Archive for February, 2010

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Starting Seeds Indoors Under Lights

February 8th, 2010
seedlings growing under lights

Seedlings growing under lights

I started some seeds today in my “plant work room” and I thought you might be interested.  I start seeds in regular plastic nursery trays that I get from a local greenhouse – and that I save from store-bought plants.  I do recycle my plant containers from year to year –  If you reuse containers like this you really should wash them thoroughly in a weak bleach solution and dry them in the sun before storing them away for reuse.  » Read more: Starting Seeds Indoors Under Lights

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Honey Bee Queen Rearing

February 4th, 2010

This post is probably not going to be very interesting unless you keep honey bees – Or want to become a bee keeper.  Sorry about that, but there will be more gardening content coming soon.

Queen Bees – The heart and soul of a honey bee colony is the Queen.  Every hive has just one (with few exceptions) and if she is healthy, good natured, and productive she will pass those traits on to all of her daughters – the worker bees – and all will be good.

A bee keeper needs new queens to replace failing older queens, and to establish new hives and grow their operations.  If a hive becomes queenless for very long it’s production and health will suffer, and eventually the colony will die.  Hives with old queens are more likely to “swarm” – an event where the hive splits itself and half of the bees flying off to make honey for their selves instead of for the bee keeper. So replacing old queens with new ones every year is also a way of preventing swarms.

Queen Rearing – Most bee keepers order new queens by mail (when they are available) for about $20 each plus shipping.  Others raise (or allow the bees to raise) their own queens one at a time like nature does.  These videos are of what is called queen “rearing” – producing viable queens in batches.

At a value of $20.00 each the ability to rear even small batches of queens could make a big difference in the economics of a small apiary. Being able to have queens when you need them instead of having to wait for one to come through the mail, and having some control over genetics are also factors in favor of learning this craft.

Wax cell cups for raising queens

In the first video very young (probably one day old or less) worker larva are being removed from a frame of brood comb and placed into wax cups using a wire grafting tool.  BTW, all workers are female.  The larva are very small – about the size of a comma.  Wax cups roughly the size of a small thimble  are either manufactured or are home made by dipping a wet wooden peg into liquid wax.

1) Grafting larva into cups

In the next video, the grafted queen cups which have been mounted with hot wax onto cork shaped pegs that fit into a special frame are being placed into a “cell starter” hive.  A cell starter is a regular hive with the queen removed that has a very high population density of bees – especially young “nurse” bees – and plenty of food stores – honey, and pollen.  » Read more: Honey Bee Queen Rearing

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The Ultimate When to Plant Guide

February 2nd, 2010

My Garden in April

Pay attention.  This may be the most valuable tidbit of gardening wisdom anyone ever hands you. Of course it also might not be.

When to plant – every seed packet you pick up has a little map on the back with 4 or 5 colored zones and planting dates for each zone.  Or they have cryptic advice like “whenever soil can be worked”, “after soil has thoroughly warmed”, or “after all danger of frost.”    Forget all that.  Plant when the soil is the right temperature.  Period.   Depending upon how sheltered your garden is, or if it has shade in the morning or afternoon – or if it is in a greenhouse or cold frame – those dates are just about meaningless.  But, the soil temperature will almost never lead you astray because the ground temperature changes slowly – it is slow to warm up in the spring, and slow to cool off in the fall.  Not wildly swinging with every warm or cold front.

Seed Germination time in days at different temperatures

degrees F 32 41 50 59 68 77 86 95 104
parsnips 172 57 27 20 14 15 32
onion 136 50 13 7 5 4 4 13
spinach 62.6 23 12 7 6 5 6
lettuce 49 15 7 4 3 2 3
cabbage 51 17 10 7 6 6 9
carrots 50 17 10 7 6 6 9
celery 41 16 12 7
peas 36 14 9 8 6 6
radishes 29 11 6 4 4 4 3
asparagus 52 24 14 10 11 19 28
tomatoes 43 14 8 6 6 9
parsley 29 17 14 13 12
sweet corn 21.6 12 7 4 4 3
cauliflower 19 9 6 5 5
beets 14 9 6 5 6
turnips 5 3 2 1 1 1 3
lima beans 30 17 6 7
okra 27 17 12 7 6 7
peppers 25 13 8 8 9
snap beans 16 11 8 6 6
cucumbers, summer and winter squash
13 6 4 3 5
eggplant 13 8 5
watermelon 12 5 4 3
muskmellon 8 4 3

As a general rule seeds that can germinate at a lower temperature are also more resistant to rot.

If you study this table you will begin to understand » Read more: The Ultimate When to Plant Guide