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)

And speaking of caterpillar food...

I recently bought these 2 swamp milkweed plants (Asclepias perennis) at a native plant sale at Morningside Nature Park over in Gainesville.

The monarch butterflies are in danger and need more milkweed planted in our yards so their caterpillars will have something to eat. Their populations have plummeted for various reasons including commercial agricultural operations planting Round-Up-Ready crops so they can spray Round-up to kill weeds, not only their fields, but also the weedy margins where milkweed used to grow. So now it's up to us.

I have planted some over the years, but most have not lived for more than a couple of years. I do have some butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), which has hung on for 4 years or so, but it is not thriving. I hope these will be happy in my rain garden and maybe some monarchs will find them.

Dinner of fried rogue onions, a boca burger, and a tabbouleh on a
bed of oakleaf lettuce.

More rogue onions

The other night I fixed a mess of fried onions to accompany our boca burgers. I fried 3 whole rogue onions and one store-bought onion in olive oil until caramelized--very sweet! My husband had made some tabbouleh the night before and had used a rogue onion in that as well. I served the tabbouleh on a bed of oakleaf lettuce fresh from the garden.

We have the beginnings of some zebra zucchinis on two separate plants, so we'll have fun with those. I'll keep you informed, so keep reading!

Ooh, zebra zucchinis! Notice the marigolds growing on my squash mound? They are left over from my cover crop last summer. We'll see what happens with the nematode damage with all those marigolds.

A nice family at the gardenfest.

The gardenfest!

I had a great time at the gardenfest last weekend in St. Augustine. I talked to lots of wonderful people.  Thanks to everyone who stopped to talk.

I sold bunches of native garlic for $1 and probably sold 50 bunches. People who bought one of my books received the garlic as an extra bonus.

Sunrise at Spring Park on my way over to St. Augustine on Saturday morning.

The blood moon and Spica, the star in the lower right corner.

The Blood Moon!

I did get up at 3am on April 15th to witness the total eclipse of the moon. I was worried about the clouds, but they were thin and raced across the sky, so there were moments of a mostly clear sky. The star in the lower right-hand corner of the photo is Spica and it became visible only when the moon went dark. Mars was also obvious farther off the the right, but I did not include it in the photo.

I know I could have waited for the next day to see more professional shots of the moon than I could get with my point 'n shoot camera at full telephoto and no tripod.  But then I would have missed out on the barred owls hooting back and forth, the shooting star, the frog chorus from the front pond, the crickets songs, and the other natural night sounds.

A roadside ditch after a rain.
We were in the path of a big front that was predicted to deliver up to 5 inches of rain along with very high winds and a chance of a tornado. The high winds didn't come and we received only .67" of rain, but this was enough to coat the landscape with rainbow producing drops of water once this morning's sun came out.

Happy Spring, Easter, and Passover!

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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...