22 July 2016

How to Take a Soil Sample Test

Of all the tests we take in a lifetime, a soil sample test can prove to be one of the more important ones for gardeners.

The samples are taken from a variety of places around the garden and combined before being taken to your local extension office.

The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture just posted a useful video of exactly what to do to get it right so your results accurately advise you on what to add to your soil to get the garden growing well.

Here's a link to the video - http://kerrcenter.com/video/take-soil-sample-yield-accurate-soil-test/

If you want to grow a garden, a soil test can help a lot so you don't waste fertilizers and even plants that can't grow.

18 July 2016

Worldwide Decline of Insect Populations

In study after study, we are learning that the volume of insects is greatly diminishing worldwide.

From Yale Environment 360:

According to data on more than 400 species, there has been a 45 percent drop in global invertebrate numbers over the past 40 years. In one annual survey in Germany, the average biomass of insects caught between May and October has decreased from 3.5 pounds per trap in 1989 to just 10.6 ounces in 2014. Scientists say various factors — from monoculture farming to pesticide use to habitat loss — are to blame for the plight of insects, which are essential to agriculture and functioning ecosystems. Schw√§gerl writes that researchers are racing to improve monitoring of these disappearing species. In Germany, only 37 insect species are closely tracked — a mere 0.12 percent of all species. “There's a risk we will only really take notice once it is too late," one scientist warns.

There is more. Berlin based journalist Christian Schwagerl reports in GEO that
"The decline is dramatic and depressing and it affects all kinds of insects, including butterflies, wild bees, and hoverflies," says Martin Sorg, an entomologist from the Krefeld Entomological Association involved in running the monitoring project. 

and
A significant drop in insect populations could have far-reaching consequences for the natural world and for humans, who depend on bees and other invertebrates to pollinate crops. A study by Canadian biologists, published in 2010, suggests that North American bird species that depend on aerial insects for feeding themselves and their offspring have suffered much more pronounced declines in recent years than other perching birds that largely feed on seeds.

and
“There are many indications that what we see is the result of a widespread poisoning of our landscape,” says Leif Miller, director general of the German chapter of BirdLife International. 

A recent increase in insect monitoring efforts stems from the rise of ‘citizen science’ projects.
Yet even environmental campaigners like Miller admit that the root causes and the full dimension of the problem aren't yet fully understood. “I suspect it is a multiplicity of factors, most likely with habitat destruction, deforestation, fragmentation, urbanization, and agricultural conversion being the leading factors,” says Stanford ecologist Dirzo. 

This is a valuable article for those who care about the world's environment. Click over to read the entire piece -
http://e360.yale.edu/feature/insect_numbers_declining_why_it_matters/3012/

15 July 2016

Experienced Bees Do Not Like to Share

In a university study, an entomologist found that experienced bees prefer not to share with newly hatched bees. You can click over to

http://news.uoguelph.ca/2016/03/experienced-bumblebees-wont-share-newbies-study/

and read the article. It's fascinating that anyone figured out how to study the phenomenon!

Here are some excerpts:

“Understanding how bees find and compete for flowers in the landscape is a critical first step to conserving these insects and the essential pollination services they provide to crops and wild plants,” said Raine, who holds the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation.

Like other pollinators, bees face complex routing challenges when collecting nectar and pollen. This includes learning how to link patches of flowers together in the most efficient way to minimize travel and distance, the study said.
Figuring out an optimal route takes time and experience. The researchers wondered whether bees copy others’ flower visitation sequences in the field to improve their foraging,
The team set up a 20- by 40-metre outdoor flight cage, one of the largest ever used in bee research.
They installed a range of artificial flowers, fitted with motion-sensitive video cameras and controlled nectar flow rates, for the bees to visit.
Two bees were allowed to visit the flowers at a time – one more experienced resident and one newcomer.
When the newcomer bees tried to copy the choices of seasoned foragers, the more experienced bees frequently attacked them and tried to evict them from flowers.

11 July 2016

Butterfly Gardening in the Shade

When we think of gardening for butterflies we think of native plants in sunny meadows but part shade works for butterfly gardening, too.

So, don't despair if you'd like to see more butterflies in your yard and garden but have little full sun for the typical butterfly feeding plants, take heart.

The Natural Web posted an article a few years ago that addresses shade butterfly gardening.

The first point they make is that most butterflies need woody plants on which to raise their young and those plants create shade though reach for the sun.

It's a lovely little pieceof writing and worth clicking over to read. Click on this link
https://the-natural-web.org/2013/03/25/a-butterfly-garden-that-embraces-the-shade/

07 July 2016

One Simple Guideline for Gardening

Here we are in July with the heat index well over 100 degrees daily. Even if you get up at 6 am to go out to the garden like we do, it is already 80 degrees and too hot to do much in the way of digging.

Imagine how your garden plants are doing in the heat and mostly dry conditions.

This is not the time to dig plants, prune plants, or divide them.

The best, simple rule of thumb is to do all of those things right after flowering, in the cooler temperatures of the fall or in late-winter/early spring just as the plants are breaking dormancy.

If you dig up the roots of a plant now or even give it a hard pruning, you stand the chance of losing it because it is so hard for them to recover in summer's conditions.

So, just remember (memorize) 'prune after bloom' and remember that that includes any other action that disrupts your plants at the roots.

For now, just be compassionate: mulch the roots so they stay as cool as possible and deep water very early in the morning so the leaves have all day to dry off before night fall.

Simple and effective, plus saves you from doing too much demanding work in the heat.

04 July 2016

Invasive Plants

Texas Invasives is a website that informs readers of what's happening in the world of invasive insects, plants and diseases.

This month's newsletter covers a variety of topics including: Reed, Soapberry Borers, and a dozen other interesting topics.

Click over to the link above and read what they are up to as well as signing up for their newsletter.

30 June 2016

Pollinators and the Native Plants You Should Grow for Them

The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Poteau OK, has provided an online library for us to learn about which native plants are best for providing nectar and caterpillar food for our native pollinators.

Here's a link that will take you directly to their resources and other helpful information.
http://kerrcenter.com/conservation/native-plants-pollinators/native-plant-pollinator-publications/

If that interests you and you want more, go to their main site and look at the hundreds of free resources they offer to the public.
http://kerrcenter.com/

We have taken a couple of their workshops and found them to be worthwhile for our gardening needs.

26 June 2016

Zika Virus, Mosquitoes and Oklahoma Gardeners

Since we are all worried about the Zika Virus and avoiding contact with the mosquitoes that carry it, here's some advice about preventing the larvae from thriving in your garden.

"Listed below are some recommendations from the American Mosquito Control Association (www.mosquito.org): 1. Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days. 2. Clean debris from rain gutters and remove any standing water under or around structures, or on flat roofs. Check around faucets and air conditioner units and repair leaks or eliminate puddles that remain for several days. 3. Destroy or dispose of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools or other containers that collect and hold water. Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucers of flowerpots, cemetery urns or in pet dishes for more than 2 days."

Here's the complete article on the mosquitoes from Oklahoma State University - http://entoplp.okstate.edu/pddl/2016/PA15-24.pdf

23 June 2016

Queen Anne's Lace is Daucus Carota

Our garden was over run with Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus Carota, this spring and was just summarily removed.

In the past we've intentionally grown Black Knight Ammi and this year the huge mess of Daucus Carota included some of that variety but mostly was the white 8-foot tall stuff you see growing in ditches and open fields.

When the flower begins to go to seed, the heads curl up, forming a
bird's nest shape so that's where that nickname came from.

As its name implies the root is the shape of the carrot we eat though it is inedible.

No one is precisely sure which Queen Anne the other name comes from or exactly how she came to be associated with the plant.

Queen Anne's Lace flowers make beautiful cut flowers and a local flower vendor cut ours for a couple of weeks for her bouquets before we took it out. If you enjoy crafts, you can put the stems in food coloring water and make the flowers into a variety of bouquet colors.

It is a beautiful weed but can take over a flower bed in a New York minute if you aren't vigilent. We weren't and it was quite a task to get it backed off.




20 June 2016

Hydrangea Annabelle is an American Native

The Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle, with the big, gorgeous mophead flowers is an American native plant. Who knew? Annabelle is probably the oldest and best-known Hydrangea grown in our gardens.

It was discovered in 1910 by Harriet Kirkpatrick while she was out horseback riding near her home town of Anna Illinois. She and her sister Amy collected a piece of the shrub and began growing it in their garden.

At the time, it became a passalong plant, with pieces of the green wood given to fellow gardeners to propagate for their home gardens.

The plantsman Joseph McDaniel decided to get Annabelle the recognition it deserved and in 1960 he registered the name and succeeded in getting it into the plant trade.

Hydrangea arborescens is native to the U.S. from New York to FL and LA and west to Iowa and Illinois. Now we know why they grow so well here! Because they are American natives.