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.
Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category
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!
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.
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.
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
It’s never a perfect scenario weather wise, right? Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. Spring flooding, summer drought. But we got a nice break in the drought over the weekend with rain. Rain that’s now forecast daily until early next week. Which is good for the most part but also puts a damper in finalizing summer gardening chores, pulling those ‘last’ weeds, etc. The wheelbarrow has been sitting in that spot for over a week with little activity.
It’s almost time for the cardinal flowers to bloom. I keep seeing them pop up in other people’s blogs and photos so I had to check when we saw them last year while hiking in Sam Houston NF. It was mid-late September. I know there’s a range in blooming, but it does seem early for blooms to be starting int he garden. There’s a lot that seems early this year: schoolhouse lilies, monarchs, hummingbirds to name a few. I hope that doesn’t mean a rough winter.
I really like this ornamental pepper I bought back in June at Marshall Grain. Ornamental edible plants definitely add texture to the garden.
I’ve noticed marigolds can be hit or miss for us but the ones we planted this year have done really well. When I brush up against them as I weed I’m instantly taken back to my growing-up years and my mom’s marigolds. She planted them every year and we would save up the seed heads in bags or just pull them off and play with the seeds as they floated to the ground below where they would reseed the following year. Marigold perfume…I wonder if it would be too overwhelming? Hmmm!
Ever since Chris cut back some trees that were hanging over the fence back near the beehive the variegated cannas are doing much better. They probably need a bit more sun than they are getting but they do add a great ‘pop’ back there in that corner of the garden.
The Passiflora ‘incense’ has done a great job of covering the fence this year, which is what I wanted it to do. However, at the end of the growing season I think I’m going to cut it back to tame it a bit but also so Chris can fix the fence that was busted during one of the spring storms when a branch fell on it.
Back in the the ‘tropical’ section of the garden, the pink bananas are blooming still. We dug a few of these up for my parents back in the spring and they have even bloomed in their yard much to their delight!
The garden looks good, just a bit unkempt but that’s the way things are right now!
We’ve reached that point in the season where not much is being productive in the vegetable garden but the peppers and cucumbers, and even the cucumbers are worn out and fading. Most plants out there are just putting on growth and holding on for slightly cooler temperatures to start producing flowers for reproduction.
Like I said, the cucumbers are barely hanging on. Several vines have up and died but a couple are still trying to grow and put on flowers. I started new seeds and will try for another round of fruit this fall. I’ve mostly been pickling the cucumbers for the fridge but if we get another round of fruit I’ll can them for storage this time around.
The rows of dragon tongue beans are doing well but haven’t started flowering or producing fruit. Because the garden was overtaken by weeds earlier this summer I wasn’t able to get beans in as early as we should have. I tried climbing beans along the perimeter fenceline so the fence could act as a trellis but the deer thought that was a great treat! Now I’m retrying the climbing beans on the inside beds using tomato cages as a trellis.
The three pepper plants we have are all still producing well. Sometimes I see them wilt in the mid-day sun but they perk up once a little shade comes back into the garden. Three pepper plants have been more than enough for us!
I have a feeling things will start ramping up again towards the end of August and maybe if we can get some rain around here the garden will be a little bit happier!