Monday, June 28, 2010

Big, fat figs

I always have an early crop of really big figs, followed by a later crop of slightly smaller figs. My fig is called "Davis Island," a very local plant. Who knows what the original plant may have been? I am now getting the first, beautiful fruit for this year. These are very mild figs, made slightly more so by the fact that I pick them early, before the birds get them. They are sweet and wonderful, and so beautiful I had to include a photo here. This is a great location for this fruit! Recommended varieties are Celeste and Brown Turkey, or a cutting from any successful fig in your neighborhood.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reality check

OK, so I show you all the pretty things from the garden on a regular basis. Today is not to show the good, only the bad and the ugly. A few tomatoes are ripening, and here you see what happens as soon as they get some color: birds. I have been to store after store to try and find some netting to keep them off, but there is no more to be found, at least not in time for this tomato and his kin.

I don't know about your location, but here it has been drier than I ever have seen it before. My usually wet, squishy back lawn is drying and dying, from front to back, as each day progresses. I can't keep enough water on the garden. Here you see my standard squash for this year: green and pretty at the stem, yellowing and softening at the tip, just after reaching about 5 inches long. So very sad.

Finally, the new hive, with Queen Ella, is acting very strange. Last night they were terribly agitated, running in and out of the hive, up the front and back again. Not common behavior for bees. This morning they are back at it again. I wonder if they are considering leaving for another location, or if the queen flew out to mate and didn't make it back, or, horrors, if we injured or killed the queen when adding a new box the other day. Only time will tell, as it is too early to check for eggs and brood on this new bee family.

Don't worry, I still love my garden and my bees. I accept that, along with all the pleasure and good food they give, they also bring a bit of frustration and worry at times. Once again, a garden as a metaphor for . . . well, just about everything!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Queen Ella joins the team; summer harvests

Well, a friends bees swarmed, and since I wasn't home, she came and got my extra box, caught the bees, and brought them back. When I got home, we had hive number 4. This is our first deep box hive (we usually use medium boxes for brood). It was a huge swarm, completely filling the deep box from side to side and top to bottom. We are scurrying to get 8 more deep frames ready so we can give them another brood chamber for more space. It is so very dry, that I am afraid there isn't enough out there for these new girls to eat as they prepare their new home, so I am feeding them, temporarily. A feeder is on top of the hive, filled with sugar water. Following our tradition of naming after women singers, we have named the new queen Ella. She joins Loretta, Dolly, and Grace.

I have emptied all but one rain barrel now, and resorted to the hose this week for one deep soaking to keep the vegetable gardens from failing all together. Although some things are struggling, the early planted beans and most pepper plants are doing well. The blueberries are giving up the last of their tiny crop, and we keep picking a few everbearing strawberries. Despite terribly looking vines, we get two cucumbers a day. The squash is suffering mightily in the drought, and the tomatoes just don't seem to want to ripen, and their vines are showing signs of disease and stress. There are some huge tomatoes waiting, but every day a bird or other creature digs a hole in another. Please, I just want to eat some of my own tomatoes before the vines die!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Get this guy

OK, just a quick note to you vegetable gardeners. It is early, but I have captured and smashed 6 adult leaffooted bugs already in the garden. They are hard on tomatoes and other vegetables. Here is a link to some great photos of adults, young, and eggs. Search out and squish all of these now, before they get out of control. Last year I was not vigilant enough, and by mid summer my tomatoes were buzzing with dozens of these critters.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cukes and peas, dancing bees

As our overabundant snap peas begin to wind down a bit, the vines are starting to show some signs of mildew, and are beginning to dry and brown at the bottom. This is a good sign that the peas will be done very soon. We have eaten all we can stand, have carried them to picnics to share, and have packets in the freezer. I am ready to accept their decline and embrace the next flush of vegetables. As the pea vines begin to dry and brown, they are exposing the small leaf cucumber vines that headed up the same trellis. Here you see a young cuke, intertwined with pea vines. I didn't really notice the cukes were heading in there until it was to late. I guess I will just cut the pea vines above the cukes and below them, and leave the center of the old pea vines wrapped up with the cucumber vines. Yes, some of that mildew is likely to spread from the peas. This is where a bit more thoughtful planning might have come in handy.

I also wanted to show you the new enclosure built around the young blueberry bushes. It is made of electrical conduit, pushed into the ground around the bed, and joined at the top with elbows in one direction and wire ties in the other. We found that this conduit works really well in our garden. It does not rust here in the salt air and it does not bend or warp. I would prefer lovely bamboo, but I don't have any. The structure is covered with bird netting. Now the berries are safe from the birds, even if it does take some work for me to get to them.

Finally, the bees. Grace's hive had a big orientation flight for bees newly graduated to worker status. Here you see them all flying in front of the hive. Loretta's girls are enjoying the early summer, hanging out on their front porch and doing a little washboarding: two steps forward, two steps back. No, we don't know why.