Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hang-em High

It's daylight savings time. The temps are warming, the bees are bringing in maple pollen.
For us that marks the time to put out the yellow jacket traps.
This time of year all the yellow jackets will be queens. Only the queen yellow jackets survive the winter. In the early spring they leave their hibernation spots to find food and establish nest sites. As soon as the queen's first brood emerges they will take on the hunting responsibility and the queen will stay in the nest to lay eggs.
Trapping queens early in the season eliminates the formation of new yellow jacket nest and reduces the yellow jacket numbers during the summer.
I have issues every fall with yellow jackets attacking/robbing my honey bee hives. 
I like to use these type traps:
This one is in the back corner of our 1/4 acre lot. The location of the traps do matter in terms of effectiveness. I haven't tried this spot before. Some spots in the yard catch about a dozen queens while other spots have trapped none during the same timeframe. I bait my traps with purpose made/bought yellow jacket pheromone.
Here is another in the front yard diagonally across the property from the first trap:
This spot under the scotch pine has been the most reliable trapping spot. This trap is about 7 feet off the ground between our driveway and the neighbor's.
Typically, we will have about a half dozen yellow jacket hives established on our property (even with the trapping). The favorite spots for nests are the barbeque, eves of the house and shed, and worse for us is within our rock wall.

George stays alert but has gotten stug in the face twice in past years.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

National Seed Swap Day

This year I am eager to get going in the garden, but the last frost date is still months away and today is National Seed Swap Day!
I went to my first seed swap. I took several seeds saved from the garden.

Here's a list of what I brought.
Pole Beans
Wax Pole Beans
Scarlet Runner Beans
Long Island Cheese Pumpkins
Cayenne Peppers

Basil- Italian Long Leaf

Siberian Pea Shrub
Broom Corn

Here is what I got!

 Marketmore 76 Cucumbers
Giant Prague Celeriac
Purple Bush Beans
Rattlesnake Pole Beans
Honey boat Squash
Simpson Lettuce
Little Gem Romaine


Butterfly Plant
Lychnis (Rose Campion)

Lots of fun! I got to talk to other gardeners and share stories.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Trap Cropping

I have a few areas of our lawn which are overrun with weeds. The main weed I am concerned about is black medic. Reading on the internet suggest this weed thrives in heavy compacted soil. The fix is loosening the soil via aeration. Many people in our area/region aerate via plug aerators. This is said to help roots breathe and allows water to infiltrate our clay soil better. The machines can be rented or alternatively hiring someone to do it. The going rate for the service is $50-$75. Renting a machine is in the same range.
I have a small but heavy duty roto tiller so I decided to till a strip of lawn that was overrun with weeds. I added several shovel fulls of compost to the area and incorporated with the tiller.
I am a big fan of natural remedies and have plenty of seeds saved from previous years of gardening. So I decided to sow cover crops into this area. The seeds I chose were amaranth and broomcorn. Knowing that the amaranth can get top heavy and lodge (fall over), I planted that in the center with a ring of broomcorn around it.

The slight purple tint in the center is the amaranth (Hartman's Giant Amaranth) starting to sprout. This picture was taken, June 13, about a week after tilling and sowing.

The broom corn sprouted a little slower than the amaranth.Here is a shot from July 6 (1 month after sowing).

At this point the broom corn, which is actually a type of sorghum rather than corn, is starting to overtake the amaranth.

Another month later, August 7th, (2 months after sowing)

Its all really taking off. There were a few seeds in the compost as evident by the sunflower (Helianthus) and a cucumber plant (not shown). What we discovered was the amaranth leave were getting chewed. I feel the planting density and the leaf chewing was limiting the amaranth growth.


There are actually three hoppers in this image. The one in the center. One to the left and down from the first. And a third, to the right of the first ringed by the yellowing leaf that is out of focus.
There were lots and lots of grasshoppers in the small patch and almost none at all in the main garden just dozens of feet away.
George, our french bulldog, loves grasshopper hunting. He eats most of them, but also enjoys playing with them. This past summer he would do this for hours each day.

As the summer progressed the plants continued to grow. George really appreciated having me or the missus flush out a couple onto the lawn for him to pounce on. He would literally eat a dozen some days.

September 3rd (3 months after sowing):

Sunflowers and amaranth seed heads clearly visible.

A couple of weeks later( Sept 13th). A strong wind blew over the outside plants:

At this point the plants were getting messy and I decided to cut everything down. I used the weed eater (string trimmer) to cut this "grove" down then ran the lawn mower over to get the rest to near ground level. I gathered up all the trimmings and moved them to the compost pile. I then ran the rototiller over the strip and sowed winter rye and hairy vetch into the area. Both of those do really well in low temperatures. Fall growth survives the winter and takes off in the spring when the temperature gets to about 40°F.

I started with the intent of clearing a weedy area from the lawn but was really happy with the results of a "feature area" of the lawn. The grasshopper breeding area was great for George and with his help we kept them all out of the vegetable garden.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Beeswax Lotion

I've been reading a lot about uses for beeswax. I ended up making some beeswax lotion.
Here's the recipe I used:
6 oz beeswax
6 oz coconut oil
8 oz grape seed oil
2 oz sunflower oil
6 oz steeped caster oil*

*I packed a pint jar full of borage (flowers, leaves, seeds) and topped it up with caster oil. I left this sit/steep for just over a year.
I melted the beeswax in a double boiler.

After the beeswax was melted I added the coconut oil. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but melts a lot easier than beeswax. Then added the other oils (all liquid). I poured this into jars and then quickly added vitamin E by piercing gel caps and dripping the vitamin E oil into the prefilled jars. I used 2 pills per 8 oz jar.
To each jar I added the following essential oils. I did this while the mix was still liquid.

2 drops lemon grass oil
1 drop tea tree oil
1 drop tangerine oil

Here is what they looked like:

They ended up a little too firm, so its really salve or a jared lotion bar.
Maybe I'll cut back on the beeswax by about 2 oz next time. Also these are very lemony. I think one drop of lemon grass oil in each would have been plenty.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

End of May Garden

Spring is progressing! We have been blessed with a mix of raining days mixed with warm sunny days. I have not started to water the garden/grass beyond a couple of watering buckets on the newly planted seedlings planted in the garden and some hose applied nitrogen and Revive to the grass.
I've been holding off planting too much in the main garden because I have been waiting the results of a soil analysis. I have since gotten the results and have ordered the correct nutrients to re-mineralize the garden soil. I'll write a separate post on that topic soon.
Here are pictures of the garden.

The large green mass is the hairy vetch. In the foreground there are weeds growing. This is another reason I want to wait another week to plant. I'll rototill these again, the last time was about a month ago, mixing in the fertilizer and compost you see piled to the right.

Here's a close-up of the vetch flowers. The bumble bees seem to like these more than the honey bees.
The garlic is doing well here is a shot of the garlic patch.

The large leaved (weeds) plants in the foreground is borage. I'll let this grow because the honey bees love their flowers.

The above shows the radish, just to the right of the rightmost tee post, see row marketer sticks in foreground. The outside row markers are beets (beetroot) that need to be weeded. I have lots of bindweed throughout the garden. This is another example of why I want to delay planting, allowing me another run at disrupting these weeds as well as getting more nutrients into the soil for the veggies to better compete.
Here is a shot of the seedlings you can gage their growth since the last post.

Else where in the yard and around the neighborhood flowers are booming.
White clover


Russian olive tree

Locust tree blooms

Sweet yellow clover

And I guess I have to show my projects for next year. Our lawn,soil, is obviously compacted. I will have to aerate the lawn this fall as the black medic, small yellow pom pom flowers, is taking over.
black medic and bindweed flowers

Monday, May 12, 2014

Snow today gone today

It snowed all day yesterday, May 11. This morning it was still snowing. It was really wet snow. Here is a picture from this morning just before 7am.

The lilacs flanking the garden just started blooming. Here is a picture from almost 12 hours later (Monday 6pm).

Just a trace of snow left on the picnic table.
The hairy vetch got squished down but it will pop back up within a day or two.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Spring Garden

Our gardening is getting started. I've posted several posts about the bees because there is not much in terms of planting that can happen in Colorado before Mother's day. Here is a few pictures from yesterday May 10th.

The garlic is obvious with globe alliums to their right (front side of the garden). Further back is a growing patch of hairy vetch. In the foreground with the two green and white "t" posts laying on in the dirt are a couple of rows of beets (beetroot) and a row of radish. They were planted a week earlier and have a bit of compost over the top to keep them moist.

Here is a better shot of the hairy vetch. There is a few crimson clover blossoms in the very front. The vetch will flower in a couple of weeks. The bumble bees really like the nectar from these flowers. After it has flowered for a while I will rip the vines out and use the vines as mulch for the tomatoes that will be planted here. The hairy vetch mulch keeps the soil cooler and prevents all the moisture from evaporating. I'll leave the soil undisturbed (vs tilling) to leave as much of the hairy vetch root system in place. It fixes nitrogen and this should breakdown into the soil feeding the microbes and thus the tomatoes. There is some vetch mulch in the previous picture around the globe allium, it drys very fine.
This planting is an example of cover cropping. I planted this hairy vetch in early August with oats and some fava bean seeds. These were all left over seeds and just hand broadcasted and raked in slightly. The oats were the first to grow, and take over. See November post . The hairy vetch barley grew last fall while the oats grew almost 2 feet tall. The oats died during the winter and the vetch came back to life earlier this spring. The decomposing biomass is supposed to be really good for the soil, and an additional benefit is the early season green.
To the right of the vetch is one of my new favorites, that I have written about, hyssop. It is starting to green from the bottom up. I need to clean the dead twigs out and weed around these. The rock wall seems to warm the soil at the front edge of the garden. Its really popular with the weeds. This year I've already weeded in front of the Hyssop 3 times. The three worst offenders are: crab grass, bind weed, and Canadian thistles. I've planted some hyssop seeds for more plants this year (see below).

Above is a picture from today, Mother's Day. Its all covered by snow. Its expected to get cold tonight and tomorrow 24 degrees F. Then after Tuesday, we should be done with the freezing weather. The forecast for next weekend is 85F.
I've got the seedlings started in jiffy peat pellets.

All sorts of goodies that you can read about this summer. I don't have grow lights for these indoors except for a 2x2 ft florescent fixture above our clothes dryer. Its not really strong enough to prevent the seedlings from getting long and stringy. I bring the whole lot of them out on warmer days. On days that I have to work I leave them on the north side of the house where they don't get direct sunlight but it is brighter than the washroom. This location also keep these tender "babies" from getting cooked.

When I get home I move them to a direct sun location. I always keep them prop'ed open to let the heat escape. Almost forgot them outside last night! The piece of cement is to help keep the lid grounded in case of high winds.

Here is one of the hive splits (picture from yesterday). The queen should have hatched Friday or Saturday (yesterday) and should be ready for her mating flights later this week when it warms up. You can see the entrance is mostly closed up. This is to limit access to robbers from other hives. A smaller entrance is easier for them to defend. I haven't seen any robbing going on and the quart of sugar water has almost been ignored. This quart was filled two weeks ago. Last year my bees drank a quart of 1:1 sugar/water every two days. There has been a really great apple bloom going on so I'm sure they are getting better nectar. With the snow and cold temps we'll see how long the cup of sugar water lasts.