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Even as I pulled up my last pitiful tomato and squash plants, I was rejoicing that my usual “fall” crops are already coming up beautifully. Already the broccoli, kale, collards, turnips, lettuce and arugula are gorgeous in this mild, wet end of summer. My figs, raspberries, eggplant and peppers are still producing well too. Perhaps this won’t go down as the summer of bugs and mildew after all!
The butterflies have been amazingly abundant, and perhaps just as interesting is what has attracted them. They have flocked to the native plants like purple Ironweed and Joe Pye.
Popular seconds were the Zinnias and Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’ with it’s loads of tiny sterile flowers. Of course if you have butterflies, caterpillars will follow. Here is a picture of the Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar devouring my parsley – and who cares?! They are beautiful too, eating voraciously for about a week before they pupate into butterfly larvae (and the parsley grows right back.)
Their destructive cousins have been a challenge however. I have sprayed BT (organic bacteria harmful only to worms) on cabbage worms dining on my cruciferous veggies. Then I noticed my lovely Chitalpa tree (a cross between our native Catalpa and a Desert Willow) being totally defoliated from Catalpa worms!
Really, these fat black and yellow caterpillars that transform into an unimpressive gray moth are only good for fishermen! As Jim headed out with my backpack sprayer of BT, he quickly returned with news. “Where is your camera? There is no need to spray – the parasitic wasps have all laid eggs! The worms are dead and the good guys are hatching.” Wow! Just like on the tomato horn worms. Isn’t Mother Nature amazing?!
My next gardening class will include a plant propagation workshop – There are many ways to grow your own new plants. For all of you wanna-be propagators, here is a helpful “How to” video on starting new plants from cuttings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyXSNzywqvw&list=PLBg4WiyC-oNAXG9_c4NSFAaxquKnCk1SB&index=5from Mike’s BackyardNursery.com.
Another great source of info on growing flowers from seed is The Gardener’s Workshop. Lisa Ziegler has excellent information about sowing seed in fall for spring flowers. Check out her blog: http://www.thegardenersworkshop.com/lisas-blog/gardeners-workshop-flower-farm-bloggersand newsletter: http://www.cooleremail.net/users/tgw/FirstMailingList_Aug$2013.html