Local Nurseries and Compost

Working at a library, I have access to all kinds of people, and many of them are avid gardeners. I’ve been collecting the names of nurseries, and here they are.

  • Redbud Creek Farm: In Sheridan, this one looks pretty online, and they have natives and perennials.
  • Hornbaker Gardens: In Princeton, they’ve got lots and lots of perennials, as well as some trees.
  • Danchris Nursery: In Streator (birthplace of Clyde Tombaugh), this nursery also has shade trees. Maybe an American basswood?
  • Norway Nursery: Just upriver from us, this nursery specializes in native plants. And, if you buy trees from them, you get unlimited pond water, which is supposedly the best water for newly planted trees.

Compost Supply is just northeast of here, which is lucky for us because compost can be hard to come by. This compost calculator is helpful in determining the number of cubic yards needed.

Wood chips come to us courtesy of Urban Lumberjacks (888-876-0003), who have done lots of tree pruning and cutting for us in the past.


We’re looking forward to adopting a flock of chickens in the spring. Before they arrive, however, we have to make sure we can keep predators out. We’ve got coyotes, raccoons, foxes, skunks, opossums, and raptors of all kinds, including bald eagles.

My brother sent me the Chicken Chick’s website as a resource for making the chicken coop and run a safe place. I’ll be passing her tips on to the building committee.



We’re planning to have at least two herb spirals, as well as herbs in the landscape and sunroom. Some herbs are not so easy to find, Mexican Oregano (Lippia graveolens), for example. However, I just discovered that Dave’s Garden is not just a great source of information about plants, pollinators, orchards, and the like, but also a plant finder. I’ll be using this resource for finding uncommon varieties.

Comfrey comes recommended highly by permaculture enthusiasts, who list it as a good guild plant for fruit trees. It doesn’t grow well from seed, but may be available from Grower’s Exchange.

Colonial Creek Farm has fascinating, wonderfully aromatic herbs, including patchouli, which can be grown as a houseplant! I would love to visit their greenhouse. This is a great site for birthday shopping (wink, wink). So far, these are the plants on my wishlist:

Chocolate Mint
Attar of Rose Scented Geranium
Lemon Grass (West Indian)



Mountain Rose Herbs also offers fairly priced herb seeds, many of which are hard to find.

Vegetable Gardening

Mother Earth News list/map of mail order seed suppliers

The Top 15 Vegetable Seed Companies, according to Mother Earth News

  1. Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Winslow, Maine)
  2. Seed Savers Exchange (Decorah, Iowa)
  3. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (Mansfield, Mo.)
  4. Burpee Seeds and Plants (Warminster, Pa.)
  5. Territorial Seed Company (Cottage Grove, Ore.)
  6. Seeds of Change (Rancho Dominguez, Calif.)
  7. Ferry-Morse Seed Company (Fulton, Ky.)
  8. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Mineral, Va.)
  9. High Mowing Organic Seeds (Wolcott, Vt.)
  10. Fedco Seeds (Waterville, Maine)
  11. Nichols Garden Nursery (Albany, Ore.)
  12. The Cook’s Garden (Warminster, Pa.)
  13. Botanical Interests (Broomfield, Colo.)
  14. Renee’s Garden Seeds (Felton, Calif.)
  15. Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (Grass Valley, Calif.)



Our bees are arriving in April. Starved Rock Honey will be picking up two packages of Carniolan bees from Iowa. Each package weighs three pounds and includes 10,000 honey bees and one queen. Before the bees arrive, we will finish putting together and painting our hives. The bees will live in the orchard on the east (apple/pear) side. Since they don’t like paw paw trees, and we don’t want them too close to our beloved cedar and fire ring, that’s the best place for them.

The Permies offer great suggestions for what to plant near bees. White clover as a ground cover in the orchard should do the trick. One source suggests using a chicken waterer with gravel in the lip for watering bees. We’ll also need to think about shade for this year. Perhaps we should invest in an older tree to give them some dappled shade. Norway Nursery has lots of native bushes that might work.

Herbs for bees

Care and Feeding of New Bees

Randy Oliver, a research biologist, offers excellent suggestions for controlling pests in the hive, as well as maintaining general health. His website includes first-year tips, calendars, reading recommendations, and safe pesticides.

The Mid-Atlantic Apiculture and Research Consortium give tips on how to feed package bees. I will have a top-feeder for my standard hive (2 X 9″ hive bodies + [eventually] 3 Illinois supers) and use a jar for my Illinois supers (5 X Illinois supers) hive.

The Mann Lake representative recommends “pollen patties,” which are actually pollen substitute. UCDavis recommends soy-free and casein-free, meaning the more expensive pollen patty is the way to go. Starved Rock Honey says there will be enough natural pollen available when my bees arrive.

Bush Bees says pollen substitute isn’t necessary if real pollen is available.

Wikipedia gives a list of pollen-producing plants for zone 5, with information about when the plants bloom.

Extracting Honey

Extracting honey is reputed to be the toughest part of keeping bees. I’m researching ways to do so economically. One keeper suggests using the small extractor from HoneySpinner.com.

This keeper shows how to set up plastic buckets for straining.

More suggestions, including how to extract using a spatula and cookie sheet.

Here’s an ingenious homemade extractor that uses a hand drill for power.

Getting Ready for Winter

How much honey to leave in the winter–you’ve got to leave enough to feed the colony.

Special Areas and Their Special Plants

N House Yard

N House Swale

N Porch Borders

W Side House

S House (see separate post)

W Side Garage

  • blueberries–they like rhododendrons, lilacs, lewisias, heath, and basil; excellent info about planting here

Triangle West of Garage (TriWeGa)

NW side Garage (top)

E side Garage (farm view)

E Porch Borders

Propane Tank

Box Elder Guild