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Michael Cox

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since Jun 09, 2013
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Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Recent posts by Michael Cox

Hi folks,

I have had a lot of fun with my lockdown garden, but have struggled from the start with large pests eating my plants. I have some beans that are desperate to be planted out, but the first batch I put out were eaten to the ground in 24 hours. Baby cabbages totally disappeared within 24 hours. The growing tips of my sunflower have all be nibbled - despite taking precautions!

Some plants have done really well and been totally ignored so far; squash, pumpkin, rhubarb, jerusalem artichoke, globe artichoke, beetroot, rainbow chard. But I really want to be able to pick my own beans :( Having seen the damage done to earlier plantings, when I transplanted the sunflowers I stuck loads and loads of twiggy branches into the bed around them. Something has got into the thicket and snipped them. I was considering that my test for protecting the beans, so it is quite disappointing. I need some ideas.

Long term - like a year or so - I will probably end up fencing the whole area from rabbits, and using netting for pigeons - but I don't have that now, and garden supplies are essentially unobtainable at the moment.


Joshua Bertram wrote:
Paul sifts his wood chips after they've been in the chicken coop, and grows his garden in composted, much finer material than raw wood chips.  I'm going by memory, but I don't remember seeing his rows have big chunks of wood in them.  It's compost he grows in, not wood chips.  Yeah, his orchard has raw chips, and his other perennial areas, but his main garden rows look like compost (again going off memory, it's been a while since I watched).

So now, when it comes to an annual vegetable garden bed, I only use finely sifted wood chips that have been sitting in my chicken coop for a year or so.  I can direct seed, transplant, whatever, and it's all just fantastic.  I think it's just brilliant.  

This is SO important.

I made the same mistakes initially and have now seen the light. I reserve raw woodchips for around perennials where it doesn't matter, and sifted composted chips go to top dress beds. I now have chickens to help add nutrients and a recently assembled wine cap mushroom bed to turbocharge chip breakdown and provide extra produce as mushrooms. I can get unlimited chip deliveries, but was reluctant to do it because of my initially disappointing results.

Paul calls his method "woodchip" but it is really best described as "well rotted woodchip chicken bedding". The nutrients the chickens add to the process are totally overlooked in the video, as is the fine tilth he has in his growing areas for ease of weeding with a rake.
Not as you describe, but they will communicate locations of good forage to other bees using the waggle dance. But these are short term responses evolved to fit the changing patterns of nectar availability through the course of year.
5 hours ago
If you have been keeping bees for more than a few months you probably have a horror story or two. I thought it would be fun to share some... try not to laugh too much as you learn from my errors.

My first one is simple:

When I restarted keeping bees I was keen to go to foundationless frames. The advantages, as I see them, are that the bees draw natural comb and I have less expense buying foundation. My first two years were a disaster of repeated cross combed messes. The worst one was when I opened a box and they had packed and entire super wall to wall at 45 degrees to the frame direction. The whole lot ended up being cut down.

The key lessons I learned were to make sure the hive was level and to use horizontal, not vertical, support wires on frames. Horizontal wires help them draw out straight, but vertical wires let them build out in any old wonky orientation!

What are your disaster stories? I have more to follow :D
5 hours ago

AngelinaGianna Maffeo wrote:
Michael I find the moving of bees from state to state baffling. Why not simply keep hives in the California orchards? And stop using pesticides!! Surely the beekeepers could find another way to make more money at home. Maybe they could form a group locally and buy or rent fields to plant anything bees need. Lavenders, mints, sage and sunflowers, and marigolds all require little work and can be sold. Just seems to be a better plan then burning fossil fuel, stressing the bees, exposing them to diseases and maybe getting the hives stolen. The price of local honey has sky rocked, and rightly so. I'm going to stop now before I get on my soapbox about most the country's produce being grown in California. Thanks for chiming in.

The almond orchards are literally forage deserts for bees. The only plants for miles and miles are the almond trees, which all flower at once for a two week period. From memory the growers need something like 3 hives per acre to maximise fruit set. A density of colonies that is never seen in nature.  And when the almonds are done there is nothing for them to feed on the rest of the year.

It is a classic example of the perils of monocrops.
5 hours ago
The practices you describe - removing all honey, and extensive feeding of sugar syrup - are predominantly used by large commercial beekeeping operations. Small scale beekeepers sometimes emulate that, but in my experience it is less common.

The big commercial operations are all about maximising profit. Syrup feeding but maximised honey profits and also accelerated build up of colony size in spring, which helps beekeepers fulfil very profitable pollination contracts. These pollination contacts are the big driving force towards harmful practices:

Bees are trucked long distances, and diseases are carried with them
Bees are raised in warm climates, then shipped and sold in cool climates. Bees are unable to adapt to local conditions, so struggle to thrive in cold climates.
Industrial pollination exposes bees to high pesticide levels

For all of these reasons I encourage consumers to buy honey from local small scale beekeepers, and to shun almond products. The almond industry is the largest driving force of profit in pollination, and distorts the practices of commercial berkeepers.

1 day ago
Checked my mycellium today. Moved some chips an a few places and saw mycelium everywhere, spreading through the chips. Nice and even over the area.

I'm very happy with progress so far, about 3 weeks in.
3 days ago
The problem with a claim like ‘X removes toxins’ is it is completely unverifiable. What toxins are you even talking about? What does it mean to remove them?

I prefer to focus on tangibles. I get really REALLY stiff legs and back, to the point that I frequently have disturbed sleep due to the pain. When I get massages, do yoga and stretching I move more easily and sleep better. There are enough tangible benefits that I see no need to talk about nebulous ‘toxins’.
1 week ago
Try Plantsnap - it is a smart phone app that can ID plants from pictures.

It doesn’t look quite like the horseradish I see growing locally here. I’d expect larger, darker, more upright leaves.

Obvious way to test it is to dig up a piece of root, mush it up and give it a big sniff.
Speaking as someone with food intolerances... trying to “hide” ingredients upsets me. I’ve had family members hide onion in meals by chopping it up small. The stomach cramps are a dead giveaway though.
1 week ago