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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

R.I.P Salad Table

While yesterday was very busy it ended on a bit of a down note – our salad table which has been around for several years and which we grew some very delicious lettuces – finally died. Essentially one of the legs failed where it attaches to the table structure (it’s one of those things where I kept telling myself I needed to do something about it and reinforce it but never found the time) and *BOOM* – the whole thing took a dive. Sunday I’m going to clean it up and see what I can salvage in order to build Salad Table 2.0 🙂

On a different topic – the deer have once again claimed our day lilies…even though we have netting and fencing around the plant beds. I’m not sure just how they got in this time (I’m assuming one of them jumped over the netting – not that hard considering it’s only about 48″ tall) but they got in…I really hate the deer…they’re so destructive.

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After much effort we’ve managed to build a new fence for the garden. I’ve repaired the garden beds that were damaged in the 2010 storm that also destroyed the fence and I’ve even expanded the garden a bit more by adding a new area where I’m growing some sunflowers as a trap crop for the brown marmorated stink bug – hopefully that works. As part of the work I’ve managed to identify a PVC pipe under the ground (I’ve know it was there for years – it allows for water near the carport of the house to drain out to the street and which I’ve known was broken in one spot) that has become completely blocked up. I’ve known about this issue but it wasn’t that bad over the years. Well…looks like I need to dig up the pipe (which I have pretty much done today) and replace about 10 to 12 feet of it. This is a big job (relatively speaking) as I will need to dig under the fence of the garden and replace a 10 to 12 foot section of 4 to 5 inch pipe. Oh well – at least it’s on my radar now.

Other than that things are going well in the garden – harvested a bunch of sage, weeded the herb garden on the side of the house and weeded a bunch around the main garden out front. We’ve harvested a bunch of zucchini (which I will use to make zucchini bread today) and we’ve got a couple of cabbages that are about ready to be picked. The sunflowers are going very well (next year I will start earlier and provide a bigger space) and the scarlet runner beans have recovered from the damage caused by the deer earlier who did get through the fence (I never knew that deer would go under a fence (which I have now rectified).

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Well, I finally got out to take care of the bee hives. I’ve put down paving stones and moved one hive onto them and I’ve got 4 more paving stones (16″ x 16″) and I’ll put them down as well and move the second hive onto them. This way the feet of the hive stands won’t sink into the ground anymore and the hives won’t be tilted (although I have to shim the hive that is currently on paving stones to completely level it).

I’ve put an insert between the hive bodies and the honey super I left on during the winter on both hives and I’ve put some MegaBee patties in there. I’ve also put the hive-top feeders back on the hives. I whipped up a 1:1 sugar syrup and added 4 tsp. of HoneyBee Healthy as a supplement. I also will mix up some VitaGold as well. The bees seem to be doing well, I changed the entrance reducer to the larger opening (from the one-bee sized opening) as well as removed the bottom board inserts that I had put in to provide more insulation. Overall things look good…although I did see signs of Varroa…so I’ve decided to treat with ApiGuard for a couple of weeks. I’ll need to remove the ApiGuard trays though when I put the honey supers on (I built and painted two more and need to order another two). If everything goes well I should have some honey this year!

With regards to the garden Diana spent a good part of the day double digging 3/4 of one bed (I did the final 1/4 after I finished taking care of the bees). I’ve forgotten how hard that is…and we still have three more garden beds to do (as well as move the Bee Balm plants and the Butterfly Bush so that we can expand the garden). Still it feels good to get out there again and to work with my girls and the earth. Looking forward to this year with a lot of enthusiasm.

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This year has been a real challenge with respect to the Garden. We went away in mid-April to go to Texas to visit family and because of that we got a late start on the garden. On top of that it rained like crazy here in Maryland this year…I mean buckets! We had a really wet May and June…so much so that it seemed that our garden plants would never grow and we would lose the year.

Well…never count your chickens before they hatch as the old saying goes. Our garden has recovered dramatically and some of the plants are really producing lots of fruit. We released lady bugs as well as put out three preying mantis egg cases and tricograma wasp eggs to control aphids and other bugs. Anyway, I finally got out to the garden to take pictures and post them up here.

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I’ve been double digging the 4th bed this year since we really didn’t do anything with it last year (although I did double dig it last year). Anyway, I’ve noticed that the ground has pretty much re-formed as very heavy clay even though I double dug it last year. This has been very disheartening as it is a lot of work to get the soil broken up sufficiently to give the plants a good chance to grow. I did find a link to this article on the web that basically says that the only way to improve clay soils is to add compost and work it in over time. This may help explain why two of our beds this year have seen dramatically slower plant growth than last year. The far bed (the one on the eastern most side of the garden) has good plant growth (this is the bed with the Kentucky Wonders, snap peas, snow peas, and one other bean variety that escapes me at the moment). The two middle beds (the ones with tomatoes, peppers, lemon chive, and broccoli among the plants) are showing much slower plant development. It’s very disconcerting because I can’t seem to find much information on the topic of “failure to thrive” and tomatoes. Google hasn’t been much help in finding any information.

We’ve had a ton of rain for the past few weeks and so that may also be a contributing factor.

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I finally finished putting the last touches on the 4th garden bed by driving the stakes to hold part of the sides into the ground and screwing the sides to the stakes. Now, unfortunately, I’ve found out that I’ve got to double-dig that bed all over again as the soil appears to be nearly all clay once more. I found an article that said that in order to slowly, over time, improve your soil you need to add more compost to it to help break up the clay. Well…that’s great…and I thought I was all done with double digging until next year!

On a different note another member of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association came out to look at my hives since I was concerned that the comb build-out wasn’t progressing as well as it could be. We looked at both hives and he said that in hive ‘A’ (the one on the right and the one I have yet to see the queen in) there wasn’t a lot of brood in the few frames we had inspected but we did manage to find the queen and we did see developing brood in the comb. They also haven’t really even started building comb in the second hive level that I put on early last week. I did note that alot of bees were dead in the syrup in the hive-top feeder and I’m not sure why that would be the case.

In hive ‘B’ (the one on the “left”) we spotted the queen quickly, there was lots of brood comb and the bees have even begun to build comb in some of the frames on the second level hive body. They looked really strong. He did suggest that since the bees are in a shaded area that I prop the outer hive covers up a bit to allow for more ventilation as it has been pretty wet lately and the cool weather along with the moisture could lead to mold developing. I also probably need to paint the hive top covers where there is exposed wood.

Overall he said things looked good and that if it appeared that one hive was building more comb than the other then I could swap frames from one to the other in order to kind of help the weaker hive along. I’ve got some work ahead to do such as building out the supers and the super frames (I’m using crimped foundation rather than Duragilt for the supers) and I’m going to wait until the hives finish the current syrup in the hive top feeders before I take them away and replace them with pail feeders. I’ll keep a close eye on both of the hives to see how they’re progressing this summer and whether they’ll need help by swapping frames or even moving brood from one hive to the other.

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Last night we had a tremendous downpour here in the D.C. area. We had a total of 2.5″ of rain (according to the rain gauge out in the garden). The ground is just plain wet. I went out to check on my bees to see how they fared in the storm (we were expecting high winds and possible hail as well but that doesn’t appear to have occurred). When I got to the hives I saw no activity at all as far as foraging is concerned (it’s only 61 degrees out there right now so I’m guessing the girls aren’t too happy right now). Anyway, I shot a couple of pictures using the telephoto lens on my camera to post showing how they’re huddling at the entrance to the hive.

On a different note, the garden beds are just soaked. However, the plants look good and hopefully the next few days, when we’re expecting more rain, won’t drown them! The only thing that irks me is that I don’t have my rain barrels in place!

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