Another season started

Last week I started two flats of tomatoes for the greenhouse since they’ll go out in late March.  Ten to twenty of 8-9 varieties, I’ll list them later. The Macbook is down and on the iPad this week so no long entries.

I also started all my onions and leeks indoor to get them started then they’ll go out to the greenhouse.   Have I some onions growing well out there but it took them a couple of weeks to sprout versus 3days inside. I remembered the heat pads for the tomatoes this year and they were all up in 72 hours with the soil at 85 degrees, it made a huge difference!

I cut a ton of scion wood from all the fruit trees when I was pruning And have them in the fridge.  I have five apple and five plum rootstock I planted last year.  I’ll use three of the plum for peaches as you can’t have enough peaches plus they’re fast bearers and don’t get too big. I want another King apple and another Belle de Boskoop, and I actually found out a friend has an Orleans Reniette which I’ve been looking for for ages. He also has a honeycrisp which I think I’ll try. I’ve had a few and they were pretty good plus he says they’re great keepers.

The Lane County Propagation Fair is the weekend of March 28 and I can’t recommend it enough. 100+ varieties of apple, 50+ of pear, 30-40 of plum and lots of other stuff, all free!  It’s an amazing event and we’re incredibly lucky to have a group of dedicated volunteers who put it together.  Thanks folks!

 

Felt Like Spring Today

It’ been warm so far this year, but today felt more like April.  It was warm enough to open up the house and air it out a bit this afternoon, it must have been in the 60’s.

The bees were working away, look at how loaded down with pollen they are!  Most of it is bright yellow, which must be dandelion, but some is bright red and is probably Snowdrop.

 

I’m hoping that’s a good sign as if they’ve made it this far through the winter it’s only a few weeks until flowers start blooming in earnest.

I finally got rid of my chickens after 30 or so years of always having some, and it’s nice not having to worry about them getting in and digging up everything I plant.  Of course nature abhors a vacuum as they say, so look what’s moved in to take their place…

 

There’s about 20-25 of them that come by most every day for a dig and a scratch.  The good thing about them is they don’t like the 8′ deer fence around the gardens and so far they’ve stayed out of them.

I was sick all last night so didn’t get to enjoy today too much, but did finish up pruning and training the raspberries.  Here’s what I ended up doing with the purple Royalty raspberries.  I’ve seen the local berry farmers use this technique so I’m going to try it this year and see how it works out.  It should keep them from falling over at least and make them easier to pick.

berry training

 

Next week I should be starting tomatoes for the greenhouse, but I’ll wait another month before starting plants for outdoors and sales.  Lets hope the nice weather sticks around for a while and appreciate being in the PNW.  The next couple of months are one time of year our weather really shines compared to the rest of the country.

The start of a new year (thank God)

It’s the middle of January when an old man’s thoughts turn to the upcoming garden season.  Last year was mainly a disaster for me.  My health went to hell, then my garden did the same, so I lost all interest in updating this site.  So far this year I’m doing a lot better and I hope that both the garden and this site will do better.

This last week I got my seed orders in.   This year I got everything from two sources, mostly from Fedco and some specialty items from Growitalian.com (also some bulk seeds from them like Basil).  I actually need to start my tomatoes in a week or two as they need to go in the greenhouse the end of March and I want them 6-8 weeks old at that time.

Last year’s tomatoes were a complete waste. I decided to try the fancy, expensive greenhouse tomato seeds from Johnny’s last year, believing their catalog regarding “good flavor” and such.  They ended up tasting like cardboard, a little better than store tomatoes but not much, and definitely not something my farmers market customers wanted to buy.  To make things perfect, about the time they started bearing well I went to market and forgot to open the greenhouse so they all boiled on the vine by the time I got home.  This year I’m going back to the heirlooms as even if I have a lot of loss with them at least the ones I do get taste good enough to be worth growing.

I went into the winter with five hives of bees, one that I bought from Glorybee and four swarms that I caught last Spring.  I put one of the swarms in a top bar hive and it looked good all summer and I had high hopes for it making it through the winter.  A few days ago we had a spell of warm weather and I opened the hive and I swear it’s actually grown over the winter, it’s filled about 2/3 of the whole hive body with beautiful straight comb, much better than any of my Langstroth hives.  One of the swarms I thought was strong has died out, and another swarm has also died, but amazingly one swarm that looked terrible all summer, only filling up 3 frames with comb, is still going strong and also seems to have increased.  The Italian hive from Glorybee is looking good.  It filled two large supers completely with comb so I think it will do well.

What amazed me is a couple of days ago it was warm and sunny and the bees were everywhere, and they were coming home LOADED with pollen.  It was mostly bright yellow, which I suspect would have to be dandelion as they are flowering, but some also had a red pollen, which could be Snowdrop, otherwise I don’t know what else is flowering the middle of January.  The fact that they’ve been able to get out feeding for a couple of days gives me real hope that those three hives will make it through.  Another 3 weeks or so and there will be lots of flowers and they should be good to go for the year.

The last few days I’ve been working on berries.  I cut the Caroline raspberries to the ground to make it easier to mulch and care for them.  I’m not worried about giving up the June harvest as there’s not really a market for it as everyone else has them at the same time and this way they’ll concentrate on the fall crop.  On the purple raspberries I tied each clump up to the trellis to keep them upright and it will make them easier to prune late in the summer when I want to separate the old canes from the new.

The other project is cleaning up the greenhouse.  I wasn’t in the mood to do it last year after the disaster, so I pulled out all the remaining tomato stems and I’ve been working on getting the beds turned to get them ready to plant.  I need to use the side beds this year and I’m just trying to think of what to plant there.  I think I’ll go with small romaine lettuces and possibly some basil in one of them and I may put up some trellis and put some cukes along the north wall to try to get some early ones.

When I started this project I was really hoping to find some other people to contribute some ideas as I don’t have the time and energy these days to do a proper job of it.  I think it’s a good idea, trying to focus on the PNW with growing reports, variety trials and such as our growing environment is so unusual.  If anyone decides to read this ad wants to contribute, or even take it over, get ahold of me and let’s discuss it.

I’m going to try to do more updates this year, at least weekly, we’ll see how my health holds up.

 

Bees, Bees, Bees

This Spring has been slow on the garden front.  I’ve just been too exhausted and not feeling well enough to stay ahead of things.  I managed to get the greenhouse tomatoes started, and they’re setting fruit, but it will be at least a month before they’re ready to pick.  I’ve got some basics in outdoors, and I planted a lot of flowers to hopefully sell, but I think I’m going to have to migrate more to small fruit and away from produce as I no longer have the stamina to keep up with veggie production.

I planted two of my raised beds into strawberries last month from starts I’m made last summer, and I planted a few dozen gooseberry and currant starts at the edges of one of my garden areas.  Last year’s strawberries are looking good, I harvested about 20 pounds yesterday but of course there’s no farmer’s market today, but it does start up again next week so I hope to start selling them there until the tomatoes come in.

The cane fruit are looking fantastic.  All the stuff that did ok last year, when it was planted, has gathered strength and is exploding with new growth now, I’ll post some pix as soon as I can.  I should have tons of blackberries and raspberries this year, the tayberries are looking good and even the poor boyesenberries are looking good finally.

The last month has been all about bees.  My hive from last year didn’t make it through the winter.  I learned a few things I did wrong that didn’t help, but they were never vigorous to start with.  I bought a 3 pound pack of Italian bees from Glorybee and picked them up a few weeks ago, and they’re looking really good.  I thought I had it covered, then a buddy called.  It turns out he has four hives and he doesn’t worry about them swarming, and I ended up catching four swarms at his place.  Two were good sized and two were huge.  I had a couple of boxes and made some quick bottoms and tops and homed two of them in those, and I had a Kenyan Top Bar hive that I put another swarm in and the last went into a nuc box, which was all I had.

I went down to Eugene and bought some box and frame kits from Glorybee last week and got them together and painted, so today I did bee work (oh, and a better bee jacket!).  The first swarm I got is incredible, it had filled the large super with honey and brood, it was jammed full in just 3 weeks, so I put another super and frames on it.  The Italians were about the same, they are looking great.  Both of them had TONS of brood so they’re really taking off.  The smallest swarm I caught is working away, but is lagging way behind the others.

The hive in the top bar is looking fantastic, they’ve built out six bars worth of great looking comb and are filling it up, on only about 10 days, with some brood mixed in.  They’ve built the straightest, best looking combs of the bunch, I think I’ll be building more of the TBH setups.  The hive in the nuc box I moved into a regular super with a screen bottom I’d made.  They’d store up a couple of frames of honey and pollen in only 10 days but I didn’t see any brood, hopefully the queen will start laying soon, I’ll check on them in a week.

Needless to say, with 5 hives I don’t have to worry about pollination. The Obsidian blackberries are in full flower and it’s simply covered with bees (of all kinds, not just mine).  We have tons of forage and nothing but fields and forest around me for miles so don’t think I have to worry about overcrowding here.

I need to remember to do this on cooler days.  I feel a lot more secure wearing a sweatshirt under my bee jacket and between the work, the heat and the stress, I’m exhausted.  I still need to get my outdoor tomatoes in this afternoon before the rain gets here.

Pix to come.