117-Honeybees, Spring Flowers and More

We are blessed to have plenty to do while under the stay at home order to combat coronavirus. In fact, many of our spring tasks are ahead of schedule.

While Donna has been planting in the eighteen new beds around the property, Julia tended to the honeybees and ventured a little too close.

In this episode, we started with an interruption by Honeybee

and ended with a cowbell for Julia’s latest post “5 Rules To Eat By”

View at Medium.com

We are looking forward to seeing everyone as soon as safely possible.

Until next time….

Donna, Julia and the Felines

Planting Tomatoes

Tomato Plants in the Greenhouse

Our last two posts discussed choosing determinate or indeterminate and the benefits of heirloom varieties. Now you have chosen your tomato plants and it is time to get them in the ground. If you haven’t read those yet, click here and here.

Or is it?

To ensure the best chance of success follow the following steps:

Harden Off

The first thing to ensure success is the process of “hardening off”. This technique helps acclimate your plant to the world of weather outside. All tomatoes grown in Central Illinois are started by seed early in the year inside a greenhouse or other indoor setting. In these controlled environments, the plant does not have an opportunity to adapt to blowing wind or pounding rain.

Wait until the daytime temperatures are above 60º, then set the plants still in their pots in a semi protected but outdoor area for a short period of time each day. At first, the plant’s adjustment may make you think the plants have wilted or are not going to survive. Trust that they will perk up overnight and be ready for their next excursion outdoors. Increase the time outside daily. During this time, limit watering to bare minimums. The goal is to strengthen the plants but keep them alive.

After a week or so of this increasing exposure to the outdoor weather and when the soil temperature is above 50º at 4 inches (or threat of frost has passed), your tomatoes are ready for the garden or patio pot.

Prepare the Planting Bed

Tomatoes need calcium to protect against blossom end rot. Crushed egg shells work perfectly. Save approximately one egg shell for every tomato plant. When ready to plant, crush the eggshells and add a pinch of epsom salts for each egg shell. The epsom salts add magnesium and sulfur to the soil as a fertilizer and support healthy plant growth.

When ready to plant, dig a hole slightly wider than the pot the tomato is in and twice as deep for each plant. Divide the eggshell mixture among each hole and add water. Allow the water to absorb into the soil to dissolve the epsom salts and you are ready to plant.

Plant Deep

For the best strength and success, bury tomato plant to the first set of leaves. This may feel unusually deep but tomato stalks will grow roots all along the stalk and increase the ability of the plant to take up soil nutrients. Most tomato plants will require some type of staking or cage to ensure they remain upright and the fruit stays off the ground. It is best to add this now while the plant is small instead of struggling to contain a large unruly plant.

That’s it. Ensure adequate water if it does not rain and in about 6 weeks, you will be picking your own fresh, ripe tomatoes.

Stay tuned to our social media for progress on our garden and post pictures of your own. Five Feline Farm is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Three Sisters

Five Feline Farm is planning a garden area on the south end of the property to showcase new crops as well as heritage varieties of familiar crops. In time, a garden shed, marked pathways and dedicated plant beds will be added. Visitors can expect to see this area expand and develop over the next two to three years. Each new variety will be planted in the most sustainable method available.

The central feature for 2014 will be a Three Sisters companion planting. You may recall this referred to in the last post. Three Sisters is an ancient method of companion planting corn, beans and squash. Some accounts or legends associated withThree Sisters suggest this is the method that was taught to the English settlers by the Native Americans. Each plant benefits the other. The products harvested then support a balanced diet for the gardener.

Varieties for the Three Sisters area at Five Feline Farm have been sourced from Native Seeds. Each reflects an ancient culture and are open pollinated.

Three Sisters begins with corn. The sturdy stalks provide a natural pole for the beans to climb. We will use two varieties of corn: Hopi Greasy Head and Mayo Tuxpeño. Both of these are “dent” corns to be dried and ground into cornmeal.

Pole beans are the second sister of the trio. Beans collect nitrogen from the air and impart it to the soil. Nitrogen is a critical nutrient for healthy corn development. In keeping with the Native American theme, Hopi Black Pinto beans are the variety of choice for this planting at the Farm. These beans can be picked and eaten green but also allowed to ripen and dry for long term storage.

The final sister in the planting is squash. We will be using Yellow Crookneck. The large leaves of squash vines shade the ground under the group acting as living mulch to conserve moisture and block weeds.

The Three Sisters are planted in a slight mound with a flattened top. The mound is approximately one foot high and four feet or so in diameter. Corn is started first and allowed to grow to about twelve inches before the beans are started. One week after beans, squash is planted.


Meanwhile as we dream of weather warm enough to start Three Sisters, early seed starting is beginning in the basement. Marigolds, heirloom tomatoes ranging from Cherokee Purple to Roma, peppers, tobacco and herbs will be poking through the germinating mix soon.


As you can see, planning for the growing season, dreaming of warmer weather and starting the garden plants indoors is how we address the winter doldrums here at Five Feline Farm. Post a comment to let us know how you are coping with the cold winter.

Don’t forget to watch the website for an opportunity to sign up for our newsletter for exclusive subscriber content about life at Five Feline Farm. Target release date is January 31, 2014.