Cuphea, Chicken Tractor, Hive Check

Today I went to a nursery in Richmond, Annie's Annuals, a wonderful place where all the plants are raised from their own seeds and cuttings. Everything is neonicotinoid free, often heirloom, often native, and always grown in 4-inch pots. I don't go often because I have very little control when it comes to buying plants, and I could easily spend our mortgage money at Annie's.  However, today I went with a plan, and I stuck to it fairly closely. I checked online to see what they had available, then I made a list of things I wanted to try. I got most of those things, and only a couple things I didn't plan for.

Two flats of lovely flowers.

The absolute best part of this adventure, however, was that I discovered the name of the plant! The plant in my garden that was nameless, the one that all the bees are simply mad for?

My friend found it at the nursery today. It's Cuphea! (pronounced koo-fee-ah.) I bought more of the same kind that I have ('starfire pink'), plus another one called ''minnie mouse'' because it has two brown dots that look like ears.

When I remarked to a nursery employee that the honeybees love this plant, he said I should also try Hebe speciosa as he noticed the bees always covering that in their demonstration gardens. So I brought one home, along with milkweed, salvia, ceonothus, papavers, monkey flower, and various other items. Oh, and some woodland strawberries for the pallet planter on my front porch.

Of course now I have to plant all these, and I didn't get to it this afternoon, because I stuck to my plan of clearing out everything but the basil in the South Garden, and replacing it with a cover crop.

That's the basil, looking forlorn next to a lot of bare beds
I figure the basil is its own cover crop, if I let it flower it will also be forage for the bees.

And speaking of the bees, we did a hive check today. Ready for this??? Not one sign of varroa or wax moths. Nothing. Nada. The bees were working hard, especially in a privet that just bloomed (the only one left in our yard) as well as the pollinator gardens, and everything in the hive looked just right. I removed the strip of formic acid and determined that we should check the hive every week until it gets cold and rainy. For right now, unbelievably, it looks like we are over the hump.


Tom spent the afternoon putting together a newly designed chicken 'tractor.' It looks awesome.

It comes apart in five sections for easy moving, it has an actual door at one end, and it also fits over the raised beds in case I want the chickens to clean up in them as well. We won't be able to try it out till next weekend, because we want to be home when they are in the tractor. It's definitely not predator-safe, but we figure if we're around and working in the yard, they'll be fine. A bowl of water and another of food, plus some sort of nesting box, and we should be good to go with Project Dead-Grass-Removal.

So, a mostly productive weekend. Hope you got some time outside, as well!