Monday, February 29, 2016

Tea time ....

Compost tea and Epson salt tea is probably a big factor why the plants at the Florida Bee Farm are so healthy.  The system can efficiently deliver large amounts of compost and epson salt tea to all the plants.  It's been a work in progress and does have a few bugs to work out.  There is a good amount of sediment in compost tea so it runs through a filter because we don't want the drip irrigation system to get all mucked up with clogged sprinkler/irrigation heads.  And therein lies the problem. 

After running for a bit, the system begins to lose pressure.  When I remove and wash the filter, pressure comes back but it doesn't take long before the filter is clogged again.  This is a problem that needs to be figured out.  So in the meantime I remove the filter and turn on the pump to route the compost tea into the garden hose.  Walking through the gardens and using a hose to apply the compost tea is the next best option for compost tea application.  It doesn't take too long although it's not as easy as allowing it to flow directly through the irrigation system.

After making and delivering the compost tea, the barrel gets washed out and then marries back into the rain collection system to collect rainwater.  When I'm ready to make another batch of compost or epson salt tea all the other barrel's valves get shut off and the tea barrel is ready for another batch and conveniently fresh rain water is already loaded in that barrel and ready to go.

Epson salt tea work without clogging the irrigation system's filter and makes adding epson salts to the plants a breeze.  The system is working pretty good but still needs a few tweaks.
Aquarium bubbler used to aerate the compost

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Radish's potatoes, mint and Elvis

Nothing says romance like Elvis impersonators at the State Fair
Being the sentimental guy that I am, our romantic valentines day celebration consisted of going to the State Fair and seeing the Elvis impersonators and Budweiser Clydesdale's.  Top that valentine.  The State Fair had many agricultural and 4H club displays.  At one display, the kids were giving away little plastic bags with cotton balls with some radish seeds.  Since my wife likes radish's, she gladly accepted one and gave them to me to plant.  That was several weeks ago.

sprouting radishes

radishes new home
So today while rummaging around the shed looking for something I noticed the little bag with the cotton ball.  Somehow it accumulated a few drops of moisture in the little bag and the radish seeds were starting to grow inside the bag.  So the cotton ball was removed from the bag and all the little seedlings were separated from the cotton and planted.
newly planted potatoes

Another new addition to the Florida Bee Farm and a long shot in my mind are potatoes.  I was recently at a Farmers market and talking to a guy selling organic potatoes.  He happened to have a few potatoes that were starting to sprout that he had under the display because he didn't think any customers would want them.  He gave them to me for purchasing a pound of good organic potatoes.  That worked out perfect because you need organic potatoes for planting because the ones in the supermarkets are sprayed with an anti-sprouting spray to keep the potatoes from sprouting eyes.   Another reason for eating organic.

The potatoes had quite a few eyes already sprouting on them so they were cut into many pieces that all had an eye.  And then placed in large pots with a small amount of dirt on top.  As the plants grow you're supposed to keep mounding dirt on top.  I've heard only a few varieties grow in Florida so this may or may not take as the guy at the Farmers market had no idea what type of potatoes they were.  Since I'm the lucky guy it's worth a try.
relocated sweet mint

While reading some gardening tips today, I noticed people discussing growing mint.  The consensus was that you should put mint in a shady location with plenty of water.  My mint was not doing well in a sunny area so our barely surviving mint plants were transplanted into pots and put into a shady spot after a heavy watering.  Must have mint for Mojitos.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Indian Rocks Co-Op

Once again I was away from the Bee Farm on another everglades sailing trip.  Upon my return I noticed a group of tomato plants that looked pretty thirsty.   Checking the irrigation system revealed one zone that was inadvertently switched off !  How very frustrating it was because it was simply due to rushing a job to hurry home and pack for the trip (which was put off until the last minute).

One of the tomato plants was heavy with fruit so when it weakened from lack of water it collapsed on it's stems.  That plant may not make it.  The other plants were better supported by their tomato cages and will probably be ok even though a few lost leaves and stems.  Needless to say on Monday morning all plants received  extra water rations.

The good news is the tomatoes are starting to take off and we listed eggplant and some tomatoes with the Indian Rocks Co-Op.    Plus there were plenty of garden fresh tomatoes to accompany me on the trip to the everglades where our group eats well and shares so much food that we all probably gain weight on the trip. 
The Indian Rocks Co-Op will be selling our excess produce and it looks like a good source of fresh veggies.  We'll be ordering from them as well as selling.  As people learn more and more about how big agriculture poisons our food, co-ops and healthy organic vegetables and food will continue to be more popular.

As they say, you are what you eat and last night was such a delight using a half dozen of these delicious heirloom tomatoes and several extra large Black Krim tomatoes (not shown) which are just starting to turn red.  The flavor is amazing.  We diced the tomatoes and added to a large pan of thinly sliced onions, lots of garlic and some white wine.  A little cream, salt, pepper and pasta .... heavenly and just one more reason I'm the lucky guy.  
Rutger tomatoes

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Morning pictures

Since it's been much too busy to post a blog post lately I snapped several pictures around the Florida Bee Farm gardens this morning. 
pineapples and blueberries

Newest growing area

The nursery with all the baby plants

Moringa, Fennel, strawberries, bananas, and sugar cane

Honey Bee Garden

Honey Bee Garden

Spoiled honey bees with shaded luxury suites in the apiary

Banyan tree

Everything's growing like crazy

Florida Green house

Irrigation barrels and compost tea

Bernard the watch lion

Retired battle droid contemplating life after the clone wars



Monday, February 8, 2016

Honey Bee and Gardening Talk with the Boy Scouts

My nephew Joey who is also a passionate gardener, arranged an event with his Boy Scout troop to visit the Florida Bee Farm for an educational tour and talk about Honey Bees and Gardening.  Joey and I planned the presentation so we would both talk about different aspects of Honey Bees and Gardening.  Joey was pretty knowledgeable about gardening and already knew quite a bit about Honey Bees from coming out to the Bee Farm with me.  I gave him a few "homework assignments" on topics he wasn't familiar with so he could also learn something and also pass it along and teach the other scouts.  Joey is a good teacher and mentor to the younger scouts. 
Visitors to the Florida Bee Farm

Talking about Honey Bees and langstrom Hives

While touring the gardens, one of the scouts was excited when he saw large eggplants hanging from the eggplant plant.  He said how it was one of his favorite things and how he loved eggplant so I broke a large one off and gave it to him.  He said he was going to ask his mom to fry it up as soon as he got home.

The morning was pretty overcast and cool so when we got around to seeing the bees, there were only a few brave bees out flying in the cool weather.  And a couple of shivering guard bees hanging out by the entrances.  The kids and adults were looking forward to seeing the bees so I was disappointed that the weather wasn't warmer so they could experience seeing zillions of bees zipping in and out of their hives along the bee superhighways in our yard.

A great group of scouts showed up

Honey tasting time

In charge of honey tasting
Just around this time it started sprinkling and then turned into a steady rain.  Between the shed overhang areas and the covered greenhouse there was plenty of space for everyone to hang out and stay dry.  The highlight of the day however was the honey tasting.  Several of the scouts were given a container of honey and a bag of plastic spoons to distribute to everyone for tasting.  They were able to taste all the honey they wanted and it was quite obvious that the honey was quite popular.   

All in all it was a very pleasant experience meeting some nice kids and parents and sharing the Florida Bee Farm. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

The good Sun

One of the keys to making plants happy is to put them in a place that has plenty of sunshine.  As the planting continues, good sunny spots at the Florida Bee Farm are becoming scarce.   While thinking about this and a few other upcoming projects I decided to remove all the plants in front of the rain barrels and turn that into a growing area.  It's probably one of the most consistent sun spots at the Florida Bee Farm.

The papaya trees and corn plants were moved to add to the green fence around the apiary which has been a recent project.  Several flowering bushes and plumaria flowers were then relocated to the Bee Garden which is another ongoing project.  And after moving all the plants, I was able to start modifying the rain barrel irrigation plumbing which will undergo some major upgrades very soon.   The irrigation system will be beyond amazing. 
New growing table

After clearing the area a good size growing table was built and the top was painted.  It's a nice solid table which will have a hardware cloth surface for drainage.  Mulch and weed cloth was added under the table to keep the weeds at bay.  This table will have it's own irrigation zone and should be prime real estate for growing stuff.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Seeds and cuttings

Networking with other gardeners is a great way to expand your garden in an economical and educational way.  Because spending time with other gardeners can be a good opportunity to learn about plants you haven't worked with in the past. 

I met a really good gardener the other day and was lucky to be able to walk through her garden with her while she showed me many interesting varieties of flowering plants.  Many plants that bees and butterflies thrive around.  I swapped some honey for seeds, plants and cuttings and also learned a lot.  I only wish I took the time to take some pictures of her garden because it was beautiful.  But I had my hands full, taking notes, juggling plants, cuttings and seeds and labeling baggies.  The icing on the cake was she had four chickens that ran around while we discussed gardening.  Interesting because I keep thinking that having chickens might be fun.

One of my favorite plants was her exotic balloon milkweed plant.  It looked like a milkweed plant with a big ole balloon hanging from it.  And the balloon was full of seeds.  I planted about 40 seeds so hopefully there will be balloon milkweed in our Honey Bee Flower Garden before long.
Balloon Milkweed

Just about the whole day was spent potting seeds and cuttings.  The nursery / Florida Green House was completely full so some of the Purple Cherokee tomatoes got to graduate out of the nursery.   Stage II Tomato growing area is also filling up again so it's about time to build some more container plant growing areas.
Greenhouse / Nursery filling up

New arrivals
Happy plants

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

False Alarm

It was to be a glorious event.  Something we were looking forward to for some time now.  A treat to tantalize the taste buds .... yes, our first red ripe tomato after months of nurturing the seeds and plants. 
The holy grail of gardening
While working in the garden all day I kept glancing over at the red ripe tomato while it basked in the sun.  I figured that it could soak up the sun all day and continue to ripen while I worked.  And then just before I get in my truck to go home it will be plucked from the vine and become our first tasty home grown tomato.

But as every gardener knows ... victory can be elusive and deceptive.  There are many ways to foil success in a garden, especially in Florida.  And in this case I was once again foiled and the trophy quickly taken away after discovering a worm hole on the other side of the tomato.
foiled again

I guess it's time to mix up another batch of natural organic anti bug spray for the plants.  And manually search through the tomato vines for the fat tomato worm that caused this tragedy.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Pineapples, Peanuts and Paul

The projects are never ending at the Bee Farm which keeps me busy.  This weekend it was transplanting flowers and trees from the front of the shed area to the Bee Garden and the area around where the Honey Bees Live.  To make a green fence around them to define their space.  Kind of a separation between the garden and bee space.  Gives the apiary a more natural look.

Pineapple emerging
Yesterday while talking with a fellow gardener, she noticed that one of my pineapples was growing a baby pineapple.   Something I hadn't noticed.  After looking at all the pineapple plants I noticed several new pineapples. Also while looking at the pineapples I pulled what I thought was a weed from one of the pineapple plants.  Low and behold there was a peanut shell surrounding the root of what I thought was a weed.  These pineapple plants were in my front yard in an area where I would feed the squirrels and blue jays peanuts.  Apparently one of the squirrels hid one of his peanuts by the pineapple plant which was later dug up and brought out to the Bee Farm.

Today, the peanut plant was replanted into it's own pot and now we can try to grow peanuts on the bee farm.

Peanut plant buried several years ago by squirrels

The other major project that has taken so much time this weekend is the Honey Bee Garden.  It quickly gets overgrown and is difficult to maintain because I'm often not sure what is weed and what may be flowers coming up from seed.  Many hours were spent weeding and planting some daffodils and other flowers I purchased.  The goal is to spruce up the Bee Garden and make it a memorial in memory of our son Paul.  When I mentioned it to our other son, he thought it was a good idea and added "maybe we should throw a half dozen empty mountain dew cans in the garden for realism which was funny with our brand of humor .... and I'm pretty sure Paul thought it funny also.

Honey Bee Garden a work in progress
I posted in a local plant and seed swap facebook page that we would trade honey for flowers to build up the honey bee garden area.  And we already had someone come out with some passion fruit vines and had a couple other offers.