After the rain. 

Like most of the country I was kept awake most of Tuesday night by the storm. Thunder and lightening and torrential rain pummelled the garden so it was some surprise when I went outside yesterday to find hardly any sign of it ever happening. The water butts were over flowing and every container without a hole in it was full but otherwise the garden just looked fresh and clean. Our neighbour was not so lucky and a huge tanker was pumping his drive out all morning, so we had a lucky escape. 

It has rained all morning again today. I’ve moved the downpipe into another tank and filled that now as well. This afternoon is bright and sunny and a foray into the garden shows just how much good the rain has done. 

Peas planted last weekend are through, as are lots of the other seeds.

Butternut squash are looking hopeful. These are my outside ones, extra plants I was to tight to throw away! I planted one in the polytunnel as well after last year’s lack of cropping success. I’m hedging my bets as I absolutely love butternut soup and am sure I will never have to many. 

I nipped out yesterday and planted my oca in the ground. It has fallen over the sides of the pot and as it makes tubers wherever the stems touch the ground I decided to plant it in the space the onions came out of. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it out of the pot so I settled for second best. I wrapped the celery while I was there, I used these tubes for the leeks last year with great success so I hope it will work as well again. 

The polytunnel is like a jungle. It’s hard to move in there at the minute. 

The tomatoes are disappointing. Moneymaker are huge but just not ripening and the Gardener’s Delight is not much better. The cucumber is growing like a triffid and the fruit is tasty but has to be peeled as the skin is just to tough. No strange foreign varieties for me next year, the lesson of cheap seeds has been learnt! 

Peppers are doing better than last year after I started them off so much earlier and chillies are looking good although we haven’t tried any yet. 

There’s a tiny melon growing and an even tinier watermelon. Both seem to pollinate ok but then the fruits keep dropping before they swell to any size. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong but fingers crossed. 

Outside the raspberry bed is feeling the strain after I used the spare space to grow a few sweetcorn. Which then got underplanted with bollotti beans and then just a few spare brassicas were added. In all they now feel swamped and are retaliating by growing so tall I will need a ladder to pick the fruit. 

My next year’s resolution is more beds with less in them. I’m not holding out much hope in keeping it. Growing veg is just so much fun. We haven’t eaten a shop brought veggie all week and boy does that feel good. Home grown new potatoes and cauliflower tonight.

I just need a cow and a pig next. Now where on earth will I put them! 

July update.

It’s a while since my last garden post and what a difference there’s been. The evenings have been spent moving the bees to the new apiary. An experience my hubby will probably never forget for a variety of reasons not least when one lot escaped the hive during the car journey! 
They are much happier there and I’ve been able to work them again and extract the honey. 

The polytunnel is now full to overflowing and the cucumbers have just started to crop. The strawberries have finished with only a small number but great flavour. The blackcurrants are almost non existent this year which is disappointing after the huge amount I had last year but not a major problem as I made lots of jam with the last ones from the freezer in the spring which should see us through this year at least! 

The early raspberries came to nothing but there are lots of autumn ones coming so fingers crossed there. The blueberries are ripening nicely, a good few have even made it into the freezer for  future eating. 

The whole garden is so hot and dry this year and we’ve really struggled to keep everything watered. The attention has gone to the tunnel as everything in there is important. The beds have had to look after themselves a bit. The brassicas are thriving, the root crops have failed to germinate. More have been sown so perhaps we will be lucky. 

The leeks planted last autumn came to nothing. I ran out of space to plant my spring sown ones and they’ve got to big to plant now so that’s another fail. The autumn planted garlic is lifted and looking good. The onions are still swelling and it’s just a matter of knowing when to harvest them for the best results. 

Hubby has taken a week’s holiday and we’ve been busy taking down the summerhouse. We needed the space for the caravan after getting bored of it filling half the drive. Like all jobs, one led to another and a tree and a patio on the other side of the garden also had to come up to make a new space for the summerhouse. As usual time rushed away from us and the job didn’t quite get finished but the caravan is in its new position. It got there via a quick trip to the seaside. Hubby had a gig at a holiday camp and a weekend on site seemed a great excuse for a short break. 

I do love a big sky, as does hubby it seems!

The show. 

It’s 7 or 8 years since we last went to the Gardener’s World Show at the NEC. A lot has changed in that time but a lot has stayed the same. 

There are still lots of show gardens. Clever designs both old and new, especially as this year was a celebration of 50 years of Gardeners World. 

There was still the central marquee with its wonderful array of exhibitors. All showing off their plants to the best. Miss C loves carnivorous plants and I love hostas so we were both very happy. 

Hubby prefers order in the garden. He thought these herbs in large pots were an idea we could bring back with us. The chaos of colour in a garden is not so appealing to him as a nice tidy green plant and herbs fit the bill in his eyes. 

Having seen how big fennel can grow I realise I need to move mine and soon! 

He had me take lots of pictures of structural things he could build into our garden. Brightly coloured fences, bottle gardens and bee homes could all be this winters projects. 

The vegetables already being picked were amazing and inspired me to try harder. The stubby little carrots were a surprise. It reassured me that mine hadn’t been so bad after all! 

‘Don’t eat the display’ 

It seems a sad indication of the nation’s standards that we have to remind people not to steal from the displays. 

Lots of schools had made ‘ a meal in a barrow’ wheelbarrows. They all had some fun and well thought out items. I think this one was my favourite, just because they had used bull rushes to signify sausages. Such a great idea and just exactly how Miss C would think! 

In all it was a great day. Far to hot with temperatures in the 30 ‘s. Far to many people with far to few manners. Definitely far to far from home to make it a yearly event. But still well worth the visit. 

Happy birthday Gardeners World. Friday evening telly has been so much better since we had an hourly fix of Monty and Carol and I just love it when they finish the programme with the ‘ jobs for the weekend’ section and I’ve already done them. Makes me feel all smug and knowledgeable!! 

My new apiary. 

My bees aren’t happy where I presently keep them. My own hive is nearly unworkable and the swarms, who were all so happy when I collected them, are now all showing a tendancy to attack first and buzz later. The apiary they are in is under quite dense tree cover and near a very busy road with little natural food now that the farm crops are finishing. Quite honestly working them is becoming a painful chore and last weekend I took so many stings I began to wonder whether it was worth the bother. I dread my visits, which is obviously not the attitude a good hobby should provoke. 

I was very happy to hear of an opportunity of a new apiary.  It’s in the village, it’s isolated and if I look very carefully I can see it from my bedroom window. It’s within walking distance, if I also had a pack horse to carry all my beekeeping paraphanalia! 

This is part of the very long track I drive down to get to it. It feels very isolated although that is my village in the distance. 

It is surrounded by a double layer of these huge conifers. 

Inside the trees is a good acre of mostly  native trees and bushes. A huge area of land initially used as a hide for pheasant rearing but now left entirely to nature.  

Hubby put our new brush cutter to good use cutting me these tracks. I picked the route of least resistance, along the tree line. The middle of the plot has more than a lot of stinging nettles. 

This is the bees eye view of the plot. I took it by sitting on the very stand they will be sitting on. 

I unearthed a rather nice pair of cattle feeders that will be perfect for creating a water feeder. 

Hubby has made me a new stand out of Miss C’s old bedstead. Everything is ready for me to collect the hives from their present site and move them to here. I’m sure my own hive and the three swarms I’ve collected this spring will be very happy here. 

Just got to find the courage to do the job. I shall do it in the late evenings when the little darlings are hopefully all asleep! 

Veg update. 

It’s been raining  on and off here all week. The weak mizzly rain that doesn’t fill the water butt but makes you wet should you be caught out in it. Today has been overcast and windy but dry and I was very pleased to get a line of washing dry the outdoors way.

With that in mind I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I went to check the garden this afternoon only to find it all in need of a good watering.

These potatoes have grown to tall and fallen sideways and I can’t help thinking that the dying leaves are not a good sign. I gave them a good water and will have to keep an eye on them.

My sweet potato continues to grow as does the oca

The polytunnel is looking lovely.

The watermelon puts on growth every day

There’s a tiny fruit on the cucumber and lots of male flowers, which are always the first to appear.

The peppers look healthy. I hope I’ve got them in early enough to get fruit this year.

Melons grow on the plastic netting. Hopefully this will be more supportive as I am growing more than last year and am aiming to improve on my crop total if I can!

The first tomatoes have set. Thanks to my group of little bumble bees who often work so hard they actually have to sleep over night in the tunnel.

Outside the onion tops are starting to fall over. I hoped they would be bigger but last year once this happened they seemed to stop growing so I will just have to see what happens

The leeks are going to seed which is a pity. I planted my second batch of peas up them and I had run out of space and thought it might be a novel idea. That was perhaps a mistake!

A bigger mistake was taking the net off the other peas as they grew to tall. Something has definitely had a nibble.

The Pak choi has also gone straight to seed, at seedling stage, in another bed.

The strawberries look promising though.

The grape and fig have both recovered from their late frosting

The grape even has a couple of tiny flowers coming

I had an inspired idea for my lack of space the other evening and planted my 2 giant pumpkin plants in the piece of lawn where I had the bonfire some weeks ago. Hubby intended digging it into more veggie bed space later anyway so I thought it was a great idea. He rolled his eyes but said nothing so inspired by the extra space I have now planted my courgettes there as well.

He wasn’t so impressed by that and dark mutterings about how he would keep the lawn tidy or dig around all the leaves have continued all week. Should I tell him that I have 3 butternut squash and some left over Brussel sprout plants that I need to fit in somewhere, or should I just sneak them in while he’s at work and claim they are self set.

He’s not really a gardener, he might just believe me!!!

Every cloud has a silver lining. 

I’m a great believer in the above saying, that and ‘ it’s an ill wind that blows no good’.

This is my new cat George. He is smiling with good cause! 

 A week ago he was knocked down by a car and left badly injured in the middle of the road. Luckily for him he was screaming so loudly we heard him above the telly, and through the double glazing, and were able to rush out and save him before he was hurt any further. 

His second lucky break came from the fact that extensive x-rays show he hasn’t broken anything. He is young and fit with, apparently, very heavy bones and has managed to take extensive knocks with only minor grazes and massive bruising and a face that looked like he had been in a boxing match. 

The bruising even with his pain killer and anti inflammatory is such that he is not able to walk on his own still. The vets were keen to keep him in the surgery but we have brought him home and he is in a cage in the lounge. Miss C and l have been plying him with care and attention and all the signs are good that he will make a good recovery. 

Meanwhile our last remaining chicken, who quite honestly was getting very old and slow, managed to very quietly die in her sleep. Very upsetting especially for Miss C but a very dignified and easy end for us all. 

Obviously with so much going on we have spent almost the whole week at home and that’s the next ‘ silver lining’. We have tidied and cleaned the house and done lots to the garden. 

The polytunnel is now fully planted. This is a watermelon plant, I have no idea whether it will fruit but oh I do hope so! 

You would never know what had had to  lift George onto the sofa here. Apart from the obvious wound he looks so happy and relaxed. 

It’s been a very busy and difficult week here. Good and bad news, highs and lows. So many emotions, but a positive outcome to hope for. 

That’s the story of life in general I guess. 

Oh no. More bees! 

Today hubby and I agreed to have a lazy day. Yesterday had been very busy with lots achieved and we started today with a cooked breakfast and a quick trip to treat ourselves to a brush cutter. Ok, so that’s not a treat for some people but for me it will mean I am able to clear some land that I have been offered for a new apiary.

It was all going great, we had just got home and sat down with a slice of cake and a coffee in the garden. I have no idea why hubby nipped into the house but he returned with the phone muttering ‘ it’s for you. Say no’

I took the phone to hear a voice saying ‘ Hello, John gave me your number I’ve got a swarm.’ It took me a few minutes to work out who John was ( a contact from one of my community groups) where he lived (quite close, which is helpful) and where the bees were ( not in a tree, roof or chimney, so no ladders).

I’m not registered as a swarm collector as quite honestly I don’t want any more bees, but previously I have been out a number of times with the Bee Buddy. When told the bees were sitting in a bucket on the lawn it sounded to easy to turn down. I set off with a car boot full of the equipment I might need and a promise to be back to drink my coffee later.

The home owner was very friendly, the bees were exactly as he’d said and things were going well. Now you won’t believe this but while explaining the job another man entered the garden. He then explained he’d seen me wearing my suit at the car, he lived around the corner and he had a swarm in a compost bin. What a stroke of luck he said, would I take a look? You’ve guessed, I said ‘ sure, give me a minute to collect these and I’ll come and look.’

Here they are. A dream swarm to make a bee keeper look like a professional. I just picked it up and scooped it into a brood box

Then I put on a roof and left it sitting on the lawn to gather up the stragglers while I nipped around to see the next one. Easy!

At that point I should have gone home but here’s the compost bin. It’s here the fun begins!

It took me some minutes to break open the bin and as I lifted the lid I realised this was no recent swarm.

This picture shows the layers of honeycomb that broke from the lid and fell into the bin as I took off the lid. Layers and layers of comb in a big messy pile. These bees have been in this bin for some time and they’ve made merry with the warmth and seclusion.

I pondered the situation for sometime. I had to make the best of a less than ideal situation and as with anything to do with bees there was no 100% right answer. I ended up lifting out as much comb as I could, putting it into a brood box and stacking the box on a crown board above the bin. I tried to smoke the rest of the bees up into the box but the bin had so many exits that didn’t work. I tried smoking them down into another box at the bottom but the majority were in the top box and they didn’t fancy being separated.

I ended up leaving the box above the nest. The bees for all my fumbling were calm and friendly. The home owners are happy for them to be saved even if it takes a little while so I will leave them over night, in the hope they all go into the box, and go back tomorrow with a new idea.

I collected the first swarm as I headed home and dropped them at the apiary. Tomorrow hopefully I will take the others there but if not I will get them eventually.

I might not want any more bees but I’m certainly not going to give up on such a challenge!

I need more rain, not more bees! 

Last year every post I seemed to write started with ‘ it’s raining’. This year has been exactly the opposite and as a gardener I am now desperate for  rain. The rhubarb is in flower, which I think is a stress response to being to dry, and lots of the other plants are not growing as quickly as expected, even with watering.

The big water butts, fitted last Easter and filled within weeks, are now almost empty. Plans have been made to use the old butts under the shower downpipe. It’s a solution I don’t like but it has served us well in previous years even if I did think we had seen the end of them with the new tanks. The problem with waste water is that it has to be used quickly as it soon starts to smell. I get over this by attaching the tap to a long drainpipe and just empty it straight onto the lawn everytime it builds up. It greens the grass a treat!

The bees have loved the dry weather and all the hives have had to have extra supers put on them. The honey is not quite ripe but should be by next visit. There have been a lot of bees around the garden recently and as I know there are no beekeepers near I have a feeling there is a wild swarm somewhere close. They have been paying a lot of attention to my toilet breather pipe and although there are worse places for a swarm to settle I didn’t fancy the ladder climb to deal with them. I set up a swarm hive with some left over frames in the garden . Old comb is often enough to persuade bees to move in.

I sold one of the Bee Buddy’s hives this week. These 5 are to many for me so the second from the right has now gone. Hives have to be moved in the evening after the bees have returned for the night. The apiary is in the middle of nowhere and as I didn’t know the beekeeper I persuaded hubby to come with me. Hives are heavy and it takes two to lift them. I know hubby is strong enough but didn’t want to be stuck alone in a field with a wimp! As it happens the new beekeeper was well up for the job and within minutes we had it loaded onto his lovely new trailer and we were admiring all his shiny new tools, suit and equipment. He was keen and organised so I’m sure the girls will be happy.

On arriving home we were just in time to see the back end of a swarm vanishing into the bait hive in the garden. In one day I had managed to sell one and gain one. Just what I didn’t need!

This looked a small swarm in the twilight. A quick peek told me I had missed the main group entering the hive and that these are just the stragglers. On moving them to the apiary last night I find it is almost more than I can lift. If they stay I will check them in 48 hours and make them more comfortable.

Just have to decide whether to set up another bait hive. More bees anyone??

Inside the hive. 

It’s been worrying me this week that I wouldn’t get down to check the bees. Life has been hectic as it so often is. Although the weather forecast wasn’t very hopeful I decided to risk it this morning and as I had plans for lunchtime I left home before 9 to get an early start.

Miss C is much braver these days and did spend some time standing beside me, holding the smoker and looking in the first three hives I opened.

Opening hives does release an awful lot of bees. The fear of being stung is one consideration but more unsettling is the sheer noise of thousands of bees wings buzzing. It can be very claustrophobic. Miss C managed for almost an hour before she wandered off to take some photos. Unfortunately you have to remove your gloves to use the phone hence the long distance shots!

One of my hives was at the point of swarming and I decided to remove the capped queen cells and introduce more space by putting in extra comb. The next hive was laying more drones than normal which indicates the Queen is failing. Having quickly located and dispatched her I used a frame with a lovely queen cell on it from the other hive. Only time will tell if it worked but I might be lucky.

On getting home I was able to take some lovely close up photos of another removed frame.

This is a sealed queen cell. I opened it (below) and above the grub you can see the royal jelly. This is fed to all bees at first egg stage but only to the queen longer term.

I hope you can make out the eggs in this shot.

The slightly older brood here.

This frame has brood of all ages. On the bottom right is the wax capped brood. The larvae will pupate in here and chew their way out to emerge as a new 🐝.