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May 2022 Newsletter

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Download this newsletter below:

10 May 2022 TPZN
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Hello Again!

We hope you had a good month of May and that you enjoyed the first of the new style newsletters. I certainly did. Let me update you on what has happened in The Project Zen since last we spoke.

I have been working closely with Callum, from Digital Blueprint Ltd based in Glasgow and we now have a new logo which will be working its way to all our media. Let me know what you think of it. Callum is working on getting our website up and running and I am currently

working on producing content for this.

Our 2 social enterprise projects, 'Healthy Nature Healthy Us' are regularly attended. We take part in various activities each week, including making designs for flower pots, which we will later plant up.

We also have a regular volunteer, Emma, who supplied our aprons. It is great having her as part of TPZ Team.

Now for the newsletter, enjoy and if you have a favourite topic you would like included let us know!

Avocados: The Super Berry

The Avocado is an instantly recognisable fruit that has gained in popularity in recent years. It gained recognition as a superfood and people have sought it ever since and this reputation is very well deserved.

Also known as Persea Americana and the Alligator Pear, the Avocado is thought to originally come from the Tehuacan Valley in Mexico. However, fossil evidence suggests species similar to it were widespread millions of years ago.

There is an avocado pit that was discovered in the Coxcatlan Cave that dates back around 9000 and 10000 years, making it the oldest discovered evidence of Avocados.

Botanical science actually considered the fruit of the Avocado to be a large berry that contains a single seed. The trees the fruit comes from are actually partially self-pollinating and often, to preserve the quality and quantity of the harvest, are bred through the use of grafts from other successful avocado trees.

Being a subtropical plant species, they need a climate without frost and not much wind. High winds can reduce the humidity and dry out the flowers, which affects pollination. When even a slight frost happens, the fruit can drop prematurely.

One thing to be aware of is that the leaves, bark, skin and pit of the Avocado are known to be toxic to animals. Cats, dogs, cattle, and a host of others, including fish, horses and birds,

can be harmed badly, or even killed, by consuming them. Even the fruit can be poisonous to some birds and is potentially fatal to horses.

According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes around 70 litres of fresh ground or surface water to grow a single avocado.

The increased demand and production of the plants may cause water shortages in some of the areas they are produced.

Water requirements for growing avocados are three times higher than for apples, and 18 times higher than for tomatoes.

The Avocado itself is very nutrient dense. We need to eat only one half of the fruit for it to qualify as one of the 5-a-day fruit and vegetables we require. They are also an excellent source of fat, 60% of which is monounsaturated, which is thought to protect against heart disease and to lower blood pressure.

They are a great source of Vitamin E and Beta- carotene 5, which are believed to keep your eyes healthy. Also, they are a great source of iron, copper and potassium as well. Oleic and

linoleic acid are packed in there too, which, in a balanced diet, can help lower cholesterol.

Hyperaccumulators: Miraculous Miners

There are many areas of the planet that are not very welcoming to plants and animals for various reasons. One reason that pops up frequently is that the area contains to much heavy metal. Heavy metals are things like mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead. There are many more and they are toxic or poisonous to humans and many plants.

Scientists have discovered something interesting, some plants have naturally adapted themselves, so they can survive.

Some plants are able to draw the metals from the soil and store them in their stems, in their

leaves and sometimes in their sap. We know these amazing plants as Hyperaccumulators.

Currently, we know of around 500 different types of hyperaccumulators all over the world. They live in soils with high levels of zinc, cadmium, nickel, and manganese.

Scientists think they often do this as a defence mechanism. They pack their leaves full of these toxic metals so that animals & insects don't want to eat them.

There is a shrub in the rainforest called Pycnandra Acuminata that has so much nickel in its sap, 25% of its dry weight in fact, that its latex sap is not white but a blue/green colour.

These plants are very interesting for further study because of the possibilities they offer in areas of sustainable biotechnology.

• Biofortification, this is developing crops with a higher than normal nutritional values.

• Phytoremediation, which is the practice of using plants to clean up pollutants from the soil.

• Phytomining, where the plants are used to mine the heavy metals from the soil.

Then humans can collect the metal from their leaves. This gives us a much more environmentally friendly way of extracting things from the earth.

Making a Bee Hotel: A Palace for our Pollinators

Bee hotels are a great way to attract and help out solitary bees. These are the 200+ species of bees that have taken a backseat in the public perception of bees, often forgotten about in favour of Bumblebees and Honey bees.

Many solitary bees live in small tunnels and holes in the ground, others live in stems of dead plants or tunnels in wood made by other insects.

These bees are harmless and very rarely ever sting. They don’t even have painful stings! These bee hotels only provide nesting sites of a small, particular set of bee species but every little helps.

Things to Know

You should place your bee hotel in direct sunshine, so make sure it is facing south-east or south. It also has to be at least 1 metre from the ground.

You can place it near vegetation, but please make sure that nothing will obscure or shade the nest entrances.

It should be in a stable position that is fixed and will not sway in the wind or be knocked off.

And most importantly make sure its somewhere you can see it regularly so you can observe the bee's coming and goings!

Here is an example of the possible construction of your bee hotel.

It doesn't have to be in this shape or size but this is a good starter. The side pieces have slanted tops to allow an overhang from the top piece. This is to deflect rain, preventing nesting tubes becoming damp.

You can treat the exterior of the completed bee house with a water-based varnish or fence paint if you wish. Do not use solvent-based wood treatment products as these have a strong odour which could deter bees.

For the structure of the house you can use any timber that you have to hand.

Just make sure it has not been recently treated with a solvent-based wood preservative. Avoid Composite materials such as hardboard, chipboard or particleboard. They are not suitable because they will just disintegrate in the rain

Add a wooden block the same width as the bee hotel and drill in it holes of various sizes. Between 2-10mm in diameter is best. Roll some paper around a pencil. Make it as tight as possible and secure with a piece of tape.

Drill various similar sized holes in some cut pieces of bamboo sticks and slot them in with the paper. Make sure there are no gaps.

Female bees will visit this hotel on sunny days in spring and summer. You’ll see them flying in with pollen or with blobs of mud to create walls along the tube.

You’ll be able to see if any of the holes have been used because the holes will be blocked with plugs of mud or leaves.

Bring your hotel into an unheated shed during autumn/winter to protect it from damp and

wet. Any covered area will do. It is damp not cold that destroys larvae. You can place the hotel back outdoors in the spring, from March onwards.

We hope you enjoyed the read and have a good month ahead. We welcome any comments or discussion you might have on the topics.

Stay safe and be happy

The Project Zen Team

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