Fall is Almost Here…

…and the garden is winding down. 

This summer, in southeastern PA, has been a weather rollercoaster.  A pleasant but dry June was followed by a HOT and even drier July.  August brought some cooler temperatures and rain.  Lots of rain.  And flooding – especially with the arrival of Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Depression Lee.  Philadelphia recorded its wettest month EVER in August!  My garden is looking a little unkept now – to say the least – since I haven’t been tending it in the rain.

I had several firsts this year in my veggie garden!  I harvested my 1st asparagus from the bed I started last year.  I tried growing tomatoes from seed planted directly into the ground.  I didn’t spray any insecticide (I only use 100% natural sprays when I need to use them).  I also saw my 1st lacewing in my garden!

Last year I planted 10 asparagus crowns and only 2 didn’t make it.  The other 8 began sending up spears in April and I was able to harvest a few during a 2-3 week window.  New research has shown that you don’t have to wait till the 3rd year before harvesting, and harvesting the 1st year after planting actually increases the buds that are formed by the crown.  For more information on growing asparagus, click here.

For the 2nd year in a row my seedlings didn’t grow more than 2 inches.  Although I haven’t figured out the cause yet, I tried planting my tomato seeds outside at our last frost date (for our zone 6 garden, it’s May 15th).  I heard someone say that they regularly do this and harvest tomatoes the same time as their neighbor who uses started plants.  I must say I was a little skeptical, but my seeds sprouted and grew.  I trellised and pruned them, and they began to produce fruit.  I ended up harvesting tomatoes the same week my father-in-law, who used started plants, did!

This summer I didn’t spray my garden at all with pesticide.  I usually use an all-natural product called Pyola from a company called Garden’s Alive.  It’s a concentrate made of pyrethrins and canola oil that you dilute with water and apply as needed. I did use diatomaceous earth on my eggplant to try to control the flea beetles that were attacking it, but after seeing my 1st lacewing in my garden I decided to try to do without spraying the entire garden.  In addition to the lacewing, my Garden Patrol also included Wheel Bugs,

adult wheel bug eating a bumblebee

 

hatchling wheel bugs and eggs

 

wheel bug nymphs

Praying Mantises,

praying mantis on a tomato plant

various spiders, native and Asian Ladybugs,

pink spotted ladybug

 

checkerboard ladybug

frogs, American Toads,

American toad

various songbirds and Milk Snakes .

juvenile milk snake

I truly enjoyed all of the life in the garden this year and always wondered what I’d see each time I worked in it.  I have big plans for next year and I’m anxious to start on them.  We’re going to finish putting mulch down in between the beds to eliminate the need to mow the garden.  I’m also adding a perennial herb bed with rocky areas for snakes and toads to hide.  The birdbath will move to the center of this bed.  Lastly, we’re going to plant 2 organically grown blueberry bushes next spring.

Stay tuned for updates along the way!

Lavender and Cuckoo Clocks

You may be asking yourselves what could lavender and cuckoo clocks possibly have in common….  I’ll tell you:  Mrs. Parr.

When I was a little girl, my mom-mom would babysit my sister and I while our mom and dad worked.  She and my pop-pop only lived about 5 blocks from us in our small town in south Jersey.  Mrs. Parr lived 2 doors from my grandparents and I loved to visit her and her husband.   

When I think of her house I remember the smallish but beautiful cuckoo clock in the plain living room.  I loved to listen to it announce the hour!  The detailed carving was so lovely and the polished wood shone. 

Out back you were immediately met by gardens with a myriad of flowers as tall as I was (remember, I was 5 or 6 at the time).  There were daisies and other wildflowers everywhere.  I first learned about lavender there.  I remember Mrs. Parr showing me the flowers and giving me some to dry.  I had those dried lavender buds in a dish on my dresser for years… and thought of her each time I looked at them.

Now lavender is an essential part of my garden.  My 1st garden in Philadelphia had lavender and it came to the farm when we moved.  I’ve learned about its medicinal properties (see my previous post) and how to propagate it.  I’m now planning to plant a lavender hedge along our patio in the coming seasons.

Oh, and as for the cuckoo clock… I’m still waiting for one.  Dave has been to Austria and Germany for business over the past couple years.  I’ve requested one the next time he goes back!

More Babies on the Farm – Updated!

 

 Last night, after 7 days incubation,  the caterpillar eggs on our front door began to hatch and this morning I got photos of the tiny hatchlings.  You can see the tiny, 1st instar yellow Wooly Bear caterpillars below:

Newly hatched caterpillars

Update!

Later, yesterday afternoon I took the following photo:

More eggs have hatched!

 You can see that more of the caterpillars have hatched and they are eating the egg remains.  More eggs have hatched! 

Wooly Bear caterpillars eat grasses, clovers and leaves from various shrubs and trees so I carefully transferred the tiny larvae to the grass this morning.  Spilosoma virginica (Virginia Tiger Moth) has 3-4 life cycles per year and mature caterpillars are usually active from May to November.  These caterpillars will probably grow larger and hibernate as caterpillars, creating an antifreeze-like substance in their bodies to protect their cells from freezing. 

 

New Life

Every year we experience the wonderful miracle of life here on our farm many times over.  Sometimes it happens right under our noses without us knowing.  Tonight I found a female Tiger Moth laying her eggs on our front door.

Female Tiger Moth

Amazing to watch!

Laying another egg!