Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beetle Daily

I've been watching these chrysanthemums for two weeks as they slowly unfurled into the flowers you see below. Inordinately early, these mums have me scratching my chin. August, maybe, but early July? 

Maybe double is the wrong terminology for this, so let me be clear: the bee balm stem leads up to the lower flower and then the stem continues through it, leading to yet another flower on top. Is that weird?

Nothing strange about these coneflower, but there they are, doing as well as can be. But it is unusual to have seen so few pollinating insects on them.

Or on the swamp milkweed, A. incarnata.

Or the butterfly weed, A. tuberosa.

Not even this creamy white mystery milkweed, A. mysteriosa, surrounded by the spreading, but also sparsely visited gooseneck loosestrife, Lysimachia clethroides.

Strike that. Yesterday I saw plenty of bumble bees, a few moths, and was even visited by a monarch.

The pom poms I ripped out from the south side of the house and used to frame the curving drive so that snow plows do not run straight over the lawn-ish front yard. A summer solution to a winter problem, these snowballs are simply massive this year. They do not turn blue or pink, a relief really. They fade to a pale pink and cream. Westward advancing Japanese beetles enjoy fornicating on these pillows, but so far have not delaminated any leaves.

The Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica. My grandmother used to give us a nickel for each beetle knocked off her roses into a cup of poison. Surprisingly, they are not yet as common in the mountain west and high plains as they are elsewhere, yet they are beginning to wreak havoc as they arrive. I hardly saw one over fifteen years of Big Woods summers, but this year there are many.

They were first observed on this year's potatoes, but again, they have not fed on the lamina (the fleshy part of the leaf). The potatoes appear quite well, have been mounded up with a yard or two of fresh compost-soil mix, and are surrounded by new, cedar raised structures. Harvesting will begin in a month or so.

This has been quite a year for sap-sucking. Two months ago I spotted whole garlic mustard plants, usually untouched, being drained by black or gray aphids. This particular arrangement, upside down with rear legs unattached is peculiar, but I've seen it before and twice this year.

Here, photographed at a client's garden, the same upside down arrangement, legs pointed out and upward.

The orange aphids love A. incarnata, swamp milkweed, that I planted along the sunny north edge of the clearing around the new studio.

Is it a hard year if they've sunken to sucking on my blue grama grass?

A closer look, not the aphid I was expecting: Russian wheat aphidDiuraphis noxia, an invasion of a different sort? Maybe, maybe not. Witch hunt. Sad.

In other news, our seeded cucumbers are producing and look quite healthy (no mildew). They are climbing up a cedar framed heavy duty fencing Betsy and I put together (it was her brilliant idea -it attaches to the raised bed).

The home garlic is forty percent harvested, and Hudson Clove garlic is now much further along with most varieties harvested. I'm teaching a two part garlic growing course at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this fall and spring. Sign up, fly in, do a little leaf peeping, and you're all set.

Wow. All the tomatoes are in. The only vegetable I got in on time was the potatoes in late April. The last bed of yellow, leggy tomato starts was planted on July 11th. Above, the first to get planted in late June or early July -I can't remember. We have three and a half, ten foot long, tomato beds filled with arboretum classroom freebie heirlooms and random, old seeds that happened to sprout. Black vernissage, chardonnay, cream sausage paste, San Marzano paste, stone ridge, black krim, brandywine, and forgotten others are the line up.

An early chardonnay, a large cherry type, is very tasty with a touch tough skins.

Likely a young vernissage, the stripes will remain dark green and the pale green will ripen red, giving the overall "black" color. 

Black beauty -one must remember to wait for the green to turn red.

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