Aug 222016
 

ragady flower garden

Even an untrained eye could tell you the photo above is, well, horrid.  For many reasons, which I will not be going into.  What it does capture is the feeling and look of a spare garden box I had in June.  Last year this garden bed held a few flowers and lots of peppers.  This year I had no peppers.  What I did have were flowers that looked very ragady and forelorn.  Most of the other flowers had sold on the road side stand.  Due to lack of watering or other issues, these had not.  Instead of adding them to the compost pile, I filled this garden box with them.  My goal was to keep out weeds.  Instead, this is what I got …

non-ragady flower garden

No added fertilizers, no weeding (though there are a few in there), no watering.  I planted and let them be.  So what happened?  Over the winter I had added at lease one 5-gallon bucket of coffee grounds and filters from a local restaurant.  That was it.  Coffee grounds and filters are a great soil additive, helping with soil structure, retention of moisture, and add roughage for our worms.  While not everyone agrees with adding so many grounds at once, it has worked out for me.  Of course, these were on top of wood chips.  I also have a tendency to empty our ashes from the fire pit into the garden beds.

While we have a compost pile, I find myself semi-lasagna gardening a lot of time.  I think of it as either being lazy or efficient, composting in place and saving time in the spring.

The moral of the story: Getting good results in your garden does not have to be hard and labor intensive.  With the right environment, even the worst looking plants can thrive.

P.S. While taking the last pictures I found a stowaway from last year – a self seeded pepper plant. And to keep it real, I left the weed in the garden bed till after I took the picture.  Your welcome. 😉

self seeded pepper plant

Aug 122016
 

bee in the know

After the recent review of The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity byKate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, I have been paying more attention to the bees around me.  What I came to realize is, well, there is a whole lot more which I do not know and could learn.  This is a start.

Below is a summary compilation of scholarly papers, book reviews, and letters all concerning our neighbors, the bees.  There were so many papers and sources of information which I could share, but I had to cut it off at some point.  I tried to keep the topics somewhat related to help with narrowing down the results. u6k7v3t5

Relocation risky for bumble bee colonies – this letter in reference to a paper on the relocation of bees addresses some of the possible issues with such moves.

USBombus, a database of contemporary survey data for North American Bumble Bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus) distributed in the United States – from the abstract of this research paper, “While a wealth of historic data is now available for many of the North American species found to be in decline in online databases, systematic survey data of stable species is still not publically available. The availability of contemporary survey data is critically important for the future monitoring of wild bumble bee population.  Without such data, the ability to ascertain the conservation status of bumble bees in the United States will remain challenging.”  this paper was authored by Koch, J. et al, representing several universities and the USDA.

Review of the book The Bees of the World 2nd ed. American Entomologist (the review begins on page 3) – As the author of this book review states, “That only seven years have passed since the first edition is testament to the vigorous ongoing research on bees.”  This review happens to have been written 7 years ago with even larger amount of study and focus being given to this insect family.  Some of the references to changes in the classifications have potentially resolved themselves, though even those are under constant review as more knowledge comes to light.

At 900+ pages, this book is not one you lightly add to your library, that is, unless you are a librarian at a large library.

Chemical Signals in Bumble Bee Foraging – though this paper is older, it provides a great look into the world of bumble bees and understanding how they reach the flowers in your garden.

Hive-stored pollen of honey bees: many lines of evidence are consistent with pollen preservation, not nutrient conversion – “Our findings have important implications for the improvement of natural food storage, artificial food supplements, and water balance in the hive especially during overwintering.”  As one who likes to store up one season’s harvest for use in the winter, I have appreciated the research done on nutrient levels and safe storing of these foods.  In a similar fashion bees store pollen, though it has not always been known why this is done nor if there was an unknown benefit for them doing so.  Anderson, K. et al take a look close look at this storage of pollen.

 

Nest architecture and species status of the bumble bee Bombus (Mendacibombus) shaposhnikovi (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Bombini) – “Here, we report behavioural observations of the nesting biology of B. shaposhnikovi and provide new evidence for the conspecific status of B. shaposhnikovi and B. handlirschianus in our discovery of a nest containing both colour forms.”

I had never put much thought into the structure of a nest – where food was located compared to living quarters, how many eggs were placed in each cell, etc.  It is amazing what you can observe once you slow down and look at different parts of nature.  The authors also present their doubts about the species of Bombus, differentiated only by color, being actual separate species.

Speaking of nests and the various ways of building them, here is a paper talking about the nest architecture of a tropical bee – Nest Architecture and Foraging Behavior in Bombus pullatus (Hymenoptera: Apidae), with Comparisons to Other Tropical Bumble Bees.

And the Bombus transversalisNest construction and architecture of the Amazonian bumble bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

 

Determining the Impacts of Pesticide and Nutrition-Induced Stress on Honey Bee Colony Growth and Survival – while this research project is still underway, I thought it was interesting enough to mention.  When I am  hungry, I know how my performance suffers.  Could it be the same for bees?  Another reason for all of us to take a look at our gardens and make changes, even small ones, to help out our much needed pollinators.

As a part of the above mentioned research project, several papers have already been published looking at various aspects. Here are a few of them:

Honey bee colonies provided with natural forage have lower pathogen loads and higher overwinter survival than those fed protein supplements

Methods for Comparing Nutrients in Beebread Made by Africanized and European Honey Bees and the Effects on Hemolymph Protein Titers

Apr 032016
 

seeds beginning 2014 garden season

One idea to reduce your grocery bill that I commonly hear, after coupons and shopping sales and eating left overs, is to plant a garden.  While they are correct in a garden can be cheaper than going to the grocery store to buy the same items, it doesn’t mean gardening is always cheap.  It can easily cost a pretty penny, especially if you are just starting out.  Planning ahead and being aware of what you are spending, what you need and having realistic goals can save you quite a bit over a season, or 2 or 5.

Gardening can be done with very little money.  It can. However, it takes time and effort.

Mar 242016
 

I am a big proponent of using what I have, sometimes so much so my husband has to remind me that I can actually spend money.

When it comes to wood pallets, I see so much potential in something most people throw away.  Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

This would be perfect for my narrow, East facing bed. It is under the overhang of my garden anyway.  For that matter, I might even make two for its South facing front. It would look gorgeous filled with flowers.

We have a bare side of our house, the exterior new garage wall. A few of these with cascading flowers would give a bit of height, be easy to mow around and not look so short along a tall wall. Maybe even mixed with some vertical planters above.

Even better, by our side door which is on a small brick pad. Oiy!  So many ideas, so little time!

Or this, with a board added as a bench. I could sit outside and watch the kids play.

Well, I think I have added 3 relatively good projects to my already long list of things to do.  Honestly, though, does your garden/yard list ever get completed? Yeah, mine neither.

Feb 202016
 

Spring_Sparrow

Another week has come and gone.  Spring is one week closer, as are fresh tomatoes for our salads.

As this list is begun, light snow flurries are blowing past the windows.  I was talking with my neighbor-friend last night, both of us realizing it is time to be starting our seeds yet not ready to admit that much time has passed in this new year.

Here are a few links from around the web that I have read this week in relation to gardening or garden themed crafts.

  • Shari, at Faith Filled Food For Moms, wrote a post filled with some unique ideas for kids – 15 Simple and Creative Tips For Teaching Kids To Garden.
  • This looks like a great craft to do while waiting for your actual flowers to appear – Curly Paper Flowers.
  • Fresh strawberries sound really good with breakfast right now.  Though it feels like spring outside, it truely is only the middle of February.  Spring is still a ways off, as are fresh strawberries from the garden.  Last fall, the first cold snap caught me off guard.  I think I was in the middle of finding an doctor for one of my kids, arranging braces, finding a few remaining contractors for the house, etc.  Either way, I did not get the strawberries covered.  Oops.  To make it even worse, last spring I had forgotten to take the straw mulch off soon enough and lost several plants.  They needed thinned anyway, so it was not such a bad thing, though I would have preferred a more organized approach.  To help prepare myself for addressing any issues I find when I go look at them soon, I needed to review the steps on strawberry plant care.  I would like to reach a point where the beds are divided ino 4 sections, each representing a year in the process of keeping the bed in good health.  Any suggestions for markers so I do not lose track of which is in which stage?
  • If you have not yet ordered seeds, it is not too late.  Take a look at our recently updated Garden Catalogs page to get some ideas of where to look.

Links to other things out-doors that I have taken a look at:

  • After seeing a flock of Canadian Geese in a local field with white birds mixed in, we became curious as to the their name.  Turns out they are Snow Geese and we are within the range of their migratory path from winter to summer grounds.
  • After noticing ducks and geese in local field puddles in early February, I wondered if birds were migrating early due to the warmer than normal spells we have been having.  Riddle of Early Bird Migration Cracked by Tim Wall, written in 2013 and found at Discovery.com, suggests it is not necessarily due to the weather changes, but to when the first eggs are hatched.
Feb 132016
 

These ebooks are currently $0.00 on Amazon.  Click on the links below each picture to be taken to the page where you can download a digital version of the book.  Before purchasing the books, please double check the price to make sure it has not changed.  Before I had a Kindle I read these on my computer.  If you are wanting to do the same, go here to download the free application.  These are not affiliate links.

Here are 10 free ebooks found on Amazon which I thought looked interesting and informative.  Several of them I got for myself, to read either now or later.  While I often read at home at night, I also like to have a selection of books for when I am in the car, waiting at an appointment, or for quiet times.

The books are grouped by similar topics to help you find something that may interest you.  I hope you find something to enjoy and learn from.

Gardening

Urban Gardening Guide

Gardening 101: Friendship Gardens

Homesteading

Homesteading The Easy Way Including Prepping And Self Sufficency: 3 Books In 1 Boxed Set

Weekend Homesteader: April

Heirloom Seeds: An Introduction to Organic Heirloom Seeds, Growing Them, and Their Benefits

Foraging: The Complete Beginners Guide – 28 Crucial Steps To Foraging Wild Edible Plants And Herbs The Easy And Safe Way!

Herbs

Herbs, Herbs and more Herbs: A handbook on everything you need to know to use herbs effectively (How to dry herbs at home – How to dry foods 2)

Herb Gardening For Beginners, Planting An Herb Garden Made Easy: How To Grow Herbs And Dry Herbs

Straw Bale Gardening

Straw Bale Gardening: The Complete Straw Bale Gardening Guide How to Grow More Vegetables and Herbs in Straw Bale Garden with Limited Space.

Straw bale gardening for beginners: Ultimate guide to grow fruits, herbs and vegetables in backyard straw bale garden

Straw Bale Gardening: Simple Step by Step Guide to Successful Gardening without Any Digging

Vermiculture (Worms)

Worm Composting: The Ultimate Guide to Worm Composting for Life

Get the Garden of your Dreams with this Composting and Wormery Guide!

Indoor Gardening

Apartment Gardening

Indoor Gardening: The 12 Best Herbs to Grow On Your Kitchen Window. Tips and Techniques to Create Your Own Culinary Herb Garden

Growing House Plants for the Beginner Enthusiast

Urban Organic Gardening Indoors: A Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide to Growing A Garden Indoors

Cooking

Cook What You Have A Guide to the Lazy Garden and the Lazy Kitchen

Feb 112016
 

produce auction collage

This post is part of a series about produce auctions across the USA.  While this is not a comprehensive list, I have tried to include auctions about which I can find information.  If you know of any others, feel free to leave a note in the comments section.

New Jersey is called The Garden State for a reason, though it originally had little to do with gardening.  Coming in as one of the smaller states in the Union, there are still 5 different climates found within its borders.

There are currently 2 produce auctions found within New Jersey’s borders:

Vineland Produce Auction

1088 N Main Road

Vineland, New Jersey 08360
Phone: 856-691-0721
Fax: 856-794-2301

Email: info@vinelandproduce.com

Website: www.vinelandproduce.com

Open mid-April through late November. Auction are held Monday – Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

Tri-County Cooperative Auction Market
619 Route 33 West
Hightstown, NJ 08520
Phone: 609-448-0193

Email: Bill@tricountycoop.net

Website:

Auctions held Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays starting at 5:30 p.m.  Call to check for the opening of the auction season

There used to be a third auction, Swedesboro Auction, though I was having trouble finding detailed information. When I could not find any more information than the basics, I called the phone number listed.  Unfortunantly it had been disconnected.  So the searching continued.

The results?  The Swedesboro Auction is no longer in existence.  Instead the Former Swedesboro Auction property to be preserved as open space.

The acquisition of the Swedesboro Auction property completes an eight-year effort to save not only the last significant piece of open space in Swedesboro, but also an important part of our history that will be preserved to remind people of the important role agriculture played in Swedesboro’s past.”  -County Freeholder Robert Damminger

Having spent time on the East Coast, I know that open space can be very limited.  While I am glad to see that this will not become another developed area, I am sad at the loss of a market for both sellers and buyers.

The Landisville Produce Auction was another name I came across.  This one was a bit harder to find, as I believe the name officially is the Landisville Produce CoOp and there are no live auctions held.  An article on the Press Of Atlantic City website from 2013 gave more information.  It turns out that the Landisville Produce Auction may be the oldest in the country.  The combination of history and gardening always catches my attention.

Felix Donato owner of Landisville Produce Cooperative, the oldest agricultural coop in the nation
Feb 062016
 

This post is a one I had written a few years ago.  While it is already February, there is still time to follow through with these steps in order to get your gardening process in order before it is time to put seeds and plants in the ground.

At the bottom, I have included links to the posts referenced below.

********************************************

At the end of a gardening season I always find myself ready for a break.  However, by the new year I am ready to get going again, but always feel a bit behind.  It is like I am starting a race a minute behind all the other runners.  This year I hope to change that.

Before the end of the year I am going to do a series on creating a calendar for the next growing season.  By the time you are done, your calendar will have different important dates marked.  Things like frost dates, planting times, garden prep times and so on.  We will be breaking the process down into baby steps, doing a bit each day over the course of week or two.

Step #1: Get a calendar

With the Christmas season and the New Year coming up, we are going to start seeing offers for free calendars.  I wanted to go ahead and let you know about this upcoming series of posts so that:

  1. you would be on the lookout for a free calendar, or one that you might want to use
  2. to keep myself accountable

This series won’t run until after Christmas, so you have time.  However, don’t wait too long.  Before you know it you will be up to your elbows in cooking baking or up to your knees in shoveling snow.  This is a very easy step, so go ahead and just do it.

What should you be looking for in the calendar to use?  Preferably a calendar that has squares large enough for you to write in.  Now, whether this is a hanging calendar or a pocket calendar is up to you.  It just needs to be something that will not get put under a pile of papers, but which can be kept with your gardening supplies. You could even print something off from your computer if all else fails. Do not try to find the perfect calendar, it just won’t happen and is not needed for this.

As of right now here are the free calendars I know of :

Rural King – pick up a calendar when you visit the store.  I’m not sure what they look like.  However, if you are going there, take a look.

 – this offer is only good if you were already a member as of 10/29/12.

Live Better America – for members only.

(Here is a post from 2015 also mentioning a few sources for free calendars.)

As I come across more offers I will share them with you.  You may also find them at church, local businesses, your local municipality or utility providers, and so forth.

There are many, many free printable calendars out there.  A simple search will turn up more than you know what to do with.

Also, I have found pocket calendars at Dollar General for $1 or $.50 which would work okay for this.  They contain a calendar that goes for two years and is the one that I have in my purse.  The squares are large enough to write in, though a bit on the small side if you want to put more than one thing on a date.

The following are the steps I took to create a garden calendar.  Most of the steps are quick, though some may take a few minutes to find the information to add to your calendar.  Have fun with this activity.  It is meant to not only set you up for greater success in your garden, but also to help take away any anxiety or forgetfulness you might have.  It is not meant to be yet another chore that needs to be done.

Day 1: Getting Started

Day 2: Planning Backwards

Day 3: Begin List of Plants

Day 4: Adding Details To Your List

Day 5: “Start Seed” Dates

Day 6: Transplant Dates

Day 7: Finding Things Elsewhere, Part 1

Day 8: Finding Things Elsewhere, Part 2

Day 9: Create Wishlist

Day 10: Adding Details to Your Wishlist

Day 11: Expected Harvest Dates

Day 12: Garden Prep

Day 13: Compost

Day 14: Keeping Track Along The Way

Day 15: Order, or purchase, Dates

Feb 042016
 

produce auction collage

This post is part of a series about produce auctions across the USA.  While this is not a comprehensive list, I have tried to include auctions about which I can find information.  If you know of any others, feel free to leave a note in the comments section.

New York State currently has 6 produce auction sites across the state.  Most are held on Tuesdays and Fridays, though some also are held on Mondays.  You will want to check their times and days before heading out, especially early and late in the season.

Finger Lake Times wrote an article in 2013 about the Seneca Produce Auction.  It was nice to hear from those who bought and sold at this auction, as well as those who help run it.

Often we hear from the buyers at an auction, about worries concerning available produce.  Here is a look from A Farmer’s Perspective: The Talk at the Produce Auction.

Cornell University’s Extension Office has a pdf available showing the locations of produce auctions in the state of New York.  Their map may give you a better idea where the closest produce auction would be for you.

Chautauqua Produce Auction
7844 Rt. 474, Clymer, New York 14724
Phone: (716) 355-6500 or (716) 355-6391
Time: Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am
Email: nwesterberg@stny.rr.com
Website: www.chautauquaproduceauction.com

Finger Lakes Produce Auction
3691 Route 14A, Penn Yan, New York 14527
Phone: (315) 531-8446
Time: Mon. at 10:00 am, Wed. & Fri. at 9:00 am
Website: www.fingerlakesproduceauction.com

Finger Lakes Produce Auction’s Facebook page

Genesee Valley Produce Auction
8855 Country Road 3, P.O. Box 163, Centerville, NY 14029
Phone: (585) 567-8640 (auction days from 8:30 am)
Phone: (585) 567-4312 (8-8:30 am all other days)
Time: Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am

Mohawk Valley Produce Auction
840 Fordsbush Road
Fort Plain, New York 13339
Phone: (518) 568-3579
Time: Tues. and Fri. at 10:00 am

Orleans Produce Auction
12590 Ridge Rd., Albion, NY 14411
Phone: (585) 798-5466
Time: Mon. at 11:00 am, Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am

Website: www.bontragerauction.com/orleans-produce-auction

Seneca Produce Auction
2033 Yerkes Road, Romulus, NY 14541
Phone: (607) 869-5470
Time: Tues. at 10:00 am, Fri. at 10:00 am

Seneca Produce Auction’s Facebook page

Jan 302016
 
Comstock Ferre & Co.

Comstock Ferre & Co. in Wethersfield’s historic district. (Michael McAndrews, Courant file photo)

Routines can be great.  They help you be able to predict what is going to happen and when.  They save on brain power, enabling you to not really think, but just do.  In gardening, there are some routines that we accept will always be the same.

  • Winter will always turn into spring, and fall into winter.
  • Rabbits and deer will find their way into your garden, or keep trying.  Year after year after year.  Even though you chase them out, year after year after year.
  • Planting takes place before harvesting.

There are other things about gardening that we also assume will always be the same.  Consider your source of plants and seeds.  Whether it be ones you save yourself, get from the local hardware store, or order online, once you have found your Regulars you often do not put a lot of thought into where you are going to be looking once it comes time to think about this year’s garden once again.

What if what had once ‘always been there’ was no longer there?

While going through the list of garden catalogs, updating links, I came across an broken link.  My first thoughts were of a great loss, an old seed company having gone the way of many such companies over the years.  No longer to sustain themselves in a culture where the public wants organic and local foods but often does not grow it themselves.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Upon further searching I found out good news:

The historic Comstock, Ferre & Co. in Old Wethersfield will soon transform into an organic and non-GMO food market and café but retain its roots as a seed company.

The Hartford Courant article talks about “the latest incarnation for Comstock, Ferre & Co., which was founded in 1811 and is the nation’s oldest continuously operated seed company.”  As the years have passed, our culture and economy have changed.  While we may think of seed companies being immune to such changes, they are not.  They also must be allowed to change and stay modern, or else go way of many other such companies that used to common names to gardeners.

With the addition of the food market and cafe, they will be able to show customers and locals what the seeds actually grow into, what they smell and feel like, and ultimately how they can taste.

Sometimes a change in routines can be a good thing.  Hopefully this new growth in the business will help the Wethersfield, Conn. seed company continue on for many more years.