30 June 2018

tiny mantis

I found it when I was spraying for bugs in the garden (dishsoap and oil mixture) so halted doing so in its vicinity. On a new leaf of nasturtium-
It was so small, and so quick, I spent a long time trying to get a few photos. Then it moved into the denser growth of turtlehead- can you see it center of the picture (on the toothed leaf margin)?
I keep squishing mealy bugs and the occasional leaf hopper (little bright green ones and small wedge-shaped gray ones which have cute faces, darn them- none of the brilliant cobalt blue). Aphids are pretty nil, this year. Maybe my constant swiping of them last summer reduced their numbers a lot. I've found out where the japanese beetles regularly gather- on my patch of mailbox borage. Yesterday I caught and smahsed one there, today a mating pair. The mottled disease they spread among the plants, already it has decimated my three pepper plants and I removed them from the garden area, probably will have to throw out. I've been pinching damaged leaves off other plants seems to be keeping it in check. I saw the dragonfly a few times.

My potato plants are looking great, the chard is almost ready to cut again, the carrots and beets are nice and leafy, am picking more green beans and I have a nice cucumber! Tomatoes are still few and small. Cosmos of all things, looks fantastic this year, too. I think a lot of the plants are doing better since I turned over soil, dug out tree roots, removed tons of japanese beetle grubs, and have been using soap spray or dishwater regularly. Need to get more photos soon, but it's brutal hot out there. Almost time to siphon wigglers out of the sink bin to feed my fishes again.

28 June 2018

roadside milkweed

Last week we took a drive to West Virginia. I noticed on the way, in roadsides and medians a distinctive plant with broad leaves opposite and angled up, making attractive v patterns, and pink clusters of flowers. I also noticed more far orange 'ditch lilies' than I recall seeing before. I thought, has someone planted milkweed on the roadsides? The distinctive plants diminished greatly in number once we crossed the state line out of Virginia.

Once home again I looked it up and found that someone made a motion this year, to reduce the amount of mowing done alongside highways, to allow the milkweed to grow. For the monarchs. I noticed right away there are also patches in my town left to grow. I'm sure some people don't like it that pokeweed will spread and the tall weedy patches harbor ticks (but they're in areas where people probably shouldn't be walking, anyway). But I'm glad to see the milkweed blooming. Also realized the one plant I purchased isn't the attractive kind. I got a swamp milkweed; I'd rather have the common milkweed. Next spring I'll go earlier to the nursery and see if that have the other type.

I was sad a few days ago to see a monarch flit through my yard, but not pause anywhere. I didn't have any flowers for it. My one milkweed has faded, and the tithonia never yet matured.

27 June 2018

lemon balm = calm

I have found out what lemon balm is good for. It is so useful I immediately cut a bunch of it to dry- because the insects are already attacking (I don't have much whitefly this year, nor cabbage moths- because I didn't plant any brassicas- but there are little leaf hoppers, mealy bugs and a few aphids) and it was beginning to look poorly. I forestalled their ruining the whole plant by harvesting it (also cut and hung to dry a ton of sage, dill and thyme are next).
It's a good substitute for lemon peel in recipes, but I learned it can also be a relaxant- some people use it to treat insomnia. Which I don't have- but I've always been a very light sleeper. Especially in the summer when it's always a bit too warm. Past few months I have been waking up in the middle of the night, and often have trouble getting back to sleep. And anyone in my household can tell you, I'm pretty cranky and unpleasant to be around when I haven't had a good night's sleep. No more, thanks to lemon balm!

I decided it was worth a try, and made a simple tea. Steeped a few leaves in a small mug with a bit of honey. It definitely has an effect on me. Makes me quite drowsy and when I lie down, my arms and legs feel pleasantly heavy, not restless. I have only woken in the middle of the night a few times this week of trying lemon balm tea, and when I do I go straight back to sleep no problem. I feel so much more rested and alert when I wake in the morning.

In fact, I've quit drinking coffee (for other reasons too). I find that if I sleep soundly, I don't need a stimulant in the morning. A cup of chai or choc mint tea is fine. A few times my kid has complained about being unable to get to sleep (well past ten pm) I gave her just a sip or two of my tea and she goes to sleep very quickly after that. She doesn't like the lemon-honey taste but just a sip is sufficient. For myself, only two mature leaves, or one sprig of small ones, is enough for the calming effect.  Lemon balm is reportedly harmless, as innocuous as chamomile (which I personally don't care for). I'm a new fan.

I should have guessed it's in the mint family, the leaves are very similar to mints and the stem has that square-sided shape. I have another mint now- spearmint or peppermint that I dug up from a friend's garden to replace mine that died this past winter. It's been in the water jar long enough roots are growing out- but I ran out of potting soil. Will pot it up as soon as I can.

snails on sticks

I've finished soaking all the sticks I collected, and peeled the bark off. Most are half-floating in the top of my 45gal, a few have begun to sink. The snails are enjoying wood surfaces.It has tinted the water somewhat, enough that I can't do reliable tests for nitrate or ammonia- I did notice one of my kuhlis appeared to have reddish gills and tummy the other day. But they all look very active and hearty. Debating if I should tie a few small rocks to the ends of some sticks to hurry the waterlogging process, or just wait for them to gradually sink and then rearrange them. Already tank is looking more natural as a few are angling down to the bottom and I like how the light plays over them.

24 June 2018


My variegated hosta (I forget the variety name, would have to go look for the tag) is flowering-
and it's one I might cut to bring in the house
Monarda is blooming!
The newer one, still shorter, has slightly different flowers and darker leaves
From the other side of the back garden, monarda is a wall of foliage-
through which you can just see the dark pink of the shorter one
but for some reason the white daisies aren't doing so well
last pic of the day- a faded nasturtium. I keep pinching off dead flowers and washed-out leaves (looks like leaf miner bug is at them) to keep the plants tidy and encourage more flowers. I miss often enough that a few have set seed, which I leave to mature so I can save for next year.

some cleanup

I thinned out the young echinacea-
It felt a shame to compost so many healthy plants, but they were just too crowded. I did try to sell the excess seedlings- but nobody took my offer to come and have them dug up. Maybe next year, as two-year-olds, I might get a few takers- because they are still too close together to reach maturity.
Looks like it will be a good year for echinacea flowers! The plants are all sturdier and lots of buds forming (behind astilbe)
On the rudbeckia as well
I thinned out the arugula- down to five or six plants which I might let set seed.
All these came out-
On the other side of the greens bed I pulled most of the bolting lettuces. Left a few of those to go to seed also.
The last lettuce we will eat fresh from the garden this year:
While I was out in the garden, did a second picking of green beans. Almost enough for a meal!

23 June 2018

yard plants

How they're doing as june heat rises. Salvia- pretty darn good in spite of a few bug holes. It likes its new location.
Rumex- this has remained just a decorative plant. I looked up more about its use and read it can have side effects for some people. Not sure if I want to use it in salads after all.
Tithonia is only ankle height. I doubt I will get a good mass of flowers this year. Celosia in my front yard spot has the same fate: those are barely knee high and already blooming- thin little flower spikes. Definitely two plants not worth taking the trouble over, if I have a late start it seems.
Liriope is looking lovely!
My ferns are looking better this year. I've found out that some of the red bugs crawling all over my plants in the back garden are box elder bugs and red-shouldered bugs. The boxelder bugs definitely damage plants- they suck the sap out- so I have begun squashing all I see. I usually just clap my hands on them, quickly from both sides of the leaf. They're usually on these ferns, and my hellebores, rhubarb and hydrangeas.
The rhubarb sprawls. It's got pill bugs on it too, as well as those red ones.
One plant keeps repeatedly sending up flower stalk.
Columbine doesn't look so great this year. It's already done blooming and the seed pods are few. Looks like something has been eating it.
I need to dig out and move this variegated hosta next year- it's getting smothered by monarda and echinacea!
This white-edged hosta nearby is also getting overtaken. I'll probably give it away. I'm not fond of white streaks on plants (they look unwell to me).
Here in between astilbe and bleeding heart, a volunteer shrub- I think it's viburnum. Must dig up and move, if I can figure out where to put it.
This side view of the back bed, from the walkway, is starting to look rather nice. There's an empty gap in the middle where I tried growing cosmos last year. It's been populated by a few echinacea seedlings- I might let them grow up there.
Other side of the bed is still rather sparse. Behind the liriope are the two heartleaf brunnera I added this year, and some third-year hellebores are two coleus I set out on a whim just to fill in space, and a few hosta I'm debating if I should move or not (they get just enough shade here to avoid sunburn).
Now that I have my own astilbe, I recognize it on other properties when I see it- and realize some of these might get a lot bigger if I don't trim them. Nice if I want to fill in a lot of space, not so if it's going to crowd out other plants.
I've finished up the weeding- but occasionally miss one because it looks so healthy and handsome- like this one (probably a pokeweed).
At the very back of the garden, turtlehead under the tree had been attacked by mealy bugs. So had some of the rudbeckia just across the walkway from it- with yellowing leaves mottled dark spots on the lower part of the plant. I cleaned all the sickly leaves off and used soap spray on the insects last week. Both plant groups look better now.

22 June 2018

window tank

the scruffy 'wild' one. Not great pictures, I'll have to take the trouble one day to put a panel behind and light it from the front. Perry makes me smile. He's the only fish I have right now who notices when I enter the room and darts around wiggling his tail excitedly. He zooms back and forth across the tank when I feed him mosquito wigglers or red worms. I've started keeping the curtain shut unless the day is overcast, to prevent so much algae on the tank walls.
Not much else to note, this fish and his tank are so trouble-free.

21 June 2018

my little garden

Side view from under the deck. I have moved most of my pots and containers off the upper deck, because my husband has plans to pressure wash, strip and stain or paint sometime this summer. Easier if most of the plants are out of the way beforehand. So there are more pots sitting around the garden space. Here in front, next to the nasturtium stump- basil and my 'kiwi fern' coleus.
from the front. The left-hand bed there all lush is full of greens-
arugula- so hot in taste now from bolting I can't eat it- swiss chard growing like mad- we've eaten it twice already this week- sliced thin in a teriyaki chicken dish, and in a fritatta. The rest of the bed is volunteer borage, invading sensitive fern, and bolting lettuces.
Here's the fern side of it-
They are so lovely I really don't mind the spreading behavior, I'm actually looking forward to digging them up in fall or spring so I can enjoy them in another part of the yard
First marigold flower is opening-
It's the velvety red type I like
Mini geranium 'bonsai' pot is temporarily sitting next to the beets- which are finally looking decent. In the back there's where some borage collapsed in a rainstorm- next to my pink 'watermelon' coleus.
Potatoes! I took time the other day to level out their bed. Forgot they were still sitting in a shallow trench. I hope it's not too late, to keep the growing potatoes shielded from sun. I removed all the mulch, used a garden fork to loosen the soil, and leveled it with my hands back into the trenches the plants grow in. Replaced mulch. (One of the very few times I've used my garden fork, actually).
In the herb bed, my largest, handsome borage plant just fell over (rainstorm).
Lemon balm has got too large- it is spreading over, crowding the young basil and leeks. I ask myself now why I wanted to grow this plant again... I need to learn to use it in the kitchen.
Lemon verbena, on the other hand, is neat and upright in its pot. It's looking healthier, I think (frequent soap sprays).
I still love rue just for its pretty foliage. And its blue is a nice complement to the sage. Which suffers most in my garden right now- from leafhoppers as far as I can tell. I've sprayed this one too, at least once a week.
In the corner pot, ginger mint is blooming. Curiously, it doesn't make flower spikes like other mints I've grown. The flowers are little bells clustered above the leaf nodes on the stalk. This one so far I've just enjoyed the scent of it, but next time I make that teriyaki dish I'm going to experiment adding fresh ginger mint at the end.
around the side yard- I finally have a baby tomato!
and plenty of tiny cucumbers forming
I've started picking green beans! Not much yet- a good handful every third day, but I have to save them up in the fridge until there's enough to use for a meal. Maybe next year I should start twenty or thirty green beans... I am pleased they seem relatively free of disease so far.
I've squashed the only two japanese beetles found in the yard, and am more diligent about getting the stink bugs, leafhoppers, katydids, using soap against mealybug and haven't seen any whitefly since the first few weeks. Also using soapy dishwater on the garden as often as I can- which means no garden-picked bugs for the fishes- but my plants look a lot healthier this year all around.

Up on the deck I've kept just a few plants: sweet potato vine and salad burnet decorative on the table, chocolate mint and stevia- I use them frequently for tea.