10.21.2018- Work in the apiary

First, check out our fall bees. Nucs are looking good! Check it out:

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Right now, I’m doing a couple of things in the apiary. First, I made up two VERY late season splits from packed out nucs. I’d intended to just make one as an experiment, and ordered two mated queens from Gardner’s apiaries (great queens, great price!)- one to add to an established hive that lost it’s queen, one to try out a late split with. But when I went into the supposedly queenless hive to add the mated queen, I found out that the virgin queen had indeed mated successfully (no eggs 3 days ago, plenty now)! So, I had two mated queens and no immediate use for them, so I made up two 5 frame nucs, with 2 frames of brood and nurse bees and 3 frames of honey. All the queens have to do is lay up a small broodnest and I think these nucs can survive our short winter here in Atlanta. We’ll see.

Second, I’m making up woodenware for spring. I put together 4 Coates nucs, and some 5, 8 and 10 frame equipment.

Some 5 frame medium Coates nucs:

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All the new woodenware, painted with a very tough paint designed for decks (that I got on super sale as an ‘oops’ batch, presumably because the color wasn’t what the customer wanted):

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I’ve also been pulling a few frames of fall honey to see how it tastes. It’s been phenomenal, very light and floral. A favorite in our house is freezing it and eating small spoonfulls (it has a caramel like texture when at -20C).

I’m not sure if the variation in color of this frame is due to different nectar, or simply different wax coloration, but I sampled spoonfulls from about 10 locations on this frame and found really different flavors. This is one of the nicest surprises about beekeeping- the honey being made is always changing in flavor as different plants are harvested.

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That’s about it! Not too much has changed in the garden: the garlic I planted last week is already coming up. Fall leafy greens are coming up well (spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce, cilantro, etc).

October 14, 2018- Garlic jamboree, and a fall garden overview

Fall is in full swing here in Decatur, GA. We’re seeing temperatures in the mid 70s in the day, and high 50s at night.

Today, I had two beekeeping goals and one gardening goal. For the bees, I have a very large hive I must have killed the queen in by accident (which is cool, this is my mean hive and I wanted to requeen!). I noticed 15 days ago that a virgin queen had already hatched out. I check today to see if she was laying, and didn’t find any eggs, though it’s possible I just missed them due to the meanness of these bees. Working that hive was rough and I took a couple of stings (including to my face- a first for me. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected). I’ll order a mated queen tomorrow AM. My other task was to expand the broodnest of a nuc that had been storing too much honey where the queen lays. Honestly, I was worried that this hive wasn’t queenright since I didn’t see any eggs last weekend. Fortunately, they just moved the broodnest to the upper super, and have a nice set of eggs and larvae. They should be fine for the winter.

OK, now on to the garden (with pictures!). This winter, we’re going all in on garlic. Last year I planted some hardnecks that did absolutely beautifully. Here’s a pic from July 5th of last year:

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This is the variety “Music”. I planted most of the bulbs you see above, and I expect a 5-7 fold increase (as there are that many cloves in each bulb).

This picture got one of my best friends, Mike Wang, stoked about garlic this year. And if you know Mike, you know that he doesn’t do half measures. I’ve learned more about gardening from Mike than anyone- most importantly, how to think about gardening, which mostly is how to learn to think like the plants you’re trying to grow. Anyway, Mike bought a grab bag of different varieties from Filaree Farms (same place I got my Music bulbs last year). And being the insanely generous dude he is, he hooked me up. And by that I mean he bought two bulbs of each variety, and sent me the bigger one of each. Incredible. He also sent me some cleaned and surface-sterilized bulbs from garlic he bought at the market (Spanish Roja and another, un-named variety):

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Today, I prepped some beds and planted these out. Our soil is heavy clay, and garlic like friable, oranic-rich fluffy soil. So I added in about 200 lbs of aged horse manure to each 4×10 bed, plus about 2lbs each of magnesium sulfate (epsom salts), calcium sulfate (gypsum), and a balanced fertilizer. These complement the limiting macronutrients in our utisol clay soil.

After tilling down about 10″ and fluffing the soil, I planted out the garlic with generous spacing (8″ in a grid, or 6″ in 1.5 foot spaced rows).

I planted out most of Mike’s garlic in my best bed, a raised bed that is built entirely of compost placed on red clay soil. It’s been mixed and tilled for a season, and is quite light and fluffy. It’s also in full sun as it’s near the road:

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This bed is packed with garlic, I can’t wait to see how it looks next spring!

For what it’s worth, these are beautiful varieties. I am really looking forward to seeing what does well in our climate:

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Persian Star

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Burgundy (just look at that color!)

My plan is to put on a deep bed of woodchip mulch once the bulbs establish. This will suppress weeds and retain water, and, critically for our climate, keep the bulbs cool as summer comes on. The longer we can keep our garlic cruising into summer, the bigger the bulbs, and once the soil temperature gets above 90F, garlic is done. I put on a 2-3″ layer of wood chips on the Music garlic last year, and I think it really helped them get big.

Looking at some of our other beds- the four empty-looking ones are packed with garlic! Three with just music, one with some more of Mike’s garlic (Spanish Roja). One has Georgia collard greens, and another is still full of peppers yet to be harvested.

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I also planted in some lettuce and cilantro into the foremost bed above.

Here’s a little collard plant (hope they get huge!):

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Our peppers are doing quite well right now. Some of the neater looking varieties:

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This is a gigantic Jamaican Scotch Bonnet. It’s about 6 feet tall at max and maybe 8 feet in width. I started it from seed under lights in the early spring, probably March, and it didn’t start to flower until September! Now it’s packing hundreds of fruits. I hope they mature before our first killing frost in November!

Our Ghost chilies are doing great too. I’m going to try fermenting them and making a hot sauce (pic below). In addition, we have Thai chilies, cayenne, and a couple of sweet varieties.20181014-DSC02888.jpg

I also got a really neat plant from my mother in law, Lá Cẩm, a Vietnamese herb that, when boiled, makes a brilliant magenta color. It is used as a food coloring in Vietnamese cooking. She gave me about 8 cuttings from her plant, and they all rooted. They’re even making these delicate little magenta flowers. It’s awesome. It’s a tropical plant, and so not winter hardy, but I’ll put them outside next spring.

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The raspberries are still producing. They’ve taken over the three beds I put them in. We probably have a couple of hundred plants now. They’ve been going solidly since July, it’s incredible. I haven’t done a great job keeping up (these are a bit long in the tooth), and I’m excited for what these floricanes will do next spring!

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Well, that’s all for the garden update today. Fall is coming on fast- but we’re well planted in for the winter. We have a ton of spinach, kale, collards, lettuce, cilantro, arugula, and radishes, as well as leeks, garlic, and onions. They’re all loving this weather.