Friday, August 8, 2014

Wildlife - August 2014

I'm a few days late, but wanted to make sure I got my August Wildlife post in.  Tina over at My Gardener Says... hosts Wildlife Wednesday on the first Wednesday of every month, and I've been collecting pictures over the past month of all the wildlife in my Central Texas garden (and from my travels) that I want to share with you.

Feathered Friends

Carolina Wren


Cardinal and Titmouse

Furry Friends and Foes

Normally I say the deer down here in Texas are pretty puny.  I grew up with monstrous bucks in the northern woods of Wisconsin that would completely total your car if you hit them.  So, I was pretty impressed with the size of a buck I saw out the back about a week ago - he was much larger than most of the guys I see around here.  I wonder if the extra rain this season has contributed to their larger size.

Awww, RATS! It is annoying enough when the squirrels get to your bird feeders, but rats?  That's just a low blow.  We've had some rat problems since last fall.  The last mischief of rats made themselves right at home in our garage and started to stink up the place quick.  We tried to go poison-free... using traps and peanut butter, but the rats soon wised up to that tactic, so we eventually opted for the poison.  It did the job quick, and thankfully the dogs didn't get into any poison in the process.  This summer they've shown up again, hanging out in the wood piles and munching on the bird food I put out.  I've been limiting the food I put out for the birds, mainly to discourage the rats, but it doesn't seem to be working.  Killer Atticus hasn't killed any rats recently either, so he isn't helping our problem (though he has caught some before).  Looks like it may be time to put out an owl box.

Creepy Critters

The other day, while I was clearing out the veggie beds, I stumbled across this little guy.  Actually, he wasn't very little.  He was a pretty big toad.  At first, I was afraid that I accidentally stepped on him and squished him.

Thankfully, he was just playing dead.  I was afraid the dogs might get to him, but I think he hopped away before they made him their next toy.

I couldn't find what this bug is.  It kind of looks like a wasp, fly, dragonfly and moth all rolled into one.  He's been hanging around the garden for a bit this summer, staying very close to this place by the deck, so he must have a nest of some kind close by.

And the grossest of all the wildlife this month - maggots.  I opened the composter a couple weeks ago and saw thousands of maggots.  I haven't been turning the compost very frequently recently, so I think this is part of the reason why these creepy critters appeared.  I should probably turn my composter more often, and add some dryer products to the mix.  On the bright side, they helped the compost decompose that much faster!

Exotic Creatures

Last month, I had a business trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a week.  I wasn't there long, but one afternoon, my colleagues and I headed out to the Batu Caves (Hindu Shrine).  The stairs up to the caves were filled with macaque monkeys who patiently waited to steel an ice cream cone or bottle of water from an unsuspecting tourist.

Cocks hanging outside the caves.

A venture deep into the cave lead to some very creepy critters... like spiders.

Cave cricket

And another critter that rivals the maggots for grossest creature this month - centipede.  Yuck.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Very Hungry Caterpillar

While perusing the garden this past weekend, I noticed a very interesting design left on a canna lily leaf by some type of insect.

I'm not quite sure what little creature left this design, but it reminded me immediately of one of my favorite childhood books, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," by Eric Carle.  I was in awe by the precision of the little munched holes...each the same distance apart and each one slightly smaller than the previous one.  It was like the bug got a little bit less hungry with each bite he took.

It is amazing what little pieces of beauty and wonderment you can find in your garden when you take the time to just stop and take it all in.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Today's Harvest: Veggies, Flowers, and Seeds

The summer veggies have slowed down their production, but I don't mind too much since work has been busy and I haven't had as much time as I would like to try new recipes with my fresh produce.  This weekend, I got one pepper, a few okra, a Black Beauty eggplant (that has more yellow than purple/black coloring), several cherry tomatoes and a couple of the last cukes off my summer vines.  I'm starting to look forward to some new veggies, and with it new recipes, from the fall garden...but that's a few months away.

While clearing out some of the summer veggie beds to make room for the fall planting, I cleared out some of the zinnia plants that were taking over the beds, or that had seen better days.  I saved the nicest blooms for a nice bouquet for the kitchen.  Zinnias add so much color to the veggie beds, attract pollinators, and make great cut flowers.  I love these flowers so much, and so do the hummingbirds, who I see flitting around the flowers multiple times a day.

I want to be better about collecting my own seeds for future use and to share with friends, so while I was clearing the beds this weekend, I also gathered some seeds.  There were a few dried green bean pods of Bush Blue Lake 274 that I collected.  There weren't many, so I'll have to make sure to leave more pods on the plants for seed collecting next time around.  The marigolds are dropping their seed pods like crazy right now too, so I collected more than enough for myself and for my friends for next year.

Harvest Totals (since April)
  • 5 lbs Cherry Bell Radishes
  • 3 lbs Giant Fordhook Swiss Chard
  • 3 lb 5.5 oz Pic-N-Pic Summer Squash (5 squash)
  • 5 lbs 6.3 oz Black Beauty Zucchini (3 squash)
  • 13.7 oz Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas
  • 11.6 oz Mucho Nacho Jumbo Jalapeno (13)
  • 11.9 oz Jalapeno
  • 2 lb 2.4 oz Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans
  • 1 lb 4.6 oz Gypsy Sweet Peppers (10)
  • 1 lb 15.9 oz Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
  • 2 lb 7.5 oz Juliet Roma Grape Tomato
  • 3 lb 12.0 oz Early Girl Tomato (12)
  • 1 lb 10.4 oz Big Boy Tomato (3)
  • 1 lb 7.3 oz oz Bradley Heirloom Tomato (4)
  • 2 lb 2.3 oz Roma Tomato (22)
  • 4 lb 4.4 oz Long Eggplant (16)
  • 7 lb 1.5 oz Black Beauty Eggplant (6)
  • 10.9 oz Pablano Pepper (5)
  • 1 lb 2.0 oz Acorn Squash (1)
  • 1 lb 1.0 oz Butternut Squash (1)
  • 1 lb 6.6 oz Spaghetti Squash (1)
  • 1 lb 3.1 oz Green Bell Sweet Pepper (6)
  • 1.1 oz Cayenne Pepper (3)
  • 11 lb 11.1 oz Marketmore 76 Cucumbers (11)
  • 3 lb 7.9 oz Okra (63)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fall Plantings

Today was a relatively cooler late-summer day in Central Texas.  We hit a high of 89 degrees, when the past few weeks, the days have been pushing 100.  That meant a gardening-filled day for me.  I will be on business travel for the second half of August, so I wanted to get my fall garden growing before I leave.

In veggie bed #1, I didn't make any changes.  I want to see if the tomatoes planted in the spring will continue producing.  I also have pepper and eggplants that are still bearing fruit, so no changes were made.

In veggie bed #2, I ripped out all the squash plants.  The squash vine borer already got to ALL the plants, so I'm cutting my losses and planting other veggies from seed that might actually produce for me this fall.  I planted the following in the bed:

  • Bush Beans - Tendergreen Improved [52 day maturity]
  • Swiss Chard - Fordhook Giant [60 day maturity]
  • Swiss Chard - Ruby Red [55 day maturity]
  • Kale - Lacinato (heirloom) [70 day maturity]
  • Kale - Dwarf Blue Curled Vates [55 day maturity]
  • Collards - Georgia [65 day maturity]
  • Echinacea - Purple Coneflower
Before and after:


I also have a mystery tomato plant growing in the middle of bed #2.  I assume one of the tomatoes from bed #1 landed in the bed and reseeded.  I'm letting it grow and we'll see a couple months from now what it turns out to be.  I love a good garden mystery!

In bed #3, I ripped out the old cucumber and cantaloupe vines.  It looks like the heat became a little too much for the plants and they probably weren't getting enough water the past couple of weeks.  I've replanted the bed with more cukes and melons, specifically:
  • Cucumber - Marketmore 76 [63 day maturity]
  • Watermelon - Sweet Scarlet Hybrid [85 day maturity]
  • Cantaloupe - Hale's Best Jumbo [ 80 day maturity]

I haven't had the best of luck with melons up to this point. We'll see if the fall crop does any better than the summer.

In bed #4, I ripped out the chard that didn't produce over the summer, as well as the spent green beans.  I've now planted:
  • Fennel - Trieste [90 day maturity]
  • Dill - Bouquet
  • Lettuce - Sylvestra [50 day maturity]
  • Spinach - Bloomsdale Long-Standing [48 day maturity]
  • Arugula - Rocket [35 day maturity]

This bed receives ample shade during the fall and winter months.  I'll be interested to see if I have any luck with these crops this fall.

Based on these plantings, I should be getting some decent harvest between mid-September through early October.  Cheers to a productive gardening day!