Ladybugs vs. Aphids: Last One Standing

ladybug on Allium

Last bug standing?

I mentioned last week that I would be heading to the garden center for another batch of living ladybugs.  My lovely, onion-scented Allium is dripping in aphids and soot.  Ick, yuck and blech!

The first batch of ladybugs made some progress, but now all but one or two are gone.  They didn’t even leave a note to say why.

Where did they go?  The tasty aphid smorgasbord remains.   What’s an organic gardener to do?

Then I read this from OurWaterOurWorld.org:

Tolerate low to moderate numbers of aphids as long as they aren’t causing noticeable plant damage. There is a reason for this: aphids have many natural enemies such as spiders, ladybugs, lacewings and minute parasitoids (tiny non-stinging wasps) that often keep aphid numbers below damaging levels. These beneficial insects rarely appear on the scene until after aphids have begun attacking plants. This “lag-time” can be a day or two or as long as several weeks. As the season progresses, aphid control by these natural enemies improves because more natural enemies are attracted to your garden and more stay to breed.

So…I’m taking the wait and see approach as I keep a close eye on the plant.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to identify a different set of insects on my beloved pumpkins.  Stop by later this week for a look-see.  I bet you can hardly wait. 😉

Ladies in Red

DSC_0017The ladybug entourage seems to be moving on, but darn it, I’m not ready to see them go. They still have aphids to eat, people to see. It’s too soon!  I’ve being watching intently, but I don’t see a lot of bug noshing. I guess their time has come.

I’ll be making another trip to the garden center for another batch this weekend.  Meanwhile, here are a few candid shots before they fly away home.

ladybug container releasing ladybugs Ladybugs eating aphidsHappy Friday!  I’ll be back with more ladies in red next week.

Metaphorical Sunflower

cat named mouse

Mouse *insisted* on being in the picture.

I planted an entire packet of sunflower seeds, but only one took hold. I’ve seen several fat  and happy squirrels around the ‘hood, so I’ve little doubt where they went. That said, I’m more interested in the lone survivor.

Thinking that the surviving plant needed company, I headed back the to garden center and bought six sunflower starters. For awhile the plants were all the same height, but at the three-foot mark, the starter plants set dozens of blooms. The lone survivor continued to grow.

Metaphorically speaking, I can relate. One summer in my middle-school years, I grew from average to tall and stayed that way.  Tall and skinny and very much in my own ‘shell’ I stood apart from the others. My pale English skin, tall carriage and bright hair were the antithesis of the California Girl. I was quiet, bookish, and painfully shy, and the occasional target of mean-spirited girls.

Today the surviving sunflower stands tall and straight. The proverbial late bloomer had her turn in the sun.  Large leaves attract birds of all stripes. Blooms attracted bees. Now laden with heavy seeds, those mischievous squirrels will be back, but guess what?  Times have changed.

This time, she’s ready.

alys and sunflower collage

 

(Almost) Blooming Thursday: Tulips!

Tulips Break Ground

Tulips Break Ground

Did you hear me squeal with delight?

Tulips are popping up all over the garden. They won’t flower for a little while, but the fact that they’ve survived this long (shh…don’t tip off the squirrels) is amazing.

Last fall I planted three varieties, purchased at a local garden center. They are all sourced from Van Zyverden.

I planted:

  • 15 Tulip ‘Angélique
  • 15 Tulip ‘Attila‘; and
  • 5 Tulip ‘Passionale

In other words, the potential for 35 stunning acts of nature. Guess what? I counted over twenty, ground-breaking bulbs! The last time I planted tulips, nothing came up. Zip. Zero. Nada. I’m really liking these odds.

tulip bulbs break ground

Tulips all Around!

While I had my nose to the earth, I noticed several more bulbs breaking through: Crocus, Narcissus and a few others, to-be-determined when they bloom.

Oh happy day!  What’s ‘cooking’ in your garden this Thursday?

spring bulbs collage

Assorted Spring Bulbs Break Ground

Tulip Bulbs

Tulip Bulbs

 

Fairy Garden Yurt: Blue Fescue to the Rescue

As the temperatures drop, my thoughts turned to winterizing the fairy garden. Garden fairies need shelter from the biting wind and cold. Enter Blue Fescue to the rescue in the form of a living yurt.

Winter Fairy Garden materials

Winter Fairy Garden Materials

Blue Fescue Yurt

Blue Fescue Yurt

According to Wikipedia, “a yurt is a portable, bent wood-framed dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.” This adaption of the thirteenth century dwelling continues to live in the earth

I planted five small ‘plugs’ of Blue Fescue tufted ornamental grass, then gathered the tops of them together in one bunch. I wrapped and knotted the Fescue with a long strand of tall grass.  A welcoming bunch of clover hangs just above the entrance.

Bunch of clover

A welcoming bunch of clover

The yurt stays cozy with a downy-soft and fragrant lavender carpet, well suited to a fairy’s needs. Just outside the yurt are a pair of chairs and a lantern to light the way.

Birthday Chairs and a lantern

Birthday chairs and a lantern to light the way

A tall, orange umbrella offers shelter on rainy days. A petal-soft “lamb’s ear” is the perfect place for a pair of cats to curl up for a nap just below.

Orange Shelter

Orange Shelter
It looks *and* smells good

Come and sit a spell

Come and sit a spell and enjoy the subtle fragrance of Allium, lavender and orange

Please be sure to spread the word. Garden fairies welcome!

Resources:

  • Blue Fescue, available at most garden centers
  • Wood Mini Spools by Maya Road
  • Mini Lantern by Tim Holtz idea-ology
  • From the garden: baby tears, lavender, clover, lamb’s ear, orange (hollowed out by a rat) and Allium

Blooming Thursday: Global Gardeners

pansies

Pansies

As many of my readers put their gardens to bed for the winter, I stopped by a local garden center for some annuals.  It’s easy taking our moderate California weather for granted having lived here so long. I do remember the frigid winter days in Ontario, Canada, but as a child, not an adult.

I enjoy reading gardening adventures from around the globe. It’s enriching. My friends in the Southern Hemisphere are busy planning spring gardens. To the far north, snow is already falling, and seasonal clean-up is under way.  In the warmer climates, things are fuzzier around the edges, but the four seasons prevail.

In gardens everywhere, nature and nurture duke it out.  Tiny little seeds arrive with imbedded DNA.  Tuck one under some healthy soil, add water and sun and the seed will take it from there.

Sometimes, it is that simple. Often, it’s not. Birds vie for those seeds while small critters eat the seedlings. Insects take a bite out of leaves or host on tender stems.  This can kill a young plant before it gets a foothold on life. Mold, fungus or unwanted pesticides from a neighbor’s yard can wreak havoc on a garden life.

Yet year after year, we gardeners garden. Like the tiny seed, we too have our own gardening DNA. I know gardening is in my genes.  How about you?

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

Halloween Countdown

The letter B pumpkin

Today’s pumpkin is brought to you by the letter “B”

Back to the Drawing Board: Sunflower Seed Do-Over

Sunflower Seedlings: Long Gone

Did you see the sweet little photo I posted earlier this week?  It was my celebratory shot of my emerging sunflowers.  If I hadn’t snapped a picture, I’d have thought I imagined the whole thing.  Squirrels, you are my nemesis.

I lived with my discouragement for a few days then tried again.  I transplanted the seedlings I started indoors and planted the last of the remaining seeds in the pots along the deck. I covered some of the seeds with makeshift domes.  The larger dome worked and the three remaining seedlings are okay…for now.  The other “dome” was too light: I caught the squirrel lifting it up right in front of me.  The nerve! What remains: three little stick shaped shoots (photo “unavailable”…ha!).

Happiness arrived today in the form of an email from Botanical Interests entitled Sow Successful.  What timing.  I learned about soaking seeds for faster germination and I learned about Floating Row Covers or FRC.  I’m going to wrap up this post and head to my local garden center now before it closes.  Stay tuned…

In the meantime, you many want to take a look at Botanical Interests In The Garden blog.