Harvesting – me and the bees
There’s a reason the word produce is both a noun and a verb. It’s mid-August and the garden is going like gangbusters. I’ve been eating lettuce and greens like a bunny and have yet to make any headway. I’ve given away armloads of veggies – kale, lettuce, chard, green beans, and beets – and cooking like a fool, and still I’m buried in fresh produce, with no end in sight. And I’m loving it!
I’ve picked several pounds of green beans, mountains of chard, lettuce, kale, beets (and beet greens!), early zucchini, rutabagas, and a few carrots. In the herbs department my sage is healthy and happy, the dill plants are thick and green (though there is some aphid damage), and the spearmint has taken over the front garden, as mint is wont to do. It’s now ten feet by three feet, and two feet tall to boot. Mint jelly, anyone?
I’m seeing a little more leaf miner, mostly in the chard, but a couple of the stray beet plants are riddled with it; not the beet patch itself, though, so I’m wondering if it has to do with variety. I have yet to figure out what kind these stray beets are – I haven’t picked any yet, but I’m thinking they’re golden beets. The other crop that’s had issues with pests are my carrots, which have been unimpressive so far. The few I’ve picked are so-so in size and flavor, but all have been damaged to some degree by carrot rust fly larvae and/or carrot weevil.
The lettuce has had its share of slugs (and slugs have eaten the carrots and beets too – the tops on the carrots (so they’re getting it from above and below) and the exposed root on the beets) but since I planted enough for a family of five, I’m not too worried. I go out late at night and pick them off regularly; the pasture grass surrounding the garden is loaded with them, so it’s going to be a never ending battle unless I get some geese or ducks (maybe next year!). And then there are the sheep and the dogs, leaning over the fence to poach what they can. The sheep seem to like the kale, chard, and lettuce, the dogs mainly stick to the lettuce.
Even with these pests the haul has been impressive so far. And I’ve planted some crops for fall – more kale and chard and lettuce too. The potato plants (all except one) look healthy and robust, and I’m hoping for a nice crop. The pumpkin plants are taking over the garden, with several little pumpkins set and growing, and the delicata squash has finally started to produce fruiting flowers. The onions were swallowed up by the pumpkin plants a couple of weeks ago, so if they survive and produce anything, I’ll be happy. If not, well, I’ll figure out a better planting layout next year.
And the bees have been going great guns as well. I did a thorough inspection about ten days ago and found a hive laden with honey. Some of the frames must weigh four or five pounds (capped comb full of honey) at least. From here on out it will be important to manage for mites and be sure that the main hive and frames are well placed for easy access. During the winter months the bees will cluster inside the hive, not moving much, and they need to be able to get to their honey without too much difficulty. Hives have been known to starve even with plenty of honey stores if the bees cluster in one area and aren’t able to easily access the frames of capped comb. Lots to worry about yet, but right now their stores look fabulous – there are many pounds of honey out there, and knotweed season is in full swing. Blackberry season was very good to them, so with another month of good foraging ahead, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll winter over with honey to spare. I can always feed sugar syrup as needed, but would rather they dine on their own harvests of honey and bee “bread” (pollen mixture they collect and store in the comb as well).