Gardening Products

Home Beekeeping

Few gardening-related hobbies are as fascinating and satisfying as raising honey bees. Contribute to the health of your area's honey bee population. Buy this guide to learning bee culture and start your own bee hives.

Garden Chickens

Raise adoring pets that pay you back with delicious and nutritious fresh eggs. This offer provides all the information you need to get started with your own backyard chickens. Click here today to get started in this rewarding hobby.

Kitchen Garden Store

Learn to preserve the produce you grow in your home kitchen garden. This home canning starter kit includes everything you need to can your first batch using the boiling water bath method for high-acid foods. Find it and other canning supplies at the Home Kitchen Garden Store.

Pages

Daniel Gasteiger

uncooked mincemeat from my Home Kitchen Garden

A pot of diced green tomatoes and apples with raisins and a chopped orange, spices, brown sugar, and vinegar will thicken into mincemeat as it simmers for about three hours.

Frost has finished off my home kitchen garden, and that’s OK. I was really tired of tomatoes after a prolific season, but I was still silly enough to collect the green tomatoes that remained after the plants died.

Those green tomatoes, and about two dozen apples from my tree languished in bowls for weeks until this weekend past when I finally got around to making mincemeat. With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, and expecting a small group of college students hailing from around the world, I thought a traditional mincemeat pie would be in order.

Green Tomato Mincemeat

Actually, traditional mincemeat pie contains meat and suet (fat). I’ve never liked the stuff, but can tolerate it. Several of our guests this year are vegetarians. They won’t eat the turkey or the stuffing I cook in the turkey, and they most definitely would not eat traditional mincemeat.

cooked mincemeat from my Home Kitchen Garden

This mincemeat has simmered for three hours and twenty minutes. While hot, it’s a bit runny, but as it cools it will thicken just like jam and preserves. A pie shell will hold about a quart of mincemeat, so I pack it into one-quart mason jars and cook it for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you’re about to make pie, let the mincemeat cool before filling a raw pie shell with it. Add a full top crust, and bake at 400F degrees until the top crust is golden brown – about 30 to 40 minutes.

Fortunately, green tomato mincemeat actually tastes good. Some recipes suggest that you add suet when you make it, but thank goodness you get an excellent product when you use only tomatoes and other fruits. I made a video that shows how to assemble the mincemeat and to can it. You don’t need to can the mincemeat if you’re going to use it right away; store it in the refrigerator for up to a week, and use about a quart to fill a pie shell.

Mincemeat Worth the Effort

As I said: I’ve never been a fan of mincemeat. I’m a fan of this stuff. I’ve actually filled a small bowl with it and snacked on it happily at my desk. I’m looking forward to having a slice of pie on Thanksgiving. Prepping the fruits for the mincemeat could take about an hour, and cooking takes another three to three-and-a-half hours. Canning, if you heat the water in the canning pot as your mincemeat finishes cooking, adds another 20 to 30 minutes to the cooking time (process filled jars for 20 minutes).

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make your own green tomato mincemeat:

  • 3 ½ lbs green tomatoes
  • 3 ½ lbs apples
  • ½ lb or more of dried blueberries (Optional. I had some I wanted to use up.)
  • 2 lbs raisins
  • 1 seedless orange
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 lbs brown sugar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar

The video runs just over 6 ½ minutes. If you make up a batch, please let me know how it comes out:

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

frosted broccoli in a home kitchen garden

After harvesting a few pathetic miniature broccoli crowns from my home kitchen garden, I left the plants to continue growing and harvested a few meals’ side shoots. While the harvest was very disappointing, the plants’ growth was impressive. The largest grew more than eight feet tall. Frost found a few florets on that first cold night and glittered in the early morning sun.

My home kitchen garden is shot. We’ve had some frost and we’ve had a few deep freezes. This year, I felt no panic about frost; I’ve been overwhelmed with tomatoes and chili peppers so I was kind of looking forward to a night cold enough to shut it all down.

On the morning after that night, I shot a few photos. They capture what I love about the first frost in my home kitchen garden.

frosted broccoli flowers in a home kitchen garden

Broccoli flowers attracted pollinators through much of the season. The first frost of autumn looked a bit like an aphid infestation on the stems supporting the blossoms.

 

frosted squash leaves in a home kitchen garden

The winter squash plants on that first freezing morning of autumn in my home kitchen garden looked as though they were forged from ice.

 

frosted squash leaf tips in a home kitchen garden

The leaf bud end of a winter squash vine looked otherworldly with a crystalline growth encasing it.

 

dead squash patch in a home kitchen garden

Hours after the frost melted, the tomato, pepper, bean, and squash leaves in my home kitchen garden were limp and discolored. One day earlier, this section of the planting bed had lain under a dense canopy of winter squash leaves. Only weeds survived the cold night.

 

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Home Kitchen Garden Field Pumpkins

It’s hard not to like a heap of ripe field pumpkins. I’ve used such pumpkins to make pies, but they’re rather bland. I recommend them instead for seasonal decorations, carving jack-o-lanterns, and feeding to pigs.

My home kitchen garden is quite modest in size, yet I squeeze an enormous amount of produce from it. This season, I planted way too many tomato plants in way too little space, and harvested at least 300 pounds of tomatoes (I wish I’d kept a tally… in peak season I harvested 15 pounds of tomatoes per day).

When I grow too much produce, I muse a lot about selling some of it at a farm stand or a farmers’ market. I give a lot away, and I preserve what I think we’ll use in a year. And, despite the hassles of dealing with so much produce, every fall I develop winter squash envy, feeling a great urge to add more varieties of winter squash to next year’s garden.

Winter Squash 2010

This year I planted four types of squash: Butternut, Neck Pumpkin, Blue Hubbard, and Kobocha. Sadly, vine borers decimated the kobocha and the blue hubbard; I got no viable fruit of either type. On the other hand, the butternut and neck pumpkin plants were healthy and prolific.

Home Kitchen Garden Delicata

Delicata has tender skin that many people eat along with the squash’s flesh. From descriptions, this squash sounds very tasty. Each squash is about the size of a quart canning jar, though perhaps a tad thinner.

I gave away one neck pumpkin, and have three on my dining room floor. They weight about 10 pounds apiece. I also have a quickly-diminishing heap of butternut squashes; we’ve eaten it grilled several times, and I stir-fried a wok-full of sweet & sour squash that went nicely alongside beef & broccoli. With Thanksgiving just a month away, I anticipate cooking up some “pumpkin” pies (using squash instead of pumpkin), and I’ve been on a soup-making kick lately, so I expect to be making squash soup in the near future.

Squash Fix for a Kitchen Gardener

Baileys Farm Market, about eight miles south of here, sets out an impressive selection of winter squash each fall. I took my camera and visited this past weekend, hoping to capture some of the magnificence of their squash display.

Home Kitchen Garden Carnival Squash

Carnival squash is colorful and similar in character to acorn squash. I love the textures in this photograph.

Home Kitchen Garden Turban Squash

I love the colors and shapes of Turban squash. We had at least one in a decorative cornucopia as a centerpiece each Thanksgiving at my parents’ table. We probably ate a few of them when I was a kid, but I don’t recall… and I haven’t tried any since.

Wading through the field pumpkins at Baileys is entertaining in its own right, but even a very experienced kitchen gardener is likely to discover new things. My photos reveal only some of the winter squash treasures I saw this weekend. It was so hard not to bring home five or six samples of squashes I’ve not tasted. There’s a reasonable chance I’ll visit Baileys again before winter and pick up a few squashes to taste and to seed next spring’s home kitchen garden.

My favorite item at Baileys was a rather uninteresting squash: it was more or less round, mostly orange, and warty. The squash itself wouldn’t have held my attention, but according to the sign, the variety was simply, Orange Warty Thing. Apparently, this is a very eatable squash, but people tend to use it more as a decoration than as a food.

Home Kitchen Garden Triplet Pumpkin

I’d never heard of Triplet Pumpkins before I visited Baileys, and a few cursory Google searches turned up no references to this squash. The color is similar to that of Blue Hubbard squash and the texture of the skin is vaguely pumpkin-like. However, Triplets are twisted and lumpy. The orange squash in the foreground is Hubbard.

Home Kitchen Garden Orange and Green Squash

I’d never seen a Cushaw squash until about two weeks ago when they showed up at the farmers’ market I frequent. I was fascinated by the colors and patterns, and was happy to find a large bin of them at Baileys Farm Market. I had also never heard of banana squash (top-left in the photo) and encountered it for the first time at Baileys.

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

basil blossoms in a home kitchen garden

Opening once again with basil blossoms! My porch basil started flowering over two months ago. This is a small habit plant intended for container gardening, and I’m done with it. The plants were tiny, the leaves ridiculously small, and I’ve had way more satisfying results planting regular old basil plants in containers. Even a standard-sized plant, stunted, provides a better yield than the container basil did. Still… pretty flowers.

Yikes! Summer blew through my home kitchen garden while I was writing a book about preserving produce. The book is on its way to the printer, and I’m still getting a grip on the blogging I failed to do.

Here it is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day in October, and I’ve been preparing blog posts about what went on in April and May. Despite the book-writing distraction, I did plant a kitchen garden—in fact, I expanded my garden this year. And, while we had our first frost two nights ago, even the basil survived in relatively decent shape; much still grows out there, and there are flowers… though my photos for this bloom day show little different from the past two Bloom Days.

It doesn’t matter! There are flowers in my home kitchen garden, they’re beautiful, and I shot them. Please enjoy.

 

late season broccoli in a home kitchen garden

The broccoli I started from seed indoors last February produced poorly at first, but it eventually put up side shoots and other growth that extended some plants as tall as eight feet. The floret production was too sporadic to keep my interest, so I’ll be trying a new variety of broccoli next season. Flowers from the unharvested side shoots attracted all kinds of interesting insects from July through today (notice the cluster of insects on the left side of the main stalk; I don’t know what they are, but they weren’t particularly energetic on this 48 degree day.)

 

cilantro blossoms in a home kitchen garden

A small stand of cilantro has just started flowering, so it’s not likely to produce seeds before cold stops it. I’ll be curious to see whether the plants overwinter and try to produce seeds next spring; I’ve had younger plants over winter very well, but I’ve never had mature and growing cilantro plants at the start of winter.

 

dill blossoms in a home kitchen garden

There’s dill in every stage of growth in my home kitchen garden. The stems, leaves, and flowers look exotic to me, but having such fine-textured leaves and flowers, they are challenging to capture well in photographs. Several giant dill heads already dumped thousands of seeds in the garden, so I doubt I’ll need to plant this herb in the spring.

 

neck pumpkin blossoms in a home kitchen garden

Several overly-optimistic plants simply don’t understand what all the recent cold means. The neck pumpkin plants put on a secondary growth spurt, and there have been nearly a dozen new fruiting flowers. This one almost certainly wasn’t pollinated: no insects flitted about in the cold as I was taking pictures today. It seems pointless for me to pollinate the flower manually as any fruit that sets now will just freeze and die within three weeks.

 

chili pepper blossom in a home kitchen garden

Many of my pepper plants continue to flower, and examining them reminded me that I need to harvest the ripe peppers before we get serious frost. I’ve delayed because peppers keep very well on the plants; they may be full-sized and ready to eat green in July or August, but they can continue to ripen for months until you’re ready to use them.

 

tomato blossom in a home kitchen garden

Even the tomatoes continue to try to make fruit. I’m guessing, but I believe I’ve handled over 400 pounds of tomatoes this season. At peak, I harvested an average of 15 pounds per day. Even now I’ve 30 pounds of ripe tomatoes awaiting attention on my dining room table, and there may be 15 to 20 pounds still on the vines. Thank goodness today’s flowers have no chance of producing viable fruit before a killing frost shuts them down.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

basil blossoms in a home kitchen garden

The basil plants growing in a pot on my deck have flowered. OK, herbs. Herbs flower too.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day today, was very wet in my home kitchen garden. That’s a good thing for the garden, but not so much for the photographer. Thankfully, for the first time ever, I shot my Bloom Day photos a day early. It was heavily overcast yesterday, so there wasn’t a lot of contrast, but the photos reveal a garden very much trying to produce more food before the season ends.

What is Bloom Day? Carol over at May Dreams Gardens started this monthly celebration of flowers. Garden bloggers the world over participate by posting photos of whatever’s abloom in their gardens. I manage a home kitchen garden with the philosophy that I don’t want to expend energy planting stuff I’m not going to eat. So, my focus is food, but happily, fruits and vegetables start out as flowers. Here are the August babies in my home kitchen garden:

dill blossoms in a home kitchen garden

So… I have a bunch of dill blossoms in my garden. I didn’t plant dill this year, but last year’s volunteer dill plants seeded themselves aggressively, and I’ve had three or four plants in bloom at any given time for the past six weeks or so. It’s reassuring to know that several large seed heads have already produced hundreds of seeds which now wait on the soil to sprout new dill plants next spring.

 

tomato blossoms in a home kitchen garden

If things are abloom in my garden, at least some of them are probably tomato plants. I’ve more than 80 tomato plants in the garden this year, and have canned 45 pints of tomato products. There are about 100 pounds of tomatoes on my dining room table, and the plants hold, perhaps, another 100 pounds. These pretty flowers may produce fruit, but it won’t have time to ripen before this autumn’s first frost.

 

bean blossoms in a home kitchen garden

I grew climbing beans for my first time last year and enjoyed their behavior so much that they have become “must haves” in my home kitchen garden. This spring, a woodchuck munched a lot of my plants, but what’s left is producing enough for my family of five to have about four servings a week.

 

lima blossoms in a home kitchen garden

My lima beans are two experiments in one: 1. I’ve never grown lima beans because I’m the only person in my family who likes them. 2. I’m growing eight plants in a single windowsill planter… way too little root space. So far, the plants are flowering abundantly, and there are dozens of bean pods. The pods are just starting to fatten up, so I have some hope of gathering enough lima beans for at least a few servings.

 

cuke blossom in a home kitchen garden

Yet another first for me: I’m growing cucumbers. I planted two varieties, and nearly all the plants have been destroyed by vine borers. Still, I’ve harvested three cucumbers, and there are many more at various stages of near-readiness.

 

squash blossom in a home kitchen garden

Closely related to cucumbers, my winter squash plants are crazy in bloom. Vine borers have killed or weakened nearly all my blue hubbard plants, but neck pumpkins and butternut squash are growing strong. Oh, and it looks as though kobocha squash don’t know how to make female flowers; my plants have grown many dozens of male flowers, but not a single fruiting blossom.

 

broccoli blossom in a home kitchen garden

My broccoli didn’t produce well this year, and I’m shopping for better varieties for next year. If you have a favorite that produces large heads, please leave a comment to tell me about it. I’m still harvesting small broccoli florets from the side shoots, but I think I enjoy the flowers more than I enjoy the tiny servings of broccoli.

 

pepper blossom in a home kitchen garden

While I’ve more than 80 tomato plants in my home kitchen garden, I also have about 60 chili pepper plants. This one’s visitor, I think, is confused. These bugs usually stuff themselves into squash blossoms; this may be the first time I’ve seen one on a pepper plant.

 

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

beehive prepped for my home kitchen garden

I scraped every inch of wood on the inside of this hive body, and put a fresh coat of paint on the outside. Each slat of wood inside the box is the top of a “frame” that will hold a sheet of beeswax called “foundation.” When I received the phone call this morning telling me I could get a package of bees, I mounted foundation in the frames, and assembled the beehive out in my yard.

I had very low confidence that I’d have honeybees in my home kitchen garden this year. As I reported about six weeks ago, I rebooted my effort to get a beehive started (Beekeeping at my Home Kitchen Garden) after last year’s discouragement. However, because of budget constraints, I was planning simply to bait a beehive and hope to capture a wild swarm of honeybees.

Shopping for Beekeeping Gear

In the past six weeks, I cleaned up a hive body (called a brood chamber) and the component frames that will eventually hold honeycomb made by bees. So, on Saturday I decided to visit a local apiary to buy foundation. Foundation is a sheet of beeswax pressed with a pattern of hexagons that bees will happily build upon to create honeycomb and brood comb.

The apiary was closed on Saturday, but its operator told me there’s a beekeeping supply store just up the street. This was news to me, so I drove out to see what the store had to offer.

A Truckload of Bees

bees headed into New York City

The folks I found filling their car with bees at the beekeeping supply store had driven out from New York City. They have been campaigning to legalize beekeeping in Manhattan, and the beekeeping ban ended in March! Apparently, there are a lot of beekeepers in the city; these packages were going to folks all over the island.

While I wasn’t paying attention last October, a company called Brushy Mountain Bee Farm opened a branch store about five miles north of where I live. The store sells everything a beekeeper needs to succeed. Coincidentally, on that Saturday, the store had received a truckload of honey bees customers had ordered.

I browsed, I chatted with the staff, and I watched a customer load a station wagon with about sixty packages of bees. I don’t know how many packages had passed through the store that day, but some people who ordered failed to show during the scheduled pickup time. It became apparent that there might be unclaimed packages of bees… and here my reclaimed, ancient beehive was ready for occupants.

I left my phone number, and this morning I received a call. Some bees had, in fact, been abandoned by the people who ordered them. Yep! I bought a package of bees.

Bees Installed in my Home Kitchen Garden

three pound package of honey bees for my home kitchen garden

The package of bees I bought sits on my porch as I suit up to prevent bee stings when I install them in the hive. It was so cold that the bees could barely move much less sting me. This three pound package of bees held at least 10,000 bees, including a queen in her own container. The queen’s cage is inside with the rest of the bees… but she’s in her own room in part so the beekeeper can make sure she makes it into the hive.

It was raining and miserably cold today by the time I had the beehive ready to receive its new residents. It was so unpleasant that I didn’t even try to take photos of the procedure. The bees were sluggish because off the cold, and they got a bit wet. Not one tried to sting me, and I’m afraid several hundred didn’t make it into the hive.

Of the more than 10,000 bees that made it into the hive, the livelier workers immediately started examining the beeswax foundation. I hope they quickly find the food I provided for them. As they mill about and feed, they’ll warm the inside of the beehive… and that will make them livelier still.

The rain and cold will continue for another day, but by the weekend, it will be warm enough to draw the bees out so they begin exploring their new neighborhood. I’ll keep an eye on the food and replenish it when it runs low (which I hope it does quickly) and I’ll check inside the hive in ten days to make sure the bees have settled in OK.

I’ll share more about the beekeeping experience in coming posts.

 

Technorati Tags: , , ,

raspberry brambles in a home kitchen garden

Here’s a great idea for any home kitchen garden: Plant a line of brambles along one side of your driveway. It’s so satisfying to pick handfuls of fresh raspberries for your breakfast cereal, yogurt, or cottage cheese… or to add to a fruit salad at dinner.

Continuing a discussion about designing your home kitchen garden, I finally get to share the story of a visit I made to photograph a garden that was full of surprises. Nearly every week I drive past a property on which a collection of raised garden beds sits back just a few feet from the road. Last season I saw weekly changes in those beds as trellises appeared in some, then seedlings, and eventually mature vegetable plants.

One Saturday in mid summer, I stopped at the house there and knocked on the door. A suspicious woman came to the door, and after an awkward moment I explained that I write about gardening and had been enjoying her raised bed project. I asked whether I could photograph her vegetable garden and tell about it in my blog.

The Home Kitchen Garden Tour

I must have been sincere enough because this woman graciously broke away from a tomato-processing project in her kitchen and took me for a rather mind-boggling tour.

First, we went around the house to a large area planted with fruit trees and shrubs. These were relatively new plantings, and she was still coaxing them along without significant harvest. It showed great promise for coming seasons.

raised beds in a home kitchen garden

I visited the farmhouse because I’d admired these raised planting beds along the road. The winter squash (top-left) was a volunteer that grew on a sand pile next to the boxed beds. While the raised beds themselves were a bit weedy, they held dozens of ripe tomatoes, eggplants, summer squash, and sweet potato plants.

We went back around the house, and where the entrance walk met the driveway we passed a thick stand of raspberry plants. From there, we walked down the driveway and I admired the variety of crops that grew in a series of raised beds. The woman was self-conscious about weeds (prominent in at least one photo here), but there were plenty of tomatoes, winter squash, zucchini, and other food crops—certainly enough for a couple whose kids had grown and moved away.

After I shot a few photos, I was thanking my new gardening friend and preparing to leave when she asked, “Do you want to see the rest of it?” Instant intrigue.

Of course I followed my host past the last raised bed and up the hill alongside a barn. About 50 yards from the last raised bed, we came upon a kitchen garden bed that covered at least an acre!

giant home kitchen garden bed

I thought I’d finished taking photos when my gracious host invited me to “see the rest of her kitchen garden.” Around behind the barn was a planting bed of at least an acre! There were squashes, tomatoes, corn, and other vegetables; I didn’t take inventory because I was too busy being awed.

A Humongous Home Kitchen Garden

chickens benefitting from a home kitchen garden

On the way back toward the house, we passed a pen of chickens who were lucky to receive two large summer squashes broken open so they could peck out the seeds and the soft centers. The chickens were obviously very happy with this treat. OK… I threw in this photo for my online gardening buddies who also raise chickens.

My new gardening friend explained that her husband loves to plant stuff. She gets to deal with the resultant produce. Most of the kitchen gardeners I visited last summer had lost patience with garden maintenance, and weeds were prominent. Goodness! When you’re dealing with an acre or more of crops, you’d be weeding for hours every day to keep them under control! No matter: as long as your crops grow taller than your weeds, you’ll have a decent harvest.

While this enormous planting bed held corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and vegetables I didn’t identify, that wasn’t the end of it! We walked past the chicken yard attached to the barn, and through an ornamental garden next to the house. There, up against a tree line, was another kitchen garden, this one decked out with various flowers for cutting.

My kitchen gardener friend explained that her goal is to stay out of grocery stores and farmers’ markets; if she preserves a quarter of the food she grows, I imagine she never buys produce from any other grower.

enough of a home kitchen garden for most of us

Amazingly, despite the raised beds and the acre-sized plot, there was also a small kitchen garden up near the house. This was, perhaps, as large as my vegetable garden, and it sported many tomato plants and ornamental flowers as well as squash, eggplant, and other goodies. I imagine this garden would have fed a family of five throughout a growing season.

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Landscaped Home Kitchen Garden - 1

From the back patio of a creek-side home, a hill slopes steeply down to a less severe lawn. From a bridge over the creek, I’d seen new landscaping on the hillside, so I stopped to ask the owners about the project.

Early spring should find you out in your home kitchen garden setting fruit plants and cold weather vegetables. For those who are adding to their gardens—or just taking up kitchen gardening, early spring is a time for laying out a plan: building raised beds, cutting sod, or otherwise terraforming your yard.

Many wonder: what is a good vegetable garden layout? I maintain that there is no single answer. Much depends on the terrain in your yard.. If you have a flat, open lawn, you can have a traditional garden, a square foot garden, a raised bed garden, a vertical garden… you have enormous latitude for your vegetable garden layout.

If your yard features a steep hillside, or dense rock piles, or soggy depressions, or concrete or asphalt walks and patios, you might need to exercise your imagination to come up with a workable vegetable garden layout. Raised planting beds, containers, sloped or stepped beds… plants really don’t care how you lay things out; given sunlight, moisture, some warmth, and some nutritious soil, they will do their darndest to grow up and produce food for you.

Landscaped Home Kitchen Garden - 2

The owners built two stairways from the original patio down to a flagstone path. The path passes an open fire pit with bench seating, and a hot tub that blends well with other rock features. Rocks help retain soil and define planting areas. As well, logs that comprise the seat back of the bench retain soil in which plants can live happily.

Your Vegetable Garden Layout

Last summer and fall, I photographed more than a dozen kitchen gardens in central Pennsylvania. Actually… not all of them were kitchen gardens, but when they inspired thoughts of interesting ways to grow food in challenging landscaping, I took photographs.

This and several upcoming posts will present the kitchen gardens I photographed last year. I’ll include comments to provide encouragement in case you face similar challenges when planning your own vegetable garden layout.

Landscaped Home Kitchen Garden - 3

In the first year after landscaping the hillside, the owners had planted some accent ornamentals on the bank and in strategic pockets among the rocks. I’d take a different approach: blueberry bushes and raspberry brambles for large spaces, strawberry plants for ground cover, and reserved pockets for annual vegetables such as squash, climbing beans, greens, herbs, and bush beans. I might also include a grape arbor and some dwarf fruit trees within easy reach of the stairways and flagstone path. That gently sloping lawn near the creek? Sure: I’d add some vegetable beds there as well. I’d cut into the sod rather than build raised beds; the creek floods often and I wouldn’t want to have my raised beds washed away during a particularly wet spring.

 

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

I rescued beehives from the mess in my dad’s barn and stacked them in the mess in my garage. Then my enthusiasm plummeted. My wife wants the hives gone; minimally, I’ll move them out of the garage, but I hope to have at least one ready for occupancy by mid-April.

Your Home Kitchen Garden blog has suffered from significant neglect for many months. This is partly because the blog is about growing food—something I pretty much don’t do during the winter. On the other hand, last summer and fall I wandered the neighborhoods of Lewisburg and surrounds, photographing kitchen gardens that I figured to share with readers during the cold months… and then I didn’t share them.

Spring is upon us in hardiness zone 5b, and I’ve started excavating rows in my home kitchen garden for cool-weather crops. This means there’s something else I didn’t accomplish during the non-gardening winter: I didn’t get my behives in order.

The Beehive Story

Last spring, I got very excited to revisit beekeeping. My dad had managed honey bees, and I had participated. He offered up his old gear, and I made a trip to the old family farm to bring home some beehives. I blogged about these experiences in several posts:

Home Kitchen Garden Beekeepers

Have You Bought a Beehive?

Install Bees in Your Home Kitchen Garden

Scrounging Beehive for my Home Kitchen Garden

As excited as I was to start bees, my enthusiasm took a nosedive when I saw the condition of my dad’s old gear: mouse nests, dried up wax, broken frames, missing components (a bee bonnet, gloves, and a smoker are crucial for me as I swell up like a bo-bo doll when I get stung)… I needed a focused weekend to bring dad’s old gear back to life.

The greatest busy-work in reviving my ancient beehives will be in scraping dried-up was from these wooden frames, replacing broken parts, and mounting sheets of beeswax on the frames. A hive box, or “super,” hold nine or ten frames, depending on how you pack them in.

So, weekends passed and I made no progress on the beehives, and pretty soon it was too late in the season to start a hive… and that’s where things stand. I’ve a large stack of wife-annoying gear in the garage, and I must reserve a day to scrape wax, repair frames, mount beeswax foundation, and assemble a hive body and a super.

My Beekeeping Hope

Last year I approached beekeeping with great enthusiasm… but it was already kind of late in the season before I realized fully the challenges I’d face. This year my enthusiasm is back and my eyes are wide open. At the very least I’ll move the beehive components out of the garage.

Still, I have every intention of setting up a hive body in April so it’s ready for occupation in May or June. I’ll evaluate whether I can afford to buy a package of bees with a queen. If bees are too pricey, I’ll set some bait honey in my hive and hope to capture a swarm.

However my beekeeping efforts play out this season, I’ll report here.

Become a Beekeeper

My renewed intent brings me to re-raise the call: If you have a garden and a little extra space, please consider seriously starting your own bees. With Colony Collapse Disorder still puzzling specialists, every new hive provides a smidge of added hope that our honeybee population remains vital.

I’ll provide encouragement… and I’ll try not to let down the honeybees this year. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

 

 

Technorati Tags: , , ,

I first tried using bird seed on slippery ice last winter, and immediately gained favor with a squirrel.

There’s not much happening in my home kitchen garden. Thankfully, it’s covered with snow. There’s not a lot of snow, but even a little is helpful because it provides insulation that promotes decay in the six-inch layer of leaves underneath.

The snow came with biting cold, but sunny days have caused melting and refreezing… and for some reason that happened on our front walkway. In other words: there’s ice on the pavement where people are supposed to walk.

Green Ice Remediation

It’s tempting to toss hands full of rock salt on the icy walkway, but there’s a planting bed on one side and lawn on the other. It’d be fine with me to lose the lawn, but I still want to be able to grow plants there in place of the grass. So… I’d rather not use rock salt on the ice.

The front walk was icy yesterday, so I sprinkled it with bird seed. After the ice melted today, a cardinal and several junkos came to clean things up.

Last season, I came up with an environmentally-friendly alternative: bird seed. No, bird seed doesn’t chemically alter ice so that it melts at lower temperatures, but it still remediates icy walkways. Here’s how:

An even sprinkling of bird seed over ice provides instant traction. Your shoes push the hard grains into the ice and many stick, preventing your shoes from sliding. When there’s even a little sunshine, seeds absorb heat and ice beneath them melts faster than surrounding ice. A few hours of sunshine can riddle seed-covered ice with holes and make it easy to break up with a shovel.

New Friends

When I first tried bird seed as an ice countermeasure, I discovered a fun benefit I should have anticipated: the seed attracts birds and other animals. If you maintain bird feeders anyway, tossing a little seed on an icy walkway isn’t going to change you lifestyle a whole lot. If you don’t already feed birds, you might get a kick out of the wildlife you attract when you treat your icy walkways with bird seed.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,