Beautiful Beekeeping – Permaculture Playing Cards

Permaculture Bees

Good advice!  And this is just one card out of a deck of Permaculture Playing Cards.

How do you tell people what permaculture is? If you give them a book, they might look at a few pictures.  If you send them a link to something they tend to save it for later.  The idea of the deck of cards is that they might browse it like a book – but this is all pictures and just a few words.  Much easier to browse.  And hopefully convey a bigger picture in a smaller package.

playing cards

If you want to explore this subject further and/or purchase a deck of Permaculture Playing Cards, go to

Batty In Cincinnati

The bats are back!!  It’s been years since I’ve seen so many in the night skies !!

I first noticed the frisky flyers a few evenings ago. It’s been a wet summer, and mosquitoes, the bats’ favorite treat, are in abundance.

My next door neighbor was worried the bats were eating my bees, but I assured her that they prefer smaller and less prickly prey. If they eat a few bees, it’s no real loss.  And we could do with a LOT fewer mosquitoes!!

This is good news because bats (specifically the “Indiana bats”) are an endangered species in Ohio.

Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis)


The Indiana bat was listed as endangered in 1967 due to episodes of people disturbing hibernating bats in caves during winter, resulting in the death of large numbers of bats. Indiana bats are vulnerable to disturbance because they hibernate in large numbers in only a few caves (the largest hibernation caves support from 20,000 to 50,000 bats). Other threats that have contributed to the Indiana bat’s decline include commercialization of caves, loss of summer habitat, pesticides and other contaminants, and most recently, the disease white-nose syndrome.

Indiana bats are found over most of the eastern half of the United States. Almost half of them hibernate in caves in southern Indiana. The 2009 population estimate was about 387,000 Indiana bats, less than half as many as when the species was listed as endangered in 1967.

Indiana bats are quite small, weighing only one-quarter of an ounce (about the weight of three pennies) although in flight they have a wingspan of 9 to 11 inches. Their fur is dark-brown to black. They hibernate during winter in caves or, occasionally, in abandoned mines. During summer they roost under the peeling bark of dead and dying trees. Indiana bats eat a variety of flying insects found along rivers or lakes and in uplands.

White nose syndrome (WNS) is an illness that has killed over a million bats since 2006 when dead and dying bats, with the distinctive “white nose,” were first observed. “White nose” refers to a ring of white fungus often seen on the faces and wings of affected bats. First observed in a cave in New York in February 2006, white-nose syndrome has spread from New York caves to caves in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,

So why should we care?

Bats are essential to the health of our natural world. They help control pests and are vital pollinators and seed-dispersers for countless plants. Yet these wonderfully diverse and beneficial creatures are among the least studied and most misunderstood of animals.

Centuries of myths and misinformation still generate needless fears and threaten bats and their habitats around the world. Bat populations are declining almost everywhere. Losing bats would have devastating consequences for natural ecosystems and human economies. Knowledge is the key. Bat Conservation International has been combining education, research and conservation to protect bats worldwide since 1982.

The more than 1,200 species of bats – about one-fifth of all mammal species – are incredibly diverse. They range from the world’s smallest mammal, the tiny bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny to giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans. Except for the most extreme desert and polar regions, bats have lived in almost every habitat on Earth since the age of the dinosaurs.

Bats are primary predators of night-flying insects, including many of the most damaging agricultural pests and others that bedevil the rest of us. More than two-thirds of bat species hunt insects, and they have healthy appetites. A single little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour, while a pregnant or lactating female bat typically eats the equivalent of her entire body weight in insects each night.

Almost a third of the world’s bats feed on the fruit or nectar of plants. In return for their meals, these bats are vital pollinators of countless plants (many of great economic value) and essential seed dispersers with a major role in regenerating rainforests.

So, bats are the honey bees of the night. I’m celebrating their return to the Cincinnati skies!!

Tools For The Cottage Garden

English Garden

My neighbors know my favorite garden tools are old silverware and my fingers. I’m Old School.

But there are 10 traditional cottage garden tools that make life in the garden easier. This season I’m breaking down and purchasing them.

1.  A Spade and Fork – Essential for digging and lifting the soil. I’ve been making do with a child-sized shovel from Home Depot. It’s time to get serious. I’m moving up to a child-sized spade and fork from Clarington Forge.  These tools are made in England and have heads made from a single piece of steel. The heads are securely riveted to an ash shaft. They are exceptionally strong and are backed by a lifetime guarantee. Much better than my old spoon.

Spade and Fork

Spade and Fork

2. Hoes – I’m going with a flat bottomed Dutch hoe that’s good for digging and weeding. In the early days of cottage gardening, hoes were the main tools used, although in much heavier versions. You may recall seeing them depicted in older English paintings.



3.  A Hand Trowel and Hand Fork –  If you can only afford one set of the finest garden tools, buy these. They may be the only tools you really need!

Clarington Gift Set

Clarington Gift Set

4.  A Rake – A rake is another tool that performs a multitude of garden tasks.



5.  Pruning Shears – I have about 5 pairs of pruning shears, from a big lopper to a tiny pruner. I’ll probably buy another one this year! All of mine are bypass secateurs which have two blades, like scissors.  I use them on all my plants as they are gentle and do not damage the fragile stems.

Bypass Pruners

Bypass Pruners

6.  Gloves – A good pair of gardening gloves is essential when pruning roses or anything with thorns. Also crucial if you want to avoid poison ivy.



7.  A Wheelbarrow – I couldn’t live without a wheelbarrow. Mine is a large plastic number, not vintage or beautiful but essential for composting the beds.


8.  A Watering Can – I collect rainwater for my container plants. And it looks good in a cottage garden!

watering can

9.  A Planting Dibber – This tool is useful for anyone looking to plant a large amount of seeds or small transplants.

Planting Dibber

Planting Dibber

10. A Trug – Okay, maybe not a necessity, but it sure is gorgeous!

A Cottage Garden Trug

A Cottage Garden Trug

Pruning Roses And Flying Bees

Sunrise on Columbia Parkway

Sunrise on Columbia Parkway

It’s a gorgeous day on Columbia Parkway! The sun is shining and it’s almost 60 degrees F. It’s perfect for doing yard cleanup, putting down some compost and checking on my bees.

I noticed this morning that my rose bushes are starting to bud. Time to do some much needed late winter pruning!


Winter pruning is important for the well-being of roses, as it stimulates the growth of new shoots which will provide flowers.

The best time to prune is just as spring growth starts. It’s not a good idea to wait until the new young shoots are a few inches long as this wastes the plant’s energy and will delay flowering.

The basics of pruning

The first step is easy. Cut out any shoots that are dead and diseased. Spores on these stems can easily reinfect the new shoots in spring so removing them will help with disease control. Also cut out any stems that are particularly weak or rubbing against each other

The next step is to prune the remaining stems.  Most roses benefit from moderate pruning, reducing the height by 1/4 to 3/4. I usually trim about 1/3 of the average height of the stems.

If you have the time you can make sure to prune just above the bud and at a slight angle away from the bud. The angle of the cut is more of an issue for Hybrid Teas and Floribundas as they can be more susceptible to die back than shrub roses. I do make sure that my secateurs are clean and sharp.

Once you have finished pruning your roses it’s important to clean up all the cut stems and fallen leaves as they can carry disease onto the next season.

Then apply a good layer of mulch such as garden compost or well rotted manure. No bark mulch please!! This will help to bury any spores left on the soil surface, keep the soil moist and cool, prevent weeds from germinating and feed the microorganisms in the soil.


After I finished pruning, I checked in on my bees. They were flying like crazy!

I was delighted to see they were collecting pollen, not just out for a warm weather potty visit.




I’m adding a third hive this year, so I’m moving the original hive to the bottom of the garden. Moving day is tomorrow! I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes…

Trees For Bees – The Linden Tree

linden 1

Linden trees, also known as bee trees and basswood trees (and as lime trees in Europe), are large trees that grow in four-season climates all over the world. These trees can reach 80 feet in height and have a 40-foot spread.

The trees bloom in June and July and their yellow flowers are highly aromatic. They are extremely popular with honey bees (leading to the colloquial name of “bee-tree”), and you can buy basswood honey made almost exclusively from these trees.  Linden trees have the reputation of producing some of the best honey in the world. It has been described as “delicate and mild, and has warm herbal notes and a clean finish.”

Linden trees grow in plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. The coldest temperatures in zone 3 can reach 40 below zero and 12 below zero in zone 8. Besides temperature, soil conditions influence the success of linden trees. They like finer soils that drain well but hold enough water to support the tree.

Linden trees

Linden trees are successful when planted wherever there is excellent to good farming soils. They prefer slightly acidic soil but will tolerate pH levels as high as 7.5. Linden trees do not withstand drought for prolonged periods and are not found in the western states of the US.

The leaves are large measuring anywhere from 3″ to 6″ in both length and width. The linden tree provides much of its own food since the leaves do not lose their mineral content as they decay. Linden tree leaves are high in calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, and potassium.

New English Garden Bee Plants – “Purrsian Blue” Nepeta

New Nepeta

I love nepeta aka catmint, and this new variety looks like a winner! It’s available from Wayside Gardens.

Bees love catmint, but so do cats. By the end of the summer, all my catmint is cat-shaped in the middle.

According to Wayside Gardens, ‘Purrsian Blue’ is the solution! Apparently, it is “flop-proof”!

Naturally rounded, this fragrant little plant covers itself in bright blue blooms from the first hint of warm summer weather until autumn arrives. The flowers themselves are periwinkle-blue, surrounded by a darker violet calyx. Showy, intensely bright, and so profuse, they really pop in the perennial border or herb garden!

Bees and other pollinators are drawn to ‘Purrsian Blue’ for its nectar, while rabbits, deer, and other nibbling creatures avoid it because of its fragrance. I will definitely be ordering this for my borders!