Chasing Butterflies

I’ve kept to my watering and weeding routine and also stayed busy getting a short story (dark fantasy) ready for a national contest. In my ‘down’ time, I’ve been chasing butterflies. Here’s one. Double click on the photo to see the detail. Lovely wings and lovely spotted body.

Butterflies-IMG_2393

Early Signs of Fall? And Another Question…

I walked out to the garden this foggy morning and found this lovely, dew sparkled spiderweb on my plum tree. I tried to capture it with my camera. If you click to enlarge the photo, you can see the individual dew drops.

Fall-0-IMG_2361

Signs of early fall – chrysanthemums in bloom.

Fall-1-IMG_2373

A second crop of pink balsam starting.

Fall-2-IMG_2369

Acorns on my pin oaks.

Fall-3-IMG_2367

And now for the second question. I noticed these eggs on many, many pin oak leaves. Can anyone identify them? Are these “good” insects or gross insects? Hoping to learn before I pull on my “big girl panties” and start brushing them off the leaves.

Fall-4-IMG_2365

Squash Bugs – Gross!!

The squash bug infestation has destroyed my Delicata squash. So nasty and so sad. I’ve asked what I can do about it now, looking to my experienced gardener and master gardener friends; the simplest suggestion was to spray the area with diatomaceous earth.

Scream-01-IMG_2349

You may know that squash bugs or Anasa tristis, order Hemiptera, are common pests of squash, pumpkins and melons, all belonging to the cucurbit family. Cucumbers are also cucurbits, and it now seems likely that my difficulty with cucumbers this year was due to squash bugs. Yuck.

For those who don’t know me well, I have a little phobia going on regarding insects and especially bugs. Thanks to Lenora Larson for patiently explaining the difference! I’m learning to have a little more respect and a little less startle reflex to insects. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to bugs.

Scream-2-IMG_2350

So, squash bugs. How to kill them? I attended a Miami County Extension Office class about pest management, presented by Raymond Cloyd, Ph.D. from Kansas State University. He talked about removing the eggs (too late for that), using oil sprays on the nymphs (too late for that) and – finally – using a vacuum to remove the squash bugs.

Really? I just don’t want bugs in my vacuum… An article on the K-State Extension site says this: “Squash bugs are not equally susceptible to insecticide treatments at all developmental stages.” And goes on to say that insecticides are most effective against earliest instar nymphs. The same article suggests a variety of insecticides timed correctly, although taking care not to harm other, beneficial insects like bees, is important.

To prevent another infestation next year, I’m going to plant something else in that bed, although I haven’t decided what quite yet. I’m open to suggestions.

I may try planting a trap crop of Delicata squash since the bugs seem to adore it. I have cantaloupe planted in the same bed and have seen nary a bug on any of the cantaloupe leaves or vines!

Meanwhile, I sprinkled some diatomaceous earth on the squash because first, I bought it and have it, and second, it can’t hurt. From my perspective, the squash bugs do not like diatomaceous earth and started churning around, trying to get away.

Scream-03-IMG_2356

I really can’t think about bugs any more today. Thanks for reading!

Who’s Been Eating My Veggies?

We now harvest tomatoes and cucumbers daily. And while I freeze and pickle as fast as I can, we’ve started putting together bags for Jim’s golfing buddies. No one’s told us to stop yet…

On the plus side, we have lovely cantaloupe ripening. We read information from a multitude of .edu websites and I checked-in with my master gardener friend, Lenora. Cantaloupe are ripe when they slip off the vine. So true. I picked one up last week and it literally fell into my hands.

Late-Summer-IMG_2342

Then came the acid test. Yum! We get pretty good melons from the Farmer’s Market, but not like this…

Late-Summer_IMG_2316

On the down side, I’ve fed an entire generation of butterflies or moths – or so it seems. Just look!

Late-Summer_IMG_2340

I’ve had enormous difficulty with “cole” vegetables this year, including lettuce, radicchio, and broccoli. I have some ornamental kale – same family – and the leaves look like lace. I feel a little like Mama Bear: Who’s been eating my broccoli?

Tomorrow night I’m going to a class on garden pests, and I’m looking forward to finding out what to do to prevent this from happening again next year.

Watching my zinnias has been fun, especially looking for different kinds of butterflies. But I found this little hopper on my zinnias the other day. Not so happy to see him.

Late-Summer_IMG_2339

Last but not least, I found hundreds of what I can only imagine to be squash beetles swarming – yes, swarming – over my Delicata squash plants. I ran for the camera but by the time I got back, nary a one. Hmmm…

The squash still on the vine seem okay, but the vines are dying back. The University of Colorado has some interesting things to say about squash bug management, including using less rather than more mulch. I plan to relocate the squash and melons next year, so that may help solve the problem.

My hope for next year? Better understanding of what to do about insects so that I get to eat more of what I plant.

Garden Party

Cooler weather has resulted in a quiet week in the garden. Lots of weeding and watering. Not much else needed except to enjoy the sunflowers and zinnias in their glory.

GardenParty-IMG_2300

SignofFall-IMG_2297

GardenParty-IMG_2301

Tomato Insanity

We’ve always had a pretty good crop of tomatoes. I like them on salad and Jim just likes them. Some years, when we haven’t grown our own, I’ve depended on friends to supply them. In Kansas, you always know when the tomatoes are ripening because bags of them appear in workplaces and neighborhoods. My guess is it’s the same all over. Tomatoes just aren’t that difficult to grow.

TOMATO-1-IMG_2304

Last year, Jim developed some kind of allergic reaction to them and I decided not to eat “nightshade” vegetables for a while. For those who may not know, nightshade vegetables include potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, and a variety of others including paprika and tomatatillos. Nightshade fruits and vegetables belong to the Solanum genus. So, for example, the ‘official’ name for tomatoes is Solanum lycopersicum. While controversial, it’s claimed that nightshade veggies may play a role in inflammation.

TOMATO-2-IMG_2311

Be that as it may, what’s a garden without a tomato plant? Or so I asked myself this past spring. Running through Walmart one day, I picked up two little tomato plants and decided that would suffice.

TOMATO-3-IMG_2310

The first indication that we were in trouble came when I went out to water one morning and found that one of the plants had toppled over, despite its cage. What a mess. Wish I’d snapped a photo but, truthfully, I was more concerned about my precious plant! Jim managed to tie it upright and we hoped for the best. We needn’t have worried.

TOMATO-4-IMG_2307

These two tomato plants, as you can see, have turned into monster plants. Just this morning we harvested a full basket – and my freezer is already crammed with tomatoes harvested earlier this week. I found an article from University of Nebraska that gave me a more-or-less easy approach to freezing tomatoes. Works well, so far, although I think the proof will be in the sauce!

TOMATO-IMG_2313

Pasta, anyone?

The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

Hope-IMG_2302

Okay – Samuel Johnson was talking about second marriages. I’m talking about trees.

When we moved here in 2000, my Jim looked at the driveway and envisioned a line of trees on both sides. Sort of like every other driveway in Miami County, but yes, it’s a pretty look.

We went out and bought some not-cheap maples, which did nicely the first year. Then they died. The following year, we found some maples for $6 each, bought and planted them. They did very well for a couple of years. Then all but one died and that last tree is hanging on by a thread.

In talking to master gardener friends, I learned I might have better luck with native trees. My friend Lenora tempted me to drive to the annual Miami County Extension Master Gardeners’ plant sale by promising to save me three native tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera).

“Tree” is a bit of a misnomer. Actually, I hesitate to call them saplings. They looked like plants so when I bought them last April, I put them in pots. They grew like weeds.

After reading a bit about tulip trees – also called yellow poplar – I decided to plant them in raised rounds. Everything that I’ve put in a raised bed has thrived here, including a blue spruce. Almost everything planted directly in the ground has died. Maybe these trees will grow. Or not die.

The National Forest Service says that tulip trees top out at about 80 feet. They grow approximately 1-2 feet a year. So let’s see. When these trees are mature, assuming they grow 2 feet a year, I will be about 105.

The triumph of hope over experience!