Monday, August 30, 2010

Bye, bye tomatoes, hello new season!

Four months ago, I never would have believed that I would have eaten so many sungold tomatoes I could barely stand the thought of another. But after just a couple of months of having quarts of these each week, we were giving up. The ground under the plants was littered with fruit that had gotten overripe and fallen off. The red tomato plants that shared the bed were getting too little care as well. Luckily, and maybe as nature planned, it is time to plant fall crops, and I needed an empty bed. So, out came the tomato plants in one of our beds this weekend!

Big beautiful plants, naked on the bottom half but full and green on top, each sporting some fruit and blossoms, ripped out by the roots. All the fruit, green and red, (that had not been pecked by birds or repeatedly stabbed by leaf footed beetles and stink bugs) were saved for the kitchen. All except those overly prolific sundgolds, they went right to the chicken coop. The plants will be disposed of, to prevent overwintering of any diseases. As many fallen fruit as possible were raked up and fed to the hens.

I was left with a clean, open, fresh garden canvas! I had a few broccoli plants I had picked up last week, so in they went, with lots of water. This week I hope to find the kale transplants I like, and will put them in as well. (I have faith that the hurricanes on the horizon won't hit us with too hard a punch. If they do, I will replant.) Seed packets will find their way outside in the next week or two.

Another bed of tomatoes was left for an additional couple weeks of harvests, as I make my final decisions on fall plantings.

I love a new season in the garden!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A one bloom, nighttime show

Here is my young Hylocerus undatus (pronounced hy-lo-SEER-ee-us un-DAY-tus), more commonly known as night-blooming cereus. This plant from the cactus family spent it's first winter in my east facing window, and then spent this summer on an east facing porch. About a week ago it began to form a huge, prehistoric looking bud, covered in tangles of thin, twining, flesh colored sepals. Last evening, around dusk, those sepals started to open, and the hint of petals could be seen. By 10:00 pm you have the half open flower shown here. This is a one night only, night blooming flower, about 7 inches across. I did not stay up to see it fully opened, as I get up long before sunrise, and thought it would still be open. Sadly, it already had closed and had started to wilt. I wonder if it was pollinated by any night going insect? These plants must come inside during the winter, and have a climbing, trailing habit. There have both flat leafed stems and tall, fast growing, pencil thin, round stems that seem to come up randomly. What a great plant!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lost bee colonies, miracles, figs

You may remember that hives with queens Loretta and Dolly were bursting at the seams only 5 or so weeks ago. I kept waiting for them to swarm, and, about two weeks ago, I noticed smaller numbers at the door, but never saw an actual swarm. Knowing what strong and healthy hives they were, I decided to leave them alone to regain strength. Wow, if I only had known what was going to happen.

This weekend I went in to all my hives to check their status. I was worried about Ella, but not my two most established and strongest hives. When I opened Loretta, I was horrified. Almost no bees in the honey, the top brood, then the middle, and bottom chambers. No sign of a queen (eggs or brood), and hundred of wax moth larvae. The wax throughout the hive was destroyed by the soft, thick, gray, disgusting wax moth larvae. Tan moths flew out from each level. There was nothing that could be saved, and essentially no bees to try and gather. My heart was broken, as this was my first hive, and has thrived and split by swarm for 4 years.

I almost cried when I opened Dolly and found she was headed down the same road. The only difference was that her bottom brood box was less infested, a bit, and there remained a number of bees. Again, however, no sign of a queen, or was I just too distracted by the destruction?

We ripped apart both hives, scattering the frames across the yard for the sunlight, as wax moths need the dark. I put one lone box back on Dolly's stand, with fresh comb, so that those remaining worker bees would have a home to return to. I planned to add them to one of the remaining healthy hives, to boost that hives numbers and give these orphans a home, but my plans changed.

The next day I noticed, from the house, a small clump on the branch of a dead shrub in the marsh. I ran down the stairs and out to the marsh to find a lone queen, fat and beautiful, surrounded by a few of her worker bees. I could not believe it. It had to be Dolly, so I dumped her in a container and took her to the lone box of orphan bees that had collected the night before. They had that high pitched buzz associated with stressed and unhappy bees, until the moment when Dolly was returned. The pitch changed instantly to a deep, contented hummmm. Will they survive this late in the year? Will they build up enough for winter? Will the moths again be too much for them? I don't know, but Dolly is home, the bees have a fresh start, and so do I. I hope I do better by the bees this time.

What else went too long without care this week? Figs. An entire roasting pan of overripe ones for the chickens, a bucket of beauties for me.