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A Morning in the Garden

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Nice, nice morning here in Kingwood on this 18th day of April and crazy, approaching 4 weeks of social distancing! It was a beautiful cool, at least for my neck of the woods, 62 degrees F today. I know the warm weather is coming as I wandering out into the garden this morning but enjoying the respite however brief. I gathered a rather large handful of sugar snap peas. They usually don’t last long…..I rinse them off and snack on them all day long. So crunchy and yes, sweet

These won’t last but 8 or 10 I pulled in the garden that didn’t make the trip into the kitchen. LOL

Tomatoes are beginning to form and we should be seeing them ripen within the week. Nothing tastes better than vine ripe tomatoes picked at the perfect time. These are not like the ones that I worked with in the produce warehouse back in Bakersfield years ago. We would unload boxes of “breakers”, tomatoes that are mostly green, shoulders pink and hard like baseballs. We stacked then in a special room that could be sealed and with controlled temperature & humidity settings. We would seal the room and pump in ethylene gas to “ripen” them. 3 days later they were all beautifully red and still baseball hard…….now you know!

Sweet million cherry tomatoes
Juliet, a small Roma shaped tomato that is very heat tolerant
Patio tomatoes for my wife, in a pot and yes, on the patio. They do well until it gets too hot. Four inches or so in size and very tasty. They will be on BLT’s with my tasty toasted sourdough bread soon!

Just wanted to add an update on the “bottom ends” of Romaine lettuce I plunked down into the soil in my garden. They sprouted well, I snacked on some of the leaves early on but now……..they have bolted, shot up, and beginning to display flower heads and the leaves are slightly bitter. Why do they bolt? I always thought it was the warmer weather but it appears that length of day is the primary factor. If I was really energetic and had nothing else to do, I should have limited then to no more than 8 hours or so of sunlight per day……..I may need to give it a try in the future.

Not your typical Romaine lettuce…..leaves are still edible but a bit stunted and turning bitter. I will maybe……..experiment next year or at the end of summer….

During the Spring of 2019 I planted two Muscadine grape plants. One died and the other thrived. I trained the vines to grow out in two direction. One went horizontally along a wire stretched out across my back fence. The other direction heads over to a wooden arch structure, similar to a small grape arbor. Last year there was no evidence of fruit. My unknown is whether the variety I bought needs a pollinator variety. I am crossing my fingers…….Muscadines grow wild in the are and a similar grape, Mustang grapes, which are similar, are also nearby. There is evidence of potential fruit all up and down this year’s vines!

Little teeny tiny beginnings of Muscadine grapes. I am hopeful……I want to make some jelly and maybe some wine.

My son is moving at the end of the month and has made me proud. He established two very good sized compost bins in his backyard. He has a lot of yard to mow and he has been amazed how quickly the clippings decompose and shrink. I spent some time pretty much emptying one bin last night, probably 14 good sized leaf bags full. I shouldn’t say full. Once I skimmed the newer layer- mostly leaves and grass, the bottom layer was dense and heavy……….so, small but heavier loads in those bags. If the weather holds I will return today and pull the contents of bin number 2.

TTFN

Bishop

Winter Composting

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I am visiting my daughter in Denver this week, totally different weather than my Houston clime! Her neighbor loves gardening but laments the fact that she doesn’t seem to be able to compost in the winter. I decided to to investigate cold weather composting tips….and yes, I can learn a little in the process.

I found a nice article from the Empress of Dirt. Granted, she is a little further north but the method should work as well. I think I would consider adding a microbe addition, similar to the type in the included link from Safer Brand. I have used some of their products in the past and really like them.

The winter composting also contains a link to composting basics, 101, that I thought would beneficial to folks new to composting! Because of my warmer climate I don’t utilize closed type bins, I utilize home built open enclosures. The 20 gallon galvanized can recommended in the article appears to be handy for holding scraps, especially in the grips of brrrrr type of cold, before adding to your pile.

Bottom line, COMPOST YOUR WASTES……. adapt to your climate, keep compostables out of the landfills! Landfills create methane….methane is 30 times stronger than CO2 as a green house!

Research from JPL NASA comes this piece of data;

“Emissions data like this can help facility operators identify and correct problems – and in turn, bring California closer to its emissions goals. For example, of the 270 surveyed landfills, only 30 were observed to emit large plumes of methane. However, those 30 were responsible for 40% of the total point-source emissions detected during the survey. This type of data could help these facilities to identify possible leaks or malfunctions in their gas-capture systems.

https://empressofdirt.net/easy-winter-composting/

https://www.saferbrand.com/resources/ringer-compost-plus-compost-starter-3050-6/images/4

I ran across a nice compost image that could be used in most climes and can help deter common pests. My old bins are becoming pretty ragged. I built them with fencing materials that were blown down during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

From ; https://www.backyardboss.net/

Besides being good looking it looks hell for stout!

TTFN

Bishop

Hurricane Harvey

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Hurricane Harvey sneaked up on me. My wife and I left the Houston area 7 days prior to Hurricane Harvey hitting the Texas coast. We were celebrating our daughter’s wedding up in gorgeous Aspen Colorado. We decided to stay a little longer and returned on August 25th……coinciding with the arrival of Harvey. United pilot flew in through the storm bands circulating with Harvey and touched down whisper smooth!

On August 19th, the day after we left for Colorado, the National Hurricane Center indicated that Harvey’s circulation was disintegrating. No worries, huh? Once the storm crossed the Yucatan Peninsula and passed into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico the energy and circulation increased. Well, my bees, in a couple of locations, were at risk from potential winds.

My biggest worry was my top bar hive in Splendora. Less of a worry were my 3 hives located up off Russel Palmer at the western edge of Kingwood. My protege, Max, took it upon himself to ratchet strap the boxes and top bar to prevent wind damage on Thursday, the day before the winds and rain began to kick up here. I had to thank him from a distance.

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The top bar in the background and a triple deep Langstroth in the foreground. At the right, is an 8 frame garden hive that I had placed a strap on several weeks prior to leaving.

Now…..to Splendora. My two Langstroth hive tops were weighted down – one with a large disc brake rotor and the other with a old rusty hydraulic jack. The top bar hive was MY BIG worry. I had a couple of mechanic’s wire tie downs for the top but…….after repeated use they had broken off too short…I hadn’t yet got a “round to it” given to me to fix them …….so, Friday, the day of the Hurricane as we were driving down out of the Rocky Mountain National Park, my Goo friend John and I discussed having him repair the wire tie downs…..He was my “round to it”.

John is an over achiever and wound up putting straps on all three hives….Thanks John!

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In addition to a strap on the top bar in the background he added some bricks….well done lad!

Now, to wait out this storm and hope the bees tolerate the rain! I hope my curiosity can be held in check …….. I want to visit my bees! Almost 5 inches of rain in the last 24 hours and much, much more is expected.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Gobs and Gobs of Green Beans

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Even with good friends to share with, I am overrun with green beans. I built two 6-pole tepees for my green beams and a set of vertical poles at the entrance to my hide-away garden. I prefer pole beans vs. the bush beans…..why? – The bush beans ripen pretty much all at once and I used to be 6’3″ tall…..too much bending over to pick! Two varieties seem to do so very well in the Houston area, Kentucky Wonder pole bean and the Blue Lake variety.

I had a long weekend over to the New Braunfels  area of Texas over this past weekend. My “Goo” friend John picked enough for his wife and made a bee run to feed my bees in my absence. When I returned, I picked over 3 pounds of green beans on Tuesday…..Gobs and gobs. I had instructions from my wife to deal with them ASAP…..I negotiated a reprieve until this morning….I am an early riser and would have them dealt with long before she awoke….I even managed to prepare 8 quarts of sugar water for the bees.

Unfortunately – most of the green beans were on the larger side of what I prefer, so, add, bacon, onions, garlic and a long slow simmer……Yum!

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Just beginning to simmer.

The color of the fresh green beans alone is appetizing and the aroma as they simmer, so tantalizing!

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A six-pole tepee with two bean stalks per pole. I soak the bean seeds in water overnight to help with germination before planting.

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At the entrance to the garden…..at 6’3″ I still need assistance when picking the tall vines….lends credence to the “Jack and The Bean Stalk” story….

Now to brag a little. It is April 26th and the tomato harvest has begun. I believe that it is the first time time in many, many years that i have had ripe tomatoes before May 1st! Not complaining…..! Another good surprise is the health and productivity of my Brandywine heirloom tomato plant. I have half a dozen large fruits developing….If you have never taste a Brandywine….find one and try it. It is the very best I have ever tasted.  I have been diligent with my buzz pollination, electric toothbrush technique this spring and it appears to be paying off. Expect some more bragging and photos when I harvest!!!!!

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A bunch of Juliet tomatoes ripening on the vine!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Christmas Eve in the Garden

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It was “77 degrees F” yesterday and I actually worked up a sweat raking leaves to add to the compost bin. It wasn’t too bad….just barely a one T-shirt job. Summer jobs in Houston are typically 3 or more T-shirt changes.

I gathered up the ripening, the dropped and the green Juliet tomatoes. Even covered, the last freeze hit the plant hard.

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Well the last freeze has made the Juliet tomato plant look pretty sad. I grabbed this handful, green ones included, as the last of the harvest. Yummy Christmas cookies in the background….my secret recipe. Ask for it…

The freeze didn’t bother the strawberries. They handle it well. If I see temperatures in the teens I will definitely cover them. I added another 100 plants last fall……need to treat my babies well!

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December 24th and the strawberries are making their appearance.

The colder weather of last week finally started killing off the asparagus ferns. I will find a nice day next week to cut them back and top dress the asparagus bed.

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A tangled mess. I didn’t get to it but I will cut back the asparagus ferns next week and dream of spring spears.

I will make some Meyer Lemon Honey Jam in a week or two and maybe a small batch of lemon curd….so rich and so yummy.

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My sad transplanted dwarf Meyer Lemon. I moved it from it’s wine barrel home of 4 years to my garden last spring….hope for better results this next year.

My experimenting will continue into 2017. Mike and Annette, who host one of my hives, have two volunteer papaya trees that bear fruit. Fruit tossed into their compost bin several years ago took off and bear very nice papayas. I saved some of their seeds and put them in a small pot. They are doing well. I will repot and protect the young ones for spring.

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Papaya….I have a hive in a yard here in Kingwood that has two papaya trees. I dropped a handful of seeds into this pot and have been rewarded. Now to transplant them.

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Merry Christmas

TTFN

Bishop

“Maters” and Bees

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The garden is pretty quiet right now. I have a potted Juliet tomato that just keeps on producing, a few pole beans from a volunteer Kentucky Blue wonder variety and now the carrots and beets are popping up. Oh yes, and a large bunch of Burro bananas – hopefully it will be another mild winter and they will fully mature.

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About every other day I pick a handful just like this….picked these on November 22nd! The plant is still loaded.

Now for the bees. I visited my remaining topbar hive yesterday. Nice sunny day and warm enough to open it up. This hive is the remnant of the colony I rescued over a year ago from a downed tree near downtown Houston. They split themselves several times, I split out a queen cell and a few frames into another topbar, robbed a queen cell for a queenless Langstroth  hive and harvested about 4 bars of honey from the original. They have been gentle and prolific.

I last opened this hive in early October and they had pulled comb back to about the 18th bar. I had intended to move the divider up and shrink the hive for winter but was then distracted and didn’t return. Now, on November 22nd I open it up and they have pulled comb back to about bar 24. Nothing put away at the back end but nice looking comb. I brought six empty bars and intended to remove any empty comb as I slid the divider forward. In hindsight I could have pulled 10 bars of drawn comb…..next time.

I worked my way up into the front third before finding brood. Some pretty good honey stores but lighter than I want so I am still giving them a little heavy syrup until it becomes too cold.

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Nice looking bar….

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A little closer look. About what I would expect for this time of the year.

 

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Son Joe getting a lesson on lighting the smoker.

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Joe, keeping his distance as I start the inspection.

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Ashleigh doing the selfie thing with Joe and myself geared up and ready to go.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

The winter vegetable patch.

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Looking into my veggie patch just a couple of weeks ago in January. Bought an arbor that helps keep the appearances up so my wife doesn't call the garden an eyesore.

The broccoli and lettuce survived the big Houston freeze and most of the snap peas came through ok.

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