The Yardwork and Family Adventures of June

Yardwork hasn’t quite come to a standstill, but it’s taken a different course since Steven was furloughed and income is limited. My flowers are blooming, which has been amazingly fulfilling. I never thought I’d be so excited about flowers.

The challenge I’ve been facing is fungus on my columbine. I removed most of the affected leaves and got Neem oil to treat it weekly, but it’s questionable whether I began treating it soon enough.

Fuchsia

 

Lavender

 

Aster

 

Echinacea

 

Lily

 

Cherries (possibly Montmorency)

 

 

Fungus on columbine leaves

I’ve also been dealing with ants. I’ve been using diatomaceous earth, which they’re taking back to their nest, so I’m hoping it’s a matter of time before enough of them die that they’ll stop invading my porch for hummingbird nectar. I’m not sure where the nest is.

 

Ants and diatomaceous earth

My neighbor also had fun removing the mulberry for me. I’m almost certain it was a male, which means no fruit and the potential to grow fifteen feet tall. It was in a very poor location; driveways and street sides, especially against a lamp post and beside other trees, is just not advisable. So, the neighbor used the crane on his truck to yank it out.

    

My mom and I also had a good time canning and freezing fifteen pounds of strawberries. We ended up with 25 cans of jam, five freezer jams, and a few bags frozen for pie filling. 

 

Steven’s sister also visited for the weekend with her boyfriend, which included a nerf gun for R, a movie night, jousting in the living room (R slaughtered his daddy), Father’s Day dinner at my parents’ house, and a trip to the river. R didn’t like the cold river, but I’m hoping to coax him in passed his knees with a few more trips.

 

jousting

 

R with Steven on Fathers Day

      

I also got crafty yesterday, and the result was colorful rocks in my butterfly puddler. I just used acrylic paint which I had on hand, and some adhesive stencils I’d gotten for another project last year. Hopefully the colors will increase the attractiveness of the garden and the puddler to butterflies and bees.

the top left blue one is my favorite

 

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Trying This Gardening Thing…Organically 

I’m fairly new to this gardening thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally without knowledge and experience. I helped my mom plant flowers, saw the beauty of her roses (mulched regularly), and did indoor seed germination at school. I’ve certainly weeded before. I helped my sister-in-law start a garden when we lived with them for a few months one year.

But ultimately it’s not a lot of personal experience. Especially since the personal reward has never really been there, and I tended to abandon weeding my parents’ yard at the first sign of spiders. Can you blame me?

More so, I’ve got this ambition to be largely, perhaps totally, organic with gardening at my own home, which means I have to learn about natural solutions and buy organic supplies rather than just grabbing Miracle Grow or Slugg-o to address the needs of my growing things.

Pinterest, Google, and a few Facebook pages have been ridiculously helpful.

I’ve got a few things from the kitchen set up already.

Egg shells, like diatomaceous earth, kills slugs, snails, and low crawlers. Coffee grounds added straight acidity the soil, so it’s great for my blueberries.
Today I also picked up a bag of Epsom salt–magnesium sulfate–for a few of my plants that could use a boost, including one struggling blueberry and the veggies I planted yesterday.

Only my spinach really came up before, so hopefully I’ll have better luck this time. I also forgot about thinning said spinach when I was supposed to, so I did that yesterday too. Epsom salt is supposed to help transplant shock, so hopefully they’ll forgive me for the delayed thinning.
Hopefully there will be minimum error in my trials with organic gardening. It takes a bit more knowledge and planning to garden and control pests without fertilizers reliant on fossil fuels and indiscriminate pesticides on the plants, but hopefully it will be worth the effort.

Bring In the (Good) Critters

As I shared not long ago, we bought a house and I began gardening. Very quickly, my reading in conjunction with this new venture has given me a new desire: to create a safe haven for certain wildlife in my own backyard.

Did you know that bee populations have been radically declining? While neonicotinoids (the root in there is nicotine, for pronunciation help) are likely part of the problem, and avoiding using them or buying plants treated with them can be an important step, it’s not the whole picture. Scientists aren’t precisely sure what the whole picture is yet, but it’s likely a combination of factors, one being overuse of pesticides on the plants bees collect pollen from. Bees are vital to our food supply, and need our protection.

Bird populations are also declining nationwide; faster in some places than others. Much of this is habitat destruction, so obviously sharing our habitat with them could be of vital significance in stopping this trend, along with greater conservation of natural resources.

 Although we don’t get many this far north, monarch butterflies are included in this sad trend. In 2003 they took up 27.5 acres in the hibernation area in Mexico. In 2013, it was just over 1.5. They bounced back some last year, but not totally. Again, herbicides in agriculture are of some of the blame.

Bat populations are on the decline too. Part of this is a disease, likely caused by a fungus.  The disease will likely sort itself out once the population decreases to resistant bats and they breed, but perhaps only after extinction of some species. But part is also habitat destruction. We may not all like bats (I personally have no problem with them), but they are hugely important to pest control. Insofar as we can help with the habitat problem, we should.

So what can the average homeowner do to help all of these, even if in small ways? After all, enough people doing something small can add up to a big difference.

For bees, we can switch to safer pest control. If we want to get more involved, supporting petitions and legislation again overuse of harmful pesticides and looking for/utilizing safer, viable alternatives in agriculture is an option too. Further, when considering flowers for your garden, consider flowers that are particularly attractive to bees. If you’re providing safe pollen sources, you’re doing your part.

Further, if you have a bee hive too close to your house, or encounter a swarming hive, call a beekeeper rather than an exterminator. But if you have land, no one allergic in your home, and they’re not too near the house or frequented areas, just leave them be and give them space. Your garden will thank you.

Finally, for bees, make or buy a bee condo and mount it in a sheltered location. Female mason bees will use them to lay their eggs. Mason bee males don’t sting and females rarely do, so they’re pretty safe to invite into the yard. They’re blue, which is pretty cool. There’s no beekeeping responsibilities with this option, unlike keeping a hive. If you have the space and inclination for keeping a hive, go for it.

On to butterflies! These are also pollinators, so your garden will thank you for them too. Like bees, flowers that attract butterflies are a great option. There’s a lot of crossover between the two.

Providing food and water sources, which can be very decorative, helps too.

 

My perennial garden includes this super simple butterfly puddler. Butterflies have to drink from shallow water, mud, or damp sand, all of which become more scarce in summer. Adding one of these, kept wet, in warm weather can attract butterflies for a drink. A butterfly feeder hung from a tree is another possibility.

Birds may eat our berries, but they also eat bugs and are vital to the food chain, so welcoming them by leaving nests in trees, adding a bird bath to the yard, and hanging a feeder and bird houses from a tree is free pest control.

Ditto to bats. Mosquito reduction like no other. And guess what? There’s such thing as bat houses. They have to be hung 15-25 feet high (no more, no less) and placed in the sunshine. It can take a few seasons to get some roosting critters in there.

A lot of these include projects that can be done with kiddos, along with fun learning experiences. Don’t pass up the opportunity!