Saturday, July 14, 2012

Taking Stock in Mid-July

In the midst of a heat wave and on the verge of a drought, it seems like a good time to take stock of life in our yard - the birds and mammals, the good and the bad insects, vegetables, the fruits, flowers and herbs.

The drip irrigation in the main vegetable garden is keeping the crops watered, healthy, and producing. The sugar snap peas are fading a bit as they always do this time of year; peas don't like the heat. Yet I'm still harvesting plump, sweet pods daily, although with 90 degree days forecast for the coming week, their days are numbered. The chard and kale are lush and ready for any meal, they never fade. This morning I harvested our first tomatoes: two luscious sun gold tomatoes.
The robin is nesting for the third time, after two successfully fledged nests. She returned to the same nest under the deck. Robins are doing well. Two of my favorite bird visitors to our yard this year are a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds and a pair of kingbirds. The hummingbird nest somewhere nearby every year. Someday I hope to see their thimble-sized nest. Mostly we see the female as she visits the red beebalm quickly slipping her slender bill into each flower. The pair of kingbirds is likely nesting at the edge of the wetland and visits our front yard in search of insects. They perch at the top of the pole bean poles, their dark gray back and black head contrasting nicely with their white breast and white-tipped tail. I enjoy their raspy, sputtering song.

Our six blueberry bushes produce a handful of nearly ripe berries each day, enough to accompany our morning bowl of granola. We pick them with a slight blush of pink, before the birds pick off the ripe berries. The peach trees are loaded, the chipmunks are leaving them alone now. There are still plenty of chipmunks in the yard and beyond. Chipmunks are doing well.

The Japanese beetle population is as high as ever. I've collected hundreds already this season, scooping them into a yogurt container of soapy water. They seem to have three favorite plants in our yard: American hazel, blueberry bushes, and evening primrose. The hazel is their favorite. The best time to collect them is in the morning, when they are a bit sluggish. The Japanese beetles are doing too well.
Fortunately garden pests so far are few. I've detected no tomato hornworms, potato beetles, cucumber beetles, and other pesky pests, for now. One has to be ever vigilant. I'm more worried about the dearth of bees, butterflies, dragonflies, and other native insects. The bumblebees were out in force a month or so ago, but have since disappeared. Dragonfly and butterfly numbers seem to be down. My friend Scott in Strafford is seeing similar trends.

My friend Joanne at the Yellow Dog's Barn asked me this week about crickets. She hasn't heard them chirping for several years now. That got me thinking the same. We usually get at least one black cricket in our basement, but probably not for several years. I've been checking around about crickets, but haven't heard about any population crashes. Scott said that the ground crickets emerged in May/June then disappeared with the heat. Srini says the deer flies are really bad this year. For some reason they don't bother me as much as mosquitos. Both are bothersome and doing well.

In general, the yard is looking good, except for the patch of grass over the septic tank which always dies about now. The effort to keep it green is not worth the effort or the water. I save that for the vegetables, which we can eat, and the flowers, which bring in the hummingbirds and bees and butterflies. The bee balm, shasta daisy, coreopsis, coneflowers, and yarrow are in full bloom.

I look forward to hearing from others about what is happening in your yard.


  1. Twelve hours of a slow steady rain! Tbat is what is happening in our garden and there couldn't be a more welcome sight! Hopefully it will head your way. We really needed the rain here, though nowhere near as much as people in the midwest I think.

    In spite of spending a lot of time and money building eight new raised beds this year I've been slow in getting our transplants into the ground and growing anything from seed. So we still have had no peppers or tomatoes. Our beautiful beds are not as ful

    Something wiped out our chard overnight. I've never seen that before. Our many lettuces are about to go to seed but we're managing to keep up with them. I still have some basil seedlings waiting to go into ground. The first ones died of overwatering and these are still too spindly to safely go in. Soon though. they should still give us basil in August and September.

    Our favorite pole beans, Fortex from Johnny's, are behind schedule but looking good. Normally they're over the 6' bamboo trellis by now but so far they've barely reached 4'. Still we know they'll be great once they arrive, and will produce for a very long time.

    Hope I haven't gone on for too long Ellen in my report from here.

    It's interesting to hear that your robins are nesting for third time. We happened upon one on nest two days ago on a walk and that got me thinking about how many times they nest. Now I have a better idea. Here the heat has made our monarda bloom early I think. We did have some hummingbirds but haven't seen any recently, perhaps due to lack of monarda blooms. I was surprised to see one feeding on an escaped hosta as I walked along the Wissahickon the other day. I've never seen them on our own hosta blooms.

    It's always great to hear about the season's progress in your neck of the woods and I appreciate the chance to let you know what's going on here.

    P.S. Our kale too is looking good. We'll enjoy it most in fall.

  2. Hi Ken,

    I sure hope that rain comes here. My least favorite gardening task is to water. I love the drip irrigation though! It's the annuals and now the perennial flowers that are thirsty.

    After a deer mowed some chard and nibbled a few tomatoes I had to add another string along the top of my fence. My Fortex pole beans went in late and are only 6" tall. This is my first try with them, usually I only do bush beans. Both are growing a little slow, as are the peppers. Tomatoes are lush and loaded but just starting to ripen. I wish I could send some basil your way. Zucchinis and cukes starting to overwhelm already!

    I'll let you know if the rain arrives.


  3. I just had to pull my lettuce due to bolting. I didn't know kale could grow well in the summer so may have to order some earlier than planned as I was going to plant that late summer into fall for fall harvesting.

  4. Hi Kim,

    Yes, my kale is doing quite well along with the Swiss chard. I did plant a second batch for fall harvest, but the first planting is doing well too. I'll probably end up with too much kale!


    1. Ellen, my chickens and rabbits will gladly put your extra kale to good use :)

  5. Hi JoAnne,

    I'll save the extras for the hens and bunnies!