Monday, August 25, 2014

Pollination Station at a Hummingbird Banding Event

On Saturday morning, I helped at the "Pollination Station" at the Hummingbird Banding event at Smith Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw. Earlier in the week, an email plea for additional help had landed in my inbox, and I jumped right in. This was an upbeat way to close what had seemed like an unusually hard week at work.

Alan, Master Gardener volunteer, is in the green shirt.
Alan, one of our Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, had put together the display, and another volunteer had helped him with the laminated photos. I brought Extension information to give away.

Hummingbird banding was going on under the tent near the flags.
UGA has a lot of great publications about pollinators, both native and imported (honeybees); it also has a nice publication about attracting birds. These were all big hits with people who stopped by our area to learn more about pollinators.

Clemson Univ. Extension has a publication about creating an inviting environment for hummingbirds, and I was able to bring copies of that, too.
Many of the younger crowd went away with colorful hummingbird "tattoos."

Kids also made these cute little hummingbirds to take home. The body is a peanut.
Based on comments from people who stopped by with questions about pollinators, plenty of people are ready to do what they can to support pollinators. It was great to visit with so many people about bees, wasps, butterflies, bats, birds, flies, beetles, flowers, and more!

The event had plenty of activities for the younger crowd, including hummingbird "tattoos," a learning table, and a couple of "make your own" hummingbird crafts.

The craft that I hadn't seen before involved making little hummingbirds out of peanuts. They were super-cute! I was told that a lot of adults wanted to make these, too, but there weren't enough prepared peanut bodies for more than just the kids to make these.

The peanuts had been pre-painted with white paint, a toothpick had been stuck into a hole to be the beak, and little tulle wings had been tied with twine and hot-glued on. The kids needed to determine whether their bird would be male or female, and paint the peanut accordingly.

The very last picture in the set is included for my Mom, who needs to use her walker more. She has a hairline fracture in her lower leg that resulted from a fall a couple of weeks ago.

Several people made use of walkers at the event. They were well-prepared for the uneven ground and a morning outside in the August heat.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Harvesting Summer to Make Room for Fall

About 2/3 of my butternut squash harvest.    PHOTO/Amy W.
It's been a busy weekend in the garden. To start, I harvested most of the remaining butternut squash. Six had already been brought inside, because the vine they were on looked "done."

These in the photo to the right were also on some pretty dead-looking vines, but there are three more immature butternut squash out in the garden. After tracing their vines so I could determine whether they had a chance of further ripening, I left their vines behind when I removed the other, browned-out plants. So far, I have brought in about 25 pounds of butternut squash. That has opened up some space in the garden.

Browned vascular tissue caused by a tomato wilt disease.  PHOTO/ Amy W.
I also harvested all the remaining Amish tomatoes, even the green ones. In last week's post I had mentioned that the plant had a lot of yellowed, drooping foliage, and it was time to pull up that plant.

After slicing through the stem to check on what had caused the trouble, it was easy to see the gunked-up vascular system, which often is caused by Fusarium wilt. A healthy stem would have been white or whitish-green all the way through, rather than being ringed inside with brown!

As space has opened up in the garden, I've planted some more seeds. Today I planted some kale, collards, lettuces, nasturtiums, and English peas. If they don't do well from seed at this time, it won't be a disaster, because I have started some of those in a flat already.

Caterpillar of the Gulf fritillary butterfly.  PHOTO/Amy W.
The English peas are part of yet another experiment. I harvested most of the popcorn, and as I was cutting the stalks down to chop up for the compost pile, I decided to leave them cut at about 3.5-4 feet high, for peas to climb up. The peas are planted in the rows between the cornstalks. It will be interesting to see how that space goes as the summer/fall progresses.

Elsewhere in the garden, we have some surprisingly unattractive caterpillars. They are dark orange with black spines, and they are busy defoliating the passionflower vine.

Bees loving a passionflower to smithereens. PHOTO/Amy W.
The caterpillars are the babies of the Gulf fritillary butterfly which also is orange, but it seems a lot prettier.

The passionflower vine is getting a lot of insect activity. In addition to being host to the spiky caterpillars, it also is host to some big, shiny carpenter bees that spend most of their days, it seems, loving on the purple flowers.

All that bee-loving action has resulted in the formation of a lot of "may-pops" on the passionflower vines. I am looking forward to trying those fruits!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Not Fall Yet, But Getting There

This weekend I made more progress on switching over to "the fall garden." Some of the summer plants are still doing really well, some are just now reaching their peak of production (peppers, okra), and some are nearly done.
Rutgers tomato plant, still green and productive.      PHOTO/Amy W.

Based on the percentage of browned leaves, I'd say that the Better Boy tomato plant is going to keel over soon, but the Rutgers plant is still covered up in green leaves and plenty of fruit.

This weekend, I pulled out one of the smaller-fruited tomato plants that looked pretty bad, and that should help the airflow around the Rutgers and Better Boy, hopefully helping to keep them alive and productive a little longer.

The Cherokee Purple is definitely done, the Pink Brandywine still has a few fruits, and the Amish tomato plant is somewhere in between. It has several green fruits that are nearing ripeness along with some smaller, newer fruits, but the foliage is yellowing and droopy. I think it has fusarium wilt, but I haven't sliced into a stem yet to check.

Fruits of a passionflower vine. This vine has at least 10 so far. PHOTO/Amy W.
Among my other experiments for the summer is a passionflower vine. The flowers are beautiful (I'll try to get a good picture up, soon), and I'm hoping that the fruits have enough pulp inside that I can make a little juice or jam.

Another crop that I haven't really mentioned yet this year is the greasy beans. Six slender vines (they are pole beans) are climbing up a little trellis, and they have been making small numbers of beans, but the production has been steady. When I bring in a handful, I pull off the strings then toss them up into a hanging basket to dry for leather britches. If I had lots of them, I'd do the traditional hanging-up-on-a-line-to-dry thing, but I don't.

Flat of seeds for cool-season crops.      PHOTO/Amy W.
I've started some more plants for the fall garden, too. While waiting for more of the summer crops to finish, it can help to have some of the cool-weather crops already started, for transplanting to the garden when the space is available.

Just behind the flat in the photo to the left is a box with some cabbage seedlings in it that I started a few weeks ago in peat pellets. Those were bumped up into a couple of old "6-packs" last week, and I'll be setting those plants out into the garden in the next week or so.
Butternut squash nearing maturity.          PHOTO/Amy W.

The husks on the popcorn have been turning brown and dry, and as I've noticed that change I've brought them in. If I leave them outside too long in damp weather, they tend to mold (it's happened before), so bringing them in on time can be important.

I finally brought in some dried Provider Bush Beans that I had left on the plants to mature, to replenish my seed supply for planting next year.

The wrinkled, tan pods were definitely ready to be pulled! The beans have been removed from the pods, and I've set them out to dry in a wide, flat basket.

I have some Joanie Beans growing in the yard, too. These bush beans from my friend Becky are part of her family history, and I plan to save seeds from those, too.

When the weather returns to being a little bit more dry (we've had a lot of cloudy and cool, with light rains mixed in), I'll start bringing in the butternut squash that began to turn to the mature tan color a few weeks ago.

This is a busy time in the garden, but so rewarding. I hope that all the other gardeners out there are enjoying this time in the gardening year as much as I am!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

When the Garden Pelts You with Food...

This weekend has been all about managing great piles of vegetables. Most of the veggies have been from our own yard, and some are from the little farm where we volunteer on Saturday mornings.

Our one cherry tomato plant, a Super Sweet 100, has been pouring on the steam, and we've been having trouble keeping up with the ripe, sweet little fruits, so one of the jobs for today was picking a bunch of tiny green tomatoes for pickling. Just minutes ago, I pulled four pint jars of pickled cherry tomatoes out of the water-bath canner.

Yesterday, I made and preserved in jars a batch of tomatillo sauce. Four half-pint jars of the tart green sauce have been added to our cupboards as a result.

Joe started a gallon-sized batch of brined pickles that is mixed cucumbers and green tomatoes. He also started a pint of fermented hot sauce with a beautiful pile of ripe, red, cowhorn peppers.

The dehydrator has been filled, emptied, and refilled with slices of tomato and with chopped peppers (a mix of both hot and sweet).

I skinned and seeded a big bowl of ripe tomatoes, roasted them in the oven until I could smell them turning sweeter, and then let them cool. Those are in the freezer now. They mostly filled a quart freezer bag. I strained the juice out of the skins and seeds and froze the juice, too.

Out at the garden-farm, we found a couple of hilariously large zucchini, and I brought those home to seed, peel, and shred. I made a couple of loaves of zucchini bread using 2 cups of the shredded zucchini. I froze the rest, measuring out two cups to each freezer bag, so those will be ready for making more zucchini bread later in the year.

The four bags (8 cups) of shredded zucchini joined four bags from a couple of weeks ago, from other over-large zucchinis that we had uncovered out at the garden farm then.

Also today, Joe cooked crowder peas that had been harvested last summer, using the solar oven that he placed out in the front yard. The owner of the garden farm has planted what we are sure will be a superabundance of crowder peas, so we are trying to use up the last of the previous harvest.

Our younger son, who recently moved back home, has cut up some okra and is frying it to add to our supper.

We are incredibly fortunate to have this abundance of good food! The garden is some work, but the rewards are great.

Hope all the other gardeners out there are enjoying the harvest!

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