Garden Update, March 15, 2015

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here and I’ve just been working too hard and been too tired to put any updates here. That’s the problem with garden blogs, when you’re actually gardening it’s tough to get the energy to do the computer work. I know there’s actually 3 or 4 people who read this, so I try to put some info up now and then. By the way, once again, if someone reading this has any ideas or material to contribute please just let me know. I started this with the intention of it being a cooperative effort as I couldn’t find much info about gardening here in the Pacific Northwest and I don’t have the energy these days in my old age to really do what I’d like to do with the site.

The weather’s been fantastic for the last couple of weeks, warming and sunny with almost no rain in that time. That means the gardens are dry enough to be able to work and the perennials are starting to bud out so mulching and pruning needs to get finished NOW! In fact, I got to the grapes too late and they’ve been weeping pretty badly, so I hope they heal up and recovers soon.

There’s a good weather blog at Channel 12 Weather Blog. It’s run by the meteorologist for Channel 12 in PDX and there’s a ton of good info. He says that the models show warm weather continuing and that it’s time to get the early crops in. Normally our 90 percent frost free date here is about May 1 but it looks like it’s going to be a lot earlier this year.

Here’s what my garden looked like 13 months ago…

Here’s some pictures from a couple of days ago…

I’ve got a lot of starts that I put in a few weeks ago and have had under lights, but I’ve moved them out to the greenhouse and they’re growing like mad with the warm sunny weather. The temperature of the greenhouse runs in the low to mid 90’s during the day when it’s sunny, so the tomatoes are loving it. I have to admit when I planned the greenhouse I worried a lot about keeping it warm, but it turns out the big issue is actually keeping it cool. In the summer, even with both doors open, it’s hard to keep it under 100 during the day. Tomatoes do ok with it but not much else handles it too well, although eggplants did well one year and this year I’ll be trying cucumbers to see how they do.

It looks like we’re going to have a few days of partly cloudy weather and then more rain, the next 10 day forecast doesn’t show much sun, so it’s good to have so much outdoor work done but I’m sure paying for it. I have snow peas, snap peas, carrots, several types of onions, several types of potatoes, some poppies and about 900 new strawberry plants in the ground already and they’ll love this weather. Next week I’m going to pull out my box of row cover I saved from last year and get that set up for the plantings that are in.

When I get some energy I hope to put up an article about this year’s tomato plans, hopefully in the next few days.

Good News / Bad News

I just realized I’ve been lousy about taking pictures this year, I’ll put some up soon to show some of what’s going on this Spring.

The bad news is that the two hives I thought were alive but not in great health are in fact both dead.  The bees I saw going in and out were actually from my top bar hive (TBH) raiding the honey in the dead hives.  I went out today and opened them up and discovered no bees in them, so decided I should remove the honey and clean up the hives before wax moths take over.

I don’t understand what happened to the Italian hive.  There were two deep supers for the brood box, the bottom was almost all old, empty comb, some even with mold on it, while the top super was almost completely full of honey.  All I can figure is that towards the end of the summer something happened to the queen and the hive gradually died out, leaving the new store of honey intact.  The other hive I thought was alive but struggling was the same, but it had just a tiny bit of honey.

The only good news is that I cleaned out the honey from the Italian hive and ended up with more than a 5 gallon bucket full of chunks of honey-filled comb.  It weighs at least 50 pounds altogether and I suspect it’s at least 90 percent honey by weight, so I guess even if I just figure I got 40 pounds of honey for my $100 investment in the nuc of bees that’s a darned good deal these days.  I just need to crush it up and strain it to get the honey out and I should end up with a lot of good wax out of it also.  There’s a fair amount of nice built-out comb to save for bait hives and such, and a little that just looks nasty that I’ll melt down and filter, maybe to make candles or such.

There is one other bit of good news, which is that my TBH is doing GREAT.  Tremendous numbers of bees going in and out, mostly bringing back pollen, but of course many of them are over cleaning up the honey from the hives I harvested this morning.  Hundreds of bees are working the frames that have bits of honey still on them so the bees are having a great time.  It will take them a few days to clean them up as I left a fair bit for them, although the fruit trees and some flowers are blooming well so there’s no shortage of pollen for them.

With one really good hive I’m not going to order any bees this year, but I’ll keep an ear out for swarms and see if I can’t get one or two.  I’ll also see if I can’t split the TBH in April or May as it’s so full I’m sure it will swarm otherwise.