Sunday, December 29, 2013

Garden Trellis

My main walk in my garden is next to the fence at the North most end of the garden. The walk is being taken over by my back neighbor's peach tree. My neighbors told me they are okay with me trimming the branches on my side of the fence. Since they are directly North of us, the peach tree naturally grows out direction. The peach tree is planted just a foot or two North of the 5 foot wooden fence.
Here are a few pictures showing the progression of the peach tree's growth this summer. This April we experienced a late deep freeze which killed all the blooms of all the neighborhood fruit trees. Last year this tree (and every other fruit tree) was loaded with fruit. When loaded with fruit the branches hang even lower.



Dec 2013 New Trellis

The back part near the fence supports the peach tree. I built that a couple of weeks ago. The front part, I built yesterday. I found the 2x4x 12's in the cull pile at Lowes.

Here is a sampling of what I hope to grow on the new trellis:

Yard Long bean tee-pee

A grip of Yard Long Beans

Green beans! In 2013, they climbed the amaranth, 2 sisters style!

Who knows I may even live on the edge and test out the structure with PUMPKINS!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Flower Pictures

We got some seeds this year. Here are some flower pictures from this year's garden.
Danish Flag Poppy

The few flowers that bloomed didn't do too well. As soon as the flowers started to bloom the birds would rip out all the pedals.
If the flowers come back this year we will mulch much better to keep the soil moist. Maybe that will help the more plants get to the flowering stage and out pace the birds.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Winter Dahlia Storage

Here are the Dahlias August 25, 2013.
I planted the tubers in a row. Next year I think the row will go across so the flowers can be better seen. Every week since they began to bloom I cut several to take to work.

Here is what they looked like earlier today, Nov. 3, 2013. The temperature has been consistently freezing at night. Today was in the high 60's so a good day to dig up the tubers for winter storage. We are expecting a few inches of snow in the next few days so, no time like the present.

Here is a close-up of the dug up tuber with the soil washed away.

Here's the lot of them trimmed and washed. I let them dry in the sun for a few hours to remove the water.

Trim down the stalks some more, wrap them in old t-shirts, then stuff them in a plastic sack in the crawlspace till next spring.
I will actual try to mist the t-shirts in the winter to add some moisture.
Several years ago I omitted the plastic bags, worrying about mold. but the tubers looked very shriveled. Our climate is very dry even in the crawl space. So back to the plastic bags.
I don't have any pictures to show but when I was forking the tubers from the ground, I saw lots of worms in with the tubers and roots. I've seen this before. I think the dahlias must put lots of nutrients into the soil for the worms. The worms are really worked into the mass of roots. My soil is very heavy clay, so I use the garden hose with a sprayer and really work the "soil" from the root mass before putting them in storage.
I would like to take this opportunity to ask Santa for a proper basement with a cold room/root cellar for winter storage, although the crawl space under the stairs works pretty well.
One last close-up of the sun lovers.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Late season hive

The bees are still going at it collecting pollen an protecting their hive. here are a few pictures I snapped today. The yellow jacket trap still  is going strong 20 ft in front of my two hives.

You can see the multitude of yellow jackets captured.
I continue to smash them with my fly swatter in front of the hives. The above is about two weeks of captures. our temperatures are in the 20's at night an in the mid 60's during the days.
 Here are the girls going at it with a "robber" yellow jacket

 And still they bring in pollen. Tomorrow we have snow in the forecast and a high of 46.
I think this is dandelion pollen.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

You don't need too dig deep

Yeah! Here we are Fall, Autumn, Harvest season!
Here are a few sample pics of some harvesting that's going on here in Boulder.

Adirondack Blue Potatoes, hard to spell good to eat! I Got these from Walmart, 5 plants for $3.98 . The ground is soaking wet (clay soil) the picture has probably 2 plants worth of potatoes. About $1.60 if my math is correct.

Cucumbers and beets, Yum!
These cukes are a little small but I've let many of them go too long so I'm being cautious and picking early.
Next year I need to stage my planting over a couple of weeks verses planting all the cucumbers at once.
If you look close at the beet greens you can make out a stringy weed. That's bind weed. It has taken over in the garden with all the rain we've gotten lately (yes I'm blaming the rain).

Above is an August planting of Burpee's Cherry Belle Radish

This is actually 3 squash plants taking over

The Cocozelle Squash continues to produce reliably. We are trying to cook them into everything from stir fry to zucchini bread. We still have enough to hand some over the fence to our gardening friends.
 The rain and the hay fork have done wonders in the past few weeks to the compost pile.
 The asparagus bed is not taking off like I hoped but I realize this can take some years. I continue to add compost and weed on a semi regular basis. It is luckily located closest to the compost pile.

Above is the rhubarb raised bed. It is doing wonderful!

The honeybees are still working the borage. The borage falls down but continues to grow and bloom until it freezes. Its been blooming for several months now.
I've heard that borage flowers refill their nectaries within minutes, which is why the honeybees love it. However below is a close up of this girl with what looks to be borage pollen.

Does anyone know if borage produces pollen?
 Another winner is the Blue Hyssop from Baker Heirloom it has bloomed continuously for months. This is a perennial here in zone 5, it is in its second year.  The flowers are fewer and fewer in the season as the seeds develop. I'll spread these seeds to other areas of the garden to get more of this for the bees.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Well this past week I've seen several drones dead in front of the hives and figured it was the girls kicking out the boys due to the end of the season, see Kicked to the Curb post.
Today I sat out next to the hives and watched what was going on and heard, and saw, many (dozens) drones flying in and out of the hives. Drones are somewhat larger than worker bees and make a louder sound when flying. The workers were bringing in lots of yellow and orange pollen. This indicates that they are still raising young.
The drones were still flying in and out indicating they are still looking for virgin queens to mate with. Kind of late in the season but I imagine this has to do with the fact that queens can die any any point in the season and if a hive need to requeen itself to survive this can happen at any time of the season.

Drones (2) notice the big eyes

MF Western Yellow Jackets

Why do we hate yellow jackets?

Here are my two middle fingers, sorry no disrespect intended. On the right my finger tip is clearly inflamed. This is because of a western yellow jacket bit /sting. I was waving my hands shooing them out of my way when ka-bam right in the tip of my right middle finger. We have a scotch pine in our front yard which has been afflicted by pine scale for at least the 4 years that we have lived in this house. The scale exudes honey dew which attracts the western yellow jackets and other insects. As a beekeeper and gardener, I have a high tolerance for insects, but the western yellow jacket... lets just say its not a love hate relationship.
I have two yellow jacket traps which I bait with pheromone bait. And believe me I have them baited early in the year to attract as many queens as possible. I even sit next to the bee hives with a fly swatter playing "whack a wasp" as they seem to troll for hive debris, dead bees, in front of the hives. I've even seen them sneak into the hive past the guard bees.
Once you smash one wasp it seems to attract another, see below.
All beekeepers know they are bad news in hives, as they rob honey and whatever else they can.
Today's total: Yellow jacket stings =1 ; splatted yellow jackets = 12
I'm still not happy with those numbers

dead yellow jackets

Friday, September 20, 2013

Boys kicked to the curb

Three weeks ago it was in the 90's. Last week a record 17 inches of rain. Last night it dipped into the 50's, you know what that means. The boys are kicked to the curb.

You can identify the drone, he's top left with the enormous eyes. The workers realize its getting cold signaling the end of the season. This means no more swarms and without the need to breed queens, all drones can be kicked out.
Drones can feed themselves and must rely on the worker bees (females) to feed them. To a bee hive they are an expense and come winter an expense that can be eliminated.

A quick look at the ground in front of the hive shows several dead drones evicted some time earlier.

I mentioned the rain it splashed lots of dirt up onto the hives. The bottom of my hives are open with 1/8 inch screen. I closed them up for the winter, actually fall starts in 2 days. But I also put down some weed barrier to cover the ground which is a rock covered soil. Here is a picture of the "dirt barrier"

The dirt on the gray barrier is the dirt that washed off the hives in the past week, it rained more.

Here is are pictures of Boulder Creek (at hwy 287) flood well out of its banks.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

First Zucchini

It is late July and I'm just picking my first zucchini. Its a Cocozelle Zucchini from Botanical Interests.
This late harvest is caused solely by late planting.
This variety produce fruit at a slightly lower rate than some zucchini I've grown, so my two plants should be plenty for my wife and I. My guess is two plants will produce one fruit every third or fourth day from now till first frost in October. The seeds came from a pack that is a few years old, but the plants seem to be doing very well so far.

There it is on the mulch. Perfect size. You can see it has stripes. There's another about 3 inches long that should double in size in two days.
Its been a hot summer and I didn't want to cook inside even though it rained today and its cooler than usual.

I ended up making pizza with the zucchini and a farmers' market squash. I used the bread machine to make pizza dough.
I added the rolled out dough with olive oil to a cast iron skillet and put it on the barbeque. I precooked the dough and flipped it before adding the pizza sauce and toppings.

Zucchini Pizza!
This worked great! The house stayed cool and the pizza was delicious.

 Here is the finished product. The crust was a little thick. It was excellent with a little honey drizzled on it.
Yum Yum Yum.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Plunder from the bees

A couple of weeks ago I opened the hives to check on the bees. I wanted to make sure the hives still had available space. Lack of space can lead to swarming, meaning the work force leaves the hive and therefore lower honey yields. While opening the first hive, I encountered several of the top bars near the rear of the hive had comb attached to the sides of the hive, and single comb spanning across multiple bars. Until several bars are out of the hive there isn't a lot of room for the beekeeper to see into the hive. So this, coupled with my inexperience I broke one bar's comb. The comb filled with nectar fell into the hive causing a stir. I reached in to pull it out and left it in a large tupperware for the bees to reclaim, but it seemed that they didn't want anything to do with it. I did pull out a bar with honey that was capped as well. I left the second hive unplundered until this weekend.
Here is what I plundered from the bees.

The cut up comb is in an 8 x 8 pyrex, that came from today's harvest from the hive that got robbed several weeks ago. The other three bars are honey comb from the second hive.
I use the crush and strain method of honey harvest. I use a knife to cut off and "crush" cut into bitty pieces.

 That's one crushed honeycomb turned out to be just over a quart of honey. One of the bars was quite a bit thicker than the others. My experience base on a total of 5 top bars harvested in the past two weeks, says that each full top bar holds more than 1 quart and less than 1 3/4 quart. I used a 2 gallon bucket with a strainer bag then pour the honey into mason jars.

I could maximize the amount harvested, but since the bees built very straight comb on these bars I decided to leave some for the bees to keep them on the straight.

These bars with sealed honey, and dripping sticky honey, are returned to the hive. The cut cells drip honey into the hive but the bees clean it up really fast and rebuild comb without missing a step. The key is with nice straight base they will build straight comb!
Total harvest: 4 quart jars, 2 pints, and approx one more quart still straining in the bucket ~ 6 quarts.

There is probably at least that much honey left in the hive that I haven't harvested from the bees figuring that I want to leave plenty for the bees for the winter. It is still July (July 21) and I would expect there is plenty of time for the bees to keep up the good work and collect more nectar. I think the bees are almost out of tree flowers to harvest. Linden trees are done blossoming and the golden rain trees are still in bloom but I'm guessing nearing there end. There are lots of flowers, Russian Sage, clover, and others. I planted a couple hundred square feet of buckwheat which has sprouted and is a good source of dark nectar. So long story short I think there is plenty of available nectar for the bees the rest of the summer and fall.

 Here's a picture showing a bar on the scale. That's 4 lbs after subtracting the wooden top bar. The bar is 18 inches long.