31 May 2018

in the house

Gave my little mimosa a new, larger pot. I don't like handling it because all the leaves close with stress and then it's trickier to fill the soil. It dropped some foliage, but is growing anew- on the left, fresh fronds.
I guess my young kalanchoe are doing better- this one is starting to sprout babies on its leaf margins. I never have seen flowers on them
Zebrina growing and growing
Plant attack! that's what my seven-year-old thought this was. I'm trying to revive my poor ponytail palm. It needs less water and more light. So I moved it to the sunniest spot- but as its falling over I kind of leaned it on the jade. They're both spending more time outside now.
Cut down my 'kiwi fern' coleus in the kitchen windowsill severely. I couldn't see out the window anymore! Small leaves growing back look rather pretty. Might keep it trimmed regularly with stouter stems.
All my other coleus cuttings that were still in jars (from the newer acquisitions) just got potted up, too. I may keep some of them as houseplants this year, in addition to what's outside. More pics later.

gardening in other spots-

Peppers stayed in containers on the deck
ginger is finally coming up!
summer savories suddenly put on a lot of growth. I think I will thin them out and move some to grow around the green beans- I read that they repel some pests particular to beans. I'll sow more summer savory seed there, too.

29 May 2018

foiling carpenter bees

We've always had fat bees around. They don't bother anyone so I always told the kids to leave them alone- I knew they were great pollinators. They buzz around our deck in early spring and I assumed were looking for holes to lay their eggs. I thought this was one little hole per female bee, not a big deal.

Then one day I saw one bee atop another, with vigorous action. I'm used to seeing insects just sit still or the female crawling around while the male rides along, when they mate. So at first I thought they were fighting over a nesting site and one bee was attacking the other? I looked some stuff up and it turns out they were mating. Carpenter bees. Closer look and yep, the ones I've been seeing have the black shiny abdomen.

They don't just chew one hole. They gnaw extensive tunnels in old wood, laying rows and rows of larvae. After I knew what to look for I went around inspecting under our deck. I found over twenty holes, three or four which looked active- scatterings of sawdust underneath, and if I listened close I could hear them chewing. My husband thinks they haven't done any structural damage yet, but I know the colony has been here at least four years, if not longer, so.... they have to go.

This was my arsenal- tea tree oil and steel wool.
I put a tablespoon of tea tree oil with a cup of water in a spray bottle and doused all the areas with holes, three different times over the past five days. Actually, the first day I found the holes I stuffed them with citrus geranium leaves- supposedly the bees don't like any citrus scent- and sprayed lemon juice/water/veg oil mix. The bees just removed the leaves from some holes and kept at it. Tea tree oil is a lot stronger (in fact, the scent of it bothers me). Then I sprayed the tea tree oil and plugged all the holes I could with steel wool. They can't chew through that. We also played music outside, the speaker on the beam where the bees had their nest (they don't like vibrations apparently).

The number of bees I see hovering around the deck suddenly dropped from eight or ten, to three or four. These last few were really persistent. I could see fresh indentations near the plugged holes where they were trying to chew back in. I don't hear any more constant gnawing inside the wood though, or see fresh sawdust anymore. This morning I found a bee in my coldframe house, and I smashed it. Two more, their legs laden with pollen, kept coming back to the nest area. I felt kind of bad- they were just trying to return and feed their trapped larvae, probably. I waited until they landed on the beam and hit them with a towel. I killed three, the others haven't come back.

I feel rather bad about that- because I like pollinators- so I propped a few old, weathered boards in trees and shrubs on the other side of the garden, away from the house, hoping they might change quarters. Haven't seen any sign of that, though. (If that worked, can even relocate the entire colony, I've read- by carrying the board out into the woods in late fall/early winter when they bees are hibernating inside it. Leave it there and in spring they will wake up and live out there, instead of on your property).

Well. I think my nasturtium pot below the deck edge where the bee holes were, suffered a bit from my applications. Many of the leaves are suddenly speckled with yellow spots, I wonder if affected where the spray landed on them.

some small things

moss trim from the window tank
I've already sold this little jarful on the planted tank forum (well, for just the cost of shipping really)
Here's a rough photo I took just before I cut it all down- it was getting long and tangly
Nobody seems to want the riccia, however. It is starting to fill up the other small jar. I find it does better if I keep it out of brighter direct light, although it is nice to see the pearling once in a while. More light and it constantly gets diatoms or some kind of brown algae collecting on the bottom. I rinse it out weekly and replenish with lean tank water (from the window tank)

38 update

My second, smaller aponogeton capuronii died. It was loosing leaves at a steady rate- new ones stayed small and then faltered. I finally pulled it out- there were nice long white roots but the bulb was squishy and felt hollow, disintegrating. I don't know why it failed. Too close to the other one? I had given it root tabs regularly (once a month) maybe that wasn't enough. The other has quit sending leaves above the water surface- I hope this is because I've managed to "train" it and not because it is starting to fail as well.

On the other hand, many of my crypts are more lush than before, and have fewer dying leaves to clean off each week. The crypt cordata has grown more new leaves. I have added a few more handfuls of amazon frogbit from two other planted tankers- some of it always seems to be dying off but maybe it is all still adjusting. There's enough new and healthy-looking leaves I don't worry too much. A few weeks ago I deep-cleaned the right edge of the substrate under the bolbitis thicket- see the downslope
and trimmed some of the bolbitis that was running into the glass wall. It was more than I expected. I moved the trimmed pieces into Perry's tank.
Not much else new here. I'm happy with crypt becketti. The new leaves remain small making it a nice bright accent in the front of the tank.
It's calmer at feeding time because I moved the four black kuhlis out, into the new tank. The striped ones aren't as visible- they do come out at feeding time but not blasting around the tank like the black ones did- and I see the shrimps crowding into feeding areas quicker.

I'm glad I put the black kuhlis in the 45. Already they are active and it's really fun to watch them going in and out of the leaf litter. The size of the tank seems to fit them well, and I think they have plenty of hiding areas to avoid future angelfish.

28 May 2018


The other day after heavy rain I saw a shape in the very back of the yard that didn't look right- brown, tan, blending in, but not where I expected it. I got my binoculars and looked through the kitchen window.
A rabbit (beside the summersweet). Probably who ate the tops off my new heucherella- but only a few from each plant so I don't mind. It will make them grow fuller. As long as it stays out of the vegetable garden. Either the cat or the scents of rue, 'scat plant', mint is keeping it away so far. Or both. I bet it's the animal that nipped several stems of my young euonymus I transplanted to the back- I found several neatly cut and just lying there.
I'd rather see the foxes. Haven't in a long time. Neighbors report seeing a large brown fox around in the past few weeks.

We do seem to have tons of skinks in the yard this year. The other day for some reason many of the adult, brown ones were out and about- and I didn't see a single blue-tailed youngster (but there's at least three or four in the yard, I saw them again today). Here's my best pics
the ones with the red throats and faces are males
Perhaps this one on the right is a broad-headed skink, not a five-lined skink? it doesn't seem to have stripes and the head certainly bulges at the jaws
I really like watching them. They seem plump and content- sometimes pause on the decking or a log or paving stone and stretch their back legs out as if relaxing. I looked up more about them- they can live five, ten or twenty years! They eat tons of insects- unfortunately including spiders and preying mantis (I wonder if that's why I haven't seen many mantids this year or last. I miss them. But I love the skinks). And they eat slugs! I have never really had a slug problem in this garden. They can voluntarily drop their tail when grabbed by a predator, and sometimes will turn around and eat the shed tail, if left alone after the attack.

I startled one in the grass just this morning. If I pause and don't move too abruptly, I can get within two feet of them sometimes, so hope for more close photos.

last planting!

I'm exhausted from all the work in the past few days, to get the last young plants into the ground before a row of rainy days. My six little columbines went into a shady spot around the tree, several feet from the garden. In case it acts as "catch plant" again. I put plastic bottle cloches over them temporarily, so I don't forget and step on them (they're that small) and so the heavy rain doesn't beat them down.
Last set I almost gave up on- two trays stuffed with nicotiana seedlings.
They don't usually transplant well so this was a risk but would die left in the seedling trays, of course. I teased them out gently as I could and planted in cool of dusk and watered immediately.
I set out over eighty seedlings. Some damaged in handling and composted. Others have wilted already. But if even half of them take, and self-seed for next year, I'll have another barren spot of the back yard covered in pretty plants instead of eroding down into the neighbor's yard.

mailbox spot

I finally planted out my celosia. They'd gotten pretty good sized in the pots.
Most went into the mailbox spot- perhaps overcrowded with ten of them!
alongside the borage which sprang up on its own-
blooming now
so very pretty
furry borage buds
The rest of my celosia, smaller plants that sprouted last in the trays, went near the house behind the mums.
they are so small as you can see compared to leaf litter size- but I hope grow quick and catch up

27 May 2018

gardening in the sideyard

In front of the gladiola row, I didn't put tithonia this year
Instead I dug up weeds and grass, raked it all smooth, and set out green bean plants. These got dug into the ground.
They'd been in their larger pots just a week before I realized they were only half the needed size- here pictured with cucumbers to the right, some of the larger celosia behind them.
So I planted them. On the other side against the house, I mowed back the vinca, layered shredded leaves over the grass and set two- and three-gallon pots out- with the tomatoes and bush cucumbers. Peek of swamp milkweed in the corner, there (its doing grand)
Further down the fence line from the green bean patch, tithonias finally got set out

garden from above

most of it still looks kinda empty as the plants are small-
'Greens' bed is fullest now (but will falter in the heat first). Left to right: arugula, swiss chard (barely sprouted), romaine and ceasar lettuce. The borage in this bed is the only one in the garden flowering yet, the others all suffered setback since I dug them up and moved them around. Won't do that next year- just thin out seedlings and keep a few in advantageous spots.
A few marigolds in pots behind.
First bed on the right against the wall- potatoes and the pot of ginger mint on a corner post. I measured and there was only space for four starter plants. I planted the potatoes in shallow ditches and the plan is to loosen and cover the potatoes with soil from the side, when they start forming. I hate the bitter of green-skinned potatoes (which keep showing up at our grocery store)
Mine seem to be doing well so far. It's been so long since I tried growing potatoes, I almost forgot what the foliage looked like.
The other two small beds against the wall have carrots and beets. Pots in the back are more marigolds.
baby carrots-
young beets-
a few cosmos in there too
I have trouble in this corner when we get spring downpours. The excess water falling off the roof hammers this corner of the garden. I tried putting flat stones, but the seedlings in this spot got beaten to death already.
Herb bed- on the top sage, rue, row of green onions. Next, too small to see- a few cosmos, parsley, a row of leeks. Three small basil plants I just moved into the garden, to the left of the lemon balm. Then thyme and chervil, and against the wall two borage plants and the pot of 'scat plant' (which really does stink skunky)
Last bed has potatoes- I planted eight, five have come up so far. A few more borage against the wall, corner post growing the clematis vine.
The garden has extended around the corner into the sunny sideyard- more on that next post!