The glorious spring weather propels the season forward and we struggle to keep up with nature’s beck and call. This last week the bees have been sitting out on their porch like it was August. I can tell they are getting restless and want to expand their numbers. If you are a beekeeper you are supposed to do something about this state of affairs. Do nothing, and most of your bees will be gone within a fortnight. Sometimes you can catch the swarm, but more often than not you never see them again. So its time to act.
Sure enough I find queen cells in the big colony. I make a strong 5 frame split with the frames that have queen cells, replacing the removed frames with new one with just foundation. This should disrupt the brood nest enough to take the wind out of their sails for a few weeks. I close them up and hope for the best.
The second, less populous hive also presents with queen cells. I didn’t expect this. I’m half way through the inspection, separating out the frames with queen cells, when I realize that there is no uncapped brood or eggs. I search in vain for the queen or any sign she is there. It is not uncommon for the bees to prevent the queen from laying eggs just prior to swarming so she will slim down and be able to fly. So is it possible that she is there somewhere but has been kept from laying for the last 8 days!? Or maybe she is dead. What to do?
I compromise. I make a strong three frame split with some of the queen cells and leave a few frames with queen cells on the main colony. We will just wait and see what the bees do. On nice days the bees are bringing in quite a bit of honey. That can change with a spate of bad weather and will somewhat diminish naturally as the tree bloom comes to an end. The goal is to have bees in the hive when the blackberries bloom. There is time for much to happen.
But onto the garden. The soil is finally really workable. Time to plant parsnips! Parsnips are slow to germinate. Planting early helps ensure a moist germination bed.
The tomatoes have to go in soon. Two rows usually seems right, but the spot where they are supposed to go really doesn’t accommodate two rows. The Paul Robeson tomatoes that I started in February are about to outgrow the cold frame. A bike trip to the farmer’s market yields the other varieties I like. Should I plant them out or hold them in the cold frame for another week or two? I build the row trellis and the sunshine convinces me to set in the ten plants that I have room for. Maybe next week inspiration will tell me where the rest can go.
Next is the squash patch. There are still some cauliflower and kale growing there. The kale provide snacks as I till the ground around them. They don’t have much time left, but I manage to build my squash pattern, squeezed to six feet between hills in all directions, such that they can stay a little longer. I get twelve squash hills in this corner of the garden. Not bad, but not enough.
Last year the only c. maxima I planted was my own Buttercup desert squash selections. That made seed saving easy, but it got boring eating the same kind of squash all winter. This year it’s back to variety again. Here is my list.
- SquashPractice Buttercup Desert Squash – 3 hills
- Marina de Chiogga – 2 hills
- Oregon Sweet Meat (Carol Deppe)
- Blue Kabocha (Seed Ambassadors)
- Lower Salmon River Squash (rare)
- Butternut – 2 hills
- Yellow Crookneck
- Spaghetti Squash
- Styrian Hulless Pumpkin (for edible pumpkin seed)
One thing that is truly organic in my garden is the decision process of where to put stuff. Crop rotation, sun requirements, companion planting compatibility, soil work-ability, and timing with what is growing now make any fixed plan subject to change. But the multitude of small decision that make up spring work shape the year ahead. The work is good, the results are satisfying.