Building Bottom Boards – 8 Frame

It’s May and soon I will be needing equipment for my hives. This year I’m assembling my own tops and bottoms. The dimensions listed below will be for 8 frame hives. I’m building bottom boards with scrap plywood I get for free. Of course, you could do this with any lumber you salvage or buy. I make my own tops and bottoms because of the cost. Its for that same reason that I buy hive bodies instead of making them. I make these bottoms for about $3.00 all in, including electricity, glue, staples, and lumber.

Dimensions

I make my bottom boards the same outside dimensions of the box. I used to make them 1/2″ larger so the box would have more room to sit, but I’ve realized this larger size just gives water a place to collect and sit. So, recently I changed to 14″ wide x 20″ Long.

I prefer 1/2″ spacing between the box and bottom board. I would advise you not to go much more than this because the bees may build comb in the open space. For my side spacers, I cut them 1/2″ Thick, 1″ wide.

I start with plywood or lumber and cut to 14″ x 20″.

Cut List & Tools

  • (1) 14″ x 20″ piece of plywood or lumber, any thickness.
  • (2) 1/2″ x 1″ x 20″ side spacers
  • (1) 1/2″ x 1″ x 14″ back spacer
  • For front spacer, you can either leave it completely open, or leave it small. More on this below.

You’ll need the following as well;

  • Stapler, or screwdriver will work
  • Glue

I use 1″ staples on my bottom boards. I like Senco fasteners, no jams, no bent heads, and no problems. I’ll leave a link below for where to find them.

Building Bottom Boards

Now that you have all of the pieces cut, start by gluing the side spacers.

Spread your glue evenly to get good bonding.

I love these little glue brushes, no more sticky fingers. These are made by Bench Dog and make gluing a breeze. After you use them and the glue dries, it just peels off because the brush is silicone. I’ll leave a link for that below if you like it.

Staple both sides

 

Next, glue and staple the back spacer.

Entrance Size

 

This is where you get to decide what size entrance you want. Some people like them wide open, others prefer to keep them small. I prefer to keep them small. I make my entrances about 3-4″ wide. If you would like, for added versatility, you can leave the entrance totally open, and cut entrance reducers.

I use the scraps from extra cuts to make the front entrance. My entrances range from 2″-4″.

 

That’s all, from start to finish.  Now you just need to start building bottom boards built for yourself! I’ll include some links below for where to find the products I used.

Senco 1″ Staples

Titebond III Glue

Bench Dog Silicon Brush

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Using Facebook to Catch Swarms

It’s almost prime swarm season where I’m located in southwestern Pennsylvania. Every year, I receive more calls and messages every spring about swarms than I can handle. My main tool for getting so many swarm calls – Facebook. I’m going to show you how I am using facebook to catch swarms.

I guess I should mention, using Facebook to catch swarms requires you to have a Facebook profile. If you don’t have one, they are simple to set up!

Create a Post

First things first! To get started, make a status and let your friends know that you do swarm calls and/or removals. Post a picture of you with your bees, and a picture of swarm you’ve caught in the past, or use one found online. Say something about you save bees, and that you will come take them.

DO NOT include your phone number in this post – more on this coming up.

using facebook to catch swarms

Finding Groups to Share Your Status

Next, after you have a created a public post, start sharing it. Share it all over, share it on any group that will permit it. The ones I have the most luck on are yard sale groups, community awareness groups, freecycle groups, and ones like that.
If you don’t know of any around you, ask your friends on facebook, or start looking for some with the city names around you.
For example, a city near me is Washington, PA. If I wanted to find more groups, I would search for Washington PA yard sale, or Washington PA freebies, or Washington PA community page.  Be creative with your search names and you will find quite a few results.
using facebook to catch swarms
One of the groups I posted to, I cropped out my number, but be sure to include your own!
What I do is share my original public post to the group, then copy the same words in for the description.  Its in this post that I will include my phone number. I do this for a couple reasons, in most cases these groups are closed, meaning only the people in the group can see the post, and therefor my phone number. By limiting the people who can see your number, the less spam you will get. Secondly, it seems that when you include it in a group, it gets more traction. I have people commenting on my posts and say they have saved my number in their contacts, and that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

Narrow Down Your Area

When posting in a larger area group, include which area(s) around you that you plan to cover. I never need to do this, because the groups I post in are localized to certain cities.
I live about half an hour from 4 semi large cities. This gives me about 20 groups or so to post in. I get tons of traffic and likes on it. In general, I don’t go further than 30-45 minutes for a swarm call. Many of you may have to go further or not as far.
Its late April as I’m writing this, and I’m getting swarm calls already. Instead of just scrolling your Facebook feed, start today by using Facebook to catch swarms and go get some free bees!

 

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Cattle Panel Greenhouse

As you guys know, I’m trying to start my backyard nursery. I have plants inside right under grow lights, but I’m at full capacity and I’m not able to grow anymore. I have always wanted a greenhouse, so this year I decided it would happen. I did not want to use the standard hoop house style with engineered trusses or even PVC.  I decided I would use cattle panels, and make a cattle panel greenhouse!

You may have seen these before, they are mounted to a frame and staked into the ground. This design works great for someone who wants a small compact greenhouse. These are also movable, which is great if you ever wanted to change its orientation.  I decided I would use the same cattle panels and elevate them on a frame to give me more room.

Cattle Panel Greenhouse – Dimensions and Height

The dimensions I settled on are 10′ x 30′. This is equivalent to 7 cattle panels inline tied together. I built a frame that is 3′ tall and the cattle panels will sit on them. This means that I will have 3′ side walls and the panels will make an arch of about 8′ tall at the center of greenhouse. With 3′ side walls, I can build nursery benches and easily reach all the way to the walls of the greenhouse and have a large number of plants. This will make watering a breeze and really make my life easy taking care of plants

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to plant directly into the ground in this cattle panel greenhouse. For now, I plan to use the space to propagate more plants than I can inside.

A few things I’m excited for – extended growing season, extended climate for different zone plants, earlier seed starting.

Extended Growing Season

This one I’m very excited about! In my region, zone 6B, our typical garden season doesn’t start until May. I will be able to start vegetables inside in March or February or even January if I want to heat the greenhouse. This means we can provide most of our own food for more than 75% of the year!

Extended Climate

Say I wanted to grow Guavas, I don’t know that I do, but having a greenhouse will extend the season and allow me to grow plants that are out of my climate zone. If I really wanted Citrus, I could heat the greenhouse and have a small production of citrus fruit.

Early Seed Starting

Last, but not least – early seed starting. When I really want to have a jump on plants, I will start planting in January or February in the greenhouse and start growing trees or shrubs that I plan to sell. Two extra months of growth on small cuttings or seedlings can make a huge difference and give the plants a great boost.

 

Updates:

The cattle panel greenhouse is now under construction. It will soon be finished! Here are some progress videos.

 

I had marked out the dimensions of the cattle panel greenhouse, and started digging.

 

After some excavation and digging down with a tiller, the layout started to take shape.

Finally, some progress. After getting the outline leveled, I put in 4×4 posts for corners. I then built the 3′ tall frame out of pallet wood. This is scrap that I get from work. I used the wood to make 3’x5′ boxes, which I later bolted together. To secure the  cattle panels to the frame, I used frame braces used for 2×4’s.

Tying Fishing Line Into Bee Frames

If you are trying to go foundationless in your beehives, they you have probably run into the concept of wiring your frames. This could be with tinned wire, or maybe even fishing line. I have seen plenty of ways that  show tying fishing line into Bee Frames, but none that are easy. Most require numerous nails, and they are time consuming.

Pro’s/ Con’s of Wiring Frames

Most folks wire frames because they use foundation, and it needs to be held in place while it is drawn out. You can use tinned wire, it is more expensive, but more rigid, whereas fishing line is much cheaper but can be cut. Both of these characteristics can be a bonus depending on what you are going for. If you are planning to spin your honey supers than maybe using wire may be better, but I would wager the fishing line would do just fine.

If you are planning on raising your own queens like me, then you absolutely need to use fishing line instead of wire. Fishing line can be cut, and if there is a queen cell you want to move to a starter hive or nuc, then you need to be able to cut it out if it is near the line.

Tying Fishing Line into Bee Frames

 

I’ve seen tons of ways to do this, but I’m going to show you the easiest way that I’ve found to do it. All you need is one nail, and no more than 2 minutes. Take your frame, lay it down on a table or workbench. Drive one wire nail in, 5/8″ or 3/4″ work great. Drive your nail into the sidebar of the langstroth frame about 3/4 of the way, leaving just a bit sticking out. On the same side you drove your nail, start to run your fishing line. Take your line through the top holes, and down and through the bottom holes and bring them together at the sidebar in which you drove the nail. Tie a tight not of your choice. I like to double knot it and then use an improved clinch knot, just like if you were fishing!

 

 

Log Hive Removal

Today I received a call from a friend that told me someone had honey bees that needed removed. I do removals on occasion, but this was actually a live, full hive inside a tree that was recently felled. Obviously I knew I had to go get it, but doing a log hive removal isn’t normal.

log hive removal

Taking the Log Hive Home

I showed up and the man who felled the tree used to actually be a beekeeper. He was very nice and just wanted to save the bees. Somehow he managed to cut perfectly at the top and bottom of the hive, with a cut in the middle as well. I brought some hardware cloth with me, and nailed in on both sides of the main segment of the hive. There were bees in the other log as well, so I took that log home too.

log hive removal log hive removal

From what I could tell, they had decent stores of honey and had started to raise brood.

log hive removal

We keep having warm spells and cold snaps so I’m sure the bees must be confused. Swarm calls in my area don’t start until May, so for me to be receiving calls in March is abnormal.

Setting Up the Log Hive

I brought them home and got them set up. My options were limited due to the size and shape of the log. I do want to take splits and queens from this hive, so I wanted to protect them until they could grow out. I put the logs in place and put them close together, and in just a couple minutes the bees were already trying to cross over between the two logs.

log hive removal

Next, I screwed a piece of plywood on top of the two logs to act as a roof to keep the rain and wind off of them. This should be sufficient until I can get a plan together to get them out of the log.

log hive removal

These are the kind of bees I’m after, hardy survivors. These bees are treatment free, who knows how long they have lived in that tree.

log hive removal

I encourage you to do the same, get your name out there and let people know that you take bees, and you’ll start getting calls in no time. If you get a chance to do a log hive removal, go do it!

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Compost Shredded Paper – Free Compost!

I work in an office, and the amount of paper we shred and throw away blew my mind. So, I decided I would compost shredded paper for my garden.

Since we moved I am unable to find bags of leaves in large quantity like I could before. That being said, it is also fairly challenging for me to find wood chips in my area as well. I honestly think wood chips and leaves are the top choices for mulching and composting for your garden. If they have come from your own property then you know exactly how they were used, or if they were sprayed with anything.

Mulching for your garden

You may have seen videos on youtube about wood mulch gardening, and you probably know about leaves for mulch. Its not so much about the mulch, although that is important. Its also about the barrier between the soil and air. Having a layer or wood chips, or straw, or paper shavings laid down keeps your soil moist and promotes bacterial growth. Over time, all that material will break down into organic matter.

Any of these materials inoculated with some type of mushroom spores will go crazy with the amount of organic matter available to break down and turn your plain old garden dirt into beautiful, rich soil.

Shredded Paper

You guys have heard me say it here before, done is better than perfect! Paper does have its concern for inks and dyes, and there is some merit to that. I do agree there are some paper we shouldn’t use, such as full color prints with lots of ink. I also think its important to use shredded paper, not full sheets of paper. If you use full sheets, once they get wet, they will turn into a think mat, like cardboard. We want oxygen in the soil and shredded paper will allow it to be wet without compacting. All that being said, I think its a great idea to use what you have available to you to improve your soil, so I’m going to start to compost shredded paper.

How to Compost Shredded Paper

I’m going to use this as a compost addition and mix our kitchen scraps and other things in with it. I’ll moisten it and mix it with some hay and leaves I collected last year. I’ll then pile this into a great large heap, and let it start to breakdown and create heat – this is called hot composting. You need a large pile to create hot compost, something like 3′ x 6′. This will need turned ever other day or a couple times a week. You want to bring the center of the pile to the outside, and the outside pushed to the center. By hot composting, you kill and weed seeds, help fight off bacteria, and also create a rich beautiful compost in just 3-4 weeks.

Keep piling your scraps and other materials together and include paper, and soon you’ll have beautiful compost to use everywhere.

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Nursery Stand Update

Wanted to give you guys a Nursery stand update, been busy planting flowers and vegetables for the year.

Nursery Stand Plant Updates

I went ahead and planted the Sea Buckthorn that was already sprouting, they are coming up great. You’ll see some small sterilite storage containers in this video, these are an inexpensive solution to planting a lot of the same plants in one container. I used them to plant out garlic bulbils, these are the small miniature garlic cloves that form at the top of the stem. In 2 years, we will actually get garlic from these little bulbs here.

 

Nursery stand update
credit – daylesfordorganics.blogspot.com

I did buy some live hardy kiwis, I’ve been wanting these plants for years and finally committed. Once established, they will be incredibly prolific in fruit production.

Nursery Stand Light Updates

I’m very pleased with the LED lights I purchased. On the underside each shelf I have one mounted to shine on the plants below. I am using the large T5 light to provide supplemental light to all of the shelves. By simply leaning it towards the shelves and letting the light reflect this provides some extra supplemental lighting.

I  believe each one of the LED grow lights will be enough light for a 72 cell nursery flat. If you average the cost, its still the most cost-effective option. The 45w LED lights I bought were $33. In comparison, 4′ LED grow bulbs are about $50, and you would need 2 of them to grow out 2 nursery flats.

Average Cost per flat for 45W LED grow lights – $33

Average Cost per flat for the 4′ LED Grow bulbs – $50

Here are Both of the lights I mentioned

Kingbo 45W LED Light

IPower T5 grow bulb

So, What I’ve found is that using the T5 and the LED grow lights, the T5 gives enough heat to stimulate the plants, but not overheat them. I’m keeping track of heat and humidity with this thermometer. It gives you a range of temperature over a 24 hour period.

 

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Check-up On Cold Moist Stratification

Today I needed to check up on my seeds that are stratifying in the fridge, We are using a cold moist stratification. Its been 3-4 weeks for most of my seeds so far, so it was definitely time. If you missed the last post introducing stratifying seeds, check it out here!

Here are some of the plants I was stratifying; Sea Buckthorn, Blueberries, American Linden, Sourwood, Tupelo, Chinese Chestnuts, Plums, Hardy Kiwi, a few different Persimmon varieties, and even more.

 

So I opened up my packs, and who would have guessed, the Sea Buckthorn seeds had sprouted! I opened them up and some had started to sprout and needed planting. These have since come up and will lose they Cotelydon(the plants first leaves) in a couple days.

Updates On Seeds

The hardy kiwi, plums, tupelo, sourwood were not as exciting. Nothing happening with them, as to be expected. Unfortunately, my chestnuts have molded. Even after re-strerilizing, I’m having mold issues with them. I’m thinking certain seeds would be better done outside covered with hardware cloth to keep them from being eaten.

I am unlucky with persimmons this year! All the different kinds I am using cold moist stratification with have molded. I am going to re-sterilize them as well. I think these were not getting enough airflow because I had the jar lid on. I think next time around I may try another method and compare my results. So far, I have had pretty good success with the paper towel method considering I only had 3 mold and plenty of others doing well.

Different Method Next Time

My next attempt at cold moist stratification will probably be using damp paper towels but either leaving them open in the fridge to have open air, or loosely covering with plastic wrap or leaving the bag open to have air flow.

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Starting a Backyard Nursery – Cold Stratifying Seeds

Thanks for following me along this journey as I work to start a backyard nursery. Today we are going to talk about Cold Stratifying Seeds. Starting your own seeds is very important to growing lots of plants quickly and economically.

Cold stratification is simply the process for mimicking winter. That means we are going to place our seeds in a moist media to mimic winter. This is typically done in the fridge, but can also be done outside in a safe place so critters don’t steal your seed.

Each type of seed requires a different stratification need. Research each seed you plan to stratify to ensure the best germination rate.

One crucial thing to note, no matter which method you choose, labeling and documenting is critical to making sure your seed isn’t mistaken for another type of plant. Make sure you record your plant name, and date started stratification. 

 

Cold Stratifying Seeds Media

The media used to cold stratify your seeds need to be moist, but not wet. Too wet will start to rot your seeds, and mold will grow. Options for starting media include sand and peat moss, potting soil and perlite, wood shavings and potting soil. What you are aiming for is a media that will be damp, but not hold excess moisture. You could even use a damp paper towel inside of a paper bag. For large amounts of seed, especially small seed, this works very well.

You media should be damp, but not wet. If you took a large handful and squeezed it, just a couple drops of water should come out of it. If you are using a paper towel, it should just be damp.

Cold Stratifying Seeds Outdoors

You can easily cold stratify outdoors by making a hardware cloth cage. You could simply make a hardware cloth box and tie the edges together, and store your seeds inside the cage and bury it just below the surface. Alternatively, you could cover a bucket or large pot with hardware cloth. All you want is moist media to store the seed in.

Cold Stratifying Seeds Indoors

If you plan to stratify seeds indoors, I recommend getting a mini-fridge. I got mine off Craigslist for $60 and it was practically brand new. I say that because if you’re like me, you will have so many seeds that it will take over your food fridge and you’ll need more space.

Take your seeds and place them in a damp paper towel or your media of choice. Place that inside a plastic bag and label them with the variety and start date.

Check Up On Your Seeds

Using either method, your seeds need checked occasionally to ensure the proper moisture level and make sure no mold is growing. Check on your seeds every other week.

Once your seeds have finished their stratification period, get them started in cell trays to grow! Check out my last post on building nursery stands.

Starting a Backyard Nursery – Building Nursery Stands

Today we are talking about building nursery stands to start plants on. I need more shelving to start plants on this year because I’m trying to start my own backyard nursery using as little money as possible.

I have a small room in my basement that is all block. This is a perfect place to start plants and to keep them away from our animals so they don’t damage anything. In this room I have a corner that will fit a shelf perfectly. If I need more shelves, I can easily build more.

 

Building Nursery Stands – Dimensions

I originally thought I wanted a shelf that was 12″ deep, 44″ high, and 42″ wide. This would allow me to have 3 shelves, and each shelf would fit 2 cell trays, each holding 72 starter cells. So each shelf will hold 144 cells, so this plant stand would hold 432 cells. I think that’s plenty for right now!

As you’ll see in the video, nothing works out as planned. I wanted 42″ wide, but didn’t have the material for it. I ended up being able to scavenge all of the material for this project. Everything was free, I used some old particle board someone gave me, and some strong pallet boards as legs.

I didn’t have the material to make it 42″ wide, nor did I want to go buy anything. So instead, I just changed the dimensions. I believe the shelves came out 37-1/2″ wide. This isn’t something to stress about, the shelves still hold 2 flats each, and I can hang a light from all of them.

I put the shelves at 16″, 32″, and 44″. I have a larger gap on the bottom shelves and a smaller gap on the top for starting smaller plants.

Costs for the Shelving

Into this project, I have no money in materials, other than nails and electricity. The lumber was free, but you probably noticed the tin foil. I’m using that as a reflector for the plants. The 4 plant trays costed me $5 each, so with the tin foil I’m up to $22. Not half bad. I think building nursery stands  can be done like this with no problem.

Moral of this project.

Done is better than perfect! If I were to worry about the exact size of the shelves I could have ran out and bought lumber, wasted more time, and may have not gotten it done. Being flexible where you can and changing as you go makes things much easier. If I wouldn’t have just done it, maybe it would have been pushed off till next week, or i got busy, so maybe next month. Do you see how pushing off your goals for one day can throw your goals off for weeks or months? Go and get your projects done!

Check out our next post on stratifying seed!

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