Should have caught this earlier

My Meyer Lemon tree was having a good summer on the deck.  It liked our extra heat and put out a lot of new leaves.  I bring it inside for the winter where it usually sulks and loses leaves but it does usually blossom a few times and I love the smell.  One of the sweetest smells there is.

Sooty Mold on citrus
Sooty Mold on citrus

Other citrus trees that have gotten this treatment have had scale once I bought them indoors that I would have to fight. The last one gave up and died.  But they’d never had scale outside and I blithely believed that with my healthy, bug-friendly back yard, they never would.  They have a lot of predators to keep their numbers down.  I saw the black spots, and went hmmm, will have to wash that off and procrastinated.  Then I saw the ants; lots of them.  Took a closer look and recognized my old citrus enemy, scale.


Did some reading; the sooty mold and the ants should have told me right away what the problem was.  They are both an indirect result of the sugary substance that the scale secrets.  It drips on the leaves and feeds the mold and the ants love it.  The ants may even have helped deter predators as part of their symbiotic relationship with the scales.

So first, my sources said, get rid of the ants.  Before these pictures were taken, I sprinkled diatomaceous earth around the stem of the plant.  It may have reduced the numbers but there were still some pretty happy ants a few days later.  After losing the last plant, I’d determined to use a horticultural oil before bringing the plants indoors for the winter so, after some research, I decided to try Bonide’s All Season’s Horticultural Oil, now.  The temperature range should be good for the next few, dry days.  Too warm or too cold and it may not work or worse, further damage the plant.  And it will wash off in rain.

I also pruned the plant and took out everything beyond the bad infestation in the picture, branches that were crossed or that had no leaves.  The baby scale is so small that it may take multiple treatments to eliminate the population, if that’s even possible.  The horticultural oil that I chose can be used on houseplants so I will be vigilant.  I’d also planned to try the LED lights with some larger plants this year, just not sure about introducing a plant with pest problems into the environment where I grow things from seeds.


Beetle ID?

Beetle eating my beans
Beetle eating my beans

This and its friends are eating my beans.  Do you know what it is?  It has a black sheild like bean leaf beetles but I couldn’t find any pictures with this much black elswhere on them.

My biggest concern is whether it will damage the beans that I’m saving for seeds, like the bean that it’s on.  And whether the damage will be obvious enough that I can discard them.

Swamp Thang and the Mrs


Swamp Thang
Swamp Thang

On Thursday, I flushed a huge frog out of the Swiss Chard when I was watering. My guess from his size is that it would be a Bull Frog.  I do live near wetlands but seeing a frog this far away from water is rare.  Toads used to be common but not frogs. Worried about him,  I moved a container of water that I keep, hoping that if the chipmunks are thirsty they will drink water instead of eat on a tomato — don’t ask how that’s working, and topped it off from the hose.

On Friday, when I went out to try to water the chard, again, I heard a splash coming from the vicinity of the waterbowl.  Expecting to see Swamp Thang, I looked around for the source and found this sweet young thing, about a third of his size.  I also saw some black threads wiggling around in the water and got excited about the possibility of tadpoles.  But the timing worried me; how long to go from eggs to tadpoles?

The Mrs
The Mrs

I googled a bit and was becoming more and more convinced that they probably weren’t tadpoles, but mosquito larvae.  But that night after work she was suspended in the water, nose and eyes sticking out, along with a number of the small black things.  Would she really hang about with mosquito larvae?  But the next morning, I didn’t like the way she looked, now resting at the bottom of the container in water that was now pretty yucky.  She had turned a dark black, too.  I tipped her out to see if she was living and decided to clean out the bowl.  By the time I went to work she was back in the clean water and had returned to a more normal froggy color.

So now I have a frog living in my garden bed in less than three cups of water.  Finally watering the Swiss Chard, I also flushed out a toad, who seems to be hanging about, so I put down a couple more containers of water that I’m cleaning and filling with the hose when I water the garden.

I think what has happened is that our warm and dry summer has dried out the vernal pools nearby and these wetlands creatures are under preassure to find water.

My little soldier


It works, it really works!  This little guy single handedly defended my garden from the neighborhood deer.  Last year the woods side of my garden took a lot of damage.  This year, when they ate all of my Yogoslavian Red lettuce, just as it was about to form it’s tender, beautiful, small heads, I asked my gardening friends for advice.  We went over many of the things that don’t work too well and I was actually thinking about spending hundreds of dollars for fencing, when one of my garden friends mentioned she’d had success with a motion activated water system, marketed as the Scarecrow.  When it senses something moving in its “line of sight” it sends out a strong jet of water.  The sensitivity and the range of water movement can be controlled.  Mine is made by Contec but I noticed Haveaheart also had their version.  They aren’t too expensive but you probably want to add a dedicated hose and a splitter if you can’t dedicate a water outlet to it. 

Some friends found evidence that deer would lose their fear over time.  So as soon as the summer garden was winding down, I turned it off.  However, it seems the deer haven’t checked back recently as nothing has been eaten.  It may be in neighborhoods like mine where there are few deer, it’s a permanent deterrent.

Now if I could find something just as effective for chipmunks.  In my tightly packed garden, they quickly learned how to stay out of the Scarecrow’s sight.  I ordered Coyote Urine crystals from the same source and only succeeded in ruining my garden shoes.  Stinky!

In the ‘Hood

Paper wasp nest

This has probably been hanging over my head as I walked for most of the summer.  One of the other walking ladies in the neighborhood told me where to look for it, high over the street.  What a work of architecture!  And from what I read, a very temporary home.  All of the workers will soon come to an end and the pregnant females will find a more sheltered place to over winter.  The type of wasp that makes these large nests is not agressive like yellow jackets or hornets. 

And wasps are good for gardens.  A large part of their diet is caterpillars, also flies and beetle larve.

This second, somewhat ordinary shot says “home” to me.  Ahhhh; home.


Harvest begins

My summer food garden is moving quickly into full production.  I’m picking a handful of green beans every morning (which really adds up), the cherry tomatoes have been giving me sugar for weeks and I picked the first of my large tomatoes today:  a small Brandywine, a damaged Virginia Sweets and a good looking Black Krim.  Although all have turned color, they will benefit from a day or two on the counter.  The chipmunk(s) got the first of my crop.  They seem to have a sixth sense for when a tomato is going to turn color and eat it before I can.

I was feeling a little sorry for myself until I stopped at a nearby farm stand and saw the Heirlooms priced at almost $5 a pound.  I’m rich!  Also asking the age-old question, how do you know when a green tomato is ripe??  (A:  When the chipmunks eat it.)

One small head of Piracicaba, can more be far behind?  I’ve eaten a couple of Zephyr summer squash; this variety keesps me from having to choose betwen growing yellow ones or green ones, and both the small yellow cukes and Sweet Success main crop cucumbers will be ready to pick within days.  Everything has grown into a solid mass of green and I have to tiptoe between the beds to pick.  My meal plans focus on, how can I use…?[oqeygallery id=16]

He’s fat enough already

I’d seen this mother/child drama before I went to work on Friday but baby was just passively hanging on the support for the suet feeder.  While I was at work he’s learned how to get his own suet but mama is still doing most of the work. This morning a family of nuthatches was getting the same lesson.   [wpvideo HHTfbZXj]

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