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The First Bloom of the Season

March 18th, 2010

When we first moved in here I planted 300 crocus bulbs (and some tulips, daffodils etc). The following year I ended up with only 1 crocus bloom thanks to the chipmunks around here. I never planted any more, so I usually only have 1 crocus that blooms.

My mom has tons of them that bloom in her gardens, they’re so lovely. She sent me a few photos of hers, they were blooming last week.


This year I spotted one blooming in the front flowerbed and I’m not sure where it came from. It’s right by a hydrangea I planted 2 years ago, so maybe it came in the pot with that. I was out taking photos and was there at the right time because I got to see one of our bees gathering some pollen. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

I would love to plant more crocuses in my garden, I’m trying to figure out how to do with while keeping them safe from chipmunks. I’ve read you can plant the bulbs in baskets. I’ve had good luck sprinkling tulip bulbs with garlic to keep them from digging them up right away, but I’m thinking they’ll still eat them later, when the garlic washes away.

What’s the first thing to bloom in your garden? Anyone have any great tips on keeping chipmunks, moles & squirrels away from bulbs?

Checking our Beehives after a Long Winter

March 16th, 2010

Every couple weeks throughout the winter, we put our ears up the side of our beehives and listening for that humming sounds that bees make keeping warm. There are a few steps you can take to help them survive the winter; you make sure you don’t take too much honey from the hive so they have enough to eat throughout the winter and you try to keep them dry. We didn’t take any honey from our hives last fall, trying to give them the best chance for survival.

If you were reading the blog last summer, you’ll remember that we split our hive. We were worried that the new hive, which was the smaller of the two, might not make it through the winter because of their lower population and less honey stored. Oddly enough all winter long they were the strongest hive, buzzing away quite loudly. When the weather warmed up they were the first bees to leave the hive.

Last week on a warm day (it was almost 70) we decided to check on the old hive, which we were worried hadn’t survived. We found a small cluster of bees and spotted the queen so they seem to have survived the winter, although they appear to be weak (although since this is the first time we’ve overwintered bees, we’re not sure). They still have a ton of honey left, so we’re hoping they make it through any more cold spells we have.

It’s good to see activity at the hives again and see bees flying around the garden on warm days. We noticed that they’re already bringing in pollen, most likely from the crocuses that are blooming and the pussywillows. We’re considering moving our hives to a different location where they’ll get more winter sun. That’s something we’ll be doing soon before they get too big this spring. We also found a great new resource with tips on overwintering bees and beekeeping in general, for those of you interested here’s the link. We’ll be ventilating our hives better this year and wrapping them in tar paper next winter.

Hopefully we’ll have a nice harvest of honey this summer from our hives. We may end up splitting one of our hives again if they’re both strong by early summer. It wasn’t much later than this last year that we got our first package of bees. If you’re interested in getting a hive now is the time to buy. Make sure you ask around to find a good reputable source.

Have you ever thought about getting bees for your gardens?

Bamboo for Beneficials

November 6th, 2009

I like to use bamboo stakes in the garden because they’re sturdy and they look nice. I also like to use them because the small solitary bees use them for their nests. I was noticing when taking down all of my plant stakes that almost all of them were filled with all sizes of beneficial solitary bees (probably some of those I saw on the last queen anne’s lace the other day).
bamboo_stakes
I think it’s interesting how many different kinds of solitary bees there are. Some of these stakes are plugged with mud, others are filled with bits of leaves. They also like all different sizes of stakes, I assume for all the different sizes of bees. There’s no need to buy those expensive little solitary bee houses when you use bamboo stakes
bamboo_stakes_for_beneficial_insects
This jewel wasp is one the beneficials that’s using the bamboo, I’ve seen them coming and going from the stakes.
jewel_wasp
I think this might be a sand wasp, but I’m not positive. It might be using the bamboo stakes as well.
Sand_wasp
It’s quite fascinating really, the way nature works. The more I garden organically, the greater the variety of insects I see flitting about the garden and these little solitary bees are no exception. With the number of bamboo stake I use (over 100) I’ll have plenty of pollinators in the spring! This is a great way to attract solitary bees and wasps to your garden and they’ll pollinate your crops beautifully.

Do you do anything special to attract solitary bees or other pollinators?

Quote of the Day: L.M. Montgomery

October 7th, 2009

“If I wasn’t a human girl I think I’d like to be a bee and live among the flowers.”

Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery, 1908
Honeybee_on_echinacea
Honeybees_on_milkweed
Bumblebee_on_echinacea

I thought about this quote yesterday as I worked out in the gardens. I think if I were an insect I would choose to be a bee, flitting around the gardens all day gathering pollen and nectar.

What about you, what kind of insect would you choose to be?

Stretching their Wings

October 4th, 2009

It’s been raining a lot here lately and our poor bees get a little restless when they can’t leave the hive. When we have a warm sunny day we see them all over the gardens. It’s kind of funny because we usually don’t see our bees in the garden, I see a lot of solitary bees, and on occasion a honey bee. But now that it’s getting colder I’ve seen a lot of our bees in the gardens.
Bees_entering_hive
I especially see them around water sources getting drinks. They love Lucy’s bowl in the front lawn. I put some leaves in it so they don’t drown.
Bees_drinking_out_of_Bowl
If you don’t have water sources for beneficial insects, consider added a small basin filled with sand or straw to you garden. Make sure you replace the water frequently so as not to breed mosquitos. You’ll be rewarded with lots of beneficials flitting around your gardens.

Have you noticed more bees as fall is coming or fewer?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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