Friday, November 18, 2016

Spiders in the marigolds & a new bed

I've been entranced by a wicked-looking spider! 

I first noticed this green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) out in my marigold cover crop on September 10th when she'd bent the marigold leaves together with her silk. I left this section of marigolds in place and built wide rows on either side for our fall crops.
I first noticed this spider on 09/10/16 out in the marigolds as she seemed to have created a cocoon with marigold leaves. Look at how much fatter she is on 09/27/16,
as she sucks the juices from her yellow jacket prey.

The green lynx adventure in the marigolds continued when she built an egg case and protected it from October 1 until November 1 when the eggs hatched.
On 10/01/16 she created an egg mass under a marigold flower. On 11/03/16, 2 days after the babies emerged,
they'd already shed their first skins. 

Pollinators like the marigolds, some came too close and became food for the spider mom and her babies, others like this large black wasp did not.
Pollinators are attracted to the marigolds. This black wasp is almost twice as big as our spider mom and even though it was entangled in her web, it got away on 11/01/16.On 11/17/16, spider mom hung upside down to reveal her heart shaped  belly.
This wasp is probably a scarib hunter wasp (Campsomeris quadrimaculata) which uses grubs to feed its young. When it finds a grub, it stings it, buries it and lays and egg on it. As an adult it feeds on nectar.

Fall & winter is the busiest time in Florida's edible gardens

As enchanting as our spider mom was, I really needed that space for our cool-weather crops. I compromised and left the south end of the marigolds where she's been all these months in place, but added 2 short wide rows on the other half and transplanted my parsley crop there. I'll add a couple of loads of kitchen scraps in between. I do most of my trench composting during the cool-weather growing season. 
I'd left a whole section of marigolds alone just so I could observe the spider. I did create 2 short rows in half the space and planted  it with parsley. 

I'd been meaning to add more capacity to our vegetable growing area, so losing part of a bed to the spider, no matter how enchanting, was a signal to get off my butt and get it done. Our bench was only used for staging stuff into or out of the garden since it's normally in sun all day. Of course at this time of year with the sun so low in the sky, there are shadows now from the trees, but most of the year, it's too darn hot. So I built the new bed in the bench spot. I'm deciding where the bench should go, so more on that later.

Our teak bench had been sitting next to the elevated rain barrels. 

After clearing out the weeds, the first layer is wood chips.
 We scored a big load of wood chips back in mid September, which was a mixture of leaves and wood and chopped quite finely. It's already begun to decompose, but that's fine for this use. I dumped a 6-inch layer to the shape of the bed I wanted: it's about 4-feet by 3-feet.

The next layer is leaves that had been sitting in a pile for more than a month.
 We had gathered a big pile of leaves after Hurricane Matthew, so a 6-inch layer was added on top of the chips.

Next layer is compost and soil mixed together. Lots of worms came with this layer.
 I'd built a big compost pile after we received the pile of chips. I scraped 4 inches of the mostly decomposed, 2-year old wood chip mulch from the path in our vegetable garden. It was 3 cart loads of mostly finished compost. I laid it out in layers with freshly pulled weeds (without flowers or seeds) and some water hyacinth from the lake out back. It would be ready for use in only a few weeks since the chips were so decayed. I laid in new wood chips in the path.

I'd been using this compost as I prepared each part of the vegetable beds for planting, but still had a good supply. I mixed the compost 3 to 1 with garden soil and laid in a 6-inch layer on top of the leaves. There were many worms in this load which will help prepare the bed for planting. I topped the bed with a 4-inch layer of freshly raked leaves. And I watered it with 3 gallons of rain barrel water.

The bed is finally topped with freshly raked leaves.
I'll probably plant this bed toward the end of January, meantime I'll keep it moist. When I create the wide rows for planting, I'll add our kitchen scraps between the rows. It has been very dry with no rain since Matthew came through at the beginning of October. Only 2 out of our 6 rain barrels have any water at this point and they are running low.

I'll continue the vigil in the marigolds as the weather gets colder and I'll leave all those woody marigold stems in place so some of the babies will have enough cover to survive. I'll keep an eye out for them in the spring. I hope you are enjoying your fall gardening and maybe even taking some time out to enjoy our wonderful state parks. Support your parks by using them and donating money and/or time.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt


  1. Ginny,
    I am definitely sharing this on the Ixia FB pag. I love how you combined ecology, permaculture, slow food, animal rights, healthful eating - all the subjects I am passionate about. Thank you for taking the time to document and share the Ms. Spider and her offspring drama. Spiders are my favorite!!!

    1. Hi Bonnie. Go ahead and share my spider mom story. Thanks for all you do to pull our chapter newsletter together.