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 (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.


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