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Posts Tagged ‘Seeds’

Two Tuesday’s Tips in a row! We amaze ourselves.

This week Mary Beth wants to tell you about her favorite tool. Last summer she slapped one in my hand and I was an instant convert. Then I’ve got some tips for starting peas and beans.

Mary Beth: If I had to pick only one important tip to give you, it would be to find yourself a good tool to weed with. For years I never used a tool to pull weeds — never even thought about it. Then about twelve years ago my first client introduced me to the Cape Cod weeder and it was a revelation. Aaaaahhhhhh! It’s made weeding almost bearable.

During the growing season it never leaves my side. There was a time when I had only one Cape Cod weeder and then it disappeared (I later found in the compost pile). I was completely lost without it, so now I have at least 3 at all times. It’s oddly ergonomic and I sometimes give them to clients who are suffering from achy joints. Every single one of them is now hooked. I purchase mine through Amazon.

My other tip is buy some screaming bright paint and paint the handles of your tools so you can find them in your garden beds and compost piles!

Barbara: So many tips to share! Here are a couple for this week, just in time to help you get your peas and beans started.

The first one is a recipe for a soil-less seed starting mix. Everyone knows that you should use this or sterile seed starting mix (don’t sterilize soil yourself, buy it at the garden store) so you don’t loose your seedlings to damping off, right?

4 quarts shredded sphagnum moss

2 quarts fine grade vermiculite

2 quarts perlite

1/4 cup kelp meal

1 tablespoon ground limestone

Mix all ingredients in a clean bucket. Wet down the night before you plant your seeds so you’ll have a a nice crumbly mix to start your seeds in.

Tip #2: Using an inoculant when you start your beans and peas can significantly increase your crop yield, but did you know that you should only use bottled water to start? That’s because chlorine in tap water will kill the bacteria that are in the inoculant. So go get yourself some bean and pea inoculant from your friendly neighborhood, independent garden store. Soak your seeds in bottled water for a half-hour or so. Drain the water and spoon the inoculant into the container of wet seeds. Mix it to coat the seeds and then plant them right away. Make sure you use either new containers or old ones that you have washed with a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach + 9 parts water). Rinse well after washing with the bleach solution.

Happy planting!

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From small beginnings come great things.

From small beginnings come great things.

MB: The seedlings inside and outside are all coming along, albeit not without a little scare. I had 2 tomato plants suffer from the dreaded Damping Off Disease, which strikes fear into my heart. But I stopped it in it’s tracks with chamomile tea sprayings and sprinklings of cinnamon on the soil around the seedlings (mmm, smells nice) and, of course, letting the soil dry out a little in between watering. I think I over watered, so I also put a little fan on for a few days to increase circulation. This has always helped in the past and seems to be working this time around too, thank goodness. Damping Off disease always freaks me out!  Don’t mess with my seedlings!

A few seed packs!

A few seed packs!

The seedlings outside survived two nights of 25-degree weather under the makeshift cold frames. These hardy sprouts are pretty much maintenance free — water everyday and prop up the windows if it gets too warm. When the weather gets a bit more settled, I’ll plant the peas, cauliflower, more cabbage, sweet peas, and few annual flowers for the bees.  Who, by the way, will be here in a couple of days!!

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Things in Bee World have been a little quiet. We’ve had other distractions — birthday parties, out-of-town relatives coming to visit, and, the biggest distraction of all, working to pay the bills. But here’s what’s happened in the last few days.

Kea approves.

Kea approves.

The lower deep hive body — the brood chamber, and the upper deep hive body — the food chamber, have been painted with milk paint in the most beautiful shade of sky blue. The shallow honey supers are painted a lighter shade of blue. The cinder block foundation for the hive has been set level into the ground. Mary Beth chose this location because it’s near the garden and a water source, facing south so the rising sun wakes the bees.

This is where the hive will live — a pond in front and the garden behind.

This is where the hive will live — a pond in front and the garden behind.

Mary Beth ordered the things she forgot in the first round. (I have a feeling that’ll happen a few more times before we get it all figured out.) The big oops was neglecting to order the foundation pins. They’re what she’ll need to hold the wax foundations in the frames. The bees will build them out with their combs which will hold the honey and the baby bees. (Larvae really, but baby bees sounds so much cuter.)

And, yes, those of you who actually know what you are doing will probably have noticed that she ordered the wrong size foundations for the supers, so the right ones are in this order, along with a hive tool and some Honey B Healthy, a feeding stimulant.

MB: That brings us to the next important detail — what will the bees use for sustenance? Since I have new hives and it’s early spring, the bees won’t have any stored honey for food and it’ll be too early for flower nectar. So I’m going to feed them sugar water until nectar begins to flow. And to keep the hive as healthy as possible in this first year, I probably won’t harvest any honey, leaving it instead for the bees to eat.  On average a hive can produce about 100 pounds of honey, but this is my first year so who knows? The hive will need 60 to 80 pounds of honey to survive the winter and tide the bees over until the nectar begins to flow the following spring. Anything beyond that will be ours to enjoy and share with friends and family. And believe me, they’re already lining up.

And speaking of how much honey weighs, lifting the supers won’t be easy. A medium super can weigh in at 50 to 60 pounds and I’m definitely going to need help. I may have to get a bee suit for Ray. (Shh! I haven’t told him yet.)

In the meantime, I’ve been working in the gardens. I’ve planted 3 kinds of carrots, 2 varieties of chard, spinach, broccoli, watercress, arugula, onions, leeks and 3 kinds of lettuce. I used some old windows over the raised beds for makeshift cold frames to get things going. I also got my indoor flats set up with grow lights and a heating pad. Mmm, I can smell and taste those tomatoes already!

As I opened the seed packets and started the tedious task of planting, I remembered helping my father prepare the gardens for the coming season when he no longer had the strength to do it himself. He dug the first of these garden beds more than 40 years ago and they were his pride and joy. He taught me so much as I worked in the dirt beside him. It feels good to carry his legacy on another year and to relive those happy memories. I know he would’ve been as excited as we are about adding a hive to his gardens. He would have enjoyed watching the bees. The garden will make the bees happy, and the bees will make these gardens happy!

Thanks, Dad.

Dad in his garden.

Dad in his garden...

Watering seedlings.

watering seedlings.

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