Clicking on any of the pictures will open them at full size in the browser window, which means you will have to use the 'back' button to return to the main pages, whereas clicking to the left or right of any picture will open them in a new window, if you fancy a closer look at any of the piccies we've posted! We've included a Google Earth satelite picture of our plots and this years planting plan at the bottom of the page, next to each other. If you choose the Earth view on the satelite image you can rotate the image until it is lined up with the planting plan, then use the arrows in the plan to scroll from Plot 2 to Plot 1.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yayyy! Holiday Time! 2 weeks off work & time to play on the plots!

Well, the Solstice has passed, summer is officially here and everything is growing well! We're on holiday for 2 weeks now, so should be spending a lot of time on the plot, weeding, sorting the paths out and rebarking them to tidy up ready for the judging in 2 to 3 weeks time! We're also hoping to get a couple of days away at Shell Island (

Plot 2 is virtually full, with only 1 small bed to clear and plant up, and all the crops are growing on really well! As you can see here the broccolli at the front is really coming on well, the spuds behind are flowering and growing really well (with no sign of blight as yet), the onions and garlic (behind the greenhouse to the right) are looking good (should be harvesting in the near future), and the sweetcorn n squashes are looking fab!

As you can see here, the sweetcorn is thickening up really well, anytime now they will shoot up and start to produce cobs, with any luck we should get a couple of cobs per plant, so hopefully this year we'll have lots to harvest (with 140 plants), and the sunflowers and squashes/pumpkins that are also in that bed are doing well! Hopefully the sunflowers will keep the local squirrels occupied so they leave our sweetcorn alone!

The area surrounding the pond has again been a bit neglected, some of the plants we put there last year have done really well, especially the lemon verbena, variegated sage and some of the foxgloves and mint, but there's also a few weeds and nettles, so one of the jobs I want to tackle this week is to clear the weeds and plant up some other useful plants, especially ones that the bees can use for food! Any suggestions?

Plot 1 is also looking good! The broad beans and peas are cropping well, the borlotti, runner and french beans are growing well and should start to flower soon, the brassicas are doing really well, the strawbs are cropping well and the courgettes are beginning to produce fruit! We've a bit of work on here to get the paths weeded and rebarked, plus a bed to clear and some weeding to do, but hopefully by the time we finish our hols then we should be looking really good!

The first sowing of broadies is cropping nicely, and the second sowing of 24 plants is now flowering, so we should have a good successional crop from these!

The first courgette! We've 2 at about this size, and another 12 or so smaller ones forming, hopefully they will again produce a bumper crop of tasty frsh organic courgettes! With 13 plants growing, its possible we may well face a glut this year!

The peppers, aubergines and chillies in the hot house are also growing well, with plenty of flowers and the first few pepper and chilli fruits forming, along with a few volunteer spuds in the bed! The 2 greenhouses and the polytunnel are also doing well, the weed control fabric we've planted through seems to be doing a good job at keeping the weeds under control, and the first few toms are now golf ball sized, with plenty more flowers also present! Hopefully we'll be eating fresh toms soon!

The final planting of cabbages is growing on nicely, the earlier sown ones are also going well, with the first batch not too far from beginning to heart up, hopefully we'll be harvesting some of these soon!

The brussell sprout bed is also looking good, the 27 plants are growing nicely, should have enough sprouts to see us through the winter, but still a long way to go before they are harvested!

So, ontop the veg plot balance sheet!

Total Veg Plot Costs 2010

Rent + Subs for 2 full plots £100
Seeds £20
Seed Spuds £20
Onion Sets £6
Growbags £15
Chicken Manure Pellets £8
Plastic 'wannabe' Polytunnel £61
Bamboo Canes £8

Total Costs £ 238

Total Veg Plot Harvests 2010

Rhubarb £ 25
Fartichokes £ 4
Volunteer Spuds £8
Lettuce £2
Radish £2
Garlic £15
Strawberries £10
Peas £4
Broad Beans £4

Total Veg Plot Harvests £ 74

So we're still £164 short of breaking even for the year, but a long way to go until we've even really begun to bring in the harvests!

Beekeeping Update!

With us now having 6 hives for ourselves and 1 nucleus that will be going to a new beekeeper in the near future we've found that its best if we split into 2 teams to do the inspections (usually the girls team of Pat, Sarah - Pat and Colins daughter - and me doing apiary 1 (our original apiary with hives 1 and 2 plus the nucleus in it) and Lee and Colin doing apiary 2, with hives 4, 5, 6 and 3 in it), as that way we can do both apiaries in about an hour and a half, rather than it taking all of us about 4 hours to do the inspections!

Apiary 1

Sarah started to do Hive 1 (Smiths hive), with Pat and myself assisting, she was stung within 5 minutes (through her jeans), but soldiered on to complete the inspection! This hive was the first one we got, and has been a worry since we got them, as the Queen doesnt seem to want to build up the bees numbers as well as the other hives. We've had the bees tested for disease, and nothing was evident, so we've not taken any action other than feed them and give them already drawn out frames. This week we found that there are now bees on 5 frames, and plenty of stores being laid down, plus 2 play cups (the start or a queen cell that they produce ready for swarming or superceeding the existing queen), which are the first that we've ever seen in this hive! Things are looking up in here, so its possible shes decided to get a move on and we may have to change her nickname from 'lazy queen'!

Hive 2 (another Smiths Hive) is our most prollific, the queen in here is a fantastic layer (again this is one of our original colonies, but not the original queen as we lost her in a swarm last year), last week we decided to give her more room to lay in, so put another super on, but this time below the queen excluder to allow her more room to lay. In the space of a week its been almost completely drawn out and filled with eggs, grubs and stores! This hive has 4 supers on it now, with 2 completely full and partially capped (once fully capped we can take some for harvest) supers of honey!

We found lots of play cups, but also 2 fully developed (but not capped) queen cells, so given that its possibly getting late in the season for a division to build up ahead of the winter we decided to put these plus some eggs, brood and stores into a nucleus, giving us another split to hopefully pass onto another new beekeeper! This may be our last chance to get a division this year, tho our Hive 3 was a late swarm last year (mid august), so the old adage of 'Aswarm in May is worth a field of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon and a swarm in July isnt worth a fly!' isnt always correct!

The nucleus in this apiary (which was the split left behind when Hive 3 swarmed a few weeks ago) is doing really well, we rehomed it into a hive last week, and the bees are calm and very productive, now occupying 6 frames and having already capped a full frame of honey! The queen had been nicknamed 'speedy' as she is a very fast mover on the frames! We recon this is going to be a great hive for the girl who is having it next week when she gets back from her holidays!

Apiary 2

Lee and Colin started in Apiary 2 (which is on plot 1, confused yet?), with hives 4 and 5 (4 to the left in this pic and 5 to the right) both of which are Smiths Hives and contain splits from Hive 2. Both have 2 supers on and have bees on 7+ frames, they both seem to be doing well, with a full super each and the second super filling up nicely!

Hive 6 (to the left of this picture, a National Hive with 3 supers on, contains the first split we took from Hive 3) is the hive thats been nicknamed 'stingray', its stung one of us the past 2 times we've been doing an inspection, and today it struck again, with Sarah getting it twice (again through her jeans). Although the bees are a bit feisty in here, they are good producers, so we're keeping the queen in there for the moment, but if things become bad, then we may have to consider requeening them!

Hive 3 (to the right of the picture, another National Hive and the original queen that swarmed from Apiary 1) is also going really well! Since being rehomed in the new National only 4 weeks ago they've completely drawn out the brood box and 2 supers, and today had another super put on it as the other 2 are now full of uncapped honey!

Watching the bees come and go is absolutely facinating, all of us agree we could stand and watch them for hours at a time!

So, the 6 hives we are keeping now have a total of 15 supers on them, in varous stages of being filled and capped. Once they are capped off then we'll be removing some to harvest, and at 22lb (on average) of honey per super, then there's a potential 330lb of honey currently on the hives. With the late flows of ivy and himalayan balsam still to start (at which point the girls could fill a drawn out super in a week - weather depending - for about 4 or 5 weeks), then its possible we may yet get a significant harvest from the girls this year, although we are definitely going to leave them with a full super of capped honey per hive for the winter!

Our Beekeeping Balance sheet is beginning to look a bit healthier, with an total outlay of approx £3000 and a total income this year of £300 (once the 3 nucleii have gone), plus the 3 new colonies we've been able to split into hives this year, (worth in effect £450+) and factoring in the 18lb of honey we harvested last year - worth approx £90, then our total equivalent yield so far is £840, with the honey harvest yet to start! Even if we dont get any more supers filled this year (a highly unlikely scenario), then we should be able to harvest 9 supers of honey (leaving 1 super per hive for the winter) which should yield about 200lb of honey, worth about £900 to £1000, which will bring our yield to approx £1740, or just over half way to breaking even!

Hope your veg is growing well, your fruits are setting and your crops are growing well!

More updates to follow soon!


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