Springtime 2023, RIP Bees, and Garden Planning

Edit: I wrote this post last week when it was gorgeous, not today with the freeze warning last night and the high of 67 today. Get it together, Michigan.

It’s the first week of consistent warm and sunny weather, so I’m losing my mind even though I KNOW that there are quite a few more opportunities for hard freezes! Right now, then, I’m limiting myself to plotting and reviewing.

We lost all four hives of bees over the winter. It’s our opinion that they broke cluster when the weather warmed up in January and were not able to return. Bees get through the cold winters by clustering up around the queen and vibrating to keep everyone warm. We’ll be removing the frames and extracting honey in the next few weeks if we get a good stretch of warm weather to assist in draining our filter buckets. Here’s a link to the post where we tested out our new extractor last August. We’re still on the fence as to whether we’re getting more bees this year.

The Winter Porch Garden experiment was a mixed bag. Greens did OK on the cold porch, but that’s about it. Had the BSE not installed my grow lights while I was recovering from my knee replacements, that would have been a bust too. Next year I have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t, and I’ll start cold season crops instead of trying to make warm season crops struggle through. It’s an unheated porch and while I do have a space heater now, I’m not sure I want to go to that much trouble.

I’ve been outside today starting some seeds in trays. I’m starting tomatoes, of course. Did you suspect otherwise? Lulz. I have San Marzano in 24 cells and a new one for me, Midnight Snack cherry tomatoes, in 18 cells. I’ve got them soaked and on the front steps, along with beets, spinach, and radishes in big pots. They’re just now sprouting so I expect the jerk deer will find nothing interesting in there as there’s no foliage yet.

As mentioned in my last post, I’m not doing in ground planting in the raised beds this year. Whatever volunteers from last year can stay, but I’m not putting anything else in there. My soil feels like it needs a break, so this will be the year. Plus, if there’s nothing attractive in the garden, maybe the jerk deer will leave it alone. That said, we are repairing the fence they destroyed last year and and installing a motion activated sprinkler in the raised beds. I’m pointing it pointed toward the path through the yard the deer have claimed. They’ll get blasted if they come within a few feet of the fence. I can’t wait to watch this on my security cameras.

I’m planting green manure cover crops in three of the beds. I’m waiting to hear back from MSU Extension on whether cowpeas are a good cover crop for this area (Zone 6B, southwest Michigan). The way green manure works is you plant it, and let it die back at frost. The roots will aerate the soil and fix nitrogen, and the decaying roots and foliage will contribute to the overall soil health. I guess they’re also edible, which is a bonus. Here’s a great video about cowpeas from a Texas gardener that I follow on YouTube.

In the fourth bed, I’m borrowing an idea I read about in the MIgardener book, called core gardening. The idea is that you dig a trench, and then fill it with decomposing straw. I happen to have a bale leftover from last year that is breaking down, and I’ll get my handy pitchfork out and pitch it into the garden. The main benefit is that you’re essentially building a sponge and you won’t have to water as much. The side benefit is that you’re essentially buring compost and it will attract all manner of good things to your soil. Here’s a video from MIgardener on the how-to of core gardening.

I got a lot from the book, called The Autopilot Garden Book: A Guide To Hands Off Gardening. As you know, I am not at all ashamed to loudly proclaim I’m a very lazy gardener. There were many projects designed to make less work in the garden and I made notes in my garden journal of a number of them. You can buy it from MIgardener here, but I found it to read for free on Kindle Unlimited here as well!

I am restoring an old rose this summer. Growing up, we had a glorious Harison’s Yellow twining around our porch. This is sometimes known as the Yellow Rose of Texas, but that is inaccurate, since it was cultivated in New York. When my mom died in 2006, my aunt took cuttings of that rose and planted them at her house. She has been generous with starts but I’ve killed every one. My aunt died this last year, and my dad had a thriving rosebush from one of her starts at his house. When he died last June, I went out there and dug it up prior to the house being sold. It’s been in a huge pot in the garage all winter on my cart, and I pulled it out the other day. It doesn’t look like much, but I’m watering it and I’ll scratch in some Espoma Rose-Tone this morning and see how it responds to that. It’s a beautiful rose, and I’m not at all sure where I’ll put it, but I’m going to keep it happy till I do figure that out.

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

2 thoughts

  1. Laughing about your water cannons for the deer. Can’t wait to hear the stories on that one.

    Sending good mojo for the Roses. It’s never too late for a little nurturing.

    Have been looking at seeds here, but haven’t made any decisions yet. Carrots, green beans and peas for sure, but everything else is in flux.


    1. I am trying really hard to wait to pop cold season things into the ground. I know we have more freezes to come, but I’m still probably going to sow some peas this weekend. 🙂 I have Mardi Gras mix again this year, three varieties of sugar peas with purple, yellow, and green pods.


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