Posts Tagged ‘organic gardening’

It’s a quick job to shred the leaves with the mower.

We always follow tomatoes with garlic.  One of the few winter crops, it grows from Halloween to the July 4th harvest.   After  the tomato vines have been pulled out, we add our soil enhancers…

Shredded leaves ready to be added to  coffee grounds and crab shell as soil enhancers

Shredded leaves ready to be added to coffee grounds and crab shell.

I get as much crab shell as I want from Tony's Crab Shack in town.  It's only about 4 miles (6.4 km) round trip by bicycle, my transportation of choice.

I get as much crab shell as I want from Tony’s Crab Shack in town. It’s only about 4 miles (6.4 km) round trip by bicycle, my transportation of choice.

All these things are trench composted into the soil along with kitchen garbage and the odd sunflower stem or comfrey leaves.

Smooth the soil level and hook the hose to water grid.

Smooth the soil level and hook the hose to water grid.

Break apart the garlic bulb into individual cloves...

Break apart the garlic bulb into individual cloves…

Push garlic clove into soil to just below soil surface, "hair" end down.

Push garlic clove into soil about 3 inches deep, “hair” end down.  This one should be pushed down a little more, but we were just posing it and wanted a ‘handle’ to pull it back out.

Garlic planted almost a month ago is just starting to show.

Garlic planted almost a month ago is just starting to show.

What is garlic good for?  GOOD HEALTH and BEE STINGS!

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Bee Beard Log Hive in front of Bamboo

When I decided to place my new Bee Beard Log Hive I considered many things.  I wanted it placed where it would get the morning sun shining into the entrance, well beyond the long reach of the tree shadows in winter, and protected from the raging winter winds that blast from the southwest.  Also I wanted the hive to be visible if possible, on the edge of the garden, so we could observe the bees whenever we worked outside. The placement of the hive in front of the bamboo satisfied all the requirements.  What I didn’t know is that bamboo attracts wasps.  When I started seeing all the wasps on the bamboo I started to panic.  What are they doing around my log hive?  I started recalling the stories at the bee meeting about all the hives that are lost to wasps.  How did I know bamboo attracts wasps?  Is that common knowledge?

Wasp on Bamboo leaf over Bee Beard log hive.

The bamboo was leaning over the log hive…are the wasps going to attack my bees?  What to do?

I plugged the last gap by stuffing the inner tube into it.  Wasps won’t  get in here

Found a piece of bamboo that fit the 1 1/2″ (3.81 cm) hole. This reduces the hole making it easier to guard against wasps.

After  consulting the internet about bamboo I found out that wasps gather fibers from the bamboo for their paper nests.  That’s what they are doing on the bamboo, not attacking the log hive,

Wasps are scary because they can sting again and again, but they also are beneficial because they prey on other pests like spiders, flies, bug, and caterpillers.

We feel that wasps have a place in our garden.  We won’t kill them because they really aren’t bothering us or the bees,   The ground hive is almost never used the next year and once the cold weather hits, it will be inactive.

I shot a short video showing the wasps on the bamboo as well as the very active ground hive.,,

Spider captures wasp.

Chainsaw artist Brian Vorwaller, carving the face on the log here.

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In years’ past, we grew dozens of sunflowers of all types.  This year…very few.  Of the few that we planted, only four decided to grow.  Of the four, only one was big enough to draw any visitors.  This is the one.

My best sunflower this year

This might be the bug/beetle which appears in the video taken two days previous. It was on the flower part but jumped to the leaf while I was getting the camera switched on and focused.

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Pat proudly displays his trophy on his return from a successful vegetarian hunting trip. “This goes on the wall.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hey…not so fast, you guys.

Every night 30 to 50 new offenders enroll in the SLUG REHAB program.  The first night is a ‘drying out’ process.  We take them off their favorite foods…cabbages, collards, marigolds and especially bee-loving plants like sunflowers, wall flowers, daisies, and salvia.  We dump them in the woods where they can feast on pine needles.   Repeat offenders  spend a night in the ‘slammer’ (freezer) where it’s guaranteed they won’t be back…and we don’t waste any beer on them.

Come on kid, we’re out of here.

See also Slug Control

Note:  No slugs were harmed in the making of this blog.

I was looking for something good to say about slugs, how they fit into the circle of life, prove invaluable to humanity or something like that when I came upon this blog… The Four Slugs of the Apocalypes

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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.

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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

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