Well, we had a very good spring garden this year at the yardstead. We had bountiful harvests of squash, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and cucumbers. Basically everything we planted for the spring did well except our Okra plants. Im not sure why, but the okra plants we started from seed took several weeks longer to begin growing after we transplanted them to the garden than the other seedlings we planted. The okra did eventually grow though, but by the time the plants were growing well I had given up on them and they suffered from neglect for the rest of the season. Overall we were very pleased with the spring garden and were able to put several quarts of veggies away in the freezer. With all the spring vegetables played out, our garden is kind of bare at the moment. Late summer is so hot in our area that its difficult to grow good vegetables. It is however a perfect time to begin planning for a fall garden. A well planned and cared for fall garden can produce fresh veggies right on into the winter. Some good choices ........
This is the second article in our beginner beekeeping series. In the first article we talked about what you need to get started in beekeeping, including the hive and sources for bees. This article will cover moving mail-order bees into your prepared bee hive. We will start with preparing the hive then go through the steps to move the bees into the hive. Make sure your hive is assembled with all the parts mentioned in the first article. If your bees arrive before your ready to move them into the hive, you can store them for up to 3 or 4 days at the most. You may have noticed a small container of syrup in the shipping cage with the bees. This is for feeding the bees during shipment. If you plan to store the bees for a few days, you should prepare some syrup of your own to feed them until their move in date. The bees should be stored in a quiet, dark location that gets plenty of fresh air and stays about room temperature.
To prepare syrup for feeding your bees, boil 2 quarts of water then mix in 5 lbs of sugar. Make sure all the sugar dissolves then let it cool completely. To feed the bees, use a brush to apply the syrup to the sides of the shipping cage. Feed the bees twice a day while in storage. If you have not already done so, assemble your have and move it to the permanent location. Painting the hive with linseed oil will help preserve the wood, but some keepers dont paint the hives at all. You should an entrance feeder for your bees with your starter kit. Fill the entrance feeder with some of the syrup you prepared earlier. Go ahead and remove half the frames from the hive. Make sure all the frames have wax foundation already in place. The bees use the wax foundation in the frames to make cells for storing honey. Feed your bees one last time by applying the syrup to the side of the shipping cage until the bees are no longer interested. Now we are ready to move the queen into the hive.
Its time to get out that new smoker and light it. You will need it soon to smoke the bees. Also put on the veil and gloves and long sleeves. Bring the cage over near the hive and bump it on the ground so all the bees fall to the bottom of the cage. Remove the queen cage and recover the cage to prevent the bees from escaping. Remove the plug blocking the end og the queen cage. You should see a layer of way inside the end of the cage. Make a small nail size hole in the end, but be careful no to harm the queen. Place the queen cage in the hive between the top bars of two of the frames still in the hive. Place it with the wax side up. Once the workers move in to the hive, they will eat away the wax and release the queen. Again bump the cage on the ground to put all the bees on the bottom. Pour the bees into the open space of the hive and make sure some get on the queen cage. Gently reinsert the five frames that you removed earlier, being careful not to crush any bees. Space the frames out evenly. Place the inner cover on the hive, again being careful not to hurt the bees. You can use the smoker to move the bees if you need to get them away from the top. Now you can replace the outer cover.
Place the full entrance feeder in the entrance and use some hay to block the rest of the opening, so the bees can not escape. At this point your bees are moved in. Don't open the hive for the next week. You can do quick checks to make sure the feeder has syrup, but otherwise don't disturb the bees. After the first week, you should open the hive ands see if the queen is free from her cage. If she is not free, make the hole in the wax a bit larger and put the cage back in and close the hive and check back in a few days. Make sure the feeder is full. If she is out of the cage, check the frames and see where she is laying eggs. At this point the bees are moved in! In the next few days I will post more beginner beekeeping articles about caring for the bees and collecting honey. In the meantime if you have any questions or comments about this article or any other yardsteading topics, please feel free to post in the forum.
Beekeeping (also called apicuture) is the maintenance of bee hives in order to collect honey and beeswax from the bees. Bees are also kept for the purpose of pollinating crops or to produce more bees. Kathleen and I have been planning to start a hive for a while. She has been in contact with a local beekeeping organization, The Florida State Beekeepers Association. They were very helpful a lot of information and even offered to help. We have done considerable research so I thought I should share some good beekeeping information we've compiled.
The first thing to consider is a location for the hive. You don't need a lot of space for the hive, but there are few guidelines that should be followed. First check you local zoning laws. Most places don't have any zoning restrictions on bees, but I have heard of a few. All you need is a quiet sunny spot away from heavy traffic and loud noises. Bees are creatures of habit and tend to use the same routes to leave and return to the hive. They usually enter and exit straight in front of the hive, so try not to place it near a sidewalk or high traffic area. Try to locate the hive .........
This is the first of a series of articles I plan to write about building a chicken coop. I need to build a new chicken coop here at the yardstead, so I have a bit of research to do anyway. We currently have an open coop with 3 walls and the roof enclosed, but open in the front. I built it from scrap lumber and leftover pieces of metal roofing, in compliance with our Reuse/Recycle policy here at the yardstead. It has worked just fine to shelter our chickens for the last 5 or 6 years . The open coop sits at one end of the chicken yard which is enclosed with poultry netting(which most people around the yardstead call 'chicken wire'). It has 4 built in nesting boxes and a hanging feeder. I plan to move it and retrofit it for our ducks to use as a nesting shelter.
One of the first things you will need to know when planning to build a chicken coop is how many chickens you plan to house. Here at the yardstead we plan to keep about a dozen laying hens. We have Araucanas, Buff Orpingtons, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Silver laced Wyandottes, which are all heavy breeds. According to The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, heavy breeds require ........
Well it's been a while since I've had time for much. The yardstead has a new member. He's 9 weeks old now and very sweet and keeping us very busy.
Our garden is winding down for the summer. The chickens ate the last of the watermelons that we didn't harvest and most of the tomatoes too. We are planning our fall and winter garden now. In Florida, you can get a second harvest of some vegetables in the fall before the winter gardening season. We have been so busy with the baby we decided to skip a second harvest of squash and beans and other vegetables. In another month we will start preparing to plant garlic, onions and other winter items.
The new chickens are beginning to lay eggs. The ducks have gotten so big that we are wondering if four ducks on our half acre was a wise decision. They seem to be enjoying themselves just fine...but we often find "duck residue" in places I prefer they not go to the restroom. Our three turkeys are bigger than ever and brave too. They are not the least bit afraid of us and really give the cats a run for their money. It seems turkeys like cat food as much as the cats do.
As I am writing this, tropical storm Fay has rolled in and I believe we have 15-20 inches of rain to look forward to. I never complain about rain...but 15 inches is a bit much at once. Stay tuned and look for more articles to come in the next month. If you are in Florida right now...try to stay dry.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease which affects many types of plants. Cucurbits like zucchini, squash, pumpkins, melons and gourds are all succeptable to powdery mildew. It usually appears on leaves as small round white powdery spots which quickly spread and cover the entire leaf. In our garden here at the yardstead we've lost many zucchini, squash and pumpkin plants to powdery mildew. This year powdery mildew killed all of our zucchini and most of our paty pan sqash and yellow squash.
It is usually easy to identify powdery mildew by its appearance on the top of the leaves. It usually looks like white powder on the leaves. Infected leaves usually turn yellow and wilt after just a few days. Powdery mildew usually appears in our garden on one or two plants then quickly spreads to all the other zucchini and squash plants. The infected plants usually don't die completely and frequently send out new leaves and flowers. We have been able to recover from powdery mildew in the garden a few times, when we caught it early and sprayed all the plants with neem oil.
On a few other occasions I applied the funigicide ...........
Rotating crops is very important even in a small vegetable garden. The point is to avoid planting the same plants or plants in the same family in the same spot year after year. This is beneficial to the garden in several ways. Crop rotation is used to maintain soil nutrient levels, discourage disease caused by nematodes, and to avoid providing the same plant over and over to insects that feed on a certain type of vegetable.
The best way to keep track of your crop rotation plan is to make a map of your garden each year and each season. This can easily be kept for many years in a small notebook. Nothing fancy is needed, just a simple map to keep track of what has planted in each row season after season. Keeping a notebook will also help you to remember the varieties of vegetables you've planted each season. It also gives you a place to jot down notes in the margin about what worked best and worst in the last season.
A good garden map will also give you an opportunity to try different planting methods, such as companion planting or the scatter technique that some organic gardeners use. Many organic gardners scatter a type of vegetable all over the garden instead of planting in a row. In a larger garden this may make the insects work harder to find a particular type of vegetable thus ensuring that some plants are not damaged as much as others.
Depending on the size of your garden a crop in a particular family should never be planted in the same area within 3-6 years. So if you have a small garden, plants in the cucumber/gourd family should not be replanted in the same row until the 4th year. If your garden is larger and you have more space then it can be even more beneficial to extend the rotation to the 6th year. Experienced gardeners not only rotate crops in their garden but most include cover crops to provide soil with organic matter, nitrogen and to keep erosion to a minimum. These crops are usually clovers, alfalfa, ryegrass, oats or other legumes that can be turned under after growing for a few months.
Following is a short plant list, although not comprehensive, it should give any gardener an example of common plants in the same family and give you a good start in beginning a crop rotation plan.:
Apiaceae- The parsley and carrot family. Includes carrots, celery, dill, parsley and parsnips.
Asteraceae- The sunflower and daisy family. Includes artichokes, dandelions, lettuces and endives.
Brassicaceae- The mustard and cabbage family. Includes arugula, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kohlrabi, mustards and radishes.
Cucurbitaceae- The cucumber and gourd family. Includes squash, cucumbers, gourds, melons, and pumpkins.
Fabaceae- The legume family. Includes beans, peas, peanuts, soybeans, lima beans, and sugar peas.
Liliaceae- The lily family. Includes asparagus, garlic, onions, shallots and leeks.
Solanaceae- The nightshade family. Includes eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and tomatillos.
The winter melon also called wax gourd, white gourd or ash gourd is grown on a vine for its very large fruit that is eaten as a vegetable. Winter Melons originated in southeast asia but now the winter melon is cultivated in east and south asia as well as in India. Many asian families grow this vegetable in their home gardens here in the U.S.
The fruit is fuzzy when young. By maturity, the fruit loses its hairs and develops a wax coating, giving rise to the name wax gourd, and providing a long shelf life. The winter melon requires a warm, humid long summer to grow but can be stored in the winter like winter squash. The winter melon can be stored for up to 12 months. The melons are used in stir fry or to make winter melon soup, which is often served in south east asia in the scooped out melon, that has been decorated by scraping off the waxy coating. The shoots, leaves and tendrils are harvested as greens.
The first time I ever saw a winter melon.......
Before I get to the weekend, I should give a brief summary of this week at the yardstead. We had a small storm with high winds and hail come through our area on Wednesday. This brought much needed rain but a few problems. Almost every tree in the yard lost a branch or two. Although this is great to get rid of weak limbs before a hurricane might come through...It means a lot of work this weekend for Jason. Also, apparently domesticated turkeys provided with shelter do not always know that when it rains they should enter the shelter. After the storm blew through Jason found three turkeys sprawled in the dirt in front of their shelter barely breathing. I spent at least an hour and a half rubbing and drying the turkeys in front of a heater in the bathroom that night before I was sure I could leave them by themselves to recover. Did I mention that Jason and I are expecting a baby. No pregnant women that is one week from delivery should have to sit with turkeys in front of a heater. But the turkeys are very grateful and have made a full recovery. All of our other feathered friends made it through the storm just fine. Ducks and chickens do not need to be told to run for cover during a hail storm.
This weekend will be full of moving limbs and cleaning up. Some of our garden suffered during the hail and wind and we must decide which plants we should probably pull up. I have started other plants and we will just need to replace the damaged plants that are not likely to survive the heat and insect pressure after the beating they received on Wednesday.
I have fresh ginger to plant in pots and winter melons to put along our fence. I plan to write a story about winter melons and include pictures I took of trellised winter melon at Epcot last year. I will also put a recipe or two for this unique asian vegetable in with the article. We will take many pictures of the ginger during planting and at different stages as it grows. I will go back and add these to our 'growing ginger' article.
As I mentioned before the yardstead could go from a family of three to four any day now. As the months go by we may write some articles on preparing baby food fresh from the garden.