By: Kathy Summer
On Christmas Eve we received the first Burpee Seed Catalog of the season. It seems a little earlier than usual, but not much. A sure sign that it’s time to think about Spring is getting those first seed catalogs. We’ve gotten several already – some from companies I’ve never heard of. I find it so much fun to sit on a cold Winter afternoon and look at all of the tomatoes, squash, flowers – all of it. And to check out all of the new varieties that folks have come up with. We get most of our plants locally, but I do order squash and zinnia seeds from Burpee. They seem to always have some new variety on both of those.
As I write this we are at the very end of 2016. We had a mild enough day today that the bees were flying and we went out and did a frost planting. Frost planting is done in the Winter when the ground is frozen. The seeds are tossed onto the ground, not worked in and not covered up. As the ground thaws and refreezes the seeds are worked down into the soil and in the Summer we’ll have a nice field of wild flowers all of which are inviting to the honey bees. The seeds we planted are a mix of annuals and perennials. But even the annuals will reseed themselves and stay vibrant for several years. The one we did today was at our home, but we’ve done several of these plots on the Root property where we have a large garden area with wildflowers, a Mon-arch garden, the Master Gardeners have a plot and the Ohio State Beekeepers have a plot there. This is an easy way to eliminate mowing if you have large pieces of unused yard and it also provides a feast for your honey bees and other pollinators ~ bumblebees, monarch and others. Think about it. You can buy large bags of wildflower mixes at your local feed store or Tractor Supply.
So in some ways it is already time to be getting ready for gardening, beekeeping and even chicken keeping. A good way to spend part of your down time in Winter is to make sure you’re ready for Spring.
As a brand new beekeeper you should be searching for and signing up for a Beginning Beekeeping class in your area. If you’re anywhere near Medina, Ohio we’ll be holding our beginning classes starting in February. Visit www. medinabeekeepers.com for the exact dates and times. Our very own Editor-Author-Beekeepeer, Kim Flottum will be teaching the Tuesday night classes. You should also be joining a local beekeeping association. The best way to learn beekeeping and glean valuable information is by being with other beekeepers.
One thing other local beekeepers can help with is where to get your bees. Is there someone local who sells nucs or packages? Does someone bring in truckloads from California or Georgia to your area? Or will someone set you up with a full-size hive? These are all options. And the local guys can give you that information.
We went into Winter with nine hives and from what we saw today they are all still alive. We wrapped them all and gave them all food at the end of November. So far here in northeast Ohio we’ve had some really cold weather, not much snow, and the past few days fairly mild. So it will be interesting to see how many of the nine survive and what will the rest of Winter will bring. We’ve got all of January, February and most years we get some of our coldest, snowiest weather in mid-March. We don’t breath easy about our bees until mid to late April. And that’s when our packages arrive. But you have to get your bees ordered much earlier than that – as early as possible to make sure you get on the list.
Spring will be busy – especially if you’re gardening and having chickens. All of these activities are the busiest right about the same time. The baby chicks and ducks usually arrive the end of March and need to be cared for and gotten through the cold nights until the weather changes and they get those first feathers.
You’ll be getting your seeds ordered for the garden, ordering your bees and ordering your new chicks all about the same time.
We’re very fortunate in our area. We have several large garden centers where we get most of our plants for the garden – we always plant lots of tomatoes and squash, our favorites. We have two feed stores in town where we can order almost any kind of chicken or duck and have them arrive at the feed store safely for our pick up and we have Queen Right Colonies just down the road where we pick up our packages in the Spring and can get any bee equipment or supplies that we need.
If you have a garden and you have bees and you have some amount of extra space I encourage you to think about getting chickens. The three just seem to go together. We’ve enjoyed our chickens tremendously. They’re funny, they provide eggs and are just pleasant to have around. We have 15 hens right now. We live in the country and could have roosters if we wanted. Some cities allow you to have chickens inside the city limits, but not roosters because of the noise. Five of our hens will be five years old this Spring. The other 10 will be two years old. So it’s time to get a few more babies. We expanded our coop this year and have easy ways to keep them separate until the babies are big enough to defend themselves. We didn’t have good luck with ducks – lost all six to predators. But we’re going to try again, because they are really fun.
So I wish you good luck with your bees, your garden and your poultry.