Thursday, August 2, 2012

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes August 2012

    I have spent a good amount of time in my flower and vegetable gardens this summer planting, weeding, and especially, watering as the season has been so dry.  Along with these garden chores, there's also a number of diseases to worry about the plants contracting.  Farmer friends pointed out powdery mildew on the zucchini plant leaves and advised a spritz of milk, baking soda, and soap to clear it up.  The mildew is a result of water staying on the leaves and not drying.  It's best to water in the morning to avoid this happening to your plants.  Some of our tomatoes have blossom end rot.  Lovely!  The blossom end of the tomato begins to get a spot which becomes black, leathery, and ugly.  This could have happened  due to the drought and insufficient watering.  Good grief!   Gardening can certainly keep a person busy.  A gardener battles pests, blight, weather, wayward garden stakes and critters.  This leads me to tell you that Chuck ( wood chuck) is also back in my garden.
    I had my suspicions that Chuck had made a return.  One of my dogs has become a window cling on the glass paned porch door looking out to the garden.  He barks his head off; I look out and nothing is there.  Was it Chuck?      I transplanted some ground cherries I grew from seed in window boxes into the garden.  I soon noticed their leaves neatly clipped off.  Rabbits or Chuck?  I went to put tools away in the garden shed and saw a large stone moved back from the foundation.  Chuck.  Yesterday I looked out and there he was standing in the garden pondering his next move and meal.  I opened the door and he took off like an Olympian, darting across the road and diving under the Wade's hostas.  I watched the hostas  jiggle and ripple as he kept cover and crawled beneath them.  Time to make a hot pepper tea to spray on the ground cherry leaves.  Yes, yes, I will do it in the morning or else will have powdery mildew to deal with too.   I am growing two kinds of hot peppers.  One is a Czech black pepper and the other a hot fish-shaped pepper.  I will chop a pepper up, seeds and all, soak it in hot water and douse the cherry leaves.  I will let you know if Chuck likes his food hot and spicy or not.
    I have other visitors that tread lightly in the garden and even cooperate for photo shoots.  Hummingbirds, dragonflies, hummingbird moths, Giant Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies all can be seen hovering over the flowers, basking on rocks, or resting on the tops of flower heads.  The Butterfly Bush is now flowering and attracts butterflies, bees and wasps.   There is also a resident toad I come across now and then.  I'm happy it's around as one toad can eat up to 10,000 insects in a summer!  That's great pest control.  I try to take time out to just enjoy the garden and watch the visitors.  You never know what you might see and learn about.
    Years ago, while on a camping trip in the Adirondacks, I took some time to sit by a pond.  I raised my binoculars to check out the other side and discovered a Great Blue Heron fishing.  The heron walked slowly and quietly in the shallow water not rippling the surface.  Its bill was pointed down.   Suddenly, it lunged forward, stabbed  a fish with its bill and consumed it.  For awhile the heron would  stand very still in the shallows watching and waiting.  Then it would  lunge down again grabbing its meal.  Years later, I came across a description of a heron fishing which was exactly what I had observed and what I would have written as well.  Tell me what's going on in your garden and I'll share your observations in next month's article.  Enjoy the month of August.     

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