Celebrate Bees

In the early spring, when the apple, peach and cherry trees are blossoming I keep the bees interested in pollinating the fruit trees by cutting the grass very short. This keeps the dandelions down until after the trees have finished blooming. It’s my trick to get bigger fruit crops.

Later in the spring there are still plenty of dandelions to keep the bees happy . And there's a variety of clovers and flowers planted for the bees, too.  It’s a pollinator paradise.

Bee FriendlyCelebrate Bees

On a trip to Seed Savers Exchange I bought Blue Boy Bachelor’s Button, Lambs Ear, and Heritage Farm Poppy seeds. The bees love these.

On our farm the pollinators are safe from  pesticides and herbicides. We’re an organic farm, it’s all about health and quality of life.

Recipes to Help Both You and the Bees

Honey Lemonadecelebrate bees

This lemonade is a great energy booster. Not only does it taste great it helps the honey bees and your local beekeeper.

  • 1 cup Fresh squeezed lemon Juice (if you don’t have a citrus juicer this one works great)
  • 1 cup local honey (support a local beekeeper, don’t by commercial honey, It's probably not be real honey, anyway)
  • 6 cups water
  • Put the honey and lemon juice in a blender and mix at high-speed for one minute.
  • Pour into a pitcher, add  water and ENJOY!
  • You can add fresh fruit, raspberries or strawberries taste great. Adding ginger or mint is an extra tasty treat, too.
  • Meyer lemons make this even better, they’re sweeter than regular lemons. When they’re available buy them in bulk and freeze the juice.

Bug Jugs and Bee Safe HerbicideCelebrate Bees

Plant bee friendly gardens and keep them pesticide free. These recipes protect your fruit trees and kill weeds without using glyphosate.

Save the Bees!

 

 

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How to Improve Soil Nutrients

Salt the Earth

I spent the last couple of days getting the garden ready. The asparagus bed, pumpkin patch, vegetable garden and orchard trees have been salted to Improve Soil Nutrients.

I read about how to improve soil nutrients and the benefits of sea salt for boosting trace elements in an article from Acres USA, January 2003. This winter I re-read the book Sea Energy Agriculture by Maynard Murray, M.D.

Dr. Murray presents evidence of the declining trace elements of soil. When commercial fertilizers are applied only the basic elements are returned to the soil. The abundance of these; nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime initially increase crop yield, however, they block uptake of necessary elements.

The science behind Sea Energy Agriculture is that the chemistry of sea life is naturally disease resistant and nutritionally superior. Sea salts added to soils are properly balanced between trace elements and sodium chloride. The application rate is important, too. The application is reasonable to restore the soil’s missing elements without rendering it useless like Carthage after the Romans salted the earth.

The best defense against disease is good nutrition. That nutrition starts in the soil. Plants take up the minerals which are then distributed to the end consumer whether human, livestock or wildlife. These end crops are nutrient dense and superior in trace elements.

In the past I’ve tried getting the geese to weed the asparagus beds. Instead of pulling out the grass they pulled up all the strawberry plants in the next bed over. This year I’m experimenting by using a high rate of Redmond Salt  to kill the grass in the asparagus bed. The heavier application won’t hurt the crop, instead it will restore elemental nutrients while inhibiting the invasive grasses.

Both  SEA-90 and  Redmond Salt are certified organic (OMRI listed). The difference is where the sea mineral solids are sourced. SEA-90 is from an estuary where sea water is captured and dried. Redmond salt is sourced from deposits in Redmond Utah.

As an experiment both products are being applied separately to the orchard trees and garden. Here on the farm there are two areas with heirloom apple trees, two areas with peach trees and one group of cherry trees of three different varieties. I don’t know whether the difference between the two products will be significant, we’ll find out at the end of the growing season.

Redmond salt is sold by a local supplier, which is convenient. There aren’t any SEA-90 suppliers in our area so I bought enough for half of our vegetable garden and half of the orchard trees through Amazon.

Last fall the pastures were salted with Redmond salt, 50 pounds per acre, to improve the balance of the soil.  This spring we’ll repeat the salt application. We’ve seen great promise in pasture growth using sea solids and the livestock prefer grazing the fields where it’s been applied.

How to Improve Soil Nutrients
Peach Trees

Bug Jugs, Homemade Herbicide, Garden Dust

It's that time of year again - time to protect your fruit trees, kill weeds, and dust the garden for pests while saving the bees!

Here are three recipes:

Bug Jugs, Homemade Herbicide, Garden DustBug Jugs

Put all the ingredients into a gallon water jug and hang in fruit trees to catch pests. One jug per inch of tree diameter.

 

Bug Jugs, Homemade Herbicide, Garden DustHomemade Herbicide:

Mix well, apply with a sprayer or dish sponge soap dispenser  Use caution; wear gloves and eye protection. 20% vinegar can cause burns on contact. Apply in dry, warm weather. A second application, within a few days of the first, may be needed for some weeds. Poison Ivy, brush, and vines will require more than one application. Be careful - this mixture will kill both the plants you want and don't want - don't get it on any that you don't want to die.

Bug Jugs, Homemade Herbicide, Garden DustGarden Dust

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 TBS Cayenne pepper

Mix together and dust plants while there's dew on them. Works especially well to get rid of cabbage worms.

 

Natural Homemade Herbicide

The garden's just getting started. The broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and peas are planted. We're getting a late start this year, but there's still time. The weeds always seem to have a better start than the desirable plants.  Here's a recipe to eradicate the weeds. This is a very effective contact herbicide.It's a great alternative to glyphosate and it's not dangerous to pollinators.

It will kill any plant on contact, both good and bad, so use caution.  I use a  sponge  soap dispenser ,  when Ineed to get the weeds that are surrounded by flowers and vegetables.

Natural Homemade Herbicide Recipe:

Mix well, apply with sprayer or dish sponge  soap dispenser  Use caution; wear gloves and eye protection. 20% vinegar can cause burns on contact. Apply in dry, warm weather. A second application, within a few days of the first, may be needed for some weeds. Poison Ivy, brush, and vines will require more than one application.

Don't forget, it's almost time to put out the Bug JugsThese Insect traps for fruit trees are terrific!

Apply this carefully when the pollinators are around. Although this is a bee friendly herbicide you'll still need to use caution.

Natural News had an article about the possible connection between glyphosate and infertility. This recipe is a great alternative to Roundup.

Homemade Herbicide

 

 

The distance of local

About twenty years ago the University of Missouri Southwest Center experimented with a 'close planting' garden. On a 30' x 30' plot one ton of vegetables was grown using only 27.5 hours of labor. Today it takes 4 hours, per person, of a five day work week to pay for purchased food. An estimated 70% of processed foods on the grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients, and then there's the distance that most food travels before getting to your store. Whole Foods Market defines local as within 700 miles. For Kroger stores, it's a two state range. Giant Eagle defines local as from the same state the store is located. This graphic from 1919 compares 'Vegetables Grown For Home Use Only' and 'Vegetables Grown For Sale'. So, what is he distance of Local?

1919 graphic Farming MagazineYou can't get more local than your own backyard. This is the time of year to start planning for next year's garden. Cover crops of green manure ( buckwheat, annual rye grass, clover, etc.) should be planted now. They'll add nutrients, aerate the soil, fix nitrogen, and feed the microbial life of the soil. Adding chopped leaves, from deep rooted trees, will mineralize the soil. Bare ground is the enemy of garden productivity.

Thank you to the staff of Farming Magazine for allowing me to use this graphic. It appeared in the Fall, 2013 edition of their great publication.

garden

 

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Life is Peachy

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Yesterday the weather was perfect for picking peaches. The unseasonably warm weather is forecast to abruptly end. I'm not sure how I get caught off guard every year, but I get lulled into a sense of never ending autumn. Reality hits me with cold, rainy winds every fall. The peaches ripened late this year, one tree has been picked, nine more trees to go. The peaches are small but unbelievably delicious. For years we've heard that peaches don't grow in Iowa. The same rhetoric deafened us in Illinois. Fortunately we're too stupid to listen. That's why life is peachy.

 

 

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Bug Jugs

Insect Traps for Fruit Trees - Pesticide Free

When we bought this farm five years ago there weren’t any trees left standing around the house, with the exception for two towering pines.  A couple years before the previous owner wanted to plant more corn. He cut down dozens of trees, dozens more were bulldozed. Apparently he didn’t find value in them. The house and yard looked naked without trees so one of our priority's has been to re-plant as many as possible. Heirloom apple, cherry, and peach trees were planted our first spring. Additionally, a direct seeding of acorns, walnuts, chestnuts, and hickory were planted. The fruit trees were growing beautifully until their third summer when the lambs scooted under the fence and ate the leaves and some smaller branches off the apple trees. Luckily it was late enough in the year so the trees were headed into dormancy.  There's a better fence now with two strands of electric wire, set low, and 3 additional strands of high tensile wire. The trees have recovered and twenty more have been planted.

Last year ninety pine trees were added to create a wind break. Scattered around the house are small oaks and maples which, in our lifetime, won’t be big enough for shade. Ssomeday they’ll be perfect for a tire swing.

The fruit trees need special care; pruning, mulching and pest control. In May we start hanging jugs filled with insect attractant to protect the young fruit from damage. Here's the recipe for pesticide free insect traps for fruit trees that work.

Here’s the Bug  Jug Recipe:

Place a banana peel in each jug. Use a funnel to add the sugar and vinegar. Add enough hot water to dissolve the sugar, fill the jug 2/3 full. Keep the cap off the jug ( tape the cap to the bottom of the jug so it can be used it to it again). Hang from the branches with twine, 1 jug for every inch of trunk diameter. Change the jugs often to keep them attractive to pests.

Here's a great recipe for Natural Homemade Herbicide

 

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On Good Friday potatoes are planted, St Patrick's day is for peas. This year I jumped ahead on planting a few other things, too.

I’ve been using Wall-o-water’s for years, but never set tomatoes out this early. Given the mild weather I was willing to experiment. Plus, I started two trays of tomatoes, which all germinated. I was running out of room under the grow lights so  the Black Krim and Roma’s are already in the garden. Cherry tomatoes will wait until there’s no danger of frost.  With luck the chickens will stay away from the broccoli and spinach.

The new transplants are surrounded by a single strand of electric fence, set close to the ground so the dogs will stay out of the garden.  The dogs love rolling in the freshly tilled ground.

It’s always entertaining the first time the electric fence is turned on. I love our dogs but they ignore my pleads to stay out of the garden. They chase each other through it, roll around, and dig up the new transplants. When the fence is plugged in it only takes one shock to keep them out for the season. After a week, or so, the fence charger isn’t necessary.

Our Great Dane, Nukem was a slow thinker. He was the gentle giant, but DUMB. Every summer, he’d lift his leg on the electrified garden fence. That shock wave traveled into delicate territory sending him running and whining. It worked, though. He avoided the garden for the rest of the season.

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC

Flowers
Summer flower Garden

It's April First, Again. A few years ago we had experienced a very mild winter and exceptionally early spring.  Around St. Patrick’s Day we tilled and planted our garden with cool season seeds. I should probably qualify this story and explain that Keith had never been involved in the early stages of garden preparation and planting but embraced the task with enthusiasm.  The variety of peas we selected boasted claims of, “fast germination, earliest to produce, and large yield”.

Every afternoon, when he would get home from work, Keith would run down to the garden to look for new growth and see if any seedlings had sprouted. Watching his exuberance inspired an idea for an April Fools trick.

My dad loves Keith and loves playing tricks on him. He helped me paint bunches of plastic plants in bright green; we had a variety of leaves and plastic stems of all shapes and sizes.  We planted our painted beauties in the same rows as our seedlings and laughed all the while thinking of Keith’s reaction.

As usual, Keith visited the garden when he got home. Watching him from the window we saw him turn toward the house. Keith was clapping his hands and running.  Flinging open the door, he cried, “Holy Cow (or something to that effect)! You won’t believe how much everything has grown.”  We followed him back outside, pinching ourselves to keep from laughing, We were grinning from ear to ear as we watched his reaction.  Bending forward  Keith rubbed a leaf, shook his head and began to laugh.  There’s great joy in a good natured joke that plays out well.  Over the past twenty-one plus years I’ve played several April Fools jokes on Keith, he’s always a good sport.

This weekend as I plant the garden I’ll be snickering to myself as I recall that April Fools prank.  My parents will be home from Florida within the next few days and when they come to visit I’ll show them this year’s garden and we’ll all laugh as we remember our painted garden.