Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trimming the Talls, Ladybugs

I have a lot of tall plants, marsh mallow and purple asters come to mind, but there are many more. Instead of buying a cultivar, I am cutting them off 1/3 at a time with the mums. This treatment makes them grow bushier, as the side shoots come out.

I have an infestation of some kind of bug on the green gage plum tree, I will probably look up just what the blighter is. Removing infested leaves was thankless, it is a huge infestation and I was daunted. I relaxed when I saw a few lady bugs, thinking they will call in the troops.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not Cabbage Whites

“If you grow it, they will come” has become my favorite saying (Yeah, riffing off of If you Build it, They Will Come). Monarchs were attracted to a milkweed plant that planted itself in the crack of my driveway several years ago.

I let a supply of milkweed grow every year, just for the monarchs that stop by. One neighbor is not pleased about this, he grew up on a farm and had to keep milkweed under control in the farm hedgerows when young. I have taken his warning and limit the number of common milkweed allowed to inhabit my back yard, but leave enough for the visiting monarchs. (I am also interested in the milkweed gosamer from the seed pods and am looking into it for use as insulation in clothing. I stuffed a vest with it last winter and it is very warm. Said gossamer was also used in WWII for filling life preservers, as we were at war with our kapok suppliers in the South Pacific. Elementry students were put to collecting milkweed pods and it was processed at a plant in Muskegon, Mich.) Monarchs will eat only milkweed and they leave eggs that will hatch into pupae, eat the leaves, and pupate into beautiful butterflies that will stay until they fly away.

I would note here: there are websights by folk who keep track of monarch migration. Monarchs find a warm place to winter. I seem to be in the Eastern zone, I’m fairly sure the monarchs that visit here winter in Florida.

Last year, my friend raised some button bush (Caphalanthus occidentalis). The seed was aquired from Lake Orion, (not from around the lake, but from in it) slightly North of here, and he gave me some little plants that remain for now in my wild plant nursery. Even in my nursery close to the house, in pots on cement, butterflies (or moths) have found the button bush, laid eggs. Two kinds of little caterpillars have been observed by me recently, chomping the leaves.

Button bush is native to our area, has deep roots, and is recommended for native plantings and rain gardens. I will keep some of it up hill in the sun, as it likes sun. Button Bush will not bloom so much in the shade, say plant sights, but I will try putting some of the young ones by the creek, hoping the roots will go deep and find the water. I will open up the canopy a bit for it, maybe put in some more red ozier dogwood there too.

Sure enough, I have seen two types of caterpillars chomping on the leaves of the young button bush. There are holes in all of the young leaves. Could the catterpillars be little sphinx moths?

Here is what the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has to say about button bush:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Planting in June

Middle of June, time to plan fall garden starts. More lettuce and cole crops are nice, I usually start them in flats. Most summers get so hot that starting things in the open garden, even if watering once a day, means conditions that are too dry.

I started more lettuce and some cosmos and carrots in the ground. Carrots like the cool weather, but may do alright this year. We have had a good cool spring here, nice, and a rarity these days.

My organic farmer neighbor has harvested early peas and will put in corn in that spot. I like this, as the nitrogen is fixed for the corn by the peas. This man is full of wisdom, says he doesn’t plant corn until the ground is good and warm and Michigan ground gets warm slower than his former Indiana ground.

I am thinking of planting a hybrid corn variety this year. I have enjoyed the open pollinated varieties we have tried, but don’t get much corn from them. Maybe I will be able to buy corn at the farmer’s market.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reasons to have lawn

Lawn that is mowed at least three times a year. Conditions will be:

1.Invasives will not spread in a mowed environment. They will not be able to take root. They will be sawed off by the lawn mower.

I recently went walking in a piece of land that has been forest for 40 years or more. Because it was in the middle of industrial and residential areas, there were remarkably few invasive plants growing there. I was with a group and we pulled garlic mustard but there where not many invasive species. The area is cut off from gaining diversity through having a corridor, but it is also cut off from invasive species. In other urban forests I have been in, there were a lot of invasive plants. Every body keeps their lawn mowed around this area. There are roads and parking lots, not much untended or marginal land.

2. Meadow-like conditions are maintained instead of succession marching on and becoming climax forest (in our area climax forest is Beech-Maple).

3. Turf grass is a nice surface for baseball and Soccer, golf and frisbee golf. (BTW Frisbee golf requires much less mowing than golf with cute white balls and clubs)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Softer ground

Softer ground

We have put leaves and vegetative matter on our back garden over the years. While pulling up golden rod and grass and alliums out by the fence today, where we have loaded leaves there in the past. The ground is soft and the weeds come up easily, I found the softness of the ground notable.

I thought of hard ground, ground so hard a shovel will not penetrate. I thought of all the digging I have done over the years in hard ground. The exercise has probably done some good for me. As for the soil, bringing it alive was not done by digging. Over years we have top dressed with leaves in the fall. I have compost rings at easy distance in the yard in case I go out and pull a few weeds, there will be somewhere handy to deposit handfuls of green plants. When we move the rings, the soil underneath is soft and the compost is rich.

I planted two trees (Paw Paws) today in places where last year I had compost rings. The ground was soft, it also had a feel of wonder. Digging the holes for the trees was pleasurable. Micro-organisms and worms have taken up residence there and transformed the rock hard soil. The soil is soft, fertile.

I would like to put in a word for the magic of the soil. Soft and friable, yes it is. Brown and full of broken down humus; that too. Better than the sum of all of these things, many factors have come together to support the vibrancy of the soil. A soil scientist does not know all the principles and critters involved, so I will call it magic. Our garden is not only a place I go to plant vegetables, a place to keep storm water from the cavernous sewer; allowing and freeing water to seep and flow into the ground water system, or repirotranspire into the atmoshere. Our garden is a supportive and meditative place, a place I want to be a part of.

Posted May 31 2009.