Hurricane season hasn’t started yet, but we already have our first named storm of the year. Happy hurricane season everyone! As of writing this it is still subtropical (I guess for specific weather nerd reasons it isn’t called a tropical depression), but expected to become a tropical storm. As a wise guide once stated, it is never too early to start thinking about getting yourself ready for the storm.
I went around and found a few minor issues that could be a big problem if a storm were to hit. These are easy to do now when I have free time, but would be stressful to complete when a storm is coming.
First up on the list, my screened in porch is getting old and one of the vertical supports broke loose. It doesn’t hold the roof up, there are 4×4 posts for that, but buffeting winds would do a lot more damage with this part flapping around. A few right angle brackets and metal screws secured it in place.
Second, I have a set of areca palms that have gotten too close to the house. I probably shouldn’t have planted them that close in the first place, and might cut them out completely when they start pushing out the fence. For now, I like them, but need them to be away from the house. Again, under normal storms they aren’t a problem, but heavy winds could whip those fronds around enough to do real damage to the corner of the roof.
Last but not least my poor fence had another post shear off. Not sure why they all happen on just this one side, but they do. The left picture shows a distinct bend. As it turns out the most bent post is actually rock solid, just not straight. The one closer to the camera has broken off at the ground. I left the broken post in place and sank another one next to it. Everything is much more solid. Thats it for now. Time to enjoy a margarita and hope we have quiet season.
Spring is in full swing here, and summer is probably just around the corner. We are already starting to see 80+ degree highs pretty regularly. That must mean it is time to hit the garden! We usually kick things off with a visit to the local botanical festive. This year it was moved and by my estimate was about half the size it normally is. Very sad. As a result we got no herbs and still have a number of empty planters. Still, we got a lot of good plants!
Our big backyard planters I made were looking kind of sad. All my attempts to grow clover kind of went kaput. Only the pink flamingos were coming in nicely.
Some native friendly variant of Mexican petunia went into the right side bed while some blanket flower and Mexican heather went in on the left. We transplanted the flamingos so they could spread more.
Even the back door planter got in on the action. I found a tiny lime bush and some lavender for the bees. This one still needs some help filling out.
Out front didn’t see a lot of new flowers. We were trying to pick up native sun happy pot friendly plants. Not sure how successful we were, but here is some of what we got.
The sweet almond smells amazing and looks good in these cool new 90 degree pots we got.
There was a Florida friendly daffodil apparently and something called nemesia. We probably need to fill out about 6-10 more pots out front for everything to look right. Hopefully we will have another free Saturday soon to do more gardening.
Last but not least this little simpson stopper is hopefully going to grow up big and bushy to help cover up the trash cans. Right now he is a runt, but a little water and a strong summer ought to fix that.
Our local university has a botanical fest every year. It is a wonderful event. Plant vendors galore and fun people everywhere!
They also usually have fun nature displays and animal groups. Here is an adorable little bat!
We started pulling our little wagon around and picking up lovely planties.
Before we even got home we noticed one of the girls couldn’t wait to snack on our new plant selection.
By the time we finally did get home we had a pretty full wagon. I traded my old wheelbarrow for this dump wagon a few weeks back and couldn’t be happier, it is really useful.
With the plants out I used the wagon to mix up a batch of coconut coir. A small brick of the stuff can soak up a lot of water and help keep it in the soil. Unfortunately the brick is hard to breakup.
A bit of sawing and soaking later and I had a big soupy mess. I was going to toss in a bag of compost and vermiculate with this, mix it and call it potting soil. I went a little overboard with the vermiculite.
I mixed equal parts of this stuff with compost to make a potting soil. Some plants needed sprucing up, others were dead and needed complete replacement.
We probably need another 8 or 10 plants to finish out our replacements, but we are off to a good start and we have plenty of diy potting mix material.
Making cedar boxes is a great way to have a gorgeous looking planter box. The only problem is that cedar is kind of expensive. A 1×8 cedar board is about 2 dollars a linear foot where I am at. Instead of doing a whole box, I just outlined a cheap plastic tub.
This ended up being cheaper and way faster to put together. The added bonus is that I don’t have any wet dirt sitting against the cedar, and it doesn’t hold any weight. I expect this box setup to last a lot longer than any of my other cedar planters. Doing this with a large yet shallow box would really reap a lot of benefits. Under-bed plastic tubs for example. Don’t forget to drill a few holes in the plastic tub
The only drawback is that you can see a bit of the plastic where this one is sitting. Thankfully the wildflower mix I planted a few weeks ago is starting to work some coverup magic.
For no apparent reason here is a tiny frog I found on my pepper plant a few days ago. Hard to tell scale in this, but he/she is well under an inch long.
The variety of flowering plants we have been putting down over the last six months has started to bare pollinator fruit. There have seen a number of bumble bees in our yard, and of course our own honey bees have something close to snack on. I thought adding some clover would help out. I picked up a pound of white and yellow clover and got going on a raised bed garden.
I considered tilling up some of the back yard and trying to plant where the grass had been. I might give that a shot sometime, but doing a raised bed garden seems to be more of a guarantee of success. I picked out enough cedar to make two joined 4ft x 8ft raised sections.
12 foot board cut nicely down to 8 and 4 foot sections. The corners and centers that tie everything together were made up of 4×4 pieces. I went with galvanized lag bolts with washers with the hope that it will last longer than screws. Time will tell. Once assembled the thing was bigger than my garage, and almost too big to carry to the back yard.
Before putting it in place I gave everything a coat of waterseal to add a little extra life to the cedar. Once in the backyard weed screening was stapled to the inside to form a sealed area. This meant I didn’t have to tear up the grass or worry about it growing up into the bed. In all a serious time saver.
A million trips wheelbarrow trips of dirt later and the beds were full. I sprinkled down a few hands full of seed and mixed it into the top inch or so of dirt. The picture below is about a week old with a few little sprouts start to poke through.
We have been bringing home a ton of plants this spring. Most of them are even still alive too! Having the flower bed areas covered in rocks lets us do all sorts of potted plants. Pots get expensive and often aren’t big enough, so I decided to make some customized cedar planters. First grab a pile of cedar and start cutting.
I cut 8in boards to 24in length and made some 8in end caps. It turns out a cedar 2×4 is actually 2 inches by 4 inches. When you rip them in half they are still a decent chunk of wood. I took the fronts of each box and milled an “H” into it.
A touch of spray paint highlighted the letters nicely. I used a hand plane to remove the excess spray. The box construction is pretty simple. I screwed the long segments together and tied the sides and ends together through the 2×2 chunks.
With cedar wood, epoxy covered screws and a coating of thompson’s water seal, they should last a while. I moved our two basil plants into one box. The one on the left was in a plastic pot that never drained well.
For the other boxes I had help picking out the plants. Looking around the plant section at lowes I found a pile of bees on the mexican heather. They seemed to whisper, “pick this one!”
So mexican heather for us!
Lastly, as I was standing in the checkout line a monarch butterfly was making a visit to a pile of scarlet milkweed near by. That came home with me too. By the time I got around to planting it was looking a little sad. Hopefully regular watering will perk it back up.
The 8″ boxes are a decent medium size. They totaled about 20 bucks a piece for the materials. Next I will probably make a set with doubled or tripled up 6″ boards.
Our collection of pepper and tomato plants were starting to have a problem. The tabasco plant was rapidly declining, and some of the other peppers had a burnt look to them. After asking around we decided to move them from the front to the back. Our front receives full sun from mid day on. The back is filtered by some oak trees early on, full in the mid day, then house sheltered in the afternoon. The results have been better, the plants look less withered when I go to water every afternoon.
Honestly our little back garden area doesn’t look great. We have made a few attempts at growing thins in there, but none have succeeded. Many of the better gardeners in the area seem to forgo in ground planting for raised beds. I guess our soil sucks for most things. Lets try a raised bed. The brick edgers came out and weed screen went down. It worked out, we put screen around and behind the AC unit, and poured lava rock on it. It needs more rock, but this should keep the grass from going too crazy back there.
Lowe’s had garden soil on sale for 2 bucks a cubic foot, and HD had the cedar raised bed thing for 10 bucks off! I put in two bags of compost for good measure along with the soil. After some jockeying we got all our various tomatoes, peppers, and a few new vegetables in. Any more plants and we will need to build another one of these units.
I am leaving the screen too wide until everything settles. In retrospect I should have run it up the insides of the cedar. Oh well, that is what next time is for! Until then hopefully our plants thrive and we get more of those awesome little tomatoes the one bush was giving us.
We have an orange tree that is going nuts in our backyard. It is 6-7 feet tall, looks to be in need of a trim, and is producing a ton of blossoms.
I was really hoping we could get the bees in and established before the tree went to flowering. We were successful, and they have found the orange tree.
My wife has been nudging me to try beekeeping for a while now. She is worried about colony collapse and really enjoys honey in her tea. At first I was very hesitant. I didn’t want some buzzing swarm of doom in my backyard turning my lawn mowing routine into a battle to the death. It turns out all my fears were way over blown. A co-worker of mine had them for many years and filled me in on the facts and the day to day life of a beekeeper. Let me share a few common issues and questions that are asked.
- Are bees low maintenance? Yes, they don’t really need you. You can ignore them for a month or more. Visiting every week or two is good for monitoring their health.
- Don’t they sting? Yes, when threatened or under attack. If you open up their hive they are going to be unhappy. Smoke calms them down, and a veil keeps them out of your face. Away from the hive they will only sting if you start to swat at them. They are very docile! Stings are rare.
- Are they killer bees? No, they are typically european bees. The africanized bees are out in the wild, and will not mix with a normal healthy hive.
- Is taking honey bad for them? They typically produce a lot more than they need. They will continue to stockpile honey till their container is full. You have to leave them a certain amount for their own wellbeing, beyond that it can easily and safely be kept for human use.
- Seriously, keeping bugs? They are of the Hymenoptera not Hemiptera order, so no not bugs. Also they are adorable! True fact.
- Do you fedex bees? No, USPS and it is totally legal! You can order a package of bees. It is 3lb of bees with a queen in a screen cage with some food. I will be picking up a small starter hive from a place an hour north of here
- Honey is bee vomit! Ummm yes. They ingest, into their honey stomach, and regurgitate it multiple times to partially digest it and add enzymes to prevent the sugar from fermenting. So it is bee vomit to the tenth power. Sweet golden delicious bee vomit!
In an effort to create a welcoming home to our soon to bee guests; I got a ton of flowering annuals! It was kind of a coincidence. I was at lowes, and they had tons of marigolds for about 15 cents a piece.
They are beeautiful. I should start a count for every bee pun I use in this blog. I am up to three already. Instead of posting every time I inspect the hive I will only bee (4) posting major milestones and notable events. Everything else will go quietly into a new page of my website. A permanent bee journal page will bee (5) up shortly.