As I mentioned last week we came home to full spring in our yard. The forget-me-nots are in full bloom under the white peach tree. The yarrow is full and green and the leaves are emerging on the roses. We spotted our first soldier beetle yesterday, ready to eat those pesky aphids off the roses. Every year I am surprised by how much I like spring. Autumn is a given in my book. I adore autumn and our relatively mild winters are always welcome. But spring gives way to summer, which to tell the truth is my least favorite season only because of how hot it get here. My energy really does melt in our Sonoma heat. So at all other times of the year I see spring as only a doorway to my dreaded summer. And then spring comes and just amazes me, all the flowers and green, green hills. It is so incredibly gorgeous in here in spring.
We’ve had our fair share of both successes so far and disappointments already in this growing season. Take for instance our rhubarb. It is growing like crazy this year. I haven’t made much with rhubarb besides pie, what do you like to do with it?
We have our first sizable asparagus coming up. Just a few stalks, but I can’t wait to eat them!
The potatoes are coming in fast and we are starting to mound up around the plants. In the off chance you didn’t already know this, as potato plants grow, you mound up dirt around the plant so that more potatoes will grow off the part you cover up. You can do this for quite a few feet in fact. Some people chose to plant them at ground level and then build structures around them to stack and hold in more dirt. We tend to dig a deep hole and gradually add dirt to the hole as they grow. This year we are growing Yukon Golds and a purple potato which I have forgotten the name of already. We buy seed potatoes from The Potato Garden.
The blueberries we recently bought are growing in the back of our garden, a part that receives some mid day shade in summer. We hope that will be welcome by these berries.
The disappointments? Well, a small one is that my new rudbeckia was eaten by snails. As you can see as a last minute save I tried surrounding it by sand from the boys sandbox, but to no avail. They still ate it to the ground. After reviewing an old post of mine on how to keep slugs and snails away, I will have to pick up some copper on my next trip to the hardware store.
And our greatest disappointment, it looks like we will be getting little to no Santa Rosa plums or nectarines. We had a bought of warm weather which made those two trees burst out in full bloom only to receive a good few nights of frost after wards which killed all the blooms. We are so sad not to be overwhelmed in plums and nectarines this year.
At least we have plenty of onions, garlic and shallots.
And tulips and for-get-me-nots.
And we can always be thankful for almost completely local meal like this one. (Beltane Ranch kabobs, Lundberg rice, and our own celery leaf salad, chard and roasted turnips.)
Looking past potatoes to the apple tree.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a State of the Garden update. I’ve been in a bit of a blog/garden/photography slump, mainly due to how busy we’ve been, but I’m hopeful that this summer we’ll be able to slow down a bit. So I’m wondering, would you like to work together to make our gardens better? I’m thinking of hosting something along the lines of “30 Days to a Better Garden” all June that would get us all motivated to get out in the dirt and help our garden grow better. Would you be interested in taking part. Every day I would post a garden tip that would be on the easier/cheaper side to do. If that sounds like fun, leave me a comment!
We’ll have artichokes for dinner soon.
The weather here has been stellar. It’s the beautiful time of year when we don’t need to use the heater or the air conditioner. We can leave the windows open all day and not be too hot or cold. The cherries are just starting to turn red and we’ve been munching on homegrown strawberries. How’s the weather where you live?
Looking from strawberries and onions to the asparagus bed on to the onions.
The birds, bees, ladybugs, soldier beetles and other buggies are working full time to keep the garden in it’s proper working order. Life’s pretty good these days.
The back bed, full of peas, carrots, spinach, lettuce and bolting daikon radishes.
Have a great weekend!
I’m going to start with a pretty picture, because what I’m about to show you is ugly. Remember how I wrote up a nice little cheerful post about the good bugs in the garden? Well, what’s below is one that I hope you never see in your garden. And that is scale.
I don’t normally get squeemish about a bug here or there, but when they are in mass, it completely gives me the heebee jeebeeies. I first noticed these little black round guys on my two Chinese lanterns last year, but never did much about them at the time. I read that you should scrap them off, but being that I had just given birth and also had a two year old to contend with, I wanted no part of scraping anything extra off of anything else. So those poor plants when untended to. This year, the scale killed the smallest chinese lantern and seriously did some major damage to the above varigated one. I loved that tall, seven foot beauty, but it and it’s nasty scale had to go. It was completely covered, so I ripped it out.
Unfortunately I waited too long and the dreaded scale moved over to my oak leaf hydrangeas too. Those I did scrape off, the whole while wearing a look of complete disgust on my face, so hopefully it can be saved.
The UC Davis site says: “Populations of some scales can increase dramatically within a few months, such as when honeydew-seeking ants or dusty conditions interfere with scale natural enemies.” As you can see from the photo above, those ants were all over it.
Has anyone else had to deal with scale? Did you remove it successfully?
Now that the weather is warming up and the flowers are blooming we are seeing a lot of activity in the insect world on our little patch of land. Most people who either don’t garden or are new to gardening think of all bugs as ‘pests’, but actually there are ‘beneficial’ insects and of course harmful insects. As the gardening season progresses and we find more harmful ones, I’ll share those with you, but let me share with you the ones you *want* too see, okay?
I’ve already shared this picture with you. But honeybees are one of the most important, if not most important insect you want in your garden. They do all the hard work in going around to each and every flower collecting pollen and mixing it between male and female flowers. These little bees are the ones that transform your flowers into fruit and vegetables. Without them, and we are having to think about those terrible thoughts these days, we’d be running around with paintbrushes pollenating things ourselves. At this time of year you’ll find many resting in flowers and flying comically around with loads of yellow pollen on their legs as Krista mentioned.
Most people have heard about how ladybugs are beneficial. But did you know that they are beneficial in the larval stage too? They look like little tiny alligators, with six legs and are about a quarter of an inch long. Both the larvae and the mature ladybugs eat aphids, mealybugs and the eggs of many insects. I’ve been finding the ladybugs most commonly on my roses which always have aphids on them.
This bug is one that it’s talked about as much. It’s a soldier beetle. They are about 3/4″ long with black bodies and orange heads. They, like ladybugs each soft bodied insects and their larvae eat smaller insects during their time living in the soil. They also act as pollenators. I commonly find them on our mint plants which also have aphids on them.
So how do you attract these guys to your garden in the first place? Well, you can mail order ladybugs. But we’ve found that simply growing flowers and letting a few vegetables go to flower is the best way to attract them. The more of a mix of food you can provide, the more varietes of insects you’ll attract and the more likely they will be to stay in your garden too.
If you’d like to buy ladybugs you can do so here:
“9,000 Live Ladybug Beetles Hippodamia convergens – Medium Garden”