The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

September 25, 2014

Monarch butterfly tags

Filed under: Insects — bob @ 2:36 pm

Monarch butterflies are on the move heading south on their annual migration. Look closely next time you spot a Monarch and you might see a flash of white against the orange and black pattern of their wings, it very well could be a marked butterfly.

We spotted one last week near Ann Arbor. It was flying and feeding on flowers in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

I mentioned in a previous blog how the Monarch population has dwindled. Several groups, professional and amateur alike, are studying Monarchs trying to learn more about their behavior during migration. The butterfly we found was tagged by someone working with a group called Monarch Watch, a conservation education and research organization.

Each ultra-light weight polypropylene wing tag has an identification number and an email address printed on it to report your find.

I’m hoping that we found “our” butterfly after it flew and long and arduous journey from somewhere far away. But it could just as well have been tagged and released that day by someone nearby.

Tags are placed in a specific spot on the butterfly wing to minimize flight interference.

Tags are placed in a specific spot on the butterfly wing to minimize flight interference.

All tagging information is placed in a data base. Monarch Watch contacts both the tagger and the person finding the butterfly with the location of where it was tagged and found and, how far it traveled.

Most of the tagged butterflies in the United States and Canada are found dead. Ours however looked to be a strong flyer.

Reporting tagged butterflies helps researchers learn how Monarchs move across north america to their wintering places in Mexico.

Bob

 

 

September 9, 2014

Plant for winter harvest

Filed under: Vegetables — bob @ 8:27 pm

One major task in my garden this week was planting seeds for a winter crop of produce.

I have a small, unheated greenhouse — sometimes called a high tunnel — that I built last year out of salvaged parts. That’s where I sowed my seeds. In our climate, most winters are too harsh for winter crops to survive without some kind of protection.

In years past I’ve harvested winter produce from simple homemade cold frames made from window sash, low plastic covered tunnels and other kinds of structures. The secrete is to make sure the structure gets adequate sunlight and that it is air tight to keep frigid winter drafts from freezing the plants.

I was able to plant the entire floor area of my greenhouse with spinach, winter onions, radishes, beets and a couple of different types of lettuce — all cool weather vegetables. The seeds were left over from my spring crop.

 

Part of the greenhouse planting

Part of the greenhouse planting

I’ve tried setting out transplants late in the season, they just don’t seem to be as hardy as plants grown from seed in place.

When the really cold weather hits, those plants will hardly grow at all, even when protected inside a structure. By sowing seeds now, the plants will have plenty of time to get to a usable size before they go into hibernation. Once they are established they will become accustomed to the falling temperatures and will be more likely to survive.

Time is running short for those who want to try growing produce for winter harvest.

Bob

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 28, 2014

Heirloom apple tree 14 year odyssey

Filed under: Fruit — bob @ 3:11 pm

Fourteen years ago I planted a ‘Lord’s Seedling’ apple tree, an heirloom variety. It transplanted well and made really great growth the first three years.

Then during the winter of the fourth year, disaster struck. Under the snow, near the base of the tree, mice chewed the bark all of the way around the trunk, girdling it.

That spring the tree leafed out normally. Somehow, it stayed green the entire season. It didn’t make any growth of course because the connection  between the roots and the top was severed.

I could have tried to repair the damage by grafting but I was very busy that spring and never got to it. I decided to just write it off.

The next spring, a few shoots sprang up from what was left of the roots. Most of the shoots were from the root-stock, the part of the tree on to which the Lord’s Seedling was grafted on to at the nursery. Those shoots would never produce a Lord’s Seedling apple because they have a different genetic background.

Looking closer, I noticed one tiny bud looked like it may have been above the point where the tree was grafted. That meant it could have been a Lord’s Seedling bud.

I removed all of the shoots from the rootstock except that one bud. I nursed that bud and later it grew into a vigorous shoot.

During the following years, that bud became a tree. I still had no idea if it was a Lord’s Seedling tree or just a tree grown from the rootstock.

Russeting is considered a defect in the commercial apple world. On Lord's Seedling apple  the gorgeous golden-brown russet is a part of it's normal appearance.

Russeting is considered a defect in the commercial apple world. On Lord’s Seedling apple the gorgeous golden-brown russet is a part of it’s normal appearance.

This year, the tree grew a full crop of apples and I was finally able to see what variety it really is. Low and behold, turns out it is a Lord’s Seedling tree after all.

I took an educated gamble on the tree and it took until now to finally pay off.

Bob

August 14, 2014

Time to let heirloom beans make seeds

Filed under: Seeds,Vegetables — bob @ 2:42 pm

Earlier in the season I mentioned that we were growing a few heirloom bean varieties.

The results are in. It turns out that the differences between varieties were pretty dramatic. ‘Chabarowsky’ beans out-performed all the rest of the varieties by a wide margin.

The seeds germinated and grew vigorously in the dry sandy soil in that part of the garden.

Chabarowsky has a climbing habit which makes it a pole bean type. I grew ours on a length of farm fencing so they were very easy to pick.

The beans themselves, when I picked them at the optimum time for green beans had no strings in the pods. They were simple to prepare for cooking. The rest of the varieties all needed to be “stringed” first. To be fair though, all of these varieties are grown primarily for dry beans, so picking them for green beans was not the best use for them.

On the other hand Chabarowsky beans have an excellent taste when cooked green.

I’ve picked quite a few green beans from the vines, now it’s time to let them grow and mature into dry beans. It takes about six weeks from the time the beans are in the edible stage until they will be mature enough to harvest for seed or dry beans.

Chabarowsky bean pods can grow to a foot or more.

Chabarowsky bean pods can grow to a foot or more.

Chabarowsky will eventually produce white beans that look kind of like over-sized navy beans. Even though the vines are loaded with pods, there’s no way they will produce enough to make more than one batch of bean soup. Most of the beans will be used for seed. I’ll save some for planting next year and share the rest. I am curious however, how the dry beans taste.

Even though the Chabarowsky variety did well in my garden with its sand and low pH, it may not perform well in someone else’s garden. That’s why there were so many different seeds saved and passed down by generations of gardeners. The best performers in specific locations eventually became heirloom varieties.

Bob

August 6, 2014

Keep an eye out for apple maggot fly

Filed under: Insects — bob @ 10:58 am

I’ve seen noticeably fewer insects in my garden this year. It’s probably due to the relatively cool temperatures we’ve been having this summer, especially at night.

While looking at my apple trees this week I noticed some funny little insects flitting around the leaves and fruit — they were apple maggot flies. It is the larval stage of this fly that causes brown streaks inside infested apples.

Apple maggot flies have a distinct pattern on their wings. You may not recognize it as a fly at first glance.

Apple maggot flies have a distinct pattern on their wings. You may not recognize it as a fly at first glance.

Normally, the early varieties are the ones that really get hammered by apple maggots. However this year, my early apples were free of those pests. My guess is that the flies took a little longer than usual to develop and were not around around in sufficient numbers to cause any noticeable damage.

Now that I’ve picked all of my very early summer apples, the maggots have moved over to the other later varieties that have apples still developing. The adult flies are looking for apples on which to lay eggs. The eggs will hatch into those pesky maggots that ruin so many apples.

The storm front moved through yesterday and the rain has ended. That gave me a chance to spray my trees this morning to knock back those apple maggot flies. I like to spray early in the morning when the air is calm and spray material is not being blown back in my face by wind.

There are other ways of controlling apple maggot flies that take more time such as trapping adult flies, or wrapping each individual apple to protect it from egg laying flies.

I suggest you spend some quiet time with your trees soon and look for apple maggot flies. If you find them, use your control method of choice. Your trees will reward you with pest free apples.

Bob

 

 

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