Sunday, December 6, 2015

My First Lemon from Lemon Tree in Minnesota

First Lemon Grown Indoors in Minnesota

I’ve had my lemon tree for a two years now, and it finally produced two small lemons. They should be larger, but I’ve been neglecting repotting the tree. It’s growth has suffered as a result. I plan on moving it to a much larger pot with lots of fresh compost to help it grow larger. It has bloomed before, but this is the first time it has produced fruit. The blooms are beautiful and smell amazing.

Citrus Flowers

I’ve been excitedly watching the two lemons grow all summer. The second is still ripening. The first became ripe and fell off the tree this week. It was small, but very tasty. I used it to make some lemon blueberry pancakes. Delicious!

The tree is actually a 3-N-1. It is a mix of orange, lemon, and tangerine. I hope to see the other parts of the tree produce fruit next year. It is satisfying to eat tropical fruit grown from your own tree in the frozen North of Minnesota.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

More Fruit Trees! Asian Pear, Peach, and Apricot

 asian pear tree

This past weekend I planted three new fruit trees. This brings me up to nine different fruit trees with seven different kinds of fruit. I am really excited to have this variety in my zone 4 yard. For those of you curious, I have three apple, cherry, plum, pear, asian pear, peach, and apricot.

polly peach tree

The first photo is of the new Tawara Asian pear and the photo above is of a Polly Peach. I bought both locally at Gertens for a very fair price. They are good sized trees and look very healthy. They also come with a one year warranty should anything go wrong.

apricot tree

The final tree is an apricot purchased locally in highland park. It is the most expensive tree in my yard now. I think it was worth it because apricots seem rather rare at the different nurseries I have visited.

We planted them by digging a hole twice as big as the container. We filled the hole with finished compost. The grass and old poor quality soil was put into the compost heap. We covered the area with cardboard and then a heavy layer of woodchip mulch.

nitrogen fixing cover crop

To help with nitrogen in the area, I planted a combination of hairy vetch and clovers. The cherry and plum tree are surrounded by clover and doing much better than the apple trees without. I spread it around to my existing trees as well. I just hope the squirrels don’t eat all the seeds before they germinate.

perenial flowers

For my existing pear tree, I added some perennial flowers including mums, cone flowers, black-eyed susans, and garlic chives near the area to add some color, visual interest, and extra food for my honeybees.


These are the two very ripe plums from my mount royal plum tree. I planted the tree last fall and was super surprised to see it flower this spring and produce these delicious plums. They were the best plums I have ever eaten. I can’t wait to more next year!

I have room for a couple more fruit trees, so I am still on the lookout for varieties hardy enough to survive a zone 4 Minnesota winter. I would love a pluot tree.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Garden Flowers

Cosmos Flowers

New flowers seem to be blooming all over the yard and garden. Above are some cosmos. I planted a few, and at least three plants are very healthy and blooming.


The milkweed is just beginning to bloom. This Monarch was nice enough to pose for a photo.


I’m letting some of the Arugula go to seed, so I have some seeds for later. They are blooming as well.


I have a shady spot right by my front door, so I planted some perennial dead nettles. They have tiny little pink flowers. They are establishing themselves nicely in their full shade spot.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

Milkweed blooming. I have been trying to keep them weed free and mulched slightly to encourage them to take over the area. I am hoping I can get this area as a milkweed nursery, so I can plant more around the yard in the future.

Cilantro Flowers

Some volunteer cilantro is already going to seed. The plants are pretty small, so I won’t be collecting the seeds. I plant to put a new raised bed over the top of this area. The bees and other insects are enjoying the blooms in the meantime.


Laura captured some of these photos with my camera, and I edited them. I think they turned out pretty great.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Insects in the Garden


With the large diversity of plants and flowers in the garden there is a great selection of insects. I don’t know what they are all called. Here is a yellow wasp hanging out on a kale leaf.


An iridescent green fly.


Little white moth with brown spots.

Bees on Hive

Of course my honeybees in their top bar hive.


Tiny grasshopper on arugula flowers.


Black wasp enjoying the milkweed.


Monarch butterfly also enjoying the milkweed.


A little red bug.


The monarch again.


There have been a few others, but they aren’t so nice to sit and pose like the above. There are a couple other butterflies and beetles running around. We will keep trying to make photos of them.

Laura captured these photos with my camera, and I edited them. I think they turned out pretty great.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Mid Year Bee Hive Inspection

Bees on Hive

I’ve had my new batch of bees since the beginning of May. Time to check on how they are doing inside the hive. I watch them from the outside regularly, so I know they are busy bees (ugh bad pun).

Bee Hive

I have a top bar hive I built last year in my backyard. It sits in a sunny spot since the bees like the sun. It is surrounded by milkweeds on one side, a garden bed on the other, and a fence on the remaining sides.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

The first step was to remove some of the weeds from the back side, and then take off the cover. I like working on the hive from the side opposite the entrance. This way, I am not in the way of the bees coming and going which I hope places less stress on them. Inside the cover, I found a small wasp’s nest starting. I removed it. The bees don’t need any competition so close to home.

Honeybee Hive Inspection

Next, I carefully remove each bar one at a time and look at it. I use a sharp bread knife as my only tool. It comes in handy to unstick stuck bars and to cut the bridge comb. Bridge comb is some extra support bees sometimes add to the honeycomb by attaching it to the walls of the hive rather than to just the top bars.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

I don’t usually use a smoker. I have one, but only used it once last year, and not at all this year. I have so far found, the top bar setup keeps the bees less stressed since I am only removing a small part of the hive, one bar at a time. The whole hive isn’t completely open, so they can keep working, hopefully feel safer, and less stressed.

Honeybee Hive Inspection

An example of a fully loaded bar. The bees drew the honeycomb as they wished and then filled it as they needed. Looks like mostly capped honey: the white stuff near the top is capped honey for long term storage.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

Since the honeycomb is supported only on the top, it is important to keep the bar horizontal and the comb vertical to avoid any unnecessary breakage. It was warm out, so the comb was extra soft!

Honeybee Hive Inspection

Another fully loaded comb.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

I worked slowly and carefully looking at each bar for obvious signs of trouble like mites or disease. Basically stuff that doesn’t look right or a bar that doesn’t match the rest.

Honeybee Hive Inspection

These bees started with the old honeycomb from last year’s failed hive which gave them a jump start on the season. They had ten empty bars of honeycomb to start, and have filled those and made another 10+ which were also filled.

Bee Suit Hive Inspection

They have definitely been very busy. They seem much healthier and more productive than last years bees. I don’t plan on taking any of their honey; especially since my last hive starved to death over the winter. The honey is the bee’s food to get through tough times like winter or drought. I will check on them again soon. I am excited they seem to be doing well.


Thanks to Laura for taking the distant action shots.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Jostaberry, Cherries, and Currants

Josta Berry

I was so excited to see my Jostaberry bush finally producing earlier this Spring. There was ONE berry on it. I have been watching it for what feels like months hoping it would ripen and I would get to taste my first jostaberry. I hoped the birds, squirrels, and rabbits would leave it alone. The bush had a tough Spring as the rabbits decided the leaves tasted good. It persevered.I finally got my berry. It was good. It tasted like a tart/sweet berry. Almost like a cherry meets a raspberry? I look forward to eating more next year! 

Northstar Cherries and Currants

We harvested the last bowl of northstar cherries from the tree. They are so good. Nice and tart. I am amazed and grateful to get so many cherries from a tree I planted less than one year ago.

We also picked the rest of the black and red currants. If you look carefully, they are hiding under the cherries in the picture. My friend liked the black currants best. After eating more, I think I like the red ones more. I think more samples will be needed to form a more complete opinion!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Garden Flowers, New Elderberry, and New Blueberries

Cosmos Flower

More flowers in the garden are blooming. Above is a Cosmos. This is the first year I’ve grown them. I started them from seed and had a hard time getting them to germinate and grow. I was excited to see this one blooming today!

Orange Lily

My orange Lilies are in full bloom now. There is a bed about twenty feet long and they start blooming from one end until the other. I really like the orange-red color they have. The tallest ones are over five feet tall.

White Clover

A couple small patches of clover have been blooming for a while. I have been mowing around them, so the bees can enjoy them while they last. These are only a few inches tall.  also bought some clover seeds for much taller purple clover. I haven’t planted them yet.

Ranch Elderberry

This is an Elderberry I recently planted. It started blooming just after I bought it. It is a “ranch” variety. It has two small suckers starting already. When they get bigger, I may move them to another part of the yard.

Pink Lemonade Blueberry

Last but not least, this is a pink lemonade blueberry. It doesn’t have any flowers yet. I bought it to perhaps, finally get some blueberries. The other three different varieties I planted a few seasons ago are barely growing. I am starting to think I need to move them to another part of the yard. I tried giving them an organic soil acidifier last spring, but it hasn’t seemed to help. Perhaps a soil test is in order before I make any more changes.