Recent articles on organic farming, regenerative ag, invasive species, etc:
Fingers crossed that the long cool Spring we have had (the nicest I remember) will bring a long bloom period as we now have four growing hives at the farm. Two weeks ago I split our overwintered colony twice and installed Missouri-bred queens from an apiary south of St Louis, and last weekend I added a nucleus colony from the same source.
Assuming all goes well, the new queens will fly and begin laying by the end of next week and during that hive check we will find larvae.
April has been so exciting! The warmth and timely rains have brought incredible life back to the farm and the plants are growing incredibly fast. Our surviving beehive has been gaining strength as well, bringing back pollen from at least three plants (dandelions, crabapples, another unidentified), and I’m eagerly thinking about splitting the hives later this month.
For flowers, the daffodils are now finished (and nearly all cut back to allow the plants to focus on bulb creation) and the first allium have -just- split to show hints of color. The larkspur is behind where I expected, but perhaps that’s the cold winter.
A few photos:
A lot of interesting agricultural & ecological news recently. Here are a few that stuck with me:
Rocheport is over a week (and perhaps two) behind St Louis but the allium at the farm have emerged and have robust foliage. It’s great to see! The bulbs were the size of baseballs and we had a very respectable germination rate, approximately 90% to 95% with no sign of rodent damage (they’re inside the garden proper to protect from deer).
We also had great emergence with the narcissus, although it was so cold that they seem quite short and, frankly, marginal for bouquets (and late!).
The netting is to provide support when the allium is taller — we are on the top of a hill and the wind can break the stems when the flower heads get larger.
Perhaps spring is really on its way! After the last few weeks of gray skies, snow, and cold temperatures I was starting to feel disheartened, particularly after the single-digit temperatures that blackened the early allium. And then yesterday was perfect! A cool strong breeze in the morning blew the clouds away, leaving strong sun to warm us as we got back into the garden — plus the bees were flying. A huge relief given the long winter; only a few more weeks and there should be nectar flowing.
Given our concern about widespread use of persistent herbicides to target unwanted broadleaf plants in hay and straw fields, we have been scrambling to find a source of fertility that we can trust — horse manure, commercial straw & hay, and urban-generated lawn waste are all out. We hope to find a source of leaves next fall, but this spring we’re experimenting with composting hay from our fields — we held a few large bales back — and built a simple wire cage to start the process.
The stack was inoculated with a bucket of worms + casings from our home compost along with wood ash from the stove, and soaked with water. We’ll turn it and re-soak weekly and, once it’s begun to break down, top dress the beds.
A fair amount of the narcissus have emerged, as have a small number of giant allium. We dedicated one 100’ bed to the former, and we’re hoping they naturalize aggressively.
Last picture — the bees. I didn’t want to stress them by opening the hive for a full inspection, so I just raised the lid to get a peak. Numbers are low but they were flying yesterday and seemed in good spirits.
The first allium came through the leaf mulch last week and then we had a night of ~8 degree frost which knocked them back. It was warm (but gray) today, but maybe spring is coming? It’s time. Here’s what’s been happening.
We are working to test perennials at the farm and we love the idea of having hundreds of delphinium, so we have been experimenting with starting them under lights. The first batch were moved into larger soil blocks last week and we’re optimistic they’ll be ready to transplant when it’s warm.
The 21” of snow has melted and frozen into thick layers of ice or ice-topped snow, and the farm is deep in hibernation. I’m not sure when the ground froze this year (it was 65 the first week of January) but it’s well-frozen now and, with a polar vortex arriving this week, likely won’t fully thaw until late March or early April.
The amount of frozen water is impressive, I have high hopes for a full irrigation pond to take us through early summer.
We manage our compost mid-week and as I turned the pile to aerate this week in the 10” of snow I was excited to see large numbers of red wriggler worms and even more excited to find worm cocoons! I circled two in the picture below. Each cocoon holds 3 or 4 teeny tiny baby worms and takes a few weeks to hatch.
A few links: