to your ear. After all, they are known as the Stradivarius of wind chimes.

For the pre-Christmas wind chime sale, some of Music of the Spheres models are already marked down to almost 40% off. However, Outdora is offering an additional 10% off when you use coupon code MOTS10 from now until Nov. 29. Some believe the wind chime is good luck, and you can reap that good fortune now!

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DIY Four-Season Container Garden

Planter Box GardenA four-season container garden is a great way of using any planter year round.  The principles behind this type of gardening are simple.  Using the plants of the season to design a multi-functional container garden is a budget friendly way of gardening and works in any area and for any season.

The first step to any container or planter garden is to use the best material you can afford.  Sturdy containers and/or planters with drainage are a must.  Also having a container trivet on wheels will help any homeowner to move around large containers through the patio, porch, or garden space.  Soil is another important component to any successful container garden.  Using a good quality of potting soil along with compost and sand is all that is needed for a container that will be maintained regularly.  If vacation time is going to be a possibility during the year then add hydrogel to the mix to retain moisture.  Once the soil mixture has been added to the container it is time to start planting the four-season container garden.

Deciding on the size of the container will dictate how much plant material can be used in the container of choice.  Also some of these plants are planted as seeds while others are planted as plants so plan the appropriate room according to what you choose to plant.

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History of the Nativity Scene: From Around the World to Your Home

Nativity SceneA Christmas tradition for hundreds of years, the Nativity Scene has a rich history that spans across cultures and involves its share of controversy.  Also known as the “crèche,” this decoration commonly found in homes across North America began in a much different state and time.

Almost 800 Years Ago…

The idea and creation of the first nativity scene is credited to St. Francis of Assisi.  Back in 1223 Francis was stationed in Greccio, Italy after having returned from a trip to Acre and Egypt.  The nativity had certainly been represented in art before, but never in the three dimensional form and for the purpose that Francis envisioned.

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Controlling Squash Pests

Cucurbit PestThe cucurbit family includes squash, melons, pumpkins and cucumbers. Many of the same pests damage these popular vegetable plants in the home garden. While there are organic and chemical pesticides available for control, good garden planning and hygiene is your first line of defense.

Always remove weeds, especially grassy weeds. They contain diseases spread by pests moving from the weeds to desirable plants. Never leave garden debris in the garden over the winter. Bad bugs survive in old garden plants. Pick off bad bugs in the morning when dew keeps them from flying away. Also, practice crop rotation. The best way to perform crop rotation is to divide the garden into 4 sections and simply rotate the plants clockwise every year. That way, you skip three years between planting in the same place. If you are beset by an invasion of bugs such as cucumber beetles or squash bugs that do not respond to sprays, skip an entire year and plant a cover crop such as hairy vetch, cereal rye, clover, or buckwheat. This breaks the cycle and you can plant again the following year.

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