Sunday, July 24, 2011

Twenty-three and Counting

Twenty-three is the number of consecutive days that the official temperature reading at the DFW International Airport has been 100 degrees or more. The only reason I know the number of days is because the summer heat is the lead story on almost every local newscast. 

This photo of my front yard prairie was taken about 43 days ago. I think that was around the last time it rained here, give or take a week. The prairie was so colorful and full of life back then. It was really pretty.

Today, the prairie is much less colorful than it was a few weeks ago and not quite as pretty. The hot summer months are my least favorite months for prairie plants because this is when they do what comes naturally and go dormant to semi-dormant until cooler weather and rain returns. I do irrigate my prairie on occasion to keep the plants on the green side of dormancy. But this is Texas and we are in a drought. Plants are supposed to be dormant under these conditions. Anyone with a lush, green lawn and garden right now is probably using too much of our precious drinking water for irrigation.

The high temperature forecast looks like a UPC code for a big box of hot. The heatwave continues...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Genus Melittia

I take pride in making my prairie a habitat for wildlife. It is certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, a Best of Texas Backyard Habitat by Texas Parks and Wildlife, a Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch, and a Bee Friendly Garden by Texas Bee Watchers. See the Links section for additional information about these certifications.

Butterflies and moths are some of my favorite wildlife visitors. I plant nectar flowers to feed the adult butterflies and moths and specific host plants to feed the caterpillars.

I spotted this colorful moth in my garden recently. It is a moth, although it is often mistaken for a bee or wasp. This is either Melittia calabaza or Melittia cucurbitae. I cannot determine the species from the internet photos and it really does not matter. The common name for this moth is Squash Vine Borer and that is enough identification for me. Squash Vine Borers lay their eggs on the stems of squash and related plants. When the caterpillars hatch, they burrow into the stems and can eventually kill the plants. 

My wildlife habitat is also a human, Homo sapiens, habitat where I grow organic vegetables for my consumption. When an insect's feeding threatens to interfere with my feeding they better look out because I will be forced to assert my power as the dominant species in this  habitat.

So what happens when I see a Squash Vine Borer in my garden? Warning: The following image may not be suitable for sensitive eyes or stomachs.

I squash them! At least when I can catch them. Unfortunately, a couple of others escaped my wrath on this day. If they know what is good for them, they will stay away from my squash plants because I love my grilled squash.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Major Crackage

The black clay soil my prairie grows in shrinks and cracks when it becomes dry. This is the reason foundation repair companies do so well here and the reason much of my water usage goes toward keeping the perimeter of the foundation of my house from getting too dry.

While my neighbors water their lawns once or twice a week, my prairie has gone without water, except for any rain that fell and an occasional hand watering of new transplants. As a result, the soil of my prairie is opening up. I found this crack in the backyard prairie yesterday. 

The cracks are about two inches across and a couple of feet long. I was curious about the depth of the cracks and stuck my ruler in as far as my hand could reach into the crack and did not hit bottom. (This is not a paid advertisement for Elliot's Hardware, although it is a fun place to browse. They have a good selection of organic gardening products too.)

Even with the dry, cracked soil, Clammy Weed, Polanisia doedecandia, Big Red Sage, Salvia penstemonoides, Gregg's Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, and Rudbeckia varieties, Rudbeckia fulgida and Rudbeckia triloba are all growing and in full bloom.

Amazingly, I am in the only part of the state that is not considered to be under drought conditions. So far, this is normal summer dryness, but the extreme drought conditions, indicated on the map by brown, are growing.

I did break down and water the backyard prairie this weekend. I watered the front yard prairie earlier in the week. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Prairie Patriotism

Rock Penstemon, Penstemon baccharifolius 

Angel's Trumpet, Datura wrightii
White, and

Pitcher Sage, Salvia azurea

Red, White, and Blue - The Flag of the United States of America, Old Glory, The Stars and Stripes, The Star-Spangled Banner, The American Flag.

Happy Independence Day!