Apr 262017
 

lion flower planter collage

As I begin to tackle the blank canvas called our new back yard, this is one aspect I was keenly aware of.  Seeing this post which I had previously shared, reminded me of some key elements to consider.

Our yard is surrounded by two story homes with NO privacy between them currently.  There is no need for boring sight blocking plantings, they can be colorful and interesting with a bit of planning.  This might also solve the problem of planting next to fences – raise the plants above the shade cast by a corner fence.

The planter above is one I came across while on a walk one afternoon.  The planter is actually so tall, I had to told my arms all the way up to get the picture on the right.  I did not even know which flowers were in it till I lowered my camera to look.

“Why would they put these up so high?!  No one can even see the flowers to appreciate them.”

After giving this some though I realized that I was not the audience the gardeners were going for.  Surrounding this spot are tall buildings.  From their vantage point, the planters are spots of bright colors on the green canvas.

The same thought can, and should, go into plantings you do at home or office.

  • Who is going to be seeing the plants?
  • From where will they be looking?
  • Will they be moving or standing relatively still?
  • Where is the light coming from?

The planter above is surrounded by bushes.  If the gardeners had put it at ground level, it would have been hard to see.  Placed above the bushes it is hard to miss.

  • Are there other planting nearby to interfere with the line of sight needed?  Or which could visually drowned out the planting?

Even though I could not see the flowers, the planter itself caught my attention.  Such a bold piece screams to be looked at.

  • How will your planter play into your design?  Will it blend in or be a focal point of its own?

After taking time to think about this design in the landscape, I appreciate it even more than I did before.  Sometimes you need to think outside (or above in this case) the box when looking to add to your garden.

Have you done something particular, such as placing a planter in a non-traditional spot, in your garden?  Why did you make the final decision?  How have other’s perceived it?

 

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

May 052016
 

A productive past couple of days has left me feeling accomplished and very tired.  It has also left me feeling very behind and lacking.

I have been finishing up the inside of the house, in preparation for new carpet being installed on Friday.  I have finally finished removing wall paper, priming, and painting two coats on walls, as well as priming and painting (2 coats) on the ceilings.  Old carpet and padding has been pulled. Floors have been swept.  Closets cleaned out.

So why is it that I am feeling behind?  Because my yard is covered in weeds.  Look at it! It is horrible.:

yard weeds collage

They are everywhere I look.  The kids only help by “blowing on the pretty white flowers”, not realizing how much I hate those pretty white flowers.  My mowing seems to only help for a day or two, then over night everything comes back stronger than ever. Or so it seems.

Then it rains. It all grows bigger and bigger, laughing at me, while I have been whittling time away on inside work.  All hope is gone, I may as well throw in the towel now and not even try gardening this year!

(throwing in the towel)

I decided to walk around the yard, snapping pictures of all the ways I am failing as a gardener. See, I wanted to show you exactly how bad things had gotten. The proof is not in short supply.

By the time I had completed my trip around the yard, I found more that I was expecting.

spring flower collage

See, my focus had been distracted to the one part of the yard that received the most impact from our house work during the past two years.  It is the place where a 6+ foot deep trench had been dug and the dirt piled up, where trucks had been driving, where trees had been cut down, where wood chips had been piled since late last spring, and where almost no grass is growing.  My focus had been on this part of the yard.  Even though this small part was small in comparison to the whole, it is what my attention went to every time I pulled into our yard or looked out a window.

Meanwhile, in other section of the yard, flowers were blooming and growing.  Places that in years past held no flowers or were struggling, were now showing signs of thriving.  Color was showing up everywhere, pushing out the brown and mud of winter.

Isn’t this often how we view our gardens and life?  We worry and focus on the small part we are working on, forgetting to look around, forgetting to look at those places we improved upon in the past.

There will always be bare spots, weeds, lackluster parts of our garden.  And life.  People, including ourselves, live up or down down to our expectations of them.  If all you expect are weeds, then that is what you will find.  You will find yourself too tired to go do battle to take back your yard.  Other things will call out to you which seem to have a higher likelihood of success.  You will throw in the towel before you have even started.

However, if you can look at your garden and find all the things going right, or the potential for things going right, then that is what you will see.  You will find you have more energy to make it like you want it.  The rainy days will not seem so forlorn, but instead will be watering your flowers, making them ready to bloom brighter when the sun comes out.

Don’t believe me?  Take a look again at the pictures above.  Can you tell which part of the yard I feel better about, the part I have higher hopes for?  Hint: it is not the one with the “pretty white flowers” that my kids like.  The part I feel better about I am more likely to spend time in, working to make it even better.

Yes, I am talking about gardening, though the analogy works very well for life.  A conversation with a friend this week reminded me of that very point.  I proceeded to tell her about all the ways I am failing (persistent weeds), all the things going wrong (quick growing weed), and all the ways I should have done better (deep rooted weeds).  She then proceeded to encourage me (spreading flower seeds) and remind me of where our family has come from in the past (those perennial flowers planted several seasons ago that are now stronger and flowering more).  I was reminded to stop looking over at my neighbor’s life (“The grass is always greener…”) and focus on mine.

Sometimes, our garden really is shabby.  That is when you choose a corner to start improving upon, pulling weeds and planting things you enjoy.  Other times, it is only your perspective, looking at the areas still in progress.  You forget to turn and see the things you have added to make your garden your own.  Do not get so focused on the seed that your forget to see the flower.

 

Apr 162016
 

IMG_20160416_112710424

One of the trees in our front yard was surrounded with beautifully blooming tulips last week, similar to the ones pictured above.

Their beauty brightened my day, adding a much needed bright spot as I left to take George and Drake to school.  What a display of color! “I’m so glad I saved the bulbs when we reduced the size of our front flower bed a few years ago. It was time consuming work, but sooo worth it.” ….

By the afternoon my thoughts had turned to, “Rabbit stew anyone?”

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Produce Auctions In Ohio – A sampling of 10 various auctions found across the state

 Gardening, Planning, Selling  Comments Off on Produce Auctions In Ohio – A sampling of 10 various auctions found across the state
Apr 252015
 

produce auction collage

This post in 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.

Ohio produce growers and those in search of produce, have several choices of produce auctions to attend.  Rural Action has a map of 9 different produce auctions across Ohio.  There is a new auction (Scioto Valley Produce Auction) that is not on Rural Action’s map, bringing the total to 10 different produce auctions. While the majority are found in the northeast part of the state, there are several found in the southern part as well as on auction in the northwest part of the state.


Chesterhill Produce Auction, in Morgan County is located at 8380 Wagoner Rd, Chesterhill, Ohio, is a example of having the right people in the right place at the right time to fill a need of a community.  The video here explains how and why this auction was started.  They also highlight the benefits to the community and the farmers. Starting in May, on Mondays and Thursdays at 4 p.m, the auction will continue into October.

On a side note, I was really thrilled to see the effort and results put into this auction by those who first thought of idea and those who have joined to make it a success.  It would have been easy to give up and throw in the towel any  number of times along the way.  Instead, perseverance has paid off and now there is a thriving auction in place that benefits all involved.

Here are two more links about the auction in Chesterville :

Chesterhill Produce Auction: A Rural Appalachia Case Study

Chesterhill Produce Auction from Rural Action

 

Bainbridge Produce Auction in Ross County is located 5 miles south of Bainbridge, Ohio 45612 on St. Route 41.  This is in the southwest portion of Ohio, about 1.5 hours east of Cincinnati.  Auctions are held 3 times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  For further information call 740-634-3451.

 


Owl Creek Produce Auction, in Marrow County, is located at 20999 Waterford Rd. (St. Rt. 22) Fredricktown, Ohio 43019.  The 2015 Season began in early April.  In May the auctions move to taking place on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and Fridays at 9 a.m.  From June through the beginning of October auctions take place 3 times a week.  Check out their website for times.

Ohio’s Country Journal wrote an article in 2014 highlighting the Owl Creek Produce Auction.

Scioto Valley Produce Auction in Hardin County if a fairly new auction, locate a few miles east of Kenton Ohio.  This auction is fairly new, having started in 2011. The auction is located at 18031 State Route 309, Kenton, Ohio 43326.  

The first auction of the 2015 Season was April 17th.  Check their Facebook page for more information on upcoming auction dates and times.

Here is another video featuring the Scioto Valley Produce Auction.

 

Captina Produce Auction is located at  39050 W. Captina Highway, Barnesville, Ohio in Belmont County.  Auctions are held on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m.  Here is an article from written by the Barnesville-Enterprise that tells a bit more about this auction and what you might find.

 

Mt. Hope Produce Auction in Holmes County is located at 7701 St. Rt. 241 Millersburg, Ohio 44654

From their website: “The Farmer’s Produce Auction was started in 1995 as a wholesale market for local farmers to grow and sell their produce in bulk to buyers throughout the state. The Produce Auction was the first of its kind started in Ohio and is currently one of the largest in the state.”

Looking at their auction schedule, I would have to agree.  They currently are running produce auctions twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), though say they will be “running Monday @ 11:00 AM, Tuesday, Thursday, and Fridays at 10:00 AM.”  

Here are some further articles, experiences and photos from the Mt. Hope Produce Auction:

Homerville Produce Auction is found in Medina County.  Their address is 9430 Spencer Rd. Homerville, Ohio 44235

To see when their next auction is, check out their Facebook page.

 

Middlefield Produce Auction/Geauge Growers Produce Auction, in Geauge County, is a very action packed  place to be.  Found at 14575 Madison Rd. (St.Rt. 528) Middlefield, Ohio 44062, this auction can have up to 3 different auction rings going at the same time by the high of summer.  Even through the winter they are selling items, though no produce.

The first auction for the 2015 Season was April 6th. Through the month of April Monday auctions are held 5 p.m.  Begining May 1st, 10 a.m. Friday auctions will also be held.  In June, the 10 a.m. Wednesday auctions will be added.

Here is an article from Cleveland.com concerning the Middlefield Produce Auction – Monday Is Auction Day In Middlefield.

Blooming Grove Auction, located at 1091 Free Rd. Shiloh, Ohio 44878 is in Richland County.  To find time of auctions, check here.  A phone number can also be found at the same link, if you are wanting to double check whether an auction is take place at a certain time.

Apr 072015
 

produce auction collage

You can not do it all.

Maybe that is not exactly accurate.  Perhaps it should say that “Usually every gardener can not grow everything all the time”, or even “Most gardeners do not want to grow everything all the time.”  For various reasons, most gardens contain a few key things or a variety of things along a theme.

Growing up, my mom had a fairly large garden.  Even there, she did not grow everything.  Melons did not do well in their soil, so those were never grown.  Berries, while room for them, were not found in the garden or anywhere in our yard.  I am not sure if this is because it was not something we ate a lot of or due to lack of time.  Blackberries could be found wild and were always a nice treat.

One of my first gardens was found in a community garden, about 20 minutes from my work, in the opposite direction from my house, on a large plot that had not been planted for a few years.  (Read, “weeds”.)  To help make use of space on the back half, and to cut down on weeding, I planted watermelons among the corn.  I also tried an heirloom variety of tomato … {gasp} it was not red.  🙂

I learned that this was not only way too large of a plot for me, but also there was a lot of sun and lack of water.  It did not help that the area was entering a drought.  None of my beets or onions grew.  The tomatoes turned out a very low harvest, the cucumbers were eaten by something, and the corn did not produce anything.  I was surprised by some watermelons that were hidden away.  What did abound were weeds, weeds, and more weeds.  At one point I gave up on weeding half the plot and focused on being able to get to the tomato plants.

Then we moved.

After having put so much work into a garden plot that really did not return much for all the effort, I was not ready to do a large garden again.  It was about this time that I first heard of raised beds and was learning more about them.  If this method did not turn out, I was ready to give up on gardening.  Yup.  You read that right.  Not only had the community garden been a trial, but my very first garden had been literally eaten by a dog.  Not kidding.  I was starting to feel like it just was not meant to be.

View of raised garden bed boxes before redo

So, I set out to build a two 4.5 feet square raised garden beds.  I was not going to try and grow everything, mainly the things we loved.  Tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce and beets.  While the beets did not turn out, and I would later go on to figure out growing onions, the result was enough to encourage me to keep trying.

Additionally, I began to look for other sources of produce that would not break the bank.  A few things appeared, one of which was a local produce auction.  At first, I was not sure I had understood the person correctly, as I was actually eavesdropping on a conversation.  Was there really such a thing as an auction where they sold produce?  Turns out, there was and I have never looked back, though at times I have questioned my sanity.  🙂

I no longer have to worry about having a large garden to grow all the beets we need for a year.  I can usually get it at a very reasonable price, if I am willing to wait.  The same goes for tomatoes.  Toward the height of tomato season, I can usually find 25 lb boxes for under $5 each. That is $.20 per lb if you were not sure of the math.  At that price it is almost cheaper not to grow them.

A produce auction is exactly what it sounds like – selling of produce (and plants) in the method of an auction, where the price is set by the consumer through a system of bidding.  The set up is usually aimed at wholesalers, but the public is welcome to participate.  Be aware, though, that this means you will end up buying in bulk.  If you are looking for 5 lbs of tomatoes and 2 lbs of green beans, this is NOT your place.  Plan on getting more along the lines of 60-75 lbs of tomatoes, 2-3 bushels of beans/peppers, and 36 pints of berries.  Or you might come home with 5-10 hanging baskets of flowers.

The good thing is that you can go in with a group of others so that you do not have to handle all the produce yourself, unless you need or want that much.  Alternatively, you could buy what you want an ‘gift’ the rest to others as you drive home.  Who wouldn’t love to arrive home to a bag of excess garden produce that contains more than zucchini?

Over time you may also get to know some of the other buyers and may ask if they will add a box to their purchase, then you pay them back for that box.  There have been times where I bought a lot (perhaps a bin of pumpkins or 3-4 boxes of something) for a good price, knowing that I really did not need all of it.  Afterwards others would come up and ask if I would be willing to sell x amount to them.  Usually I am, so it never hurts to ask.  Just know, there are certain buyers who never are willing to sell what they bought.  They really do need all that they bid on.  So, pay attention to those who are there and get a feel for who may be more approachable.  If I am not willing to sell, I try to direct them to someone else who might be.

tomato transplants from auction

Depending on the source you find, there are between 43 and 47 produce auctions across the USA.  According to the “What is a Produce Auction” slide show on the University of Missori’s AGEBB , there are about 45 produce auctions across the United States. Most of the ones I have found are located in the Midwest and a few neighboring states to the East.  These run on various days, usually during harvest season, but not always.  Some charge a fee for the buyer number, while others do not.  Make sure you go a few minutes early, 10-15 at least, your first time so you can ask question.

The majority of items at the auctions are local, meaning grown or from a source within 100 miles.  If they are brought in from further, it is noted either on the tag, the box, or by the auctioneer.

Many of the auction will be starting in the upcoming weeks.  I thought this would be a good time to gather together a list of as many of them as I could find.  If you live near one, you may be interested in checking it out.  A friend of mine even visited one while on vacation in a different state.  You never know what you will find.

 

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Jun 242014
 

lion flower planter collageThe planter above is one I came across while on a walk one afternoon.  The planter is actually so tall, I had to told my arms all the way up to get the picture on the right.  I did not even know which flowers were in it till I lowered my camera to look.

“Why would they put these up so high?!  No one can even see the flowers to appreciate them.”

After giving this some though I realized that I was not the audience the gardeners were going for.  Surrounding this spot are tall buildings.  From their vantage point, the planters are spots of bright colors on the green canvas.

The same thought can, and should, go into plantings you do at home or office.

  • Who is going to be seeing the plants?
  • From where will they be looking?
  • Will they be moving or standing relatively still?
  • Where is the light coming from?

The planter above is surrounded by bushes.  If the gardeners had put it at ground level, it would have been hard to see.  Placed above the bushes it is hard to miss.

  • Are there other planting nearby to interfere with the line of sight needed?  Or which could visually drowned out the planting?

Even though I could not see the flowers, the planter itself caught my attention.  Such a bold piece screams to be looked at.

  • How will your planter play into your design?  Will it blend in or be a focal point of its own?

After taking time to think about this design in the landscape, I appreciate it even more than I did before.  Sometimes you need to think outside (or above in this case) the box when looking to add to your garden.

Have you done something particular, such as placing a planter in a non-traditional spot, in your garden?  Why did you make the final decision?  How have other’s perceived it?

 

Apr 192014
 

dd

clematis vine on trellis

clematis vine growing on hydrangea bushTo say this clematis is an active grower would be an understatement.  Every year I cut it back aggressively, and every year it come back, plus more. I no longer worry about being careful in trimming during the summers.  It gets trimmed when and where needed.  This is not necessarily a delicate plant.

While the seeds and petals make a mess, the vine itself makes a great privacy screen during the summer.  It becomes covered in small white flowers which insects seem to like.  This would make a great screen, cover or addition to your garden if you have the room or are willing to trim it weekly.

Not all clematis flowers are the same color.  Here is a great collection of varieties.

May 212013
 

file9121307018171We have had a late Spring here, which means that some activities that should have been done last month are finding themselves being done now.  One of these activities is collecting seeds to be used next year or to share with others.

The picture above is of a poppy.  The previous owners planted this beautiful flower, which was a surprise to me the first year.  I have come to love seeing the brightly colored poppies every spring.  At first I knew nothing about poppy flowers but decided it was time to learn, especially after a few years when they seemed to decline in numbers.

One of the things I learned was that these flowers are self seeding.  This means that the seeds they drop this year are what creates next year’s flowers.  Last year I missed collecting seeds, so I have made a point to do just that this year.  The middle of the poppy, the black part, is actually a bunch of seeds around a seed head.  Collecting these seeds is pretty easy, just make sure the wind isn’t blowing too hard or else they will all blow out of your hand.

While reading a book on collecting seeds, I was directed to use paper bags or other breathable material so seeds don’t mold.  Makes sense.   Seeds have moisture and when moist things are wrapped in plastic bad things tend to happen.  When I first gathered poppy flower seeds this year I put them in a plastic sandwich bag, left unzipped, on the kitchen counter.  My intent was to add some more seeds relatively quickly, place them in a paper envelope and wait for next winter to plant them.  Yes, I was tempting fate.  When I gathered more yesterday and picked up the bag to add them I saw that it was almost too late – the moisture from the seeds was already creating the beginning stages of mold on a group of seeds.  Since it wasn’t too bad, I decided to keep what I had gathered previously, transfer them to a paper envelope and add the new seeds.  My hope is that the extra air circulation and the dry conditions of the paper will dry out any moisture/mold on the seeds.

I made sure to label the envelope with the seeds that were inside, the date and where I gathered them from.

While learning about how to propagate poppy seeds I also came across a recommendation for easy sowing – spread them over the snow in winter.  What happens then is the snow melts and the seeds come into direct contact with the soil.  This is an important steps for them to sprout in the Spring when the weather is at the right conditions.

I love having flowers in the garden.  I really love it when having flowers in the garden is so easy.  Why make such fun work harder than it needs to be?

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