Saturday, April 12, 2014

Honey Bees

    I've been looking into getting a hive of honey bees, the main pollinators of our planet.  Getting honey and wax would be awesome and the bees would help the garden thrive!  So I began calling around and realized it is a bit out of my price range for this year.  Nonetheless I've been learning a great deal about them since.

   Bee populations appear to be in decline.  Without bees, the almond industry would not exist.   Many other staple crops rely on bees for pollination.  However there is a multitude of problems affecting these critters.  The main ones are mites, and viruses transmitted by those mites.  Most hives are unlikely to last more than a year without some type of miticide.  So what can we do to help?

   Based on what I have been learning about soil composition and companion planting.  By providing soil with more diversity and life in it, plants are able to grow much stronger.  They are more likely to have the ability to fight off a lot of the same issues affecting monocrops.  Companion planting is the idea of planting multiple crops together, usually to lessen the presence of harmful pests.  What does this have to do with bees?  If their environment during the off-season provides them with enough diversity of micro-nutrients, they would have an immune system better prepared for the travel and monocrop pollination during the active seasons.

   This sounds like an expensive process.  It really doesn't need to be though.  With proper composting and no-till methods a garden can be started without spending much beyond supplying water to the site.  Many plants can be started by seed.  If this bee-friendly environment can also supply a wide variety of foods and flowers, it can benefit the community in countless ways as well.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Recently I've had the blessing of getting a greenhouse.  It is great for starting plants inside that couldn't be started outside, until after the last frost.  The increased humidity makes it easier to keep them watered and it provides cover from wind and rain.

So far a friend and I planted lettuce, spinach, collard greens, peas, and jalapeƱos.  In a few months they will be ready to be planted outside.  I also found a palm tree sprout and put it in some nicer soil.  If it starts growing I'll be stoked!  The days have gotten longer and the chickens stated laying again.

I've been looking into selling produce at a local farmer's market.  There are a few hoops to be jumped through.  Luckily I have met some really incredible people who have made the process much more understandable.  Beyond that, I am beginning to plant so a variety of produce will be ready to be sold when market day comes around.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Urban Gardens of San Francisco

   It's nice to find peaceful gardens in the midst of a busy metropolis. While traveling to San Francisco I found a few urban gardens.  

     The first one was tucked in the back of an average park.  There is a large range of plants that are kept by kids in an after-school program.

      I ran into a neat "Mini-park," while on the way to another community garden.   It was surprising to see how much variety was between two large condos!  

       After traveling further, I found a neat strip of community organized gardens.  The lady there said it was originally part of a homeless employment program, however that program was shut down and it is now a garden the local residents keep up.  It seems like a good way to get people outside and working together.

      I ran into this garden on the walk back.  It was at a school with a large lemon tree, that fruit on it in January!  It is neat to see that even in a big city, youth are learning in nature.

      Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Winter Update

    The cold season is in and the leaves have nearly all fallen.  This is a good time for planting leafy greens, onions, garlic, broccoli and other frost tolerant plants.  Last month I cleared out the beds and turned them with compost, leaves, and chicken droppings/hay.  The ground is softer now and has fewer deep-rooted weeds.

   A few weeks ago I planted arugula, beets, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and peas.   Between the hens eating them and the nights where it got really cold they are stunted to say the least.
Instead I began to focus on weed removal and making a few more beds.

   Recently I just planted some red lettuce and blue broccoli from the local nursery; as seen in the photo.

   The lettuce is an heirloom variety called Red Romaine. Red lettuce seems to do well in frost and is very flavorful.  I'm hoping the broccoli will help keep the frost away from the lettuce once it grows larger.

   No-till gardening is becoming easier the more I dig in.  There are some things I've learned that make a huge difference.  First, let the ground work for you; instead of exhausting yourself with digging up a clay bed, pile organic material over it and water it for a few months.  Once the ground is softer then dig the leaves or mulch into the clay.

   Second, make sure to water any compost or organic matter you wish to activate;  by activate I mean bring to life.  The process of composting is done by a mix of factors, we mainly think of worms.  There are a lot of other insects, bacteria, etc. that play a part in the decomposition of soil.  They need plenty of water to remain present and flourish.

  As I go through the dirt, I set aside any fair sized rocks in one of the paths; to help roots grow more freely and to get fewer misshaped carrots or onions.  I'm looking forward to the warmer season with longer days.  That's all for now.  Thanks for reading and best of luck with the garden!