Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gardening for Everyone

Today I want to talk about ways that anyone can garden, even if you don't have a ton of yard space. But first, I want to tell you about what I'm growing in my own garden this year:

Winter Squash
Green beans
Wax beans
Tomatoes (8 different types, mostly heirloom)
Straight-neck squash
Swiss Chard

Blueberries (we hope! We have two small bushes, which thus far have been fruitless... still hoping they'll produce something!)

Annual herbs:

Perennial herbs:
Lemon balm

My Garden Plan for this year. 
When people find out I have a garden, they often ask me what I grow. When I start listing everything, many will say something like, "WOW! You must have a really big piece of property! How many acres?"  But the surprising thing is how relatively small my garden area really is. Our entire piece of property is around 1/3 of an acre (a pretty big yard for our area, though not huge) and the garden area takes up a really small part of that... less than 400 square feet. While this is admittedly more space than a lot of people have, we really do grow A LOT of stuff in that area. We maximize our growing area with raised beds and pots. Currently, I have seven 6 x 8 foot raised beds, a small berry patch and borders of perennial herbs and flowers. I have have some pots for herbs and peppers. This is about double what I started with... I've added a bit more here and there over the years.

My last house didn't have a real yard, as such, but I did have enough room for some container gardening on the patio. I grew tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper and herbs, all in pots. Containers and small raised beds are a really great way to plant a lot of stuff in small spaces, so you don't have to let a small yard get in the way of your gardening dreams. You can keep containers on a patio or sunny porch, and even really tiny yards can fit in a small raised bed or two. I've seen beds as small as 2x2 feet, that can produce a surprising amount of veggies. If space is really at a premium, consider high-yield plants like tomatoes,  green beans, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash that will give you the most bang per square foot. Raised beds are really easy to build, and if you make your own, you can build the beds to suit your space. A Google search for "raised bed plans" will give you literally thousands of options and possibilities.

If you happen to be an apartment dweller with absolutely no outdoor space, you can still feed your garden dreams a little bit. For the first 8 years of my adult life, I lived in apartments with no outdoor space at all, so I settled for growing some herbs in pots on my kitchen windowsills. Where there's a will, there's a way!

Before I sign off... I also want to share this neat little garden project I did with my youngest child... we made plant markers for the garden using rocks from around the yard. First we looked around for smooth-ish rocks, then we washed the dirt off of them, and painted them with acrylic paints. Noodle decided it would be cool to match the paint color to the color of the veggie (orange for carrots and pumpkins, purple for beets, yellow for squash, etc etc) After the paint dried, we wrote the names of the veggies in black Sharpie. This was a really fun easy project, and they look super cute in the garden!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Inspecting the Hive...

I am very new to all this beekeeping business, but so far, I absolutely LOVE it. I love watching "the ladies" buzzing around the hive, and get SO excited when I see one out in our (finally blooming!) flowers. I feel so content and peaceful when watching my bees.

One important part of beekeeping is inspecting the hive, to make sure that all is healthy and happy. It's important to see whether or not the bees are busy making wax and your queen is laying eggs, as those are signs that all is well. My first attempt at a hive inspection didn't go particularly well. The weather was a bit too chilly, so all the bees were "at home" instead of out foraging, so I really couldn't see anything. I couldn't find the queen at all, and with SO many bees piled onto the frames, I couldn't even see if they were building comb. Lesson learned: Don't try to inspect your hive on a chilly day!

Last weekend, however... it was warm and sunny. I was able to get a good look at the frames, and saw lots of drawn comb, quite a bit of it capped. I had a hard time finding eggs and larvae, but after really looking closely I was able to find some. I still never found my queen, which concerned me a bit, but according to the beekeeping friends I consulted, it's not uncommon for her to be elusive. As long as there are eggs and larvae and the workers are taking care of their business, chances are the Queen is there and healthy.
Happy, Healthy Honey Bees! 

In addition to my beekeeping duties, I've also been spending lots of time working in the yard and garden! Next post, I'll share a little of our early spring garden.