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  • Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

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    Oh man. We left town Friday evening prepared for the weekend deep freeze with what we thought was going to be mid to high 20s and instead woke up Saturday morning in Dallas with Chris checking the temperature for our town to find out the low was 20*. There’s a good chance it was a little lower than that, too, but either way, the damage was done. Saturday night was more of the same, a double whammy. Chris has prepared by putting up all of the orchids, bromeliads, and other tropicals, and covered the sensitive cactus but we left everything else—including the vegetable garden—up to its own devices because our previous experiences with the mid 20s and high 20s had left everything else in decent, if not a little nipped back, shape.

    Needless to say, that 5-8* difference was enough to ruin several things in the vegetable garden and severely nip back several plants in the flower bed. It remains to be seen what will and won’t recover. My hopes of the African blue basil, which had several branches surviving the freeze in December, pulling through until spring are completely toast. Other plants, we won’t know for a few weeks or until spring. The citrus appear to be affected somewhat but they should pull through just fine. I’m most heartbroken about all of the tropical milkweed plants that had germinated from seed in the garden as well as had already started resprouting from being cut back. I was hoping for a thicket for the monarchs this year. I only took six cuttings, well, six are what rooted, so I am hoping the pull through and the rest of the sprouts can recover enough for the caterpillars this summer.

    I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. This weekend I need to start tomato seeds and a few other things including resowing some greens in the vegetable beds. I want to get the flower beds completely weeded in mulched before the end of January so they are ready to go into spring and there are seeds to sow in there, too.

    Lots of garden chores among many other things I need and want to do!

    Edible Garden Tour

    Flower Garden Tour

    A conversation with my brother kind of lit a fire under me to make more videos of the garden this year. Actually, I’ve been really lax in making videos of any kind over the last year, even with Forest, and I kind of regret it. I think I did so much that first year of Forest’s life that I really wanted to pull back a little there for awhile. I do miss being able to watch videos so I’m planning to be more proactive this year. Expect more!

    The last week has been quite the lazy one around here. Chris and I were off work and the first half of the holiday week was warm and pleasant and we spent a lot of time outside playing. However, by Wednesday Forest’s cough that had started developing last Monday grew worse and we had a camping trip planned for New Years weekend and I didn’t want to go without getting him checked out. So, off to the pediatrician we went. She prescribed some cough medicine—so nice that we’re finally getting into the ages where more medicine can be prescribed for him!—and thought it was RSV or some similar virus and said there wasn’t much we could do but alleviate some of the symptoms with the cough medicine, Zyrtec, and an inhaler. But Thursday came and his appetite started plummeting and a cold front blew through. By Friday morning we knew it wasn’t going to be good to trek to the Hill Country for a camping trip with iffy weather and a sick kid, so we stayed home.

    It’s been a mostly grey weekend with some rain sessions which meant we’ve been inside bouncing between upstairs and downstairs toys and watching a lot of television. I’ve tried to do some of the items I wanted to get done this week but they’ve mostly been the inside goals. My gardening goals have mostly been on hold. But now I’m starting to sneeze and I felt little wonky this morning so I’m just crossing my fingers that I’m not getting sick just in time to return to work! In all, it is probably good that we’ve just been homebodies this week.

    I’ve done a little looking forward to 2017, planning and goal-wise. I settled on my word last week, Peace. In 2015 I chose mindful which was a good start and I learned quite a bit about the word but I think peace could be a good one to grab hold of this year. Another thing I’m using for 2017 is Elise’s Daily Goal Tracker. I’ve loved this goal tracker since she introduced it a few years ago but never bought it. When she sent her November newsletter announcing it was going to be free for December readers I was excited! I modified mine to print small enough to fit into my Moleskine Bullet Journal and washi taped it inside. I actually made four different ones to keep track of various things.

    One thing I worked on over the break was putting my podcasts on YouTube as another outlet for listening. My goal is to also start incoporating gardening videos over there once or twice a week. If you are a regular YouTube user please subscribe! My brother is also planning to do more on YouTube this year so you can check out his site as well. We recently chatted about gardening on the podcast to wrap up our gardening year.

    I got out for a few minutes yesterday evening to pick collards for dinner and took some photos of the vegetable garden. Here’s what is going on out there!

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    Recent rain brought up the Clathrus fungi!

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    Forest got two sets of gardening tools for Christmas so one is now out in the vegetable garden in his very own digging plot!

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    The okra were in this section over the summer and down below I kept seeing a weed pop up that I would try and pull. Well, the okra have been gone for a month now and I haven’t done much maintenence. Turns out the weed is a lawn orchid, a plant that is not native and usually spread by mulch.

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    We have a serious abundance of greens!

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    Collards | Chinese Cabbage

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    We planted onions on Christmas day as well as the snow peas.

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    Happy 2017, friends!

    I took all of these photos earlier this month, before we had any actual cold weather. We had a night or two early in the month that might have touched freezing for an hour or two overnight but for the most part we just stayed shy of that line. After last year’s mild winter I was kind of hoping for more of the same this year but that was not to be. The strong front came through late evening Saturday the 17th and we woke up the next morning to temperatures around freezing or just above that. The sensitive plants in the garden still looked pretty good but I knew we were in for it overnight the 18th/morning of the 19th and we got it. Temperatures were in the mid 20s in my area overnight with daytime not reaching above freezing well into the day of the 19th. It was enough to nip the cold sensitive plants back and kill the tomatoes, peppers, and basil. The tomatoes were looking so great, too! Oh well, I’ll be starting spring seeds soon enough and now comes the time to clean up the garden and get it ready for another year of growing. I’ve got a ton of photos below with captions beneath some of them showing how the garden was looking before the freeze.

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    Bald cypress showing off down by the pond

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    I stuck a random brugmansia cutting down here and it has done well over the last four years. Barely died back last year but got nipped with the freeze. Will have to trim it back.

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    A jungle of a mess

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    The wild African blue basil

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    Copper canyon daisy

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    Gulf frittilary chrysalis

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    Salvia madrensis

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    Quercus michauxii, swamp chestnut oak

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    A hickory in the yard

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    Rat bastard leaf footed bugs on the tomatoes, tearing them up

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    Bok choi

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    Collards/Chinese cabbage

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    Turnips

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    Bok choi and dwarf tatsoi

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    Parsley

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    Cilantro

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    I can’t remember where and when we bought these marigolds this year but sometime in the last few months they spread their branches and took over a corner of the garden. That was fine with us, really, because they looked good and really made the garden perk up a bit. My mom grew marigolds when I was growing up and when they went to seed my brother and I would pick the seed heads and spread the seeds in the garden where they would germinate the next growing season. Forest has also love the marigolds and cannot resist, no matter how much I tell him, to pick one. He smells it and then drops it and goes on to the other so it then becomes necessary to redirect him to something else, otherwise we’d have no more marigolds!

    Happy Friday!

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    It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen a lot of activity in regards to the monarch butterflies. About two weeks ago, when I took these photos, there was still some adults flitting about and at least one new caterpillar but since then it seems the majority have moved south towards Mexico. I caught the adult female above resting on the ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia one day at lunch and it was only later when I looked on a photo I took on my phone that I saw an empty chrysalis. Due to the docile nature of the butterfly at the time I put two and two together and decided it had probably just emerged that morning.

    When I went home that evening I stopped back by the salvia to scope out more chrysalises and found two more. My excitement over the find was diminished when a garden friend of mine with monarch raising experience thought one was dead and the other was iffy. I spent a lot of time looking at Google images of dead monarch chrysalises, trying to determine if she was right. I gave it through the weekend we went camping just in case and when I returned I saw that there was no change. The darker one at first appeared to be at the very end of the pupa stage, ready to emerge, but based on everything I read it really should have happened within a few days of taking these photos.

    Last week, election day ironically, I got myself together and opened up the one that my friend thought was truly dead. Sure enough, it was a gooey, smelly mess. Definitely dead. And it had the dented spot on the back of the chrysalis. It’s now a week later and the other one still looks the same and I know it didn’t make it either. I’m opting to let nature takes it course with that one.

    For the most part we were hands off in the monarch raising this year—well, every year we’ve had milkweed and had monarchs. In Florida we had a few plants of tropical milkweed and would get caterpillars year round (south Florida had a year-round population) where we saw a chrysalis here and there that were evidently successful in metamorphosis. This year has really been the first year living here that we’ve had a substantial amount of caterpillars and I wasn’t that interested in dealing with keeping caterpillars in a tent and having to feed them constantly. So, I let nature do its thing: some survived, I’m sure a lot didn’t. In all of the reading about why a butterfly may not complete metamorphosis I learned quite a bit about various insect predators and their life cycle, using the monarch (and other caterpillars) for their own gain, but also about random things that just happen, and diseases that are spread around the lepidopterans and how prevalent they are.

    It was sobering to face the reality that these two were never meant to be. But I’m about to start preparing for next year and working to cold stratify more milkweed seeds in the fridge so I can put them out in January in the garden. We’ll see what next year’s migration brings!

    It’s been awhile since I went out and took photos in the garden using the reverse macro technique. Since Chris got me a new 18-55 lens for my birthday, I’m using my old lens (which had some connection problems) for things like reverse macro and freelensing when I think to use it. Here’s a bit of what I shot last week; I mostly wanted to shoot the seedlings out in the vegetable garden.

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    Blackberry Lily

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    Monarch caterpillars

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    Tomato flowers

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    Red giant mustard

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    Spinach seedlings

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    Radish seedlings

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    Cassia/Senna corymbosa

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    A small sweet potato harvest from volunteers in the vegetable garden.

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    Formosa lily seed pods.

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    Rudbeckia lacinata seed heads.

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    The wild and tangled garden.

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    Visiting trees—he likes to visit the trees along the driveway.

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    Picking okra with me.

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    “Mom, let’s go NOW!”

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    My new mail and harvest catch-all for the way back to the house.

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    The Turk’s cap hibiscus grouping has established well and is now abundant with butterflies, particularly sulphurs, this time of year.

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    Every time I think the monarchs have moved on and the milkweed has recuperated from being devoured, I find a new round of caterpillars! I’m making plans to be sure to get more milkweed seeds to start for next year because of this very abundant flow these last few months. Next year I think we’re also going to try to bring the caterpillars into a tent so that they can be protected from predators and be ensured to turn into butterflies. We went for a hike over the weekend at Huntsville State Park and they have a really neat wooden structure with mesh sides that Chris liked and mentioned he might consider making something similar. That would be pretty cool to have in the garden; we’ll have to see how that works out. Either way, I’m still amazed by the sheer amount of chompers we’ve had this year. Forest has really enjoyed checking on the caterpillars and will go and scope out the plants when he knows there have been caterpillars on the milkweed.

    If you plant it, they will come.

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    In addition to caterpillars, he also likes watching the planes fly over. We’re on the flight path for IAH.

    See the original blog post giveaway from Mr. Brown Thumb here

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