This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

my honeybees - preparing for winter

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I'm in the process of preparing my honeybee hives for winter. I have two hives on the far side of my vegetable garden nearest the pond. They're on the northeast side of the yard with a southwest exposure. Both were packages I installed in early April, since both my hives died early last winter. One hive is much stronger than the other. The strong one has about 70 lbs of honey, while the weak one about 30-40 lbs. I'm guessing here from lifting the boxes.

This is what I've done and am planning to do for winter:

Done
 - Removed super and extracted honey: In early September I removed one full super (a short box with 10 frames for building comb and filling it with honey) from my strong hive. I've extracted it into a bucket and will bottle in 4 lb jars soon. It'll be about 20 lbs plus or minus I think.

- Feeding weak hive: I've been feeding my weak hive so it can build up its honey stores for winter. There aren't many flowers left now, the goldenrod is gone. I only see the late aster in bloom now. The bees can't get much nectar from foraging anymore. I feed a 1:2 mix of water and sugar.

- Fed strong hive: Yesterday I put the super with wet frames (the same super I extracted, but since I only extracted about 80% of the honey, meaning 20% is still in the combs, it's called a wet frame) onto the strong hive.

- Increase sunlight: I trimmed the branches of the crab apple tree that's grown out and around the hives, especially the weak one. I still need to trim more next time I'm suited up. (I wonder if the lower amount of sun over the past season may have weakened this hive.)

Planning to do
- Get bigger feeding bucket: I've been feeding the weak hive about a liter at a time, but they eat it so fast I can't keep up with them, The bucket seems always empty. They only have a short time left when they can dry down the sugar water and store it as honey. Once it gets cold, they need all their energy to stay warm. So I'm planning to add a bigger container of sugar water today. I'm using a chicken water feeder with bent hardware cloth in the tray so the bees can climb down the the liquid.

- Count mites: I'm planning to do a sugar roll to count mites in both hives. I haven't treated for mites, but I'd still like to know what the load is going in to winter.

- Full inspection of hives: I plan to go through both hives, frame by frame, and get a good count of how much honey and brood are there. I'll check for the queens, and make sure they're laying well.

- Build a box to absorb winter condensation: I'm planning to build a box (called a quilt box) that sits at the top inside the hive and insulates, helps with airflow, and absorbs moisture. I will staple burlap to the bottom of a super and fill it with wood shavings. Pretty simple design. (I have to find out if it should go above or below the top board.) I'm hoping it will help. It's my guess I lost my hives last year because of condensation dripping into the cluster of bees. Bees can stay warm in cold weather, but not if they're wet. My hive are very close to the pond and we get lots of local fog from it.

- Remove super. I'll take off the super with wet frames from strong hive once its dry and all of the honey has been brought down into the hive.

- Add mouse guard. There a millions of mice in our woods, looking for a winter shelter. They can easily climb in through the lower entrance if it's left open like it is all summer. I bought a couple fancy mouse guards from Maxant. It looks like the holes will be better for the bees than hardware cloth I've used in the past. Its a nice sturdy product. The quilt box and mouse guard will go on at the end of October. (I'll check for any mice already inside the hive before putting on the guard!)

After this, they should be ready to go for winter. At least as ready as I can get them. Of course, I can always use advice. I've been keeping bees 3 years now, and have plenty more to learn. I learned from my class, from experts at my local bee club, from advice on this blog, and from my bees (trial and error). But still I almost never spot a queen, I'm very bad a string a smoker and keeping it going, haven't had the time to do mite treatments or sugar rolls yet. And I've only had 1 of 4 hives survive a winter. But I have produced over 150 lbs of honey so far. Really delicious honey. And me and the bees have fun hanging out in the garden.

More bee stuff: Kathy's Bees

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my home garden today

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Friday, September 22, 2017

what's growing now

I wanted to put together a list of what's growing in my gardens now. This is about the peak time I think for vegetable variety. The summer crops are on their last legs, fall crops are maturing, and winter seedlings are sprouting.

At home
Bed 1: lettuce, beets, popcorn, shell beans
Bed 2: marigolds, kale, murdoc cabbage, bok choi, lettuce
Bed 3: Belgian endive, beets, escarole, carrots, celeriac, parsnips
Bed 4: (set up with hoops now for winter tunnel) spinach, lettuce, escarole, mustard greens, cilantro, dill, also peppers and cucumbers at the ends that will be removed soon
Bed 5: Brussels sprouts, Lima beans, broccoli, cover crop, shell beans
Bed 6: parsley, winter radish, celeriac, broccoli, leeks
Bed 7: eggplants, tomatoes, peppers
Bed 8: basil, tomatoes, peppers, horseradish
Next to beds: asparagus, pole beans,
Under apple trees: winter squash
On the patio: gourds, beet greens, arugula, lettuce, spinach, and basil

At my community garden plot: mostly butternut squash, red raspberries, fall greens, and some cover crops.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

fruit harvest

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My fruit harvests this year, in addition to a couple cups of blueberries early this summer:
25 (wohoo!) apples, 2 peaches, 2-3 cups of red raspberries a week (they'll produce for about 4 weeks), and about 20 lbs of pears.

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I was very disappointed that about half my pear harvest "disappeared this year. No signs of deer, raccoons or other wildlife. Since my two espaliered trees are in my plot at a busy community garden, I have to think they were stolen. All the pears from the lower two branches were missing. These branches are very easy to reach from outside my garden. I was left with only the ones 6-8 ft up on the top branch. Theft is pretty common at our Gardens. I have plans next year to put up chicken wire around the trees and hopefully keep all the pears I grow - I want to at least know who I share them with.

Pears in a bucket

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

wet weather harvest

Today I spent a hour or so at my community garden plot. Tasks:

Pick red raspberries
Harvest 4 big butternut squash
Pick ripe tomatoes, eggplant, peppers
Pull and compost dead tomatoes plants
Pull and compost spent summer squash vines
Weed escarole bed with my Dutch hoe
Sow seeds for Daikon, salad radish, and spinach to replace a row of escarole eaten by chipmunks

The good part was I didn't need to water the garden. Bad part, I got soaked by the rain (tropical storm Jose) that we've had a couple days now.

I am just now noticing that it's only 3 weeks til our average first frost date (Oct10). How can that be!  It's been in the 70-80s this week and not much below 50F at night. Crazy weather, but I won't complain about warmth.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Charley helps with carrot harvest

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Saturday, September 09, 2017

today's harvest

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That's a big head of Murdoc cabbage. Almost 5 lbs. Its the third I picked this year - and a first year for me trying this. It's an excellent variety. Tender and mild. Perfect for coleslaw, fried rice, and stir fries. I'm looking forward to making sauerkraut with it.

I dug a few small horseradish roots. I love the smell. So did Charley. He loves everything from the garden - even enjoyed eating a piece of the horseradish. I had to shoo him away from the harvest bucket after that.

I also picked a few well ripened bean pods of a variety I save year to year. It's a long white Chinese pole bean given to me at least 10 years ago now. I'm glad I got them before the chipmunks!

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Friday, September 08, 2017

today's harvest

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Saturday, September 02, 2017

pictures of my community garden plot

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I've been working in my plot a few hours today. It's very hot, but tomorrow nice rains are predicted so I'm planting fall seedlings and seeding a winter cover crop. I also dug my second of three rows of potatoes - the seedlings went in on top of this freshly dug soil. Escarole, radicchio, lettuce, arugula, broccoli, kailan (Chinese kale), and spinach. I pulled spent cucumber vines from my three tepees and planted pea seedlings around them. Oregon giant - a snow pea I love. I try planting fall peas every year and have never gotten a pod before frost kills the plants, but I keep trying. I started these seedlings inside several weeks ago. We'll see...

On my garlic bed, I planted a cover crop mix with spring oats, vetch, field peas, and rye grass. I also scattered crimson clover as a winter cover crop on the harvested onion bed, and under my tomatoes, summer squash, and peppers. I ended up with a big harvest of potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, raspberries, eggplants, cucumbers, my first ripe butternut squash, and a couple pears to test ripeness. I got home and dumped it all on the kitchen counter. It was a pretty picture with all the colors and shapes all mixed up. I had a photo but seems I lost it.

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