Archive for June, 2013

Good Bug, Bad Bug?

Buzz was mowing the yard and this thing flew up and landed on his neck.

wtf

Ack!

My first reaction would be kill it with fire! Okay, it would startle me and I might want it dead, but I wouldn’t kill it. Buzz’s reaction is to run in the house, get his camera and make it pose for photos on a stick.

After the photos are taken, it’s my job to figure out just what the the hell it is and is it eating my garden. Off to google! I put ‘beetle with black and white spots’ in the image search and there it was on the first page.

It’s an Eastern Eyed Click Beetle. Nearly 2 inches long with large false eyes on its back, it is found across the Eastern US. It gets its name because when turned on its back, it arches its body and launches itself several inches in the air with an audible click to right itself.

I also learned that the click beetle doesn’t damage living plants. The larvae are wireworms and considered pests because they feed on the roots of lawns, vegetables, and flowers (ohhh bad bug). But the larvae of the eyed species are predatory, live in decaying wood and feed on the grubs of wood borer beetles like longhorns. He’s one of the good guys!

Here's lookin' at you, kid

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid

Wildlife and Wildflowers

Well, mostly wildflowers, particularly Heliopsis helianthoides, also known as Ox-eye Daisy or False Sunflower, is a native perennial wildflower to Eastern US and Eastern Canada.

Bumble on a False Sunflower

Bumble on a False Sunflower

It grows 3 to 6 ft. high and 2 to 4 ft. wide in an upright bushy clump, full to part sun in dry to moist soil and is fairly drought resistant.  Great for cut flowers and the butterflies and bees love it.

Loads of sunny yellow flowers

This plant is 5 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide in it’s 3rd year.

False Sunflowers readily self-seed and can fill up any space it has. It can be kept in check by pulling up the unwanted plants. Unfortunately, it also tends to attract red aphids. Some years are so bad I have to cut the plant down and say better luck next year. Other years, there are little or no problems.

something here

Loaded with sunny yellow 2 inch flowers from June until early Autumn.

Propagate by seed, plant division in spring or rooting stem cuttings. In rich soil or shady areas, it tends to get floppy. The plant can be cut back in late spring for a more compact bushy plant, but it will bloom a bit later. Keep it deadheaded to extend the blooms into early autumn.

All photos by buzz.

A Walk Through Saddler’s Woods

It’s Photo Friday!

Just a few miles from Philadelphia and Camden, nestled within South Jersey is 25 acre urban forest containing a remnant of an old growth forest called Saddler’s Woods.

Joshua Saddler was a fugitive slave that found his way to New Jersey. After securing his freedom with the help of a local Quaker farmer, he bought this land and built his home. Other African-Americans came and built homes around the land that became Saddlertown.

After his death in 1880, Saddler’s will stipulated that none of his heirs could cut the timber on the property. This stood for 90 years until the 1970’s, when the woods were slated for sale and development. After a high school student did an ecological study of the area, the current owner changed his mind and spared the woods. Two other attempts in the 80’s and 90’s were made to develop the land. Both times, opposition to the development won to preserve the area.

In 2002, experts determined that many of the trees were 100 to 400 years old and that the surrounding younger forest provides a protection buffer to the older ecosystem. In 2003, the township adopted a conservation easement preserving the land in perpetuity.

These photos are from our various walks though the woods this spring. All photos by my husband, buzz.

Saddler's Run is the spring head of of Newton's Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River.

Saddler’s Run is the spring head of Newton’s Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River.

Tulip Poplar

One of the younger Tulip Poplars in early March. The oldest poplar is over 200  years.

Fallen Tree

Fallen trees are left in place to return to the earth

Our state flower, the Common Violet blooms in early spring.

New Jersey state flower, the Common Blue Violet blooms in April.

Details of bark

Gnarly old tree textures.

Mushrooms on wood

Mushrooms sprouting from the rich forest floor in May.

Since I have limited walking ability, this is a great place to take a nice stroll without too much time and energy commitment. The soft trails are so much easier than walking on pavement. We try to get there about once a month to see the developing seasons. We’re planning to go this weekend. Maybe there will be cicadas!

Veggie Garden Updates

So far this week, we got over 7 inches of rain and the plants are taking off. Hopefully, we won’t get too much rain.

The tomato plants are about halfway up the cages and are fruiting, onions are getting fat stems, garlic scapes are out, lettuce is getting ready to bolt, kale is still hanging in, beans are sprouted, peppers, eggplant, squash, cukes and zukes are blooming.

A bee doing what bees do.

Pickling Cuke and a bee doing what bees do.

It shouldn’t be long before we have fresh tomatoes! As expected, New Girl is the first to fruit. We might make that July 4th deadline yet!

New Girl Tomato reporting for duty!

New Girl Tomato babies!

There is oregano growing in several locations around the yard. I harvested the first batch over the weekend. My gas oven is an older model with a pilot light. It keeps a steady 110 degrees and is perfect for drying herbs and making yogurt. I clean the stems and layer it up on some cookie sheets. Two or three days in the oven and they’re crispy dry. I pick the leaves off, keeping them whole and store in mason jars. Whole leaves have a longer shelf life than ground and crushing the leaves right before using releases that wonderful oregano scent.

Oregano leaves

Oregano ready to dry in the oven

With the help of the garden planning software, I did figure out what cabbage varieties go with each season. I planted the seeds directly in the garden about a week ago and I’m still waiting for it to sprout. I hope it wasn’t too late.

The blueberries are coming along nicely. I’m sure the birds are watching them as closely as I am. We netted the bush one year and a robin got caught in it and died. No more nets for us, we will share our small blueberry crop with the birds. I hope they leave us some this year.

It’s Photo Friday!

Some current views of the gardens. Photos by buzz.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

An Eastern Cottontail visits the gardens.
He was well behaved and prefers the white clover and quack grass to the veggie garden.

Jolly Elf tomato flower cluster.

Jolly Elf tomato flower cluster. This is a determinate grape tomato.

California Wonder  Bell Pepper flower

California Wonder Bell Pepper flower buds.

Spiderwort flower. Another perennial native wildflower. This grows 12 to 24 inches tall in sun or shade.

Spiderwort is another perennial native wildflower.
This grows 12 to 24 inches tall in sun or shade.

Japanese Painted Fern. Not a native, but so pretty.

Japanese Painted Fern. Not a native, but so pretty.

columbine_2079

A yellow and pink hybrid Giant Columbine. I don’t remember the variety.

When we had the trees removed from the curb, not only did it open up a bit of sun to the shade garden, it reduced the root mass from the maples. It was always a struggle to get anything established within 3o feet of the trees. We would clear out a space for the plants and by the end of the season, the tree feeder roots would clog it all up again. The perennials could barely hang on for more than a season or two.

Now there are Hostas, Bleeding Hearts, Coral Bells and a variety of ferns that I haven’t seen in several years. It’s amazing that the plants survived and returned.

Growing Hardneck Garlic, Part 3

Since we’re nearing the end of the garlic growing season, I’m going to start in the middle. I’ll give some highlights to catch up the season, and post more detailed information when the new season starts in the fall.

Garlic is one the easiest vegetables to grow. First, choose your garlic–softneck or hardneck. Although there are softneck varieties adapted to colder climates, it is generally for warmer zones. I have no first-hand experience with softneck, so these posts will be about hardneck garlic.

Hardneck garlic is planted in autumn. I plant around mid-October while the weather is still warm enough to get the root system started.Everything stays in the ground through the Winter and in early Spring, it will start sprouting. I give it a little fertilizer boost at that time.

If all went well, the garlic will look like this in the spring.

If all went well, the garlic will look like this in late spring. Each leaf is a wrapper around the bulb.

So here we are in late Spring, the plants have sent up a scape. When the scape makes the first curl, cut it off near the plant. Removing the scapes allows the bulbs to grow larger instead of using energy to make a flower. Don’t yank the stem out, it goes all the way down to the bottom of the bulb and can damage it. Not all of the scapes develop at the same time, so visit the garden often and cut them as they grow.

Garlic Scape

Clip the scape right where it comes out from the leaves.

Around the same time the scapes appear, the leaves will start to die back starting at the bottom. In a few weeks, when 1/3 to 1/2 the leaves are yellowed, the bulbs are ready to be lifted. More on that when it happens!

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