Jan. 6, 2022

Flower Garden Site Prep (055)

Flower Garden Site Prep (055)

Jim has finally figured out where he wants his flowers to be next spring, so what’s next is getting those sites ready to plant, so that what he plants does the best it can for Jim, the bees and anybody who walks by. In this episode, Kim and Jim...

Jim has finally figured out where he wants his flowers to be next spring, so what’s next is getting those sites ready to plant, so that what he plants does the best it can for Jim, the bees and anybody who walks by.

In this episode, Kim and Jim discuss the next steps in planning his garden including the time and amount of light the spot receives, soil tests, sod removal options, and… what to plant!

Listen and learn as Kim & Jim discuss the ins and outs of flower garden site preparation, so Jim can sit on his deck and enjoy his bees!


We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com


Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2022 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 55 – Flower Garden Site Prep


Jim Tew: Kim, we talked a while back about me setting up some kind of planting for my bees, something I could do that's direct and straightforward. I followed your advice and I made some decisions. I'd like to continue talking about that if you're in the mood for it. Tell me what to do to get ready for the site preparation.

Kim Flottum: I can do that. You sat in your deck and you sat in your living room and you know where you want the flowers, and now, you're ready to start getting ready. All right, I can help you with that.

Jim: I'm going to talk. Hi, I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: We're at Honey Bee Obscura, where today, we want to talk about how to put flowers and so I can enjoy them as much as my bees.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura, brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honey bees in today's world in an engaging and informative discussion meant for all beekeepers, long-timers, and those just starting their journey with bees, so sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honey bees.

Jim: Let me ask right up front, after I have followed your advice, and as you said, I chose a spot, and I've actually talked to my new neighbors, and they seem to be okay with it. It's just putting in some flowers. I've got a spot picked out. What do I do now?

Kim: The first thing you want to do-- well, there's several things you want to do. Before you do anything else, before you do any work, there are some things you need to do. The first one is, do you have enough light? You're looking at in the summer, are the trees that are nearby going to cause some lots or no shade? You got to figure that one out.

The other one is, can you get water there? Because at some point in time it's not going to rain enough and you're going to have to get some water out there. Can you do it easily? Is there a hose that you can run out there, a long sprinkler, or that sort of thing, or you're going to have to carry it? Those are the things that that's before you do anything at all.

Jim: Let me ask just for the sake of me talking to you with others eavesdropping on us, yes, I do have good sunlight, almost all day on this plot. With a water hose, I can make it. Just going to have to string two hoses together, but yes, I can get water to it. I have light, and I have water if I need to supplement it from my well.

Kim: Okay. Then now it gets busy. There's two ways to do this. There's the easy way and there's the good way. Of course, the good way is going to be more work. The easy way, of course, is get out your rototiller, buy a rototiller, rent one, whatever it is you have to do, chew up the piece of ground, the grass, the weeds, the stones, everything that's in there, chew it up, put your plants in or put your seeds in, put mulch on, and you're done. You can do it before lunch. That's the easy way.

There's a better way, and it's going to take you longer. It's going to be more work, but it'll last longer, and you'll enjoy it more, and you'll have more flowers, and you'll have more pollinators and bees and butterflies than if you do it the easy way. Do you want to get started?

Jim: Yes, I guess, I want to know exactly how much harder is the better way.

Kim: If you do this for a living or if you've done this a lot before, you got a feel for it, but you really got to get rid of that sod, that grass that's there. I'll tell you why, it's because that sod is holding in some stones, it's got a lot of weed seeds in it. It's got a lot of grass seed in it, it's got a lot of roots in it that are going to make digging it up tough. When you go to rototill this and you're rototilling sod, you're going to bounce for a while until you get that chewed up.

You got to get rid of that. That's not impossible, but it's work. It's put the shovel down, take a spade, a flat-bladed spade and go around the outside of it and start around the periphery, and then just put it down about until you're past the roots of the grass. It's probably about five to six inches before you get down to no roots left.

Jim: I've got a couple of questions right off the bat. Number one, as a much younger man, a long time ago, I rented and used a sod cutter when I was doing something in my lawn now long forgotten. This vibrating knife, not totally unlike an uncapping knife for the honey frame, cut that sod base, and then I rolled those big side rolls up, which were stunningly heavy, and just roll the sod off of this where I was putting at a patio.

Is that something that I would consider - going to a rental place, renting a sod cutter, using that thing, rolling the sod up, getting the sod rolls out of the way? Would I consider that, or is that over the top?

Kim: In a heartbeat. It depends on, are you moving acres or are you moving a few square feet?

Jim: 10 by 10 was what I was going to start with, something I thought I could manage. My wife would be saying a foot by a foot, but I thought 10 feet by 10 feet would be enough.

Kim: 10 feet by 10 feet. A couple of things that'll mention right off the bat is, do you want this to be 10 feet by 10 feet or do you want this to be 3 feet by 20 feet so that you can get to either side of it? If you got plants in the middle of a ten by 10, it's going to be harder to get to them.

Jim: What a great point. If I made it long and narrow, then you can reach over your own planting.

Kim: Yes, exactly.

Jim: If I make it 10 by 10, then I got to walk on my plants to get out there in the middle to get the grass out that's invading or whatever.

Kim: Think that one over.

Jim: That adds confusion, Kim. I'm trying to make my mind up and you're shooting holes in what I've already decided because what I wanted to ask before I get away from the sod cutter, am I not digging a hole? Wouldn't I have a, for the sake of discussion, a ten by 10 hole that's 6 inches deep?

Kim: Yes, you're going to have.

Jim: Do I have to fill all that up with something then?

Kim: No, you're going to, but you're going to put mulch and that kind of material on it anyway. If you chewed up the site with a rototiller, you're going to have to mulch it so to keep the weeds down and to add organic matter to it. You're going to put stuff in there anyway.

The other thing is that when you remove that sod, whether you use a shovel or you use a sod remover, is you want to get a lot as much of that dirt off that stuff as you can and put it back in the hole, not weeds, not seeds just as much of the dirt as you can and put it back in there. Then once you get that in, that'll fill it up about close to half, maybe more than half of the hole that you dug, then you get your rototiller in there and you chew it up.

You want to go down another rototiller depth so it's nice and loose, so when the roots for those plants start reaching for water, they don't have to work very hard at it, and it's not going to be-- You're south of me here in Ohio, I have lakebed clay. Once it gets dry, it's bulletproof. You can't get a shovel into it because it's so hard. What you want to do is you want to be able to make it so your plants don't have to put up that fight. You want it nice, airy, spread out, and not solid clay.


Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Honey Bee Obscura Podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions.

From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers serving beekeepers. See for yourself at betterbee.com.

Kim: Once you get that done, you get your rototilling done, and then you put some mulch in. You rototill it some more, add some compost, you rototill it some more. One thing to do is to keep that sod that you dug up. Get it some place because after a while, you can use that for the compost that you're going to put in the next planting. That grass will die and the roots will die and the weed seeds will sprout and be dead, and you can then take that and put it in another hole to use for compost. Nothing is going to waste here.

Jim: While I'm doing all this, am I supposed to be fertilizing? Or do you fertilize for wildflowers?

Kim: Well, it's like how natural do you want to be? If you're doing bees and you want to be a natural beekeeper, you're not going to do anything, but if you want your bees to be alive next spring, there are some things you're going to do to help them help themselves. For your garden, it's the same thing. If you don't do good soil preparation, if you don't add the nutrients that are lacking in that soil, you're going to have problems with those plants, so take a soil test. Easy to do, you take a handful, two or three handfuls of dirt from the extremes both ends in the middle of that plot that you dug up and take it down to your county extension office. They will manage to have the soil tested. Probably your local county soil and water people will do it for you. Find out, call either or both and find out who does soil test. It's going to take a while, but it's worth every penny that it's going to cost you because then you know exactly what you're-- Once you find out, okay, you're low in this nutrient, you're low in nitrogen, you're low in phosphorus, but you got lots and lots of potassium. Your organic matter is almost nonexistent, you know you're going to have to add a lot of that.

The soil test will tell you everything you need, but the one thing you're going to have to do is tell the soil test people what you're going to plant there because if you're planting alfalfa for cattle, you're going to need different nutrients than if you're planting flowers for bees. Tell them what you're going to plant there and then they'll tell you everything you need. Then you go to your local garden center or wherever it is you're going to get the nutrients NPK and all of the rest, the micronutrients that you're going to need, you apply them uniformly, you till them in, and you sit back and wait for a little bit and let them get used to each other. Well, here's the question. What are you going to plant there?

Jim: In my defense of just doing this for color, for bees, for the enjoyment, and not so much for a honey crop, I just wanted an eclectic mix of wildflowers that will flower pretty much throughout the summer and that I was prepared to reseed some every year. I would assume that some of the more aggressive varieties and species would overrun the planting after a few years. I was going to reseed some every year. I don't have a specific list of names for you. I was just going to get a general Ohio wildflower mix for my area here.

Kim: Well, let me just point you in some directions so that maybe give you some ideas. Xerces Society has a list of all of the plants that are growing in the Great Lakes region. That's you and me. You can take a look at their list and their list isn't going to have any invasive plants, isn't going to have any toxic plants, it's going to have good stuff.

Jim: Kim, why don't you stop and spell that because that's really a good resource. They have this listing for all areas of the US.

Kim: Yes. Just go onto the web and do a search for Xerces, X-E-R-C-E-S.

Jim: Because I had a look at that and it's a powerhouse of information.

Kim: Yes, it is. There are other places. The US Forest Services has lists and the Pollinator Partnership people - that's all they do is they look at getting bee plants into places that don't have bee plants now. All these places are looking at-- They're all natives, they're all going to be adapted to the area where you live, your Ohio state extension office downtown, they're going to have lists for it. The USBA, NRCS, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Fish and Wildlife, US Forest Service, all of these people, depending on what you're going to plant there have lists. If you're going to go for trees, you might go one way, if you're going to go for an orchard, you go another way. You get all these resources and they've already done this work for you.

Jim: Good.

Kim: There's a scene that you want to look at and you want it to be this color and you want it to this tall and you want it to last this long. Somebody somewhere's got that list.

Jim: Right now, Kim, I have a backyard. I have written in Bee Culture and other magazines about my backyard. You just mow it. When a Clover comes in, I cut it down because it's supposed to be neat and clean. I'm trying to make a change. I'm trying to add more diversity and not just be such a desert back there of pollen and nectar resources. I have not lost sight of my beekeeping. I have not lost sight of my passion for beekeeping.

I just want to kinda wander off to one side and put some flowers out there so I can watch the bees forage collect factor, and while you were talking, I was thinking on that 10 by 10 plot, why would I not leave an aisle out to the middle of it and then put a bird waterer there or some watering device, so right in the middle of my planting is also a water supply for my bees. I'd just leave a little pathway to it. It'd be pebbles and stoned. It'd be so nice looking in my mind, Kim. In reality, it's going to be weeds and grass and rodents and Japanese beetles everywhere, but in my mind, it's a beautiful place right now.

Kim: Well, let's just keep it beautiful for now and yes, you can put a path in of something. You could use planks and whatever is going to keep the weeds down and put a birdbath in the middle of some watering device, all of that works.

Jim: Well, I know by now there's people that are yawning and their eyes are glazed over, I thought we're going to be listings these to talk about bees and all they've done was talk about plowing up their backyard, but I want to be emphatic. It really is part and parcel. The bees really want something to forage on and if I put those pretty flowers there and it brightens the neighborhood, it brightens my attitude, it makes the bees feel good about their existence. It adds to the diversity of my beekeeping. It's a good thing.

Kim: Well, I tell you what. We're running short of time here, but what I want to talk to you later about is taking a look at these listings trying to decide what it is you want to plant.

Jim: Yes. What we need to do too, Kim, is that we mentioned Ohio, we mentioned Ohio State, but anywhere, name anywhere in the country, these resources are there and those plant lists are there. Don't tune us out just because we're not mentioning your area. You have the same possibility we have. In the next episode, Kim, I want to discuss what do you do if you don't have water and you really have trouble getting buckets to haul it because some parts of the country are really drier right now. That water thing may be a bigger issue for some than we're than we are realizing.

Kim: Good point.

Jim: For today, I think we're out of time.

Kim: I think we are.

Jim: Thanks for putting up with me on this. We've talked about this subject before and the main thing I have to do is get out of this chair and go do something. Do something, even if just in parts. I will do something even tomorrow morning, I promise, but let's talk about it more.

Kim: Okay. Thanks.

Jim: Have a good time. Thanks for listening, everyone.


[End of Transcript]