Monday, January 28, 2013

Bee Happy Gardeners

This past Saturday, Deberah, Charlotte (a Crossroads Garden Club Member), her husband, Mike and I attended a beginner's beekeepers class given by the Coweta Beekeepers Association. It was an all day event from 8:00 am thru 4:00 pm. The class cost $30 and included breakfast, lunch, snacks and a year's membership into the association, plus lots of publications and catalogs to get us novice beekeeper's started.

Although, Deberah and I grew up with hives in our back yard (my dad kept eight or more hives), we were certainly beginners and needed help and education to keep bees for our garden and to rob hives for our own honey.

The class was organized and took anyone interested in keeping bees (even without any knowledge) throughout the process needed to start a colony. As you can see above, the dress needed to insure no stings. Bees will react to human emotions, like fear or anxiety because we emit a fermion they sense may upset them. On the other hand, if we remain calm they tend to remain calm too. Also, bees are not as suspicious if humans wear white colors, other than dark colors.

We learned the anatomy of bees, above is a worker bee. There are three types of honey bees, workers, drones and queens. The drones are the only male species and their purpose in life is to procreate with the queen. The female workers do all the work to keep the hive, collect pollen and nectar and make the honey. Of course the queen lays the eggs and insures the hive continues to grow and thrive with new bees.

Amazingly, the queen is the only bee that lives very long, the workers and drones, either work themselves to death or out live their usefulness in about 6 weeks. Drones aren't needed in the Fall and are banished from the hive.

We learned about every piece of the hive equipment. Hives can be bought assembled, but it is cheaper to buy hives and put them together. (My dad built his own.)
Deberah, Charlotte and I made a picnic in the hall for lunch.  

After lunch, everyone gathered outside to practice lighting smokers which are needed to inspect or rob the hive of honey. Pine straw is one of the best fuels for this task and very available.

Above is an full assembled hive, shown here with the owner of "Buster's Bees." They sell all the equipment needed to start your own hive, even the bees to put inside. Most hives are painted white and as you can see, the bees don't mind the attractive artwork.

Besides knowing all parts of the honey bee, it's important for beekeepers and gardeners to learn the parts of a flower. 
After all we need each other to succeed and Bee Happy!
Until Next Time .........
Happy Gardening 2013!
Posted by Wilma Smith

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Training Our Garden Cat

As you may remember, this fall Deberah, Jerry and I got a kitten hoping it would keep those darn critters out of our garden. After some debate we named him, Mr. Basil and since the garden is at my house, he resides with me. As you can see above, Mr. Basil is a Tuxedo cat and to my delight he doesn't shed. The first part of his training included my Corgi, Tia, my Chiwheenie (part chihuahua and part Datsun), Todd and a Schnauzer, Sunny Boy (my mother's dog I adopted after he acquired cataracts and diabetes), and me. We all had to learn to get along living in the house together. But this wasn't hard because Tia took on the role as mother, Todd was a playmate and Sunny Boy couldn't see Mr. Basil so well.

Often, I took Mr. Basil out to the garden to acclimate him to the territory, but I was a little concerned that he might think he was a canine instead of a feline, especially since I taught him to shake hands (very easily) and he was being raised with three dogs. However, recently, as seen above his innate predator genes kicked in and so far he has killed three rats to our excitement. I don't take credit for this training since he was born with hunting instincts.   

When all of us are chilling out, watching TV or napping, Mr. Basil has learned to join in by curling up around my neck and shoulders.

Although, I intend to keep training our garden cat, the first five months have been a success.

So, until next time.......

Happy Garnening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sweet Peas

If you like an "Old Fashion" flower with an "Old English" flavor, then you might like to add the Sweet Pea to your garden, yard or patio this spring. The Sweet Pea or formal name "Lathyrus Odoratus" is a member of the legume family (or more commonly known in this case as a pea).

It originated from Italy (Sicily) around the year 1700 and although that well loved fragrant climber is all but extinct, today's climbing and dwarf varieties exists due to the efforts of a Scottish decendent named Henry Eckford who crossbred and developed the Sweet Pea into a floral sensation late in the Victorian Era while working as a nurseryman for an English baron. His son John continued to work developing this loved flower after his father's death in 1906.

Last spring I bought a white, purple and yellow dwarf variety and planted them on the west side (back) of my house and they have practically bloomed all year, so I can't praise this pea enough that has shown so much color on the edge of the garden I am trying to establish. I planted Lantanas and Verbenas in between and behind these three Sweet Peas.

The Sweet Pea is an annual, so you can usually order seeds throughout the year, but plants are generally found mainly in spring ranging in pinks, reds, whites, lavenders and in original purples.

Just like any plant in the legume family, they need full sun, rich loamy soil and regular watering during spring through fall. Some climbing varieties are fragrant and make a great addition to floral arrangements.

Since I've been a little dormant through the Christmas Holidays wishing everyone a blessed green New Year!

Until Next time......

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Seed Starting Class

I have some great news! There will be a seed-starting class on Thursday, January 17 from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm at the Coweta County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall. (The above page is captured from the County Garden Farms website announcing the class.) The class will be taught by Mike Cunningham of Country Garden Farms and I can't think of any better person because he probably has more experience than anyone I know.

My sister and I plan have already signed up and though we have had some success growing transplants, we would never turn down the expert advice that will be given at this local seminar. Growing our own transplants is a real money-saver. I think the cost of the seminar will be repaid ten times over in just the first year!

Here is the information from the flyer sent by the Coweta County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers.

presented by
of Country Gardens Farms
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Coweta County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall
275 Pine Road, Newnan

Cost: $10 collected the evening of the seminar
(payable by cash or check)

Please register before January 16th by calling 
the Coweta County Extension Office:  770.254.2620

What you will learn
- How to select and buy seeds 
- How to build your own grow light stand
- How to maintain proper temperature, light, moisture and fertility to grow healthy transplants 
- How to schedule ideal planting dates 
- How to transition plants from indoors to the garden 

Mike’s Presentation will include a live demonstration of a grow light stand,
heating cables and plants.  He will also provide step-by-step instructions along
with a detailed handout.

Reasons for growing your own vegetable transplants 
- You can order any seed over the Internet and grow your own transplants and not be limited to the varieties that are available at nurseries in the spring. 
- You can grow your transplants organically yourself 
- Depending on how many you grow you can save money