108. Little Bitta Fall Goin’ On

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106. Garden Tour – First Day of Summer

We have been blessed with both sun and rain in good measure, so the garden is growing great. This is a picture-heavy post – no deep thoughts here, except to say:

Nothing brings more peace and meditation to my day than sitting or crouching in the garden, weeding, for an hour or so. The birds are diverse, and their songs and activities make my serotonin levels surge. Fortunately for me, there is no shortage of weeds to offer me those daily opportunities for quiet contemplation.

There are also garden pests – it seems like a new one pops up in profusion each year.

Pulvinaria acericola (cottony maple leaf scale)

Pulvinaria acericola (cottony maple leaf scale)

Tomato plants chomped on by deer

Tomato plants chomped on by deer

Unidentified greenhouse pest damage

Unidentified greenhouse pest damage

But right now is the best time in the garden. Here’s a shot of my medicinal garden.

and rooftop garden:

I have started to harvest raspberries:

The new beehive:

(The digging in the upper left of the photo above is the beginning of our Hugelkultur bed. We’re filling it with wood/log green waste, and our compost and mulch on top. It will require no watering all summer, adding to our existing xeriscaped yard.)

We have a small orchard beside the studio, with a frost peach, two apple trees, and raspberries. The deer broke into the fence, and did some damage, but I caught it early. This is not a great photo, but it’s hard to get a view:

Tireside garden

Tireside garden

and a bunch of other shots:

herb tower on deck

herb tower on deck

cucumbers in greenhouse

cucumbers in greenhouse

Mason bee condo

Mason bee condo

granny's roses

granny’s roses

I hope you enjoyed the garden tour at This Green House. Seeing it all in one post makes me appreciate our garden anew.

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104. Beekeeping

D has long talked of keeping bees.

I’m trying to encourage him to retire, yet I’m slightly trepidatious about it. Will I need to entertain him all the time? Or, will he develop/revisit some of his own hobbies and social circles?

To that end, I bought him a starter beehive kit for his birthday. Except, it was a little hard to conceal. When I brought it home, I was all in a tizzy. I had just returned from a couple of days in the city, and had to get the house ready and food shopping done for weekend company. Our nephew carried the kit into my studio, where I thought it would be safe from D’s observation, but when he came home a couple of hours later, he gave our great-nephew a tour of the yard, AND studio, so the surprise was ruined.

He is keen, though, and has read some books, taken a beginner bee-keeping course, talked to our friend who is a beekeeper, and ordered a “nuc” (for “nucleus”), which is a small starter bee colony centered on a queen (of course!.)  “Small” is a relative term; in this case it means 20,000 bees as a full, functioning hive has about 50,000 bees.  In fact, the hive will spend most of the summer growing and will not, as a result, produce much excess honey.  It will need most of its honey for the winter.

The race was on – he needed to build a bee deck to house his first and future hives.

In true Green Life spirit, I noticed a deck demolition going on in our neighbourhood, and thought the lumber being discarded looked re-usable. D picked up a truckload of it, then spent a full day removing nails. What a green hero in Carhartts!carhartt guy reclaiming lumberHe first needed to locate the deck in the yard. An open location that has southern exposure and gets sun almost all day (but has occasional shade) is best, as bees need warmth in the winter and especially in the morning. Even I have noticed that the bees only leave their hives in nice weather.

D built a substantial deck. He never does things by halves. I envisioned insubstantial rebar posts to hold the requisite electric fence. I say requisite, because we have black bears in our neighbourhood, and if you read Winnie The Pooh, you will know that bears LOOOOOVE honey (Bee Fact: it’s actually the embryonic bees – like grubs – that they like.  The honey is their dessert).

But, did I tell you D favours substantial? His bee deck, how can I say this, did not exactly blend in with the environment. I painted it the same green as the house (Behr’s Ponderosa.)  Bee books advise to shoot for “inconspicuous”, just in case neighbours (who are very rarely, if ever, bothered by nearby hives) are nervous.That helps.

D built a stand to perch his hive on, and installed the electric fence. It has about 6,000 volts but fear not; extremely low amperage – touch it and you’ll definitely feel it, but will be unharmed.From our garden shed, I requisitioned a ceramic green plant tray, and filled it with beach glass for the bees to stand on while they’re drinking, so they won’t drown.

Now, we’re ready for our new tenants.

D and his friend went to the city to pick up their nucs of Carniolan bees. Because the bees are coming to a restricted zone, where all bee hives are registered, the breeder has the nuc inspected for hive beetles before they leave her bee yard. The bee breeder simply transfers her 5 frames into the centre of their new hive, making sure that the queen is present.nuc transfer

Then, with all the openings sealed with tape and screen, so the bees don’t wander off while they’re being moved to their new homes, the new hives were put into the bed of our truck, strapped down securely, and covered with a damp drop cloth. D moved his nuc to the bee deck, and smoked the hive to calm the bees down before he released them to do their important work in our yard and all the yards of our neighbourhood. In the photo below, he is adding the food trough; he mixed about 2 litres of 1:1 water:sugar syrup as a starter.  Most bees don’t need to be fed at this time of year, but ours will need a couple of days to get oriented and find their flowers.

The bees lounged around for a few minutes, and then they started exploring. It was exciting!

So much to learn from and about these creatures. Welcome home, bees.

Sharing with: Amaze Me Monday, Rustic & Refined, Backyard Neighbour, Our Home Away From Home, Kathe With an E, Talented Tuesday, Savvy Southern Style, Poofing the Pillows, DIY By Design

94. Drought and Deer Resistant Plants

“We’re dyin’ here,” cry my plants. For 4 months, in this rainforest we live in, we have not had rain, and our regional district has decreed that, at level 4 (severe drought), we cannot use any district potable water outside for any reason. It’s been only 2 weeks, but it’s been enough to kill off several annuals, vegetables, and shrubs, and I’m worried about some of the big trees that we have spent a small fortune for.And, we are asked to conserve water inside, too. Bathe or shower less frequently, only flush the toilet after several “deposits”, and do less laundry. If we insist on keeping any plants alive, we must scoop up the used water from the bath and sinks, then schlep it outside to water our trees, shrubs and gardens. grey water for garden

“But, wait,” you might say, if you’ve followed this blog at all, “Don’t you harvest rainwater for your garden?”waterfall pond 1You’d be right. When we were building This Green House, we installed a rain-fed re-circulating waterfall that culminated in a 2000-gallon underground tank. With that water, we flush our toilets and water the garden. The building process shown hereGail Hunt Rooftop GardenI had no concept of how much water a summer’s worth of toilets and garden watering consumes. After a month of no rain and hot temperatures, I had to fill the cistern with potable water. Each month of no rain = fill the tank with the hose.

So, although the water in the cistern is no longer potable, I feel guilty using it to water the garden, because it comes from the outdoor tap. We schlep and we schlep, but we cannot schlep enough when we only bathe every three days.

But, some of our plants seem to be doing just fine. Neither deer nor drought destroy these hardy perennials. Here are the stars of the garden in this difficult summer:

Rudbeckia –
Rudbeckia

Virginia creeper –

Lavender –

Wooley thyme –

Garry Oak –

Fountain grass –

St. John’s Wort –

Rugosa rosas –

Jack-o-lantern Plant (Physalis alkekengi) –

Rosemary –

Heather – 

Stand up and take a bow, you wonderful plants, you!

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91. Buzzing Bushes

I wish I knew how to record my bushes so you could hear them buzzing.

The California Lilacs are buzzing.

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A symphony is playing softly in the lavender and rosemary.

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And in the indigo.

Those Lithodora are more gorgeous because of their gentle song going on while I water the garden.

Even the colourless raspberries have got a bee party going on.

Maybe D’s mason bee condos have something to do with the buzzing bushes. He must have installed eight of them around the yard. Clearly the vacancy rate is low in this neck of the woods, because we get dozens of minute tenant applications every day, delivered on grains of sand.

Our neighbour has hives. It’s lovely to think, when he gives us a jar of his beautiful honey, that we are eating some of our own plants’ nectar.

In other news, I’m excited about our first gooseberries.

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The big bed in the rooftop garden had a renovation a while ago – the surface was overrun with Marchantia liverwort.marchantia

It chokes off the light and holds the water at the surface. I sliced off the top 1.5 inches of soil, and discarded it. Then I mixed a sandy loam with perlite and applied about 3″ of it to the soil to improve the drainage. It seems to have worked – my plants love it and I haven’t seen any of that horrid Marchantia return (so far).

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are loving their new bedroom, and most of the seedlings have been planted out.

From a gardening friend I learned this neat trick with cinnamon: sprinkle it on the surface to keep mould at bay – it’s antibacterial.

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It’s been so very dry here – I don’t think we’ve had rain for the whole month of May. The water storage cistern has to be topped up with town water for flushing toilets and watering the garden. It’s a constant chore to water – more so this year than any other. Not as bad as California, but unusual for southern British Columbia. I’m afraid I’ve lost my new Umbrella Katsura tree to the drought.

But the bees and their comforting hum help me feel better.

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