Tony Teolis

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since Jun 13, 2012
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Recent posts by Tony Teolis

Blueberries Grown Hugel Style The blueberry plants have been in the ground for over a year and I have been aware for some time that just a few of the bushes are doing really well. They all have blueberries and nice branches except for one that has not yet bore fruit and another that has not sprouted branches. Overall they seemed to be doing well and the foliage and colors are in line with my expectations. My children and I started these plants from bare roots in April 2012 and by September the leaves had turned brilliant hues of red and orange as expected.

Now that blueberries are on the branches it’s time to take growing them more seriously and I did so recently but looking at the pH levels of the soil for each of the plants. It’s something I should have done at the time of planting last year but I didn’t have any means to do so other than sending off boxes to the county extension office for a hefty price. I remember only doing cursory glances on Amazon for soil test kits but didn’t feel they were necessary at the time. Now they are necessary and you cann how easy it is to find and use the RapiTest pH kit.

For just $1 per test my daughter and I were able to test 10 of the 12 blueberry plants growing in the back yard. We did this on Mothers’ Day when the weather was still cool and the results we share with you are quite varied from the extremely acidic to the very alkaline. Most of the plants required a lowering of the pH levels. The blueberries are split into two sections and one was much more alkaline than the other.
The video goes on to show how I use soil acidifier, sand and pine bark mulch to amend the soil towards a lower pH. In one case I had to add lime, potting soil and pine bark mulch to raise the pH for a plant that was not developing branches.

I had my first homegrown blueberry yesterday and I am glad I finally took the time to checks the soil pH for the plants. The blueberry was wonderful of course and there are many more to pick so it is only fitting that I go the extra step to ensure that the plants have a great chance of being regular and prolific producers in the back yard. I thought I had prepared the soil properly and I should have checked it sooner. But as I close in the video nature is most often forgiving enough to allow one to admit mistakes and make corrections. Don’t forget to do the same yourself. That’s it for today now go and put something productive on your property. Tony Teolis
8 years ago
Hi Yukkuri,

I cut the tops and bottom off of plastic bottles and place them around plants when they are put in the ground. Slugs can't get to them. Building little rock houses for toads is also fun and helpful. check this out toad castles in this post Tony T. in VA
8 years ago
Strawberries and Honey Bees I couldn't wait to put this episode together because I have been wanting to share our experience with this year's strawberry harvest. The video begins and ends with proper credit given to the honey bees in my back yard. The top bar hive is doing really well and I show you what it looks like inside. The video then moves on the strawberries growing in a few different places in the yard.

Most are picked before they are fully ripe in order to prevent them from being eaten by the sow bugs and slugs. We probably lost about 15-20% to pests but that's one reason we grow so many. There are some ants around but they give my plants no trouble. In some cases ants help to pollinate certain plants or carry away debris. Once they are picked we leave them out in the kitchen for a day or so to ripen to a delicious and beautiful red hue. The stems are then cut and once washed and dried the strawberries go in the freezer until my wife has time to make strawberry jam. We brought some jam home to my family last week and everyone enjoyed their little presents.

I give credit to the three bee colonies because they are often seen pollinating the plants and its nice to think they are busy helping with the growth. Growing strawberries is pretty easy and carefree but some maintenance in the fall and spring is required. I grew the first patch in 2010 in a handmade pyramid shaped strawberry planter. In 2011 I designed and built a three tiered strawberry planter and that has been the main producer. The first strawberries seen in the video were planted in 2010 in just a plain old square foot garden.

Unfortunately strawberries don't produce indefinitely so I will have to build more planters and put them in different places next year in order to meet our needs. It is not recommended to grow new plants in the same place as old ones at least for a few years to minimize disease and maximize growth. Now that we are hooked on strawberries we will have to do a bit more work to keep them coming. Having the honey bees around will certainly come in handy. That's it for today now go and grow some strawberries where you live. Tony Teolis
8 years ago
I have been growing squash for the past three years because my family and I love to eat it. My neighbors love squash just as much as we do and it's nice when we can bring a smile to their faces. However, the previous two seasons brought surprise and dismay as I had learned too late that my squash plants were under attack and doomed for the most part. Herculean effort was required to save 50% of the crop in 2011. I tried to keep a better eye out for symptoms of a squash vine borer invasion last year but again I was too late. I was looking for wilted, brown leaves as an indication of the squash larvae eating the plants from the inside out and I should have know better than to wait until then.

In 2011 I had to pull five of ten plants and the one that remained were sprayed with neem oil and recovered with soil. I got some more squash that year but not as much as I could have. In 2012 I was able to save the plants earlier but still lost some productive growth and even a plant or two. This year I am determined to do better.

defending agaisnt squash bugs
It's only June 1 but the gardens are alive and blooming and a close look at the stems of my 5 squash plants showed their vulnerability to the vine borer. It seems that the stems had been chewed on or stretched which is an invitation for the vine borer to lay eggs that will then have easy access to the stem core. I found this evident in all the plants but the one depicted in the video was the worst.

My fix this year is based on a few years of experience and some well know tactic found on the Web. I first covered up the chewed out areas with neem oil. I like neem oil because it confuses bugs and sets their insticnt controls into a spin. They basically forget what to do when the come in contact with neem oil. You will see sow bugs (Porcellio scaber) in the video near the chewed stem and they are probably feeding on the dead plant matter near the stem of the squash. Neem oil helps to protect plantsand form a protective coating around injured areas. I have been using neem oil for three years and found it to be the best natural way for restoring leafy greenness and pest control to plants. I don't use it often or in great quantities because of the honey bees in my back yard. It is supposed to be harmless to bees but I take no chances.

After I drizzled a little neem oil on the injured area I covered it with a Telfa non adhesive pad like a band aid. I then wrapped the stem as carefully as I could with aluminum foil. The foil seems to disorient the moths that lay the eggs near the plant stems. It is a nice hard layer of protection that does not bother the plant at all and if monitored carefully for additional layering will prevent the squash but invasion.

I will also try to get some butternut squash starts and see how they do as their stems are much narrower and not as inviting to the vine borer. However, we just can't get enough of the yellow summer squash and they taste so great grilled, drizzling with butter and sprinkled with salt. Better than corn I think. I guess the point is that if you love something you have to work to keep it well. So true. Tony Teolis
fixing the swales This video is a follow up to Episode -174- on Making swales and how they can be used to hold water and grow food. The video shows what the backyard looked like a year ago and some of the bare patches are evident but it was much worse. When it rained it was dangerous to walk down the steep incline as falling on my ass was a constant threat. I had thought long and hard about how to control the erosion since laying new grass seed every year never worked. The incline was just too steep. Finally after three years of wasted grass seed I carefully followed the instruction of Jack Spirko and others and used an A frame level made out of PVC pipe and duct to draw out lines level on contour.

I thought that having a stepped backyard would slow the water runoff and stay in the ground longer. I got the idea of creating a stepped backyard from a neighbor who had cut down a dead oak tree in my backyard that covered the area where the swales now lie. He suggested a set of long steps made from wooden planks but I thought that too unnatural and unproductive. Instead since March of 2012 I had been creating designs on how to make swales in the backyard that would be beautiful and productive. It took a while and the success I have had with smaller swales and hugel (woody core) garden beds led me to be more careful putting my ideas into action.

I began in September of 2012 to draw and dig the lines on contour using an A Frame and before I did that I called Miss Utility to come and mark the lines for power and cables to my house so that I did not cut them by accident. That is an essential first step before taking on such a project. Then with my trusty shovel the swales were dug, filled in with small branches, leaves, compost, top soil, covered with rye, clover and hairy vetch and then I layered on some straw to keep everything moist. That worked fine for about a month until I noticed that the swales had depressed to an almost flat level with ground again thus destroying their purpose. This goes to show that doing things right the first time is not always a great idea. I had to think bigger and in November with help from my children I dug up the swales and replaced the small branches with great big logs of wood from the tree my neighbor cut.

Once the swales were dug anew I layered them up again in similar fashion to the first time and they have held up very well. So good in fact that by April they were ready to receive the wintergreen and cranberry plants I ordered from EdibleLandscaping.com. Now it is June 1 and the swales and the plants they support do look great. In another year or two they will look even better and be productive. In this case the labor involved for doing a better job the second job was well worth it. Be sure to follow up your mistakes with corrections and it doesn’t hurt to start all over. That’s it for today now go and fix something you didn’t get right the first time. Tony Teolis
8 years ago
I whole heartily agree and have let the violets go wild. Thanks for the reassurance. Tony Teolis
8 years ago
supersedure troubles? I think I got a problem with Honey Bee Hive B but I could not be sure so I had to take a look inside to see if I had a good laying queen. This is the colony that I applied the formic acid strip to in early April to combat a Varroa Destructor infestation and I have been keeping an eye on the bees since. What you will see is evidence of a poor laying queen. I give credit to Howland Blackiston of BeeCommerce.com and author of Beekeeping For Dummies for the styile in which I inspect the hive and what I should look for. However, I do not do everything he suggests when problems such as a poor laying arise.

Instead I try to let the bee decide what needs to be done even though when I see a problem I want to rush with a rescue plan for them. I have had to learn more than just plain honey bee and honey production techniques. If I replace the poor laying queen seen in this first part of my experience diagnosing supersedure then what would prevent me from doing it again and again in hopes of telling the bees what they need.

They can see they have a poor laying queen but they are very calm during the two visits this video depicts. So I see a queen on both visits and I see larvae and the bees are calm. Why worry? Sure I could mix things up and get a new queen for $50(includes shipping) but I'm not in this for the honey and if the bees don't make it they don't make it. The result is a cleaner and leaner gene pool versus one stressed to live beyond its normal means by yours truly. It was hard to fight the urge to fix this and not buy a queen but I have not bought a new one and the upcoming Part 2 will show what the result of my inaction has been.

The next logical step for the resiliency of my apiary is to raise healthy local queens and I have a ways to go to get there but if this hive pulls through then my methods of leaving the bees to their own means has some validity. Things do get worse and not just with this colony. Stay tuned to see how it goes and thank you for following along. Tony Teolis
8 years ago
Thanks Marj. I have left the violets alone and only the occasional one get hit by the mower. Much appreciated. Tony Teolis
8 years ago
How do I retire - Review of how much money you need Today’s video presents a review of The Savage Number by Terry Savage. I got this book from the library in hopes to evaluate my plan to retire at age 55 and it did not disappoint me. Ms. Savage presents a number of methods and questions for evaluating the realistic goal of retiring and doing so without having to resort to eating cat food as long as you plan carefully and examine the plan frequently. It’s not enough to rely on Social Security or a pension to see you through you last years on earth. Sure we can all go at any moment and without notice. But most likely old age will come to me and it won’t be pretty.

Retirement to me at this point in my life is simply retirement from my current wage to sustain my lifestyle and that of my family. I’ll still work of course but if I lost my job I would not have to end up in a trailer in West Virginia eating what comes my way. However, being reliant on my wage into the future is not the best of plans nor should it be. The American way of life as it began is to be reliant on one’s self and neighbors to get by and part that requires an entrepreneurial spirit. If the spirit turns into an income and the income becomes something you own and not someone else then you have recaptured independence. That’s what I plan to do and it’s what I am working on through this website. In the meantime I must still plan and save and The Savage has helped me to reconsider my methods for realizing a livable income in old age.

What I learned from The Savage Number
Monte Carlo Modeling – The statistical science of modeling multiple alternatives because no one lives in the average.
My plans for long term have not been made and they need to be considered.

What I really liked about The Savage Number
The 10 questions to consider how your life may develop
Her prescient insight to seeing the housing bubble for what it was back in 2005 when the book was published.
The consideration that should be granted to precious metals as insurance against inflation which is real and higher than what The Fed tells us.
Evaluating my 401K and establishing a Roth IRA to protect against taxes in the future.

What I didn’t like about The Savage Number
Ms. Savage’s recommendations for finding a financial liar, I mean adviser.

This book is a great read for:
People who are considering retirement.
Young people who think retirement won’t ever come to fruition.
People who are reliant on one source of income for retirement.
Tony Teolis

8 years ago
Protecting Plants From Frost Today's video show how I protected my plants outside from frost with straw to save them crops. I was minding my own business when the voice on the radio indicated temps going down to the 20'sF on May 13. What a bummer. Putting up my traditional PVC hoop sets with plastic sheeting is too much work at this late stage in the game and the gardens are too many in number and odd shaped to do an effective and efficient job. Luckily I still had some straw on hand and used what was left to cover the most vulnerable plants as best as possible.

Straw provides insulation and protection from damp cold weather. I was mostly worried about the tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and flowers and concentrated on mulching those. I had fertilized the grapes and kiwi and mulched them as well. The whole time I was doing this I was thinking I need to push my planting date out further like Mothers' Day but then I was confident that they have been out at least two weeks already so they should be hardened off to some good extent.

Cold weather did arrive Monday night and the temp went down to the high thirties so it wasn't too bad and all the plants seem to have survived quite well. Now it's just an issue of getting on with more gardening, raising bees and being prepared. When frost threatens your plants don't be lazy but don't waste too much time and money. A bale of straw runs about $7 and it's pretty easy to spread around plants and give you piece of mind. Tony Teolis