Butterflies, Bees, and Moths: Pollinator Week Back in Full Effect

After weeks of dreary, rainy days, the sun finally came out today and so did the pollinators. I walked through the garden after lunch and caught sight of tiny wasps, bees, moths, butterflies, and flower flies. The garden I planted out by the road last summer has really taken off and although it was intended as a butterfly garden, it has attracted way more than that.

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As an after vet check-up treat, I took my girl Ruby Joon to Native Nurseries today and got to see even more pollinators while she drank from all the water features. Captured this beauty (monarch?) proving that the nursery’s signage is accurate. The Brickellia in my garden isn’t blooming quite yet, but I hope it attracts big ones like this guy…

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Back home, I found that I have swallowtail butterflies on the way. Caterpillars are currently destroying the bronze fennel, which I plant just for them. I noticed the first few pillars yesterday and one of the plants is already looking a bit thin today. This beast probably has something to do with the fennel demolition.

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This whole “Pollinator Week” thing has really gotten me out taking a closer look at the garden. Instead of seeing it as a whole, I’ve focused on individual blooms, looked under leaves, and even checked the zinnias hanging down into the ditch. Not only have I learned of pollinators I never knew were out there doing their thing, but my drive to garden regardless of the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes is back up—I’m energized again. Bring on the dog days of summer. I have a lot of work to do to be ready for fall and I’m ready.

 

 

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Pollinator Week: The Workhorse Wasp

Maybe this dude isn’t pollinating 15 floors up in the rain, but in the garden, yes. Wasps of all sizes are the main pollinators I see in my vegetable garden. I have my fair share of bees, butterflies, and moths as well, but wasps do double duty in the garden. Not only are they pollinators, but Braconid wasps will lay their eggs on hornworms and when they hatch, the larvae feed on the worm killing it. Instant pest control. And that is just one example of the over 200 possible pests that parasitic wasps control in a garden. Boom.

Hawk Moths, Eggshells, and a Super Harvest Moon

I slept. I actually slept until 8:34 this morning. This is a fall miracle. The weather broke yesterday and I was able to open the windows and let the cool night air engulf my room last night. Fresh air and the sounds of nature in the night lulled me into the best rest I’ve had in months. Finally.

I woke up to the usual lovefest from my girls, Ruby and Frita. They start every morning giving and getting attention before we get out of bed. It’s their way of saying, “good morning, ma!” and I have to admit there’s no way to begin the day without a smile because of their routine. Once up, I made some coffee and went out to the back deck for some garden contemplation time. Today was my first day of seed planting, so I needed to have some sort of plan in my mind for the layout before getting started.

The coolness of the night was lingering and the hawk moths were everywhere. Flitting from flower to flower, faux hummingbirds of the insect world, they drank from the pink pentas, purple buddleia, and blue salvia alongside the Zebra Longwings and Giant Swallowtails. Big bumblebees zoomed in and sampled from the zinnias and horsemint on the breakfast buffet. The garden was teeming with activity and I was roused by it.

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With my first stack of seeds to plant, I was ready with a plan based on soil and sun exposure. Then I actually took the time to read the planting directions on the seed packets and realized I needed to soak the beet and chard for best performance, so I started those to soaking in some Moo Poo Tea. The radishes and carrots would be planted in the lower part of the yard where the sun is strong most of the day and the soil is rich and evenly moist. As root crops, I thought those would be the best conditions for their growth and flavor. The kale would do fine up at the top of the garden with a little less sun.

I set to work taking back that portion of the garden from the summer weeds that had taken over. As it usually happens when weeding, I just kept going and ended up cleaning out a much larger area than I needed for today’s planting. I also decided to move a few perennials while I was at it and before I knew it, I had completely forgotten my original task.

wpid-wp-1443300084948.jpgWorking my way around, I noticed that a few of the cabbages I planted the previous week had holes in their leaves. Chew holes. CABBAGE WORMS. They found it already? Dammit.

Luckily, I have been saving eggshells and was ready for this nonsense. I decided to take a break and prepare my organic cabbage worm (or maybe slug) defense–crushed eggshells. Not only are the sharp eggshells brutal on the soft bodies of worms and slugs, they do double duty as a beneficial nutrient by adding calcium to the soil.wpid-wp-1443300092215.jpg

A few quick pulses in the food processor and I had my organic, coarsely-ground pest death. I bagged it up and went back out to heavy hand it around the starter plants. I went ahead and encircled the broccoli plants as well. Even though they did not have any chew holes yet, I knew they were on the list of delectable delights that those pests liked.

Broccoli and cabbage plants surrounded in safety, it was time to get back to the seed beds. First, I lightly hand-tilled some mushroom compost into the top layer of loosened soil. Then I spread the seeds, sprinkled more of the eggshell bits on top, and covered with a thin layer of pine straw–just enough to protect the soil from washing away when watering or in the rain. Watered everything in and put a few pruned rose branches around the seeds to keep critters out. Once I see those little seeds sprout, I will hit them with Moo Poo Tea to get their root systems going strong.

With the weeds eradicated, perennials relocated, and seed beds planted, it was time to relax on the back deck once again and appreciate the changed view. In the weekends ahead, I will be adding more and more. Remember, I went a bit overboard when buying seeds this year, so I still have a lot of work ahead of me. Some of the areas will have to wait until my fall tomatoes are done and other spots will open up as perennials and larger deciduous plants lose their leaves, allowing the sun in. I will also do subsequent rounds of the root crops so they aren’t all ready at the same time.

Overall, it was a productive day in the garden and my timing could not have been more perfect. We are supposed to be getting a few days of rain coming up and nothing is better than rain for those transplants and seeds. Also, I have done some research on gardening by the phases of the moon and with tomorrow night’s super harvest moon and total eclipse, I am interested to see how this round does compared to the ones I will plant in the next few weeks/months. I’m keeping notes this year.

Let me know your experiences with gardening by the phases of the moon and don’t forget to go outside and look up tomorrow night if you have clear skies!