Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Growing poppies is a long term affair.  We planted these under lights in the house.  After two to three weeks in a plastic bag to keep it moist, the very fine seeds have sprouted.

Poppies ready to be transplanted into bigger pots.  The plants in the foreground are St. John’s Wort (Hypericum).

The poppy seed was planted in February.  It is just now blooming in September.  I think we’ll start earlier if we want poppies in spring or summer for the bees next year.

Here’s the beautiful result of our labor of love…

The poppy has finally opened up. I wonder when the bees will find it.

A couple of days after this first one opened up, we had a bee doing something strange (to me).  It faced away from the center of the flower, beating her wings rapidly, vibrating the pollen off the stamen and onto her body.  After getting a layer of purple pollen, she landed on the outside of the flower and groomed herself with her middle legs, pulling the pollen off her back and into her pollen baskets.  It was incredible.  I had my little pocket camera with me and got some video of it.

Read Full Post »

An added bonus to growing flowers for the bees is attracting different pollinators.  Dozens of butterflies fluttered onto our flowers.    The Wallflower, Erysimum has been blooming all summer and today it was visited by an American Lady.  Will Cook was kind enough to answer my late night email inquiry and identified it.

An American Lady shows off her two eye spots on the underside of her wings.

An American Lady sipping nectar

This short video shows the butterfly probing the flower with her proboscis.  Sometimes it takes a few tries before the nectar is located.

For more information about butterflies, check out this web site.

Read Full Post »

Our nights get down to a chilly 47 degrees F (8 deg. C.) so without extra care it would be impossible to grow things like peppers and eggplants.

Water grid in place, hook up hose and place transplants where the water drips out.

Add hoops, deer netting and the plastic film weighted with 1×2’s nailed to  2×2’s.

This is what it looks like now (after 3 1/2 months) with some calendulas that my wife won’t let me take out and a volunteer Swiss Chard.

The green peppers are small because the nights are so cool, but at least we get some.

Japanese eggplant (the only one that will ripen here because it’s smaller) is finally ready to be picked.

Tomatoes are coming on strong…ready for sandwiches or to be roasted.

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, string beans, carrots, beets, basil, (and other herbs like oregano and thyme), onions and garlic slathered with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Roast it at 425 deg. F for about 25 minutes or until the tomatoes start to brown.

After this cools, we throw it in the blender, then it goes into the quart size freezer bags so it will stack up well.  It can be used over rice or potatoes, or as a spaghetti or pizza sauce.

Check out planting tomatoes in a cool rainy climate.

Read Full Post »

What is making these circular holes in the Black-Eyed Susan Vine? Slugs can’t get up that high and birds wouldn’t cut circles.

Last year my wife noticed circular holes in her Thunbergia’s petals.  She couldn’t figure out what could have made the holes.  We soon found out after spotting a bee carrying a leaf.  It flew into a hole in the side of the shop.

Dahlia blossom with circular holes

As I was looking for more evidence to photograph, a leaf cutting bee landed on this Dahlia plant and cut a segment out.  She was fast.  It took about 10 seconds to cut the petal and fly away.  I was able to point the camera and shoot away.  It wasn’t until the next day that I was able to catch the bees flying into a hole in the newly replaced shop wall, between two spider webs.  Both spiders failed to trap her…this time.

Here’s a short video showing all the action…

Read Full Post »

Burying the very available crab shell and coffee grounds to spice up the soil is the first thing.  Warre hive is on the left and Bee Beard carved log hive on the right.  I’m in good company.

Potatoes…should we harvest now or leave them in to grow more?  If I leave them in, the voles might eat them…I better take them out.  Then I can plant buckwheat in both beds.

Red Pontiacs – Three at once

A mole tunnel…the moles dig the tunnels, the voles follow the tunnels to the potatoes. More than a few potatoes had been chewed on, so it was good idea to get them out of the ground.

Some of the potatoes harvested from this first potato bed. We could have left them in to grow more, but the voles would have taken a big bite out of our harvest. This way we can grow buckwheat in both beds for the bees in September.

We’ve been fairly successful in the “no tilling” method for a few years.  We think it’s important to use less manufactured energy and more physical energy.  Is spading  ‘as good as’ using a  tiller?  Probably not, but it’s important to be able to grow food without using fossil fuel for the possible time when we don’t have any.

We have dug in crab shell, kitchen scraps (no meat), comfrey leaves, and coffee grounds to enhance the soil. Now we’re planting the buckwheat seed.

The drip irrigation grid and the deer netting are in place.

Why do we need deer netting? Because of her…and all her offspring!

According to this article by the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute “…buckwheat crop seems to improve soil tilth, and is reported to make phosphorous more available as a soil nutrient, possible through root-associated mycorrhizae. Buckwheat flowers profusely, making it popular with bee keepers and an attractive crop in the landscape.”

Sept. 9, 2012...about 5 weeks after planting, buckwheat is looking good.  Bees are on the blossoms already.

Sept. 9, 2012…about 5 weeks after planting, buckwheat is looking good. Bees have been working the blossoms for a couple of weeks already.

Sept. 9, 2012...Honeybees attending to the buckwheat blossoms.

Sept. 9, 2012…Honeybees attending to the buckwheat blossoms under the deer netting.

A fly mimicing a bee on the buckwheat blossom.

A fly mimicking a bee on the buckwheat blossom.

My wife saved me the ultimate embarrassment of thinking I found some kind of new bee. “Honey, that’s a FLY!”  “Ulp.”

Another fly, this time with a red abdomen.  My wife saved me the embarrassment of thinking I found some kind of new bee.  "Honey, that's a FLY!"

Another fly, this time with a red abdomen.

Read Full Post »

Two years ago we wanted to quit having to mow between our blueberry bushes. We laid down landscape cloth, covered it with sawdust, and our mowing days were behind us. That year we watched the bees pollinate the blossoms and the berries grew like never before. We had a huge berry crop but couldn’t eat a single berry because as they ripened, a family of robins spotted them first…each bush was clearly visible from a bird’s eye view and as the berries ripened, the birds easily picked them off before we could. We laid fake snakes on the ground. We hung shiny wind socks to distract them. We thought about netting them, but it would have been difficult to pick them. So we let the birds have them.

Last year we tried a different strategy. We let the comfrey that we had been treating as weeds, grow up next to the bushes. We didn’t have any bird problems. So this year we’re doing the same thing. The comfrey provides blossoms to attract the bees which pollinate both the blueberries and the comfrey and we are assured of having berries without birds.

Bumblebee pollinating Comfrey blossoms. The bees work both the comfrey and the blueberry bushes that the comfrey hides from the birds.

Bumblebee on Blueberry blossom

The comfrey is still blooming!! It’s been over two months since the first picture was taken.   The blueberries are now ripe and ready to pick.  Thanks to the comfrey for hiding the blueberries from the birds, we can now pick them.

The bumblebees are still pollinating the comfrey even though it’s been over two months.

These blueberries were picked today. This is probably our best harvest yet.  We’ve been getting this much every couple of days.

It’s been a successful experiment.  The comfrey might compete somewhat with the blueberries for water and space…but what matters most is the successful harvest before the birds get them.

As a win-win, comfrey is known for it’s healing qualities also.  For growing and using comfrey see this article by The Mother Earth News.  And here’s a another person’s story of how to make a poultice and apply it.  I just came across yet another site about the great qualities of comfrey.

Read Full Post »

What flowers to plant/buy for our area of Zone 5? These flowers have done well for us…

Bees love California Lilac which provides early nourishment for the bees

Bumble bee on the Comfrey, which can be considered invasive, but provides food for the bees.

Echium plant grew from 2 ft (.6 m) high last year to about 10 ft (3m) high this year

Bumble bees go for the Echium in a big way


Bees go crazy on these blossoms (which I was under the impression were Island Bush Poppies) as can be seen in this fuzzy photo of six bees on a Hypericum.  It’s covered with bees mid June to late July.

Bee diving into Penstemon blossom. These start blooming June.

Dahlias, blackberries (main Oregon crop for bees), sunflowers, wall flowers, rosemary are also good bets for bees, as well as cotoneaster which grows wild and provides food late in the season.

These are plants we’ve had in our garden. I’m sure there are many more. Please fill free to add to the list in the comments.

Many of these flowers serve as butterfly attractors also.   See Butterflies.

Read Full Post »

The tomato bed has weathered through the cold wind and rain. They’re looking good so I added the cages.

Tomatoes prove their worth and get supports
Likewise the Red Pontiacs are looking good

Potato bed gets hilled up.  These were planted April 9th and harvested August 1 to make way for buckwheat.

Greens Grow the Garden

Our supply of salad greens. Pick it, eat it 15 minutes later for lunch. I wonder what’s cooking in the Solar Oven

Read Full Post »

These kale plants might look a bit ragged, but it’s great to have flowers for the bees. It’s easy to grow, lasts all winter, and feeds the bees in the spring. Kale is full of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer prevention qualities. It tastes good too. One of my favorite soups is this one my daughter sent to me from The Dragons Kitchen.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 15 oz can of stewed tomatoes

1 large sweet potato, peeled & chopped into large chunks

1 bunch of kale, deveined and shredded

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

salt to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the onions and cook on medium-low until they begin to caramelize.

2. Add the garlic, cumin, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, mustard and cloves to the oil and onions. Cook for 1 minute.

3. Add the stewed tomatoes, sweet potato, kale and carrots. Cook for 2 minutes.

4. Add the vegetable stock, peanut butter and ginger. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn down heat and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes and carrots are cooked. Check the seasoning after 15 minutes and add salt as needed.

Read Full Post »

This bed has crab shell and coffee grounds. Both are waste products that I picked up last summer using my bicycle and trailer. Also buried within are autumn leaves.
Last weekend we covered the bed with a plastic tent over pvc hoops to dry out the soil.
Today a 3 hour break in the storm served as our chance to get this first bed planted.
The cabbage, collards, and lettuce were started from seed in the house under lights in late February. The soil was full of earthworms and just right to add amenities, rake smooth, hook up the water grid, and pop in the transplants. (no rototilling because we’re trying to avoid using fossil fuel in the garden)

A floating row cover will be placed over the cabbages to protect them from the cabbage moth and cabbage fly, then netting to keep out the deer, followed by the plastic film tent to protect them from the high winds and driving rain from the next set of storms. March came in like a lamb and is going out like a lion.


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »