Sunday, June 10, 2018


June blooms with typical profusion... sort of. The poppies are rather scarce this year. Previous years' photos show the "flower" beds along the house rife with poppies. I scattered plenty of seed in late winter. But it was dry. And kept on being dry. Still is dry. And no portent for it being wet anytime soon.

Tomorrow night's forecast holds a 50 percent hope for thunderstorms and rain. It could happen. But it's going to take more than one storm to break the drought.

So I'm pulling the plug on the broccoli. More accurately, I'm pulling the hose. The soaker hose I've been using to keep the broccoli hydrated will get pulled tomorrow and placed somewhere else. At some point you've got to ask yourself -- Is it worth the effort to keep the broccoli (or whatever) going?

At this point I've got to say that the broccoli isn't earning its keep. While I'm thrilled with each head of flower buds I take off the broccoli plants, it's not enough to be worth the water to keep it going. So the broccoli will be the first casualty of the drought... anyway, the first intentional casualty.

I made the mistake of putting the eggplants in the garden right before going away for a long weekend. They would survive better in the ground than in the tiny starter pots they were in -- and my husband would have one less thing to water while I was gone. We even got a little rain the first night I was gone, but the heat that followed burned the little plants. I've tried saving them with water and kelp solution. But I think it's time to give up on them... most of them, anyway.

I had planned to transplant a number of things this summer, but that's going to have to wait. Everything I've transplanted so far has been fried by the heat. Maybe it's alive, but I doubt it will be for long. I might go ahead and dig up the thornless blackberries, but I will hold them in pots in a shady spot where I can keep them well watered until fall. I ordered a bareroot Montmorency cherry tree (I couldn't pass up the deal -- $9.99 for the tree and just eight bucks shipping. You can't get a tree for $18 any other time). It's in a large pot of soil waiting for fall. I hope we're seeing wetter weather by then.

Speaking of fall, I'm now wondering just how much of a fall garden to put in. Should I reduce the size because of the lack of rain? Or will it start raining by then? It will soon be time to start the cabbages. I need to decide.

And I'm still waiting for my sweet potato slips to arrive. I'm almost afraid to plant them. Won't they just burn up in the heat? I'll try wetting the planting sites good before sticking them in the ground, cross my fingers and pray for rain. That's all I can do except keep the garden hose going.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

All Aflutter

These stately common milkweed plants (Asclepius syriaca) have flowered wonderfully this year. If you've never gotten up close and personal with common milkweed in bloom, I recommend that you do so. The pale violet-pink blossoms have an exquisite fragrance.

Fortunately these milkweeds -- as well as another stand of them a few feet away -- are readily accessible for a random inhalation. We also have a great view of them from our screened in porch, where we eat most of our meals during the warm months. So we can be entertained by the flutterings of various butterflies taking sustenance from the blossoms.

Most of the butterflies I've seen at the milkweed blossoms have been these little pale, pale blue ones (below), and the majestic orange and black fritillaries. I'm not absolutely certain which fritillary this beauty is -- Kansas boasts five different fritillary species -- but it might be the Great Spangled Fritillary.

I have seen one Monarch
supping at the flowers. Just one. Even if I hadn't seen the one adult Monarch butterfly I would know that the milkweeds have been visited by at least one Monarch female. Otherwise, how would this little guy (see below) be chewing on the buds? I've also seen a few of these caterpillars crawling along looking for someplace to hang their green and gold chrysalises.

After I explained the Monarch's relationship with the milkweed, he began calling these "sacrificial" plants. Indeed, they are. I plant them for the caterpillars. But I get to enjoy them, as well. So far the caterpillars haven't done much damage to the plants, although a couple of much smaller ones have been defoliated and are just crooked stems.

This is one of the reasons for planting native plants, to feed the native critters, which recognize these plants as food, where they might not find some of the introduced plants palatable. And butterflies tend to lay their eggs on only one type of plant, although the adults can sip nectar from almost any nectar-producing blossom. In this case, Monarch caterpillars only feed on members of the milkweed genus -- although I recently read that they will use another plant in a pinch, but I forget which one.

The population of Monarch butterflies has decreased dramatically in part because we've stomped out milkweed populations. Besides feeding the Monarch babies, these beautiful prairie plants also sustain adults of other native butterflies and bees. Last month a cluster of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) was skeletonized by little spiny caterpillars, which I discovered were the larvae of the small, Silvery Checkerspot butterfly. Go ahead and plant zinnias for the adults to drink from, but plant some nursery plants, too.

The butterflies (and the birds and other critters they feed) will thank you.