Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Buffet is Set

The the late summer/fall flowers have started to bloom in the garden.

The flowers are showing a little more restraint in their blooming than they would if we had received a nice soaking rain since June and if the temperature was not so slow to moderate. Summer seems to be slow to let go this year.

Nevertheless, the buffet is set and awaiting local pollinators and migrating monarch butterflies. The green spikes of gayfeather (Liatris) that were something of an eyesore a week ago are now purple with nectar rich flowers. And look at pine muhly in the center.

Love that grass.

I have only seen a few monarchs in the last couple of weeks. According to the Journey North website, the leading edge of the peak migration is just crossing into Texas. They better hurry up and get here because the gayfeather is about to peak.

Bees are busily feeding on the flowers.

Here is a closer look at the flowers.

These gayfeather blooms are joined by little bluestem and zexmenia.

I don't have any monarch pictures yet, but I did get a photo of this yellow butterfly. Over the weekend, I saw several pipevine swallowtail butterflies that were taking their first flights around the garden after their summer metamorphoses. A neighbor that frequently walks his dogs past my house said he has been stopped by several people driving by. They all want to know if the butterflies have arrived yet. Apparently, my garden is a bit of a tourist attraction.

My variegated Yucca gloriosa is blooming for the first time. I think the wet spring helped it to get established because it did not show any signs of drought stress this summer like it has in the past.

Around in the back garden, the spiny eryngo is blooming. The plant is not overly attractive when it gets six feet tall and flops over into the pathways.

But the pineapple shaped flowers are a welcome addition to the garden and a treat for the pollinators. 

A cool front came through today. I have a feeling that the garden will be full of monarchs and other pollinators this weekend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Oh Boy Oh Olla

I recently "planted" two ollas in my vegetable garden. If you are wondering what an olla is, you may need to know that the pronunciation of the word is oy-ya. It is a Spanish word that means pot.

Ollas are an ancient means of irrigation. An olla is a clay pot that is buried in the soil about halfway up the neck and filled with water. The water slowly leaches from the pot and irrigates the soil around the pot. They hold a couple of gallons of water and need to be refilled a couple of times a week. The ollas have covers to slow evaporation of water from the pot and, most importantly, keep mosquitoes out. 

Here is an olla in my squash bed. Each olla is supposed to water the soil 18 inches out from the center, so I planted four seeds around the perimeter of the olla. It was necessary to water the seeds as they began to grow because the roots of the seedling would not reach deep enough to hit the moist soil. I think the plants are now large enough to see if the water in the olla can sustain them without additional surface watering.

This is a view of the squash bed from the other direction. The plants on this end are not as healthy due to pill bugs munching on the stems. The smaller plants allow you to see how the olla is buried and how the plants are oriented around it.  

Ollas are supposed to last several years. Any freezing and thawing during the cold winter months will probably be the hardest on them. As cold temperatures approach, I will stop refilling them and leave them the ground through the winter. 

For your viewing pleasure, here is a clip from Central Texas Gardener about ollas.

And here is another clip showing how to make your own olla. If you search the internet, you can find several plans for making your own ollas.

Elsewhere in the vegetable garden, I have a patch of black eyed peas growing on my homemade cattle panel arch. The taller plant among the black eyed peas is my only surviving green bean plant. I planted green beans before I planted black eyed peas and the pill bugs mowed down all of the others within a couple of days. Fortunately, they do not seem to care for black eyed peas.  I hope that one bean plant produces a lot of beans. There are a few more squash plants to the right of the beans.

I am growing tatume squash on the other side of the cattle panel arch. I did not grow any squash in the spring because the squash bugs and squash vine borers were so bad last year. Maybe the pests have moved on and will not come looking for squash plants this fall?

This is one of my surviving tomato plants. It is still green on top and starting to produce fruit. That is the ferny foliage of asparagus in the background.

A few horn worms are chowing down on the leaves. They will eventually turn into hawk moths.

Looking away from the vegetable garden, color is beginning to return to the garden. Clammy weed, eryngo, flame acanthus, scarlet sage, autumn sage, zexmenia, pitcher sage and bee brush are all in bloom in this picture. I should have more on the fall flowers in the next posts.