Butterflies, Herbs and Cleaning Up

I was in the garden today and Jeremy showed me these two swallowtail caterpillars on the dill in his plot. I had noticed another on parsley in another plot.swallowtailcaterpillars

An adult swallowtail lays eggs on plants that will provide food for the caterpillars. These include dill, parsley, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, and carrots which is one of the reasons I included some of these plants in our Family Gardening Program plots. Look around these plants for caterpillars and you may be lucky and see one.

From the time the eggs are laid to when the caterpillar creates a chrysalis is about 14 days. Once the chrysalis is formed, it takes about 2 more weeks before a butterfly emerges. You will know the chrysalis is nearing the time it will open when it becomes transparent. It is hard work for the butterfly to emerge and when it does it will stay in place for a while and dry its wings. This is a great time to get photos.

Communal Herb Garden

Plot34My first order of business this morning was moving herbs to plot #34. This will be the communal herb plot for all Moreau Community Garden gardeners. Right now dill, thyme, marjoram, cilantro, basil and tarragon are growing in the bed. Some will reseed, some won’t and others are hardy enough that they will come back next year.

Having a communal bed means we don’t all have to grow these herbs, gardeners can take a snippet or two as needed from the communal bed.

If you have a hardy herb to share — such as Greek oregano — please feel free to add it to plot 34. But don’t add any invasive herbs, such as mint or lemon balm. These would take over and defeat our goal.

Cleaning up after Early Blight

As you clean tomatoes that have early blight out of your plots, remember that you need to remove the roots as well. I noticed that some people are clearing their plots but not weeding or removing roots. Early Blight can overwinter on plant debris, so it is important that everyone be meticulous and do a good job cleaning our beds and the weeds around them.

We are expecting a delivery of cow manure. When it arrives, add it to your cleaned bed and work it into the soil. The nutrients and microbes in the manure will do wonders to improve the health of our garden.

The donation of the cow manure is coming from Todd Kusnierz – one of our Town Board members – and is truly appreciated. It will really help improve the soil.

Grand Morning in the Garden

MCGWe harvested tomatoes, green beans and peppers. That was the first task. And after we put the bags of fresh vegetables on the picnic table to go back to the community center for snack, we rolled up our sleeves and set to work.

Our job for the day was to treat the pumpkins, zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers that are infected with powdery mildew, a fungal disease. Before everyone arrived for a morning of gardening, I prepared two remedies for powdery mildew so we could conduct an experiment. The participants in the Family Gardening Program were divided into two teams.

In some plots Team A sprayed the leaves of the susceptible plants with a milk and water mix. In other plots Team B used baking soda and water. Now we wait and watch to see if one group of plants does better than another.

The dozen or so children were curious about the disease. They wanted information on how the plant got the disease, what it does to the plant and if it had any impact on the vegetables since the problem appears to be just on the leaves. Good questions! Smart Kids!

P1040721Powdery Mildew is a widespread problem for gardeners and there are lots of different forms of this disease. The fungi germinate spores when the humidity is high. Remember the weather the week of July 18th?

The disease thrives where plants are crowded and air circulation is poor. And when it gets hold, powdery mildew will coat leaves a whitish gray, then leaves turn yellow and wither. Buds often fail to open. It can impact the flavor of any vegetables on the plant.

So what can we do? Gardeners can space plants for good air flow, buy seeds that are disease resistant and if they see a problem, remove infested leaves quickly. Wash your hands so you don’t transport spores and then treat the plants like we are doing in the Moreau Community Garden.

All diseased materials should go in the trash bin and not the compost pile.

We put signs up in the garden were we sprayed. If you’re curious, take a look.

swallowtail1Oh, just a side note – we spotted a Giant Swallowtail butterfly enjoying the nectar of our zinnias today. We are all delighted to see that!

Many gardeners were out this morning enjoying the flowers and the feast that is coming along. They happily worked at weeding, watering and other garden chores. eric

If you haven’t visited the garden lately, here’s a sample of the garden’s beauty for you to enjoy.

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail on the lilac bushes.

What a great day in the garden. Had a couple of visitors stop by. First, was a toad. I never had a toad in the garden before and I am happy to see him. I believe they eat slugs.

The other visitor was the third type of butterfly to feed on the lilacs this week and it was a beauty — a Black Swallowtail.

Since reading that this year is going to be a spectacular one for spotting butterflies, I decided that all my annuals should draw butterflies. Today I planted flats of zinnias, cosmos, snapdragons and ageratum.

I’m tired, in need of a shower…but so happy.