Saturday, April 19, 2014

Black swallowtail larvae in my dill

Black swallowtail cats in my dill.

Why do the native black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on my exotic dill and parsley?

This butterfly species (Papilio polyxenes) always lays its eggs on members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) and there are any number of natives that they could use to feed their cats, such as water hemlock, cowbane, or blacksnakeroot. But maybe my dill just tastes better than those mostly poisonous relatives. Perhaps our native plants are smarter than dill and produce chemicals that moderate herbivore activity. After all, dill has been bred to taste good to the human palate.
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What to do with rogue onions?

A few of my onions have been blooming too early.
For some reason a number of our short-day onions have bloomed early this year. Once they bloom, it's time to pull them (unless you're collecting seed) because the energy stored in the bulb will be used up for the flowering.

In a normal onion crop the bulb is produced one year and then goes dormant when we harvest and dry it for storage. If it's not harvested, it will bloom the next season. The early blooming onions are not dormant and don't store well, so we needed to use them quickly. There is quite a bit of volume. While the bulb is relatively small, there are all those delicious leaves to use, too.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fixing a slumping problem

We carefully propped the cement blocks to keep the barrier cloth right
next to the cement wall.

Slumping fix

We live on a lake and have an oddly-shaped section of bulkhead between our boat-lift bay and the neighbor's cement bulkhead. The soil here has been eroding from under the bulkhead and from its edge next to the cement. We've filled it a few times in the 10 years we've been here, but soil keeps disappearing.

So this time, we got serious. We removed the 2 maple saplings, a bunch of invasive wild taro, the canna lilies that I'd planted a couple years ago (which I saved for replanting) and an assortment of other weeds. We can't allow the maples to grow here because they'd destroy the bulkhead. We dug down deep to remove all the roots. Much of the soil from the bottom was pure, slimy clay. We could have made some pretty pottery with its natural colors of tan, yellow, and orange, but we put it to better use...