Emerging Monarchs

As a follow up to my previous post, I should have posted these photos in mid April when I took them, but alas here they are!  This first photo shows a monarch about 1 hour before emerging.  The chrysalis is completely see through at this point!  Also in the second photo notice the curled wings before the dry out.  This was taken a few minutes after emerging.  The fourth photo is pretty cool in it’s own right because those two monarchs literally emerged within minutes of each other!

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And just when I thought our monarch adventure was done for the season, we now have 14 new caterpillars within the last week.  That month in between gave the milkweeds just enough time to replenish to give life all over again.

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Spring Garden Firsts

I took my normal walk around the backyard taking photos, as is my M.O., and realized only after looking at them on my computer this morning that each photo represented a first in my garden.  This is the first time I’ve seen my Eva’s Pride peach tree produce fruit:

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And the first time I’ve seen the Double Delight nectarine I bought in January leaf out and bloom:

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And seen the flower up-close:

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And the first time I’ve seen the Thompson Red Seedless grape do this:

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Last year it had just started to produce fruit clusters but before they had a chance to fully form something happened and they either fell off or were eaten by something.

And the first time I’ve seen my favorite specimen (Red Baron peach) blooming against the backdrop of my favorite backyard retreat after being completed last summer:

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Thankful for firsts.

Yellow Iris

It’s funny because I can’t ever remember this iris blooming.  It surprised me a few mornings ago when it’s color caught me eye and made me smile.  Iris’ are special in my family and seeing these blooming in the yard makes me want to plant more.

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Bulbs really are a cherished thing.  They sleep in the ground just long enough for them to slip our mind come spring.  Then they bloom in a furry and fade away just as fast as they came.  (Thank you to my daughter for taking the first photo above, which proved to be better than most of mine.)

Snappy Spring

When Spring comes, she doesn’t mess around!

The Red Baron Peach already has little peaches!

The Red Baron Peach already has little peaches!

The Gold Kist Apricot seems to be happy, with cute, heart-shaped leaves filling in.

The Gold Kist Apricot seems to be happy, with cute, heart-shaped leaves filling in.

Apricot close-up.

Apricot close-up.

Even the red Thompson seedless grape is leafing out.  I seriously had my doubts whether it was even still alive up until a few weeks ago.  "Patience, my dear," whispers the garden.

Even the red Thompson seedless grape is leafing out. I seriously had my doubts whether it was even still alive up until a few weeks ago. “Patience, my dear,” whispers the garden.

Loose leaf lettuce seedlings in a pot.  The mice and snails haven't seen them (yet!).

Loose leaf lettuce seedlings in a pot. The mice and snails haven’t seen them (yet!).

I transplanted all of my Rattlesnake and Alabama #1 green bean seedlings yesterday.

I transplanted all of my Rattlesnake and Alabama #1 green bean seedlings yesterday.  I have 18 green bean plants in all.  I’m seeing green bean casseroles in my future.

The following is an interesting comparison:

About a month ago I bought a few nematode resistant tomato starts at my local big box store (these are harder to find at real nurseries.  Weird, I know).  I bought them at the same size and planted them out on the same day.  The first photo is Park’s Whopper and the second is Celebrity.

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Quite a bit different, right?  Park’s Whopper has BARELY grown, while Celebrity has taken off like a weed.  The overall health, color, size and vigor of Celebrity surpasses Park’s Whopper by a long shot.  The difference?  Celebrity is in a grow pot.

Now, I know all the nay sayers will think, “The ground soil is not as good as the potting soil in the grow pot.”  And while that may be true, my ground soil is nothing to scoff at.  I have amended it for over 2 years with homemade and store-bought composts.  I believe that it is the grow pot’s excellent drainage, extra-heated soil from the black fabric, and air-pruned roots that make the difference…all things that ground soils could never truly duplicate.  The proof is in the pudding!

From the Kitchen Window and Beyond

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Dishes aren’t so bad when I have this Spring scene to gaze upon.

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Each of my fruit trees now has this flexible landscaping barrier.  Luckily my husband found it at a garage sale and it was long enough to cut for all 4 trees exposed to the happy, digging talons of our Ameraucana hen, Henrietta.  Unlike the vertically challenged Silkies, Henrietta can go almost anywhere she pleases with a flap of her caramel color wings.  A favorite hangout of hers had become the base of the fruit trees, which I’m sure had nothing to do with the yummy homemade compost and grass clippings that I’ve been layering around their root zones all winter.  And you’d be surprised how deep a chicken can dig!  These barriers seem to be effective at keeping her at bay.

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And there’s that chicken in question (bottom right), running away from the ferocious sounds of the play lawnmower.

Baby Mulberries

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My adored mulberry tree (it’s technically in my neighbor’s yard, but it might as well be in mine) has suddenly broken out of it’s wintry spell and produced baby berries right along side it’s first leaves.  The clear mulberry hair reminds me of those clear rice noodles used in Asian cooking.  A little over two months from now, this is what they turn into.

April Garden Update

Here’s my great Lifetime Raised Garden Bed bursting with heirloom tomatoes, golden beets, lettuce and Cosmic Purple carrot seedlings along the left perimeter.

The other day I planted some marigolds in and around my veggie beds.  I’ve read that  annual marigolds can be used anywhere to deter Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, aphids and whiteflies. They are also known to repel harmful root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries. The root of the Marigold produces a chemical that kills nematodes as they enter the soil.  Plus they add a pop of color!

Now that Spring is in full swing and the soil is consistently above 50 degrees, I am direct sowing seeds into the garden.  In this bed I have various tomatoes, lettuce, Di Cicco broccoli, golden beets and some cabbage that is ready to harvest.  The other half of this bed is below:

The Sharpblue blueberry at the bottom of this photo is doing very well since I planted it in January.  Above it along the vertical trellis are lemon cucumbers and pole green beans.  In the middle of the bed are edamame and broccoli.

My Persimmon and Pineapple heirloom tomatoes that I purchased as seedlings are doing well in terms of growth, but are both experiencing blossom drop and early blight.  Damp, cool weather can create a fungus on tomatoes called early blight, which looks like small dark spots on the lower leaves.  I’ve never dealt with this issue before, but after some research, I have trimmed the most infected lower leaves and sprayed the entire plant with an organic copper solution.  I also sprayed a calcium spray on the flowers, which is supposed to help prevent blossom drop.  They could also be dropping due to damp conditions.  So much to know!  Once the weather corrects itself, so the speak, the tomatoes may pull out of it.

Here's one other tomato falling victim to early blight. You can see how I've trimmed out the lower effected leaves.

I’ve also been battling significant potato problems.  I had my heart set on growing sweet potatoes this summer, but we’ll just have to see on that.  Maybe next year!  I thought that a rodent of some kind was gnawing  the foliage due to the significant breaks on the stems, so we put chicken wire around the grow pot.  The no avail, it’s still worsening.  I went out last night to check out the situation, hoping to catch the varmint and only saw slugs.  Could they be doing all of this??  I will probably have to prematurely dig up my potatoes.  I’m not sure how they can survive this.  Hopefully it’ll at least be a small crop since they’re been growing since December.

All within the last week I’ve planted from seed:

  • Moon and Stars Watermelon
  • Charentais melon
  • Red Warty Thing pumpkins
  • Fairytale pumpkins
  • Jarrahdale pumpkins
  • Sunburst yellow / Peter Pan green pattypan scallop summer squash and ………drumroll please………..
  • Alpine Strawberries!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve heard that growing strawberries from seed can be trying and difficult (they take 3-4 weeks to even sprout!), but when I saw their seed packet today at the nursery, I could not resist.  I asked the garden specialist what she knew about growing them from seed and she laughed, saying, “We don’t even carry them.  You may want to just but a six-pack.”  Then I showed her the packet in my hand and she was shocked!  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen them in any store.  They’re already out in the garden, working their magic.  I’ve got a good feeling!