Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More Blooms and an Update on the Edibles

The glads continue to bloom and new ones are opening almost daily; too think I missed this last year when I was on vacation; so glad I didn't miss it this year.  Three of the recent bloomers are new to my garden this year, 'Blue Lagoon', 'Sun Kissed' and 'Black Walnut', while 'Peter Pears' and 'Fiorentina' are repeat performers from last year.

'Blue Lagoon'

'Sun Kissed'

'Black Walnut'

'Peter Pears'


Some of the grapes are starting to get just a hint of color and it looks like they're going to be small, just like last year, but they were really sweet and tasty just the same.

I harvested the first Anna apples on Monday, one pound's worth, and I'll soon be making apple sauce and apple butter, as this year's crop looks like it'll be the biggest ever.

The five-section tomato cage I made last year is quickly filling up and all five varieties are producing fruit. The Black Krim and Roma are on the ends and haven't taken off as well as the Aunt Ruby's German Green, Large Red Cherry and Mortgage Lifter have.  The mystery tomato that grew out of the compost last year is definitely a slicing variety, as the fruit are as big as my fist.

The one Asparagus Bean, aka Yard-long Bean, that survived the attack of the cutworms has begun to bloom and I planted additional seeds, since it seems that the Bt worked to eliminate the cutworms and the new seedlings may stand a chance of growing up to produce for me.

Due to a number of factors, the planned berry patch didn't happen, so I planted the strawberries and the Thornless Boysenberry in one of the raised beds and made a trellis out of twine and bamboo for the boysenberry to climb.

The potatoes that showed so much promise have succumbed to the heat, so I sowed seeds for Yellow Crook-neck Squash, Zucchini and a Yellow Zucchini.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Visitors to a Flower Bed

I have a flower bed in the front yard that contains glads, blue salvia and red cannas, all of which are in bloom right now and as such have sent out an invitation throughout the area to all manner of insects. This morning I took a few photos of some of those visitors, some beneficial as pollinators, some beneficial because they eat bad bugs, and some that eat good and bad bugs alike, being indiscrimiate and eating whomever comes along. 

A bee fly.

A skipper, Hylephila phyleus 

A ladybug, another of the good guys.

A damsel fly.

An assassin bug, Zenus reanrdii, eating a micro wasp.

Another assassin bug, this ones got a small bee.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mason Bee "Condo", Pallet Decking and Other Happenings

As you may recall, back in February I received a mason bee block and waited expectantly for the bees to emerge.  Well they emerged and reused the empty cells in the bee block to lay new eggs, but I decided that the few bees that the bee block can produce aren't enough, so I spent some time working out a plan to produce more bees.  Today I put that plan into action, buying a pine 4" x 4" x 8' and cutting it into pieces that fit neatly into the triangular space above the door to my Tuff Shed, a total of five so far.  I developed a grid on my computer to space out where to drill holes into the blocks, then printed it out.  I used a tack hammer and a small nail to make pilot holes to mark each location where I needed to drill.  I taped a "stop guide" on the drill bit so I wouldn't drill more than 3" deep, so as not to drill all the way through the block.  A few hours later, I had the bee blocks drilled and hung to form a "Mason Bee Condo" that by my estimate can accomodate just over 1800 bees.  It may take a few years before every cell is occupied, but when that time comes, there's still room to add more "units" to the condo, with maximum occupancy estimated at nearly 5000 bees, enough to pollinate the entire neighborhood.

Mason bee condo waiting for occupants.

In my last post, I noted that I'd gotten a load of pallets and would be using them as decking in the back yard and for paths between the raised beds; yesterday I placed one of the pallets down next to the one done in April.  Since there weren't enough cross members to be able to walk on it without falling through, let alone place any plants on them, the pallet required modification.  I got a supply of additional boards at the same time as the pallets, so I just needed to screw them down and trim them to the right length.

The new pallet has boards that are more tightly spaced and easier to place plants on.

The Aunt Ruby's German Green and Roma tomatoes have set fruit, three more glads have bloomed, as has the Climbing Pink Peace rose and the sunflower seeds are almost ready to harvest.

Aunt Ruby's German Green


Gladiolus 'Superstar'

Gladiolus 'My Love'

Gladilous 'Flowersong'

Climbing Pink Peace; note where the leaf cutter bees have been active.

Sunflower seeds almost ready to be harvested.

Last year I planted some ginger that I bought at a local oriental market and one piece grew, but recently it died, so I bought some more and there are three shoots coming up, so hopefully this year I'll get some healthy plants for my efforts.

Ginger shoots.

Lastly, this year I've been proactively spraying the grapes with Bt to hopefully stave off an onslaught of grapeleaf skeletonizer moths, and while it hasn't completely rid the vines of the caterpillars, they have been much fewer that years past and any that do show up die within a day or two of being sprayed with more Bt.

These died soon after being sprayed with BT.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Keikis, Blooms and a Load of Pallets

One of my orchids began to develop what I thought were more flower buds, as it had rebloomed once already, so imagine my surprise when the "flower bud" opened to reveal leaves, not petals.  A quick search on the Internet and I was able to determine that these are what are called Keikis (kay-ee-keys), which is Hawaiian for baby. In about six months time, I should be able to separate them from the mother plant and pot them in their own pots.  Since they are they result of asexual reproduction, they share the exact same genetics as the mother and will bloom the same color.  Blooming takes about 2 years, so for now I'll have to trust that the information I found is reliable.

The mother plant bloomed in January.

The largest of the Keikis, w/the 1st root barely visible.

There are 2 on this stem.

The cannas continue to bloom profusely and despite the many mason bees, I've only found one developing seed pod, but since they'll continue to bloom for several months, I should find more as time goes by.  The third gladiolus bloomed today, 'Traderhorn', one of the standouts from last year.  It looks like there are at least two more 'Traderhorns' about to bloom and several other flower spikes have appeared recently, but are still a few days from blooming.  The daylily continues to bloom and today there were actually two blooms open at the same time.

A swelling cann seed pod.


This photo captures the true colors of this daylily much better than the previous one did.

Today I found a listing for free pallets on Craigslist and rushed over and got 8 of them, four of which are just the right size to place between my raised beds, so now I'll have to find another use for the bricks I've gathered.  The others will be used to create a "deck" between the block wall and the brick path in the back yard.  If I have the time, I think I'll go back for more tomorrow.  Pictures will be posted once I finish the projects.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Blooms, Edibles and Hollyhock Seeds

As the irises are winding down after blooming for almost the entire month of April, the gladioli are just beginning to bloom, with Early Bird and one I can't identify as it isn't one of the fifteen varieties I planted, based on the packaging I saved, being the first two to bloom.  Also, a  daylily I planted back in 2011 finally bloomed this year; I've lost all documentation of the variety's name, but it's a good looking one just the same.

'Early Bird'

NOID glad

NOID daylily

Glads, Cannas and Blue Salvia in the front yard

The nectarines are continuing to grow, so it looks like after 7 years, I'll finally get a harvest, although it looks like it'll only be 3-4 dozen, which isn't much considering the size of the tree.  The habeneros have made a full recovery from January's freeze and have set fruit as have the Mortgage Lifter and Large Red Cherry; the Aunt Ruby's German Green, Black Krim and Romas are blooming, but I haven't seen any fruit yet.


Red Habenero

Mortgage Lifter

Large Red Cherry

I've been harvesting seeds from the hollyhocks and now have well over 300 of the single red and 400 of the double red, both of which I've been packaging using the seed packet template I developed back in 2011.  I've noticed some homes in the neighborhood where they're growing colors I don't have and I'm thinking about offering to trade seeds and see if I get any takers.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Larry and Birthday Goodies

Two days of celebration, as yesterday was Cinco de Mayo and today is my birthday, and Larry kicked off the party in style.

For my birthday, I got a Mickey Mouse gnome from my daughter that she bought on her recent trip to Walt Disney World and a pair of Easter themed gnomes from my wife.  I also got myself a couple of California Pottery figurines from the 50's to add to my collection.

Mickey will stay in my office.

Unnamed figurine by S-Quire Ceramics

Summer Belle by Modglins of Los Angeles

I also found a listing on Craigslist for free aloe vera and snake plant that wasn't too far from home, so I went over, but by the time I got there all that was left was some snake plant that looked rather ragged.  I took some anyway, after all it was free, and potted it up when I got home.

Snake Plant, Sansavieria trifasciata

Lastly, at least one of the Climbing Pink Peace roses I bought was definitely mislabeled, as you can see from the photo.  This is the second year in a row I've bought a bareroot rose that was mislabeled, but the white may contrast even better than a pink would against the deep red of Climbing Don Juan.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

More April Blooms, A Field Trip and A May Day Update

After a five day onslaught of 100+ temps, it finally cooled down to a balmy 97 today, but relief is in sight, with a return to normal temps in the mid-80's to low 90's coming by the weekend.  During the heatwave, I was limited to the early morning hours if I wanted to work in the garden, and most of those hours were spent dealing with other family matters, so the gardenening got put off.  But gardens continue going about their business, with or without you as long as they get watered, at least in the short term, so here are some pictures of April blooms in my gardens.

Asian lilies blooming for the third straight year.

More Asian lilies; these are from the 99 Cents Only Store.

A volunteer sunflower.

This Climbing Pink Peace sure looks white.

On the 26th, I chaperoned a field trip my granddaughter Kathryn's class took to Pioneer Living History Village, an assemblage of buildings from throughout Arizona that date from the 1880's through statehood in 1912.  While there were numerous interesting buildings, I also took photos of some of the plants and wildlife.

A warning best heeded in Arizona's deserts.

They had a garden guarded by an entire family of scarecrows; here's Dad.

Here's Mom.

And here's Junior.  Think Larry might be related?

A shot of the garden.

An antique seeding implement.

Unidentified wildflower; it was everywhere.

Creosote, Larrea tridentata, flowers and seed pods.

A towering saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea.

Mesquite flowers; the natives ground the seeds into flour.  This is most likely Prosopis glandulosa. 

Buckhorn cholla flower.

Buckhorn cholla, Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa

Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia engelmannii, in bloom.

Hedgehog Cactus, Echinocereus engelmannii.

Western Whiptail Lizard, Aspidoscelis tigris.

California Patch, Chlosyne californica

Gambel's Quail, Callipepla gambelii, male

Pollinator inside a buckhorn cholla flower.

Lastly, here are some pictures of some of the other things happening at Dove Manor.

Organza bags I bought to cover seed pods to mke it easier to collect seeds.

One of the bags in use on a hollyhock seed pod. 

Last year's volunteer tomato finally set some fruit.

Grapes are getting bigger every day.

The daylily I planted in 2011 is getting ready to bloom for the 1st time.

The first gladiolus bloom stalk making an appearance.

The mason bees are busy doing their job.

The Red Lion amaryllis has two seed pods ripening.

The lemon grass I've been rooting got planted today.