Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Garden Season in Review.

Dec. 9, 2009 First storm
July 6, 2009

So obviously sometime in July the summer stepped up and I was busy either gardening or traveling to and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Managed to get in an incredibly hike along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I had grand plans to better document my travels and progress/regression in the garden more for myself than anything. But I failed miserably. At least I can say I was out engaging with my world as opposed to my computer.

My garden gets a C+/B- in 2009r. I was one of the unfortunate many who was blessed with blight this year and thus my tomatoes which had a good running start and some early nice fruits, quickly hit the brick wall on production and quality. Had I not had the tomato disappointment my garden would have solidly landed an A/B grade.

The disappointment with the tomatoes was definitely offset some buy the raspberries which grew and produced like gangbusters in their second year in my garden.  My 6 year old niece even deemed my raspberries the highlight of her trip to the Midwest this past summer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Quick Note

I'm up to five butterfly species in my garden in the past month. Most obviously they like the native Butterfly weed but also various other plants. Echinacea appears to be another favorite. Now if I can get more photos.

So far the Japanese Beetle Trap is working fabulously. A few remain on the foliage but by and large I have trapped the bulk of my yard's population with about 100-125 currently in the trap. Yeah!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Luce and Chippewa Counties, Michigan,June-July 2009

Just wanted to post some photos from my recent trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. These photos were taken along Lake Superior at Jinny Palms preserve and Vermillion Light Station in Chippewa County as well areas in Luce County along the "Big Lake", the Two Hearted River and Pike Lake.

Grand Sable Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Lake Superiors Artistry in the sand...

Mouth of the Two Hearted River on a gray dreary day...

Tall Buttercup growing along the Two Hearted River Bank

Jinny Palms Preserve plant life......
Common Wood Sorrel and Wild Lily-of-the-valley

Blue Flag Iris at Vermillion Light Station

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird finds a fitting perch on the Great Blue Heron weather vane

Monday, July 13, 2009

Japanese Beetles

Well this year appears to be the year of the Japanese Beetle for me. After coming home from vacation following July 4, the garden was flourishing with lush vegetation.

Now in the span of one week my beautiful edamame soybean plants are decimated with holes all over the leaves. They are verging on a skeletal appearance, all because of those darn beetles. So tonight, I hung a trap with reservations about potentially attracting more of these Asian nuisances to the yard. However, I can't really imagine how my one little yard can support many more of these buggers. I also took great pleasure in manually removing 16 beetles from the soybean crop and givin em the old swirly in my toilet.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Insects busily enjoying the fruits of my labor

Lots of bug happenings in the garden in the past week. This year I'm trying to do a better job photo documenting some of the insects visiting my plants. Here is a collection from the past few days two days....

Scudderia sp. katydid nymph out for an early eve frolic among the day lilies.

Halictadae Bees have been busy gathering pollen.

This Spring Azure butterfly was busily probing the Rudebekia.

I found this weevil orgy tucked away in my hollyhocks.

Evil Japanese Beetles are starting to decimate the leaves of several fruit and vegetable crops. I'm going to try a trap although I've now read it may actually attract more of the beetles. Arghhhh!

And finally a few other wasp/bee species yet to be grossly identified.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On the Quest for Orchids and Other Adventures in Door County, Wi

This past weekend I visited Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor, WI. I had attended a talk in February on Ridges at the Wisconsin Public TV Garden Expo and was intrigued to visit this unique wonder. Ridges is an interesting little piece of boreal forest and bogs occurring in a surrounding habitat not known for being of the boreal variety. One would expect this sort of habitat to occur farther north. However, the layering elevation of the topography comprised of a series of ridges created by Lake Michigan over several hundred years, has created this uncharacteristic gem in Door County. Not only does it host approximately 25 species of native orchids, it also affords an interesting bird diversity including breeding habitat for more typically northern occurring warblers.

Of the 25 orchid species we were able to see five species blooming this trip, the Ram's Head, Pink and Yellow Lady's Slipper and the Early and Striped Coralroot. In addition to the orchids blooming in the sanctuary, many more Yellow Lady's Slippers were also seen along Moonlight Bay on Ridges Road as well as at Jens Jensen's The Clearing in Ellison Bay.

Beside orchids, Ridges is teaming with a wide variety of ferns, lichens and wildflowers. The threatened Dwarf Lake Iris vigorously grows across the Ridges forest floor during the spring/early summer and was currently in bloom this visit. Nearer to the beach, in the lower lying ridges the remnants of blooming Artic Primrose were visible and Indian Paintbrush was coming into bloom.

On the bird front, we were treated to typical boreal and northern warbler species to include singing Canada, Blackburnian and Nashville warblers among various other typical warbler species. All in all we had 77 bird species for birding efforts which included visits to bird haunts in and around Baileys Harbor as well as Whitefish Dunes State Park and Cave Point County Park.

Areas around Baileys Harbor produced the following highlights: Grasshopper Sparrow, Black-Crowned Night Herons, Black-billed Cuckoos and two Red-necked Grebes on the lakefront. At Cave Point highlights included the awesome blue water along the rocky shore as well as three singing Mourning Warblers and lots of warbler activity along the drive into Cave Point County which included numerous Chestnut Sided Warblers, American Redstarts, Black and White Warblers.

All in all the trip was excellent. My only disappointment was being alluded by the rare Calypso Orchid despite three days of searching. None the less, beauty surrounded me and we met some interesting folk, all who were nature enthusiasts and/or birders, photographers and orchid lovers. Each provided rich little nuggets of wisdom and perspective to enhance our overall experience. Door County is definitely better to be enjoyed in the forests and on the water as opposed to in the clutches of the pervasive over-shadowing commercialism that also abounds in this magnificent place. Well I'm off to garden...Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Natures cruel joke

We are past SE Wisconsin's last frost date of May 15th. What is going on this year?

Friday, May 22, 2009

No time

My garden is taking off and behind with planting. So much to do and little time to report. Been taking lots of pictures this spring birds, native plants and progress in the backyard garden. Once I get a "leg up" with getting the rest of my plants in I plan to organize my photos and post more details. Hope everyone else is having a fantastic spring, getting outdoors more and computing less.

We just returned from a six day trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula and once again this spring were rewarded with awesome looks at some of the lesser seen warblers. Our faves were the male Canada Warbler at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory and the 'warbler wave' seen on Mission Hill in Brimley which delighted us with up-close, eye-level views of Bay Breasted and Cape May Warblers again and again and again. Then the whole trip was topped off by a wolf sighting during the day. The size and height of this animal was pure wolf (not a wimpy coyote). As we approached in our vehicle the wolf scurried into the woods, briefly stopping in the woods within 25-30 feet to peer into our souls. Then mystically, within a blink of the eye, the great creature was gone. SO COOL!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bad Squirrel!

Well this weekend I caught the squirrel in the act of leaping over my fence into the strawberry patch. Just as he was ready to do his dirty work of digging up the plants only to leave them waste and die, not even to make a meal of the tasty roots and greens, I quickly cranked open the window and yelled, "Hey! Get out of there! Bad squirrel." And voila the squirrel listened and ran. For two days now he has been on good behavior. I hope it lasts. After all we have been totally feeding him and his family with the safflower seed they indulge in daily, the food which provided them the lush furry coats they had this winter. How about some gratitude. I guess a little conversation or bit of scolding CAN work some temporary magic with the wee non-human creatures.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Vegetable Seedlings Emerge!

Friday we finally got some 80 degree weather here in the Midwest. With the warmer temps, I am finally seeing my greens emerging (spinach, arugula, various lettuce and green varieties) and radishes.

The raised cedar beds are nearly complete. Just a few screws to secure my fence posts. I am finding it necessary to fence my beds as our yard has become a refuge for the squirrels and rabbits, of which both are Nazis when it comes to my flowers and vegetables. For the 2nd time this spring, despite my fencing around the strawberries, squirrel bastard dug up several strawberry plants, leaving them to dry and perish on top of the soil. He also ransacked my bareroot Bellwort planting, taking one small nibble and again leaving the roots to lie and perish. Fortunately I caught the travesty early enough and rescued the plant by soaking the roots which effectively revived the bareroot. I feel like I am on constant patrol.

It appears this year, my large flourishing Virginia Bluebells are not going to return. I fear I may have dug them up when I transplanted a junk perennial later in the season last year. I have a few smaller plants in other locations around the yard, but this plant was spectactular and well-established. Boo hoo.

Today a cold front moved in with thunderstorms dropping the temp from 85 degrees yesterday to late afternoon low today of 45 degrees. Despite the rain and cold outside I managed to get some broccoli raab, snow and sugar snap peas and more scallions planted. I also replenished the strawberry bed with additional bareroot plantings where the squirrel did his mischief. Tomorrow more fencing before the peas quickly emerge and the critters get to them. I am still puzzling as to how to keep the squirrels and chipmunks out of my vegetables. The rabbit proof fence isn't doing the trick (on a side note the movie Rabbit Proof Fence is highly recommended).

Well that's all for now on the garden front. Posts of garden photos to follow when I get better organized.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring activities in the garden and along the Mississippi

Lots has been going on. As always I'm either busy birding or gardening this time of year. Therefore I find little time to talk about what's happening. On the garden front, my seedlings for the first time ever, have aphids this year. I have sprayed several times with Safer insecticidal soap which I believe may have slightly damaged some of the seedlings. Kind of a bummer. My fault though. The aphids came in with house plants I had outside in pots over the summer and did not effectively spray when I brought them in this fall. Those little buggers were just waiting for the opportunity to explode in population and my seedlings provided the stimulus.

Despite the cold spring, I have started moving some of the seedlings outdoors into my greenhouse. I decided this year to cover the green house with 70% shade cloth to prevent the burning that occurs with hardening off my plants. So far so good. It's been too cold (30s and 40s) to keep the young tomatoes out in the green house. Those came in again this weekend.

This year I have been working on new cedar raised beds. Construction is almost complete. We spent Saturday in the rain trying to finish that project. I am also devising a better fencing system around the beds to keep the squirrels and rabbits out of the garden. As it is, the squirrel dug up most of the strawberry plants I planted within a day or so of planting. I have not done well with strawberries since moving here three years ago. Therefore I decided to dig up the old plants and start new. Time will tell.

On the native plant front, I spent Saturday birding along the Upper Mississippi and observing the spring plants that were blooming. Hepatica is blooming both in my garden and along the Mississippi in Grant County, WI. At Nelson Dewey State Park I saw the usual Pasque Flower, Hoary Puccoon and Bird's Foot Violet on the prairie trail. At Wyalusing State Park and along the Mississippi River Parkway, Bloodroot and Dutchmen's Breeches were starting to bloom. Here in Fort Atkinson, I've noticed my Bloodroot finally blooming after 3 years of waiting. More later with pictures of my garden progress.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Garden Clean-up Begins

Sunday the temperature here in SE Wisconsin reached 57 degrees. Took advantage of the warm weather and near entire thaw of snow to start preparing beds for planting. This meant cleaning all the old plant debris from 70% of my beds that I neglected to remove last fall. Certain plants such as the echinachea I chose to leave to provide seed for the birds. Who knows if they really eat it. But otherwise the days just got away from last fall. I also pruned my rose bushes. They are looking pretty woody and brown. I hope they survived the negative 20-something cold spell we had in January. Also raked the leaves from the northeast rock garden and north facing borders on the front of the house. Noticed tulips starting to sprout in the south facing beds along the house. The buds on the Rhododendrons are small as I knew last fall. I was not as attentive to the watering when I should've been. It will be interesting to see if they blossom this year. I'm planning to plant my salad greens, radishes and few cold germinating ornamentals when I return from Texas early April. Excited for another season with many projects in the works!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Amazing owls

Got out for a late afternoon walk today along the Bark River. The harbingers of spring were all around me....chickadees and cardinals singing and full of activity, flocks of geese flying overhead, red-winged blackbirds "clucking" in the distance and a killdeer calling out his arrival. When I approached the old growth area along the river, I "pished" some chickadees in closer who chattered and called around me. Their small little ruckus must have stirred a Barred Owl who flew in to check me out. As I rounded the bend and neared the owl, she flew off. However I pleasantly came upon a second owl, then relocated the first owl. The pair sat and watched me with vigilance. One gave out a scolding baritone hoot as if to say "get the hell outta here." I am suspicious there may be a nearby nest, given the owls stayed in fairly close proximity to me. Despite some searching, I did not find a nest, but intend to investigate further. Owls are such amazing and graceful creatures. I am always in awe when I see one. Hoo-Hoo.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Seed Starting

Decided in the midst of a late February snow snowstorm to start ornamental flower seeds on Saturday 2/21/09 (see picture left for a garden shot 2/22); started my tomatoes, peppers and passion flower seeds tonight. A little early for the tomatoes and peppers but I was eager and had the time to do it.

Seed starting trays were washed in hot soapy water, rinsed, misted with straight vinegar, set for a bit and then rinsed again. Used Jiffy Premium Seed Starting mix, doesn't have clumps and sticks like the non premium mix. Wearing a face mask, I poored the mix into a large black tub and poored near boiling filtered water into the mix, stirred and continued adding water until the mixture was evenly moist but not soaked. Filled my seed trays and small pots with the potting mix, tamped, added seeds and then topped off with a little more mix. Flats were then set out under full spectrum fluoro lights in my sunny plant room with clear plaster lids to foster a warm moist climate. The 2009 gardening season is underway. Now although I'm a bit late, I will stratify my native seeds in the fridge in hopes my wimpy efforts will result in plants later this year....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gardening season is just around the corner...

This past Wednesday, Wisconsin experienced a brief thaw and I took advantage of planting the last of crocuses and tulips that I had not got into the ground this fall. The "experts" indicate I might not get blooms, could get foliage or possibly nothing. We'll see...I also planted garlic which I failed to get in this fall as well. Stay tuned for the results...

Attended the Wisconsin Public Radio Garden Expo this weekend and picked up about 15-20 bare root native plants. Attended various lectures including one on Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey's Harbor, WI. Apparently Ridges is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the Midwest. It has 25 of the approximately 40 species of orchids found in Wisconsin. Definitely on my list of destinations to visit this spring. Here's a link to their website: The website definitely under represents the amazing flora found at this place.

I'm getting excited about spring and am busy preparing to start seedlings. All my old containers and seed trays need cleaning and disinfecting. I started to work on this today. I was also inspired to start propagating more pineapple sage from cuttings. God knows what I'll do with all the plants as I think I started about 20-25 plants today.