Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Last Hollyhock

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Here in Northern Colorado, we are all feeling the gradual change of seasons as Summer gracefully wanes to let Autumn take charge. We welcome this change here on the plains after a hot, droughty summer. While the temperatures are still high, a cool breeze meanders through the Garden Spot, making ready for Autumn's anticipated arrival. We can say good-bye to the 90+ temperatures that we won't miss until the dead of winter. We are like that, aren't we?

It's an appreciated change for gardeners, for by summer's end gardening becomes a tedious chore with the demanding watering schedule and the tedious task of weeding. We are ready to put the garden to bed; thus, with bucket and bowl in hand, I set out to simply pick a few ripened tomatoes, but came back to kitchen with a bountiful harvest that did put an end to the vegetable garden for this season.

I began picking the abundant tomatoes. It was a rough year for them. With an unusually cold spring, the plants went in late. The Head Gardener planted both plants that he started from seed and commercial plants. We had Beef Steak, Better Boy, Romas that died, Sweet One Hundreds, Early Girl, Fourth of July, an heirloom variety Brandy Wine, Bush Steak, and Cherry tomatoes. It's an impressive list, but things didn't go well and from talking to others, tomatoes didn't do well this year. With the cold spring, the ground was still cold when the tomatoes finally were planted in June--at least that's what say--cold soil, cold feet.

Still we had a plentiful harvest of tomatoes. I've come to accept that the garden does not have to meet Better Homes and Gardens standards for beauty, style, and design; it just has to produce. I can't claim that we are organic gardeners either; instead, we are simple gardeners and maybe even lazy ones. Still we are cognizant and cautious using weed control around the food plants, so the food has to compete with bind weed and Canada thistle. Nor do we use pesticides or fertilizer, except when the plants go in. No heroic measures here.

When I gather from the garden, I like to use this large colander the I found at the thrift store. It's not the standard kitchen size, but it does fit nicely on the tomato cage. These are the Sweet One Hundreds that should be red, but are a bright orange and most certainly sweet as candy and abundant. I picked this vine clean and there will be more to come.

The green bell peppers, jalapeños, and Anaheim peppers didn't fair well either. Water? Who knows. The HG planted a combination of sets he started and one he purchased. Generally we have a great pepper production. This was not one. Not to worry; I have a good store in the freezer from years past.



The carrots surprised us, too. Slow to germinate, slow to grow, looking overprinted and crowded. The HG stressed all summer over these plants. So while was I picking tomato vines clean, I said, "Let's dig the carrots and see what we have." And there you have it, a nice carrot harvest. More water and they would have been bigger, but who's complaining? 




Next, we tackled the potatoes. A decent harvest, but a disappointing one since the potatoes were so small. Plant them deeper and water more. One of the hens joined in on the potato digging, knowing that the fresh turned soil would have a good yield of bugs and worms for her.

So here it is, a bountiful harvest.



The girls love to raid the garden, too. I wasn't going to be in the garden long, just long enough to pick a few tomatoes, but when I saw the harvest extending, I let them out.




When I did a head count, I short one hen, Olive, the Olive Egger. She was busy doing her part to put food on our table. She's one of the new ones and is laying the prettiest green eggs, still small, but as she grows, so will her eggs.



Today I had to process the harvest. I decided to create stew and soup packets: From the garden: onions, potatoes, carrots, a few sprigs of fresh parsley, and bit of fresh thyme.


I packaged them in vacuumed sealed bags.


Sliced a few. A few whole. Then I ran out of bags.


Paying Tribute to a Self Starter


Some of the dahlias might bloom so very late because they went in late. 


And one lone hollyhock with a huge bumble bee so loaded with the last of the pollen that it could hardly fly. 


There will be more work to do to put the Garden Spot to bed, so stay tuned.

Have a fabulous week and thanks so much for joining me.

I'll be joining Angie for Mosaic Monday. Hope to see you there.


Sunday, September 4, 2022

A Rare Moment


It's been a purposeful week in the garden, if not a wee bit destructive, and quite exciting and colorful, too.  I started the week on with a rant of sorts, deciding that it was time thin out the garden that wraps around the back patio on the north around to the east side. I left the east side alone for the time being, but began by pulling out the overly abundant echinacea that had taken over the bed and didn't too so well this year. I left a few new seedlings that will do fine in the spring. The cosmos that that also self seed took up a lot space too, crowding themselves in between the black eyed Susans and the tiger lilies, taking up a lot room. It's project that I've wanted to tackle all summer, but these are the pollinators favorite diners, so I left them until most of the pollen was gone and then I went to work.

But the flowers weren't the only offenders. Grass and Canadian thistle have self started, invading an otherwise peaceful garden and  most unwelcome, which prompted the real reason why I decided to clean out the garden bed. Our trip to the test garden also inspired me to clean up the garden because I want some new plant material. So there. Quite a mess that I created.



As I moved around to the other side of the patio, cleaning up weeds and more unwanted grass, I spied a monarch on the buddilea and all work stopped. I hurried in to get my camera and by the time I was done photographing the beautiful creature, I had captured 60 images of this gorgeous and absolutely perfect monarch. Then I started in with my phone camera to get some even closer photos and some which the butterfly tolerated. Pure luck that I spied this garden visitor.

It was indeed a rare moment to see such a perfectly beautiful butterfly that had probably newly emerged from its pupa  I had a hard time getting a photo of its wings opened because I stayed on the front side of it. Occasionally it would pump its wings, but my shutter finger wasn't fast enough, but I was able to capture the sunlight filtering through the wing.


This is an iPhone photo--pretty amazing.
                          








One of God's most perfect creatures.

We also have late summer humming birds that come to our feeder. I assume that they, too, are on their trip back south of the border in Mexico or Central America. I mix my own nectar: 1:1 water and sugar that I heat in the microwave until the sugar dissolves then store it in the refrigerator, only putting a small amount in the feed so that it doesn't go bad. 



Nor can I resist taking photos of the bees. They really are clumsy little aviators, especially compared to the gracefully fast humming birds.





The Head Gardener took Nathan Elk hunting for the weekend. They are home now; no luck. I always enjoy my stint on chore duty, but I took these photos before he left--while he was reminding how to feed Callie the barn cat, the horse, and hens.



We dug a few potatoes and by the looks of the eggs, the young hens have started to lay--pretty pale green from the Oliver Egger and pale brown from the lavender orpington along with lots of tomatoes.


And another garden creature, a fat toad who didn't want his photo taken.


Last spring we purchased both red kale and red cabbages. This is not a red cabbage; instead, we have several heads of kale. Do we eat this?


While I'm not crazy about spiders, I do admire their spinning work and that they are pest predators, so I allow this fellow to maintain a web on the patio. I just have to be careful not to run into it because he moves it around. 







And finally some artwork. I'm wanting some original art for the dollhouse, so I played round with Waterlogue app on my phone. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, let alone use watercolors to get beautiful art, but I can poke at my phone screen and get decent results.



Before I leave, I have one more set of photos to share with you. As I walked back from the mailbox, I saw yet another monarch, this one laying her eggs a non blooming milkweed. The Head Garden had mowed it down at the beginning of the summer, but once we read about the blight of the butterfly, we will leave this stand of milkweed for it is the only plant that serves as nursery for the monarch on the property. 


You can see her tiny eggs on the underneath of the leaf. I should have pulled this leaf off and nurtured the eggs so that other bugs don't eat them. I'll give you an update next week. It will take two weeks for the caterpillars to hatch then they will eat, eat, eat and soon spin their pupa. Total it takes 30 days for the new butterfly to emerge. Jen did take a couple of leaves Friday to raise, so we will see if she has luck. Here's a couple of  Youtube links on the monarch's life cycle and how to raise monarchs.


Let me tell you, this is VERY exciting to find eggs, but even more so to watch the lady do her work.







Thanks so much for visiting. As usual, I'll be linking with Angie for Mosaic Monday
Join me there. 





Sunday, August 21, 2022

Ambushed


 


The wild sunflowers are beginning to fade. They are good self starters and since I didn’t get my sunflower seeds planted this spring, the wild ones have to do. The road sides are a glow with the shorter truly wild sunflowers, but in the garden they have crossed with the giant flowers and grow so tall that they literally touch the sky—in photos anyway.


They have had an interesting life cycle, hosting a number of insect species from lady bugs to a vast variety of bees, and even the deadly ambush bug, Phymata, a nasty little creature, aptly named, that hides the petals of the flower then attacks its unsuspecting pray, stabbing it with its proboscis, injecting a deadly toxin then sucking out the poor creatures brain and bodily fluids. Can there be a worse nightmare for our favorite insects? Probably not. What then should a gardener do to protect the good guys, the pretty ones, the beneficial insects in the garden?

 

While we may use herbicides to control noxious weeds such as bindweed, wild morning glory, and Canadian thistle here at the Garden Spot, we resist the use any pesticides in both the flower beds and the vegetable garden. What will be will be in the cycle of life of plants and critters. I don’t mind the vegetarian caterpillars, for they mostly only destroy leafy vegetation, such as the much-hated tomato horn worms, which we seldom see in our garden. My dad’s approach was to plant another plant for them. Many caterpillars metamorphize into beautiful butterflies and moths, so we tolerate them, even protect them.

 

Then we find those critters in the Hemiptera order (true bugs) such as the ambush bug and the assassin bug that pose certain dangers to our favorite pollinators, so there is a fine balance between what and how to or if we even should control the carnivorous insect predators. As I did research for this post, I wanted to find ways to control the assassin or ambush but learned a lot about them. Not only are the assassin bugs a deadly threat to bees and butterflies, but some varieties have venom that is toxic to humans—dangerously so. While assassin bugs come in many different varieties and seem plentiful in the garden, I haven’t identified any specific ones except for the ambush bug that hides just at the edge of the pistil, waiting for unsuspecting bees and butterflies to land on the center of the flower.

 

To use pesticides would contaminant the food that we harvest from the garden and kill the good bugs, so while it breaks my heart to discover a bee or small butterfly lying lifelessly on a pretty flower, it’s only a cycle of life. One of these articles reminds the reader the assassin bugs may kill a few bees, but they also kill the bad bugs, too, such as aphids; so they, on the other hand, are garden guardians.   

 

All about Phymata:  Ambush Bugs

 

More: Colorado Insect of Interest: “Ambush Bug”

 

The Spruce: Assassin Bug: Why They are Good the Garden

 

More on predatory insects and spiders in Texas Gardens:  Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: “Here There Be Dangers

 

 

 I checked on an early blog post where I first wrote about these creatures after discovering them in the garden, only to realize that I wrote my very first blog post August, 19, 2010. Carolyn at “This Grandmother’s Garden.” was my first and only visitor. I joined a group that promoted bloggers and slowly grew a small unique group of faithful followers. 

 

The next post, “Back Yard Bullies” when I wrote about the assassin bug it didn’t get any comments. September posts went without comments, too. The first post in August had two, one who with good intentions, I suppose, recommended how I could get better photos. Thin skinned as I was then, I removed all of my photos from those early post, but the blog slowly took off. I was busy in 2014 where I wrote a record 68 posts but only 5 in 2021 when I just ran out of steam. Some of you have been with me for a very long time and I count you as my friends and look forward to reading your posts every week. Other bloggers have come and gone, and I miss them, but life takes us all on different paths. Blogging can become a chore some weeks. Writing is hard and it’s a challenge to keep the blog fresh and interesting, but it is a good exercise that keeps the brain working. I am trying to maintain a disciplined schedule of posting once a week on Mondays with a fresh new mosaic for Mosaic Monday, which means honing my photographic skills, too. 

 

I’m not quite as disciplined at my second blog, Ann’s Dollhouse Dreams because I don’t always work on the dollhouses; still I have a small circle or wonderful followers who share ideas and tutorials on how to make beautiful miniatures. 

 

I guess my main goal for both of the blogs is to write entertaining and informational posts that make readers smile and brings them a tidbit of new information. 

 

So thank you, dear friends, so sticking with me this long. 



A green bottle fly lies lifeless on the petal of cosmos, its assassin still at the scene of the crime.

Common Green Bottle Fly
Lucilia sericata


Pink Perfection has bloomed steadily since being added to the garden. Her blossoms aren't quite as large as when we brought her home, but next year she will be spectacular. 


The coral bells don't get near enough attention hidden on the outer edge of the north patio garden that has become quite over grown. 

Even when they fade, the hibiscus blossoms have a certain photographic beauty, even with the tiny green fly.



Tiny Green Fly - Amblypsilopus scintillans
bugguide.net


The white cosmos are plentiful this summer, coming up on their own each season. They photograph nicely, too.


The cone flowers didn't do well this year and they are so many in that bed that I'm going to thin them out to make room for some new plants.


I finally found my monarch photo from Summer '21. The Head Gardener saw one flit through the yard this week, but I was downstairs and couldn't get up in time to get a photo. We always just see one as it journeys through the year.





It's hard to find a sunflower without at least one of these awful bugs on it.


There is some hope for the garden because these deadly bugs do have natural predators. Here the Garden Spot's most frequent visitors:


So glad you stopped by. Meet me over at Angie's Letting Go of the Bay Leaf for Mosaic Monday. 





 

The Last Hollyhock

(Note: if the font in Safari is too small: press option command + keys to zoom your Safari screen.)  Here in Northern Colorado, we are all f...