Category Archives: Planting

This Makes Me Smile

Last year we waited too long and in April when my husband made a phone call to the greenhouse where he worked in 2019, to see if they had pansies for sale, they told him they were all sold out. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

He called them yesterday morning but only got the answering machine. He left a message asking when they would have pansies for sale and received a call back in the afternoon. They had pansies ready, and we could come out and pick some up.

I wish I would have taken my camera along. The green house was enormous and filled with pansies. There were pansies in round pots, pansies in square pots and pansies in flats. There were sections that had flats of all yellow pansies, and all purple, and all red, and all orange, and all white and there were sections that had flats of mixed colors. It was a sight to behold. We selected two flats of mixed colors. Each flat had 18 pansies in it.

We went back to the farm where my husband brought out some flowerpots and opened a bag of potting soil.

I put three flowers in each pot and ended up with 12 pots. You only see 10 in the picture because I took one to my next-door neighbor and the other on would not fit on this table.

Pansies thrive in cooler temperatures, between 40 and 60F but can survive temperatures well below freezing as long as the soil does not freeze. I am eager to put them outside to adorn the flower bed beside our deck but have decided to keep them indoors for a while, at least until after the ice storm that is due to arrive tomorrow.

Getting my hands in the dirt and potting up these cheery flowers certainly made me smile. I hope this picture makes you smile too. ūüôā

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday at the Farm

Saturday was a productive day. We accomplished several projects at the farm.

Blueberry Patch

We made great progress in the blueberry patch – a project that we had been working on for a few days. Our soil at the farm is mostly clay and despite working straw and other composted materials into it each year we have yet to turn it into an ideal garden loam. This year we decided to add some sand to the soil. A couple of weeks ago my husband had a truckload of masonry sand delivered.

We decided to use some of the sand in the blueberry patch for weed control. Two years ago we put black plastic down between the rows and bushes and while it was largely effective in keeping weeds down it tended to slide out of place or was easily moved by a hunting dog, (Ranger) who had picked up the scent of a mouse hiding under the plastic. (He is relentless.) Water also tended to pool on the plastic creating puddles that took a long time to dry up. After putting the plastic back in place we covered it with several inches of sand.

The blueberry patch project is not completely finished as we still need to put up the plastic fencing around it and the netting on top to protect our crop from hungry robins. We hopefully will get that done this week.

Planting

We put our first plants in the garden on Saturday.

My husband had identified an area that was dry enough to till the soil and that is where we decided to plant potatoes and cabbage – both cool weather crops.

He broke out the rototiller he bought a couple months ago. It is a Champion 19-inch, rear tine, tiller. After tilling up the patch where we would plant the potatoes and cabbage he reported that he is very pleased with the way this machine preforms. We spread a layer of sand on the patch. He then mixed it in as he tilled the area.

We planted six 17-foot rows of of potatoes.

and 12 cabbage plants.

I saved some of the cabbage plants to plant in the raised beds we are making. Since the ground is still very wet, and still having much rain in the forecast, I’m not sure how well things will do that are planted in the ground. You may remember last year we had many vegetables that were lost because the ground was just too wet. This year we will be making some raised beds and I hope to plant at least a portion of some crops in the raised beds that will be better able to drain excess water.

When the Hen’s Away

The chicks will play. The chicks still sleep in the nest boxes at night, while the older chickens sleep on the roosts. During the day while the older hens are out of the coop or using the nest boxes for laying their eggs, the chicks like to spend some time playing on the roosts. Perhaps they are practicing for when they too are old enough to sleep on the roosts at night.

Breathtaking

From a distance to forsythias create a stunning array.

But standing in the midst of their intense brilliance is mesmerizing.

I forget to breathe.

If only my photos could capture that feeling.

Thanks for visiting.

To Save The Bees (Part III) Provide Food

This is the final post in the series that was published in 2016. Click to see Part I or Part II. After reading it again I realized that I have discovered a few things since it was first published.

We have grown some more plants that I have observed the honey bees foraging on heavily. They include chamomile and chives which blooms in the spring, oregano which blooms throughout the summer, and spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and anise hyssop which all flower in late summer and fall, so these can be added to the others you will read about in the original post.

The other thing that I recently read and thought would be worth including with this post is that honey bees will only forage one type of plant during a flight. Knowing this it stands to reason that they would be foraging a type of plant that is plentiful in the area. Thus if you are planting with honey bees in mind it would be better to plant several of one type of plant than to plant only one of several types of plants.
I hope you enjoy the original post.

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Since we decided to become beekeepers I have read many recommendations about what to plant for the bees including the above picture. I feel very strongly that it is important for the health of the bees that they have a variety of foods (plants) to forage. Although it is not our only consideration when deciding what to plant, planting for the bees is something that we have been doing since we bought the farm and decided to become beekeepers.

Other things we take into consideration are:

1.¬†Is the plant annual or perennial? Except for food and herbs¬†we usually don’t plant annuals.

2. To know if a perennial will survive it is important to know the hardiness zone that you live in.  Some plants that are perennial will not survive the colder temperatures of our winter and some will not even grow long enough to blossom.

3. It is also good to know the growing conditions that the plant requires Рtype of soil, wet or dry, and sun or shade are all important considerations when deciding where to plant something.

4. I love things that have multiple purposes. So I consider other uses for the plant Рare they edible, medicinal, a good cover crop that will nourish the soil, or simply planted for their beauty ?

5. I also have to consider what critters will eat these plants before either we or the bees can benefit from them. I have found some plants that the deer and rabbits simply don’t bother with, yet there are many others that have to be fenced in order to protect them.

6. When planting for the bees, another thing to consider is the bloom time of the plant. It is good to have plants that blossom at different times of the year. Early spring is probably the time when the bees are most in need. As they emerge from their hives in the spring, their winter food stores are running low if not depleted, they need to be able to find food in order to survive.

What we have planted:

Lavender  was a plant of choice before we ever knew we were going to become bee keepers. I originally planted lavender at the house  because I loved the plant, loved the fragrance, loved the dried flowers that could be made into sachets, sleep pillows, tea, or infused into oil. I also add them to my chamomile/lavender soap. It was on the plants at the house that I first observed honey bees foraging and realized what a good bee plant it was. When we bought the farm, planting lavender was a no-brainer and it is now a large part of our prayer garden. Another thing that I appreciate about lavender is that deer and rabbits leave it alone.

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Our Prayer Garden

Thyme is also grown in our¬†prayer garden. It is a low creeping plant that makes a nice ground cover. It¬†has both culinary and medicinal uses. http://www.delallo.com/articles/thyme¬† Last spring, when the thyme was flowering, I noticed that the honey bees were all over it. I was happy to see this¬†because thyme essential oil is recommended as a natural¬†treatment for¬†varroa mites.¬†While I haven’t seen it written anywhere, my theory is that by feeding on¬†thyme, perhaps,¬†the bees can extract the thymol that is reported to be effective for controlling¬†the varroa mites, thus not requiring human intervention. ¬†Thyme is another plant that is not bothered by deer or rabbits. This year I will divide the roots and spread¬†thyme throughout the ¬†prayer garden.

Sage and Salvia are of the same family. This link provides a growing guide for the different types. http://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/guide-to-salvias/¬†¬†¬†¬†When planting sage/salvia it is important to note the hardiness zone for the variety you are planting. I have grown several varieties of sage. They grow well during the summer,¬†and I have¬†been able to harvest their leaves, but since they are not hardy in our (zone 6) growing area they have never blossomed and some have not survived our winters.¬†Since they do not flower they are not¬†useful to the bees. On the other hand I do have a salvia plant (I’m not sure what variety it is) that has beautiful purple spiked flowers in the spring and summer. I have had it for three years and the¬†honey bees love it. Salvia and sage seem to be plants that the deer and rabbits leave alone.

Basil – I have grown basil for many years. I use it fresh during the summer and dry it to have on hand year round. I pick the leaves off before it begins to flower and continue to pick them until I want it to flower and go to seed. Late last summer, when I let the basil plants flower, I noticed the honey bees were heavily foraging them.

 

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Sunflower  is one of the annuals that we grow. I can not speak for all varieties of sunflowers but our bees visit the Grey Stripe Mammoth   and black oil seed varieties often.

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Once you plant sunflowers, don’t be surprised if they come up voluntarily the following year in surprising places as these did. They always made me smile ūüôā

Coneflowers – Also know as Echinacea, known for it’s medicinal properties, is a plant that the bees also like.¬†http://www.gardenexperiments.com/echinacea-species-flowering-plants-for-bees-butterflies-and-birds/

Asters grow wild in our field. They blossom in the late summer and fall and last year we witnessed the bees feeding heavily on them.

Clover is the one thing that we plant most often, that is great bee food.¬†We sometimes use clover as a cover crop to nourish the soil for future crops,¬†but most often we use it combined with grass seed¬†when we landscape areas.¬†¬†Call me crazy, and you might if you’ve been paying a lawn care company to keep your lawn weed free, but I feel that white clover compliments the grass. It grows at a similar rate, it fixes nitrogen that helps the grass grow, and it is soft to walk on. I also like that if I mow the white clover when it is blossoming, it will blossom again.

Buckwheat –¬†Another plant that we have used as a cover crop that the bees seem to enjoy. Buckwheat makes a dark honey with a strong flavor. It also makes a good cover crop as it grows fast and is said to choke out competing weeds.

Last summer my husband and I were in the garden center department of one of the local home improvement stores. I was looking for more of the salvia plant that I have, but was unable to find any. We noticed honey bees visiting several different flowering plants. You should probably know that for me going to a garden center and not buying plants is almost like going to the Dairy Queen and not buying ice cream. I absolutely hate shopping and the only exception is going to a green house or garden center. I could spend way too many hours and way too much money in these places. That being said we ended up buying some of the plants that we saw honey bees visiting.

They included a Coreopsis also known as Tickseed.

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Tickseed

 

A Mallow

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Mallow

and a Balloon Flower that I don’t have a picture of. After planting these in¬†our prayer garden I didn’t notice any bees on them. I suspect that there were so many other things blossoming in the area that the bees did not pay any attention to these flowers. Thus, the lesson I take from this¬†is¬†that my focus should be on sticking to what we already have. I will add more lavender, (I started some by seed)¬†I will divide the thyme and let it spread, and perhaps I will divide my salvia in order to have more plants.¬†I will cherish the clover, the asters and the golden rod that grow wild in our field, and I will not curse the thistle (much).

2020 update – While the mallow plant pictured above did not come back the following year, the balloon flower has continued to grow but I have never observed bees on it. The tickseed has continued to grow and spread and last summer I often saw bees foraging it.

Will you be doing any planting this year? Have you observed bees foraging on specific plants in your area? I would love to hear from you.

Happy Planting! ūüôā

 

55 Things #10 – The Moon

Click here to learn more about my ‚Äú55 Things‚ÄĚ and here to view previous posts in this series.

The nearly full super moon was only intermittently visible through last night’s cloud cover. It is the first of three super moons that we will see this spring. The March full moon is also known as the worm moon, named this by Native Americans, since this is the time of year that worms begin emerging from the ground. Learn more about it here.¬† I attempted to take some photos but since my photography skills’ are lacking they are not nearly as impressive as it seeing it in person.

The following photos are unedited and are posted in sequence as taken. I am not sure what happened in the second photo, but while I would like to think that I captured some stunning other-worldly event, I suspect there is some type of technical explanation.

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While the actual full moon will occur tonight (March 9) the thick cloud cover will prevent us from viewing it. I guess I will have to try again in April.

This awareness of the full moon did remind me of a gardening method that we have talked about trying in the past but have not yet done. Since we have not yet started planting, I think this is the year to try planting by the phases of the moon.

This article from explains what types of plants should be planted during each phase of the moon.

  • First quarter moon cycle (new moon to half full) ‚Äď Things that are leafy, like lettuce, cabbage and spinach, should be planted.
  • Second quarter moon cycle (half full to full moon) ‚Äď Planting time for things that have seeds inside, like tomatoes, beans and peppers.
  • Third quarter moon cycle (full moon to half full) ‚Äď Things that grow underground or plants that are perennials, like potatoes, garlic and raspberries, can be planted.
  • Fourth quarter moon cycle (half full to new moon) ‚Äď Do not plant. Weed, mow and kill pests instead.

The article also says that while several studies have shown evidence that gardening by the phases of the moon can have positive effects there is no actual proof that it does.

In order to at least start planning for planting I found this handy chart which tells the date of that the moon enters each phase throughout the year. Planting season will begin soon. ūüôā Wish us luck.

Did you get to see the full moon? Have you ever planted by the moon?

Thanks for reading.

 

At Least We Didn’t Get Skunked

Term “skunked” is sometimes used to define an overwhelming defeat.

If you read my post from last Thursday I am sure you remember that I was quite discouraged about all the rain that we have been having and concerned that we, like most of the farmers in the area, had not been able to get any planting done.

After a dry Friday, but with more rain in the forecast for Sunday night and the week to follow, my husband decided it was now or never Рhe must try to get some planting done. He hooked the rototiller to the tractor and was able to till up a portion of the garden. YEA!!!! Then while he worked on planting some cabbage and tomato plants I worked on cutting grass.  What a relief it is to at least have the planting started.

The term “skunked” is also used to describe going fishing and catching nothing.

Feeling good about what we accomplished Saturday, and wanting to used some of the worms he collected while planting in the wet soil, we decided to do some fishing in the evening. We took our poles and the worm bucket out in the boat and loaded worms on our hooks. I dropped my hook in the water and seconds later had my first bite. It ended up being a 4 inch perch (although my husband remembered to bring the tape measure I neglected to bring my camera).

He caught the next fish – a 10 inch bass. It was not our intention to have bass in our pond. We originally stocked it¬†with perch, a few walleye, a few catfish, a few pike and lots of minnows. We intentionally did not include bass. They showed up anyway. How does that happen??? Apparently water birds like ducks, geese and herons can¬†get¬†fish eggs stuck to their feet in one body of water¬†and deposit them in another.¬†Well we have had plenty of ducks, geese and herons visit so that explains it.¬† After seeing the bass my husband said we probably needed to get more pike as they are predators that would help keep the bass population under control. We had originally only put a few pike in there and hadn’t caught one in several years.

As we continued fishing we caught a quite a few 2-3 inch perch,¬†then we each caught a 9 inch perch. We released them this time, but one day the are going to make a nice dinner. I¬†got the last worm of the night (a very large night crawler). Since we didn’t want it to get nibbled away by small fry¬†my husband peddled the boat around the deeper waters. Suddenly I got a bite. I could tell it was a large fish so¬†I let it play on the line a little and waited for it to relax a bit before reeling it in some. When it got close enough I could see that it was neither a perch or a bass. It also wasn’t a catfish. When it got close enough my husband grabbed the line as I held the fishing pole. As he lifted the fish out of the water “it’s a pike he announced”. Just as he did the fish wiggled and got off the hook. Splash! back into the water it went. We didn’t get to measure it but is was significantly larger than the 10 inch bass he caught. Now we know that the predator fish in there.

Skunked? Not even close! Our Saturday was full of wins!

The term “skunked” can also be used to describe getting sprayed by a skunk.

Sunday morning as my husband and I arrived a the farm we noticed something strange near the pond. The colors were such that, despite never seeing a skunk close up in the daylight before, I knew immediately what it was.

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We had never seen skunks on the farm before, but a couple of years ago Trooper had a smelly encounter with one in the field next door.

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This momma seemed to be as surprised to see us as we were to see her.

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We stayed in our vehicle and watched as she tried to round up her three little ones then hurried them out of sight.

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I suspect our saving grace that morning was that we didn’t have Trooper with us.

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Trooper is a watch dog and would be certain announce to us that he saw something that didn’t belong there. He would do this by barking loudly and incessantly. His barking quite possibly would have made this momma feel threatened. Even if momma and baby had scampered off, Trooper, despite his prior experiences with skunks, would have certainly went looking in their direction¬†once he got out of the van.

Though they are incredibly cute skunks might not be an animal we want inhabiting our farm. Beyond the threat of an encounter with a curious watch dog who doesn’t learn from past experiences, skunks could pose a threat to our chickens. They may not prey on our full grown birds but¬†chicks and eggs may be at risk. Since skunks are generally nocturnal animals and our chickens are closed in a secure coop each night¬†the risk¬†may be low.

Skunks are also know to dine on bees – potentially even honey bees. Again since skunks are nocturnal and honey bees retreat to their hive at night the risk again is somewhat low. As a precaution against wild critters my husband places a brick on top of each bee hive so the critter would first have knock the brick off then knock the top off before being able to get into the hive.

Fortunately the skunks should have a more than adequate food supply on our farm without having to bother our chickens, eggs or bees. There may¬†even be some benefits to having them around¬†according the following excerpt from https://www.nativeanimalrescue.org/got-skunks/¬†. “Despite their smelly reputation, skunks are beneficial to people. They are opportunistic feeders with about 70% of their diet being insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and wasps. They eat a huge number of agricultural pests, such as army worms, potato beetles and squash bugs. One of their favorite foods is grubs, which they dig up from the soil. A hungry skunk can save people lots of money in terms of the amount of pesticides they might use if the skunk was not at work all night. Skunks will also eat spiders, snails, earthworms, carrion, berries, nuts, roots, small rodents and garbage. An easy source of food will quickly become their favorite, so avoid leaving dog and cat food out at night, which will draw skunks and other unwanted wildlife to your home. Skunks are shy, nocturnal creatures and would rather avoid you than spray you.”

After reading¬†this it is my hope that we can have a peaceful coexistence with these critters – and again we didn’t get skunked.