Kensington Garden Club

   Blog, Newletters & Current Events
Carolyn W. Organic Lawn

    10 Facts About Bees

    1. Honey bees can fly at speeds up to 15 miles per hour.
    2. A honeybee colony can contain up to 60,000 bees at its peak.
    3. Bees have been creating honey for more than 150 million years.
    4. Worker bees are the smaller bees in the colony.
    5. Drones are male bees without a stinger.
    6. In one trip honey bee will visit about 50 - 100 flowers.
    7. One of the only natural enemies of bumblebees are skunks.
    8. Honey bees wings beat 11400 times per minute.
    9. Bees cannot recognize the color red.
    10.Drones, the only male bee, die immediately after mating.


​    10 Health Benefits of Honey

    1. Prevents cancer and heart disease.
    2. Reduces ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders
    3. Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal.
    4. Increases athletic performance.
    5. Reduces cough and throat irritation.
    6. Balances the 5 elements
    7. Blood sugar regulation.
    8. Heals wounds and burns
    9. Probiotic
    10. Beautiful skin. honey

  Cleaning Green
  Energy Conserving
  Landscaping Organically
  Ensuring Safe Drinking Water
  Building Environmentally Safe Homes
  Reducing, Reusing, Recycling
  Air Quality Improvement
  Toxic-Free Personal Care Products Purchases
  Educating For A Safe & Healthy Environment

  Eating Locally Grown Organic Food
  Adding Insulation To Pipes And Water Heaters
  Rejecting Junk Mail 
  Turning OFF The Lights
  Hazardous & Electronic Product Collections

  Driving a Hybrid Automobile
  Always Consider Carpooling
   YOU CAN Make A Difference

Tips for Growing a Green and Pesticide-Free Lawn

 *Establishing an organic lawn doesn't happen overnight or in one season, but once established, it is easy to maintain and can save you both time and money.

*Be patient. A chemically treated lawn may take time to transition into a healthy organic lawn.

Here are some tips to help you along:

Reduce Your Lawn Size - 
Consider using naturalistic landscaping, ground covers, stones, mulch, flower beds, vegetable gardens, meadows, etc.  A smaller lawn requires less time for mowing with more time to do other things that you enjoy.

Test the Soil - Soil tests help identify the need for lime and compost. The Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station will give you a free analysis of your soil.

Seed or Overseed Thick turf will help crowd out weeds. Grass seeds with clover will  provide the lawn with needed nitrogen. Fall is a good time to seed.

Mowing - Set your mower to a height of 3-4 inches. Higher grass conserves watering and naturally shades out some weeds.  Consider an electric mower or a hand-push one for some good exercise.

Watering - Watering is best done in early morning. Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth.

Fertilizer with Compost - Compost is an excellent source of minerals, nutrients and beneficial organisms. It is best applied in the early spring or late summer. Leaving the grass clippings on your lawn will also help provide some of the nutrients.

Weed Control - Pull weeds or use an organic product like corn gluten in early spring to keep weeds from germinating.

Pest Control - Milky spore may be used for Japanese and Oriental beetle grip. Beneficial nematodes have also shown promise in controlling grubs.
 Going Green with Gardening

The most important role for green gardening is, "The right plant in the right place".  If the plant requirements for light, soil conditions and nutrition are met, it will thrive with very little effort. 

Use disease and pest resistant plants whenever possible.

Composting is so easy.  Save all the waste from fresh fruits and vegetables, coffee and tea grounds, and let it work to nourish your plants.

Mulch your garden.  Mulching with natural materials that decompose helps to conserve water, discourage weeds and adds nutrients to the soil as it disintegrates.

Conserve water by collecting rainwater in screen-covered containers.  Use soaker hoses in the garden to prevent water being wasted by evaporation.

Avoid using pesticides by planting plants that attract natural predators.

Plant pollinator-friendly plants to attract butterflies and bees to your garden.

Avoid power tools in the garden as much as possible.  Push mowers are great exercisers and raking instead of leaf blowing increases upper-body strength.
    A Gardener’s Plea for the Bees and other Pollinators

    by Kensington Garden Club Member Debbi Wright

    I was young, six or eight, when my maternal grandmother told me that the colony of long brown tubes attached to a small wooden shed were constructed by mud daubers, a kind of wasp. I’ve been fascinated by bees and wasps and many other diminutive creatures who live around me ever since. They are so industrious and with such a work ethic, how can we not admire them?  My love of gardening started with summer visits to a community garden behind my paternal grandmother’s house (they were called victory gardens back then).

    No surprise then to find myself today surrounded by large fields of native wildflowers and a bounty of busy pollinators. There’s mostly goldenrod growing but also lots of Joe Pye weed, Aster, Queen Anne’s Lace, Black Eyed Susan, Iron weed and Milk weed around my home as well as lots and lots of cultivated plants and some fruiting trees.  It’s the bees and wasps who do the majority of pollinating around here, with a little help from moths, butterflies and the occasional hummingbird.  They guarantee a bounty of berries and veggies every harvest. Even the not-so-loved yellow jackets get into the act, pollinating my holly bushes that provide winter color and snacks for hungry birds.

    Sadly, there’s been a lot of publicity in recent years about large bee die offs in our country. We hear most about honeybees, though other pollinators are also affected. Bumblebees and solitary bees like mason bees, cut leaf bees and others are also impacted.  The more I read, it’s become increasingly apparent that we are unwittingly poisoning our bees.  Die off of bees and other pollinators should be a concern for everyone, not just those who enjoy watching them.  Bees are critical to our very survival. No bees, no food.  Yes, that’s right, no bees and our food supply plummets.

    Bees and other pollinators that rely on plant nectar, like butterflies, moths, even humming birds, get food from the plants, and most yards are filled with cultivated plants, not wild growing natives. We buy plants and plant seeds that we put in our gardens.  Many of the plants and seeds we buy contain pesticides and 80% of these pesticides use neonicotinoid insecticide.  This chemical has been identified as a major contributor to killing bees. Any systemic insecticide poses a threat to pollinators, so choosing how we manage our plants in the garden impacts pollinators.  If these plants produce food for human consumption, how we manage our gardens affects our health too.

    I try to be a good steward of my environment and that includes protecting the bees and other pollinators who live alongside me. It’s not enough to plant native and think we and our pollinators are safe.  Native plants sold at nurseries or big box stores may be grown from seed treated with systemic pesticides. It’s a safe bet that when we buy something that says “Pest Resistant,” its seeds have been treated with pesticide. If you really want that plant, find out what pesticide was used. Don’t buy it if it’s a neonic.  

    It’s also a safe bet that if you go with certified “organic” or “heirloom” seeds and plants, your purchase is more likely to be safe, for pollinators, and for you.. The die off of bee populations has long term deadly consequences for all animals, including us. Looking out for wildlife in your own backyard is looking out for yourself too.

    Three good sources for learning more about better care for our wildlife are the Xerces Society ( which includes a list of pesticides containing neonics; The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Pollinators (; and The more you read about bees, the more interested you will become in their welfare.

GROWING TOGETHER: Tiny Acorns to Mighty Oaks
2015 - 2017 FGCCT President's Theme and Project - Jane Waugh
                                "Oaks are the quintessential wildlife plants:  no other plant genus supports more species 
                            of Lepidoptera, thus providing m;ore types of bird food, than the mighty oak."

                                "Acorns fill the bellies of dear, raccoons, turkey, mice, 
                            black bear, squirrels, and even wood ducks."
                                                                                                                -Doug W. Tallamy  Bringing Nature Home

Why Plant Native Oaks?

    There are many reasons to plant native oak trees.  They are beautiful and majestic; they are our national and state tree; they are long-lived (hundreds of years); they are well-suited to our New England landscape; they are great state trees for lawns, streets, parks golf courses and campuses.  Much more importantly, however, they are the quintessential wildlife plant.  As entomologist Douglas Tallamy points out in his book Bringing Nature Home, oak trees support 517 species of Lepidoptera (an order of insects including moths and butterflies). It is this native insect population that supports our ecosystem.

     Along the Eastern Seaboard, 70% of our native forests are gone.  That decrease of habitat has been a huge loss of biodiversity.  As Tallamy and many others point out, there is something we can do about it in our own gardens:  invite native insects by providing the food that they eat - that is, native plants and trees. So if you lose a plant in your garden or a tree blows down in a storm, think native when replacing it.

Interesting Facts about Oaks

1.  In 2004, the oak, a symbol of strength, was officially declared the national tree of the United States.  It is also the national tree of England, France, Germany, Latvia, Poland and Serbia.

2.  The white oak is Connecticut's state tree. In 1687, King James 2nd was trying to revoke Connecticut's Charter which had been signed by his predecessor King Charles 2nd.  The legend is that the charter was hidden in the hollow of a large white oak in Hartford for safekeeping.  Thus, the name of the famous oak became the Charter Oak.

3.  About 600 species are found worldwide and are native to the Northern Hemisphere.  Oaks are in the Fagaceae (Beech) family and in the genus, Quercus.  Oaks are America's most widespread hardwood tree.  Many live to be 200 years old.  Some have lived to be over a 1000 years old. 

4.  Aside from ship building, furniture manufacturing and flooring, oaks have also played a role as an important food source for Native Americans.  Ground acorns were used to make flour.  Acorn starch flour can be purchased today in several  Korean grocery stores in New York City at a cost of about $5.99 per pound.

5.  Up to 100 species of animals and birds include acorns in their diets.  A few of these are squirrels, blue jays, black bears, chipmunks, deer mice, ruffed grouse, turkeys and foxes.

6.  It is important to plant both red and white oak for wildlife.  White acorns mature in a year and sprout soon after falling, losing their nutritive value.  Wildlife eat them soon after they fall thereby building body energy before winter.  Red acorns take two years to mature.  They are very high in fat and can be buried for the winter without sprouting, making them a good winter stash for wildlife.

7.  A major difference between French and American wine is the type of oak that is used for the distillation process.  Barrels for storing wine, whiskey, brandy and other liquors add special aroma to the beverages.

8.  The U.S.S. Constitution reportedly received its nickname "Old Ironsides" during the war of 1812 because its Live Oak hull was so tough that British war ships' cannon balls bounced off.  Live Oak is Quercus virginiana.

9.  One of the best drums is made by using Japanese Oak.  Taiko drums are known for their pure and loud sound in part attributable to the oak wood which is used.

10. The symbol for the University of Connecticut contains two white oak acorns.

11. A full grown oak can absorb about 50 gallons of water a day.

12. The smoke from oak wood chips is used for smoking meat, fish, cheese and other foods.  Oak bark is rich in tannin and is used for tanning leather.

​                                                                                                                   from Jane Waugh, FGCCT President, 2015-2017

Kensington Garden Club Chooses a Northern Red Oak 

    The Kensington Garden Club planted a Northern Red Oak on May 20, 2016. 

    It is at Kensington Orchards, a park owned by the town of Berlin and used for passive recreation.  The town's Parks Department planted it for us, mulched around it and added a water bag to help keep it moist during this dry season we are experiencing. They will continue to maintain it for us but one of our members who lives nearby also stops to water it. 

    Committee: Nancy, Evelyn, and club president, Elva

    The tree was purchased from the Kensington Garden Center.

    We are grateful to the Federation for giving us this opportunity to enhance our community.    

      Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut State Initiative              
2017-2019 President's Theme and Project - Ingeborg Venus
Support a Healthy Environment for Today and for Future Generations
Conserve Water
Assist Pollination
Garden Naturally
There was deficit of more than 12 inches in rainfall during 2016 that had substantially dropped our water table, and reservoirs were at an unusually low levels. Let's strive to CONSERVE WATER.
    Explore xeriscaping
    Install rain barrels
    Use drip irrigation
    Design rain gardens
    Mulch trees and shrubs
    Downsize your lawn

Indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides is raising havoc among our pollinators. Some bee species are approaching extinction. Let's strive to ASSIST POLLINATION.
    Avoid chemical pesticides
    Plant native trees and shrubs
    Plant native perennials
    Cluster flowers by variety and color
    Plant successive blooms for all Seasons

There are many ways to grow plants in our own gardens, in community gardens, and in our town parks without resorting to chemical sprays and fertilizers. Let's strive to GARDEN NATURALLY. 
Garden NaturallyGarden Naturally
    In your own garden
    In community gardens
    Advocate organic practices at nearby parks and farms
    Explore IPM principles
    Use natural layering (lasagna gardening)
    Practice composting

Kensington Garden Club 
The Importance of Saving & Promoting Bees