Fruit Trees, After the Drop

…Not just the drop season, but riots.

If you have ever raised apples or pears you are well aware of the June drop, when fruit whose seeds were not fertilized drop all over the ground.

If you raise pawpaws, you learn about riots. It seems to be an annual event that occurs about when you start to wonder just when it is going to rain. Some four-legged characters got into the tops of my two pawpaws a couple of days ago and tore off a lot of fruit, taking a bite (or more) out of dozens of pawpaws before tossing them overboard. The ground was littered. What type of characters? I did not see—I only found the wreckage on the ground in the morning. I suspect raccoons—I have caught them red-pawed in the past—but I could be wrong. Do possums eat pawpaws?

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Tomato Hornworms!

Not my favorite creatures; they get way too big—at least four inches or so—and they are way too squishy looking. I minored in entomology when I was in college because I was so afraid of bugs. I figured knowing more should help. It did. This caterpillar would have scared me silly as a teenager; now they’re just rather gross and ridiculously hard to spot.

A tomato hornworm at rest. This caterpillar is upside down hanging on to the petiole with prolegs. The true legs are tiny, and the caterpillar’s head is curled up next to them. Photographed July 18, 2017.

They are very well disguised. The first hint of trouble is a tomato leaf reduced to its central petiole—a leafless leaf poking out of the plant. It takes quite a bit of looking because the caterpillar looks like a somewhat rolled-up tomato leaflet, like the one right below the caterpillar’s head in the photograph. The white diagonal lines on its sides register to the human eye as the veins on the back of the tomato leaf.

According to the University of Minnesota’s Extension, the best way to get rid of them is to pluck them off the plant and drop them in soapy water. I pluck the leaf with the caterpillar and bury them deep in the weeds in the [covered] compost bin that can go out weekly. It’s going out this week.

Happily, I only see one or two a year, only some years, and very little damage. I wish I could say that about asparagus beetles.

Dividing and Transplanting: An Example Project and Beginner’s Guide

The best time of year to move some plants is summer. Plants that bloom in the spring and have fat, sturdy roots are candidates for summer transplanting. Irises are the most commonly mentioned group, but I have found that various Solomon’s seals also respond well to summer moves—actually any time after the flowers have dropped.

I looked at my dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal the other day, and realized that it was really muscling in on my liverworts. There are only four liverworts, and about a gazillion dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal, so the solution was to recreate the gap between them by digging up and moving some of the Solomon’s seal. This divide-and-transplant project will show you how to plan and implement a transplanting project with smallish plants—a very good place to start. Continue reading “Dividing and Transplanting: An Example Project and Beginner’s Guide”

More Rain Today Than in the Month of June

I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I was very happy to be blasted out of bed shortly after 5 a.m. by very loud thunder. When I looked out the window, the rain garden had plenty of puddling in it, so it was doing its job keeping at least some of the rain from running off down the sidewalk and into the overtaxed storm drains.

By 8 a.m., the silver maple had stopped dripping enough that I could walk around and enjoy my second cup of coffee. The hydrangeas looked terrific. Looking more closely, I realized that a month with many more promises of rain than actual rain had taken its toll. The flowers heads are smaller than usual, and the individual flowers are quite a bit smaller, but the green of the leaves was already shifting from that piny, water-stressed blue green to a much brighter and greener green.

Annabelle hydrangea, closeup. The individual flowers are just over half of their usual diameter, due to a very dry June. Usually the petals hide the stems behind them completely. Photographed July 7, 2017.

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Roses and Other Traditional Garden Plants

Oddly enough, despite the fact that I have been nattering on about mostly native plants since January, I love many of the traditional plants you would find in any perennial garden, and this is their peak time. I am a very laissez-faire gardener however, so the plants that I am writing about are sturdy, hardy, and reasonably well behaved.

Roses: Morden Blush

I love this rose. It’s a shrub rose, only lightly scented, but a lovely pink, and a dependable bloomer. Besides, it’s hardy to zone 3, -35°F. We are in zone 6, but we have had a couple of truly vicious winters this decade that this rose survived, completely unperturbed. It is one of the Parkland Series of roses that were developed by the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Morden Research Station in Manitoba. Yup. Manitoba.

This tough rose is blooming, despite living in a huge planter box with little supplementary water in June—mostly what has spilled over from filling watering cans for potted plants.

Morden Blush. These flowers were all new the morning they were photographed, except the paler one in the center. They fade to a very pale shell pink as they age. Photographed June 28, 2017.

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