25 August 2007

Late August Garden: Fritallary Butterflies, Canteloupe and more

After an extensive search of whatsthatbug, I concluded that we have a swarm of Fritillary Butterflies in the yard. They are as calm as two-year-olds after cake and ice cream but freely lay their individual eggs in front of us on the Passion Vine at the front gate.

The caterpillar stage involves the eating of Passion Vine leaves, of course, and there are dozens of the caterpillars munching away.

Or, is this an Oleander Moth caterpillar? No they have long fuzzy hair where these caterpillars have black spines.

Then, I found Bob Moul's photography site with nearly 4,000 nature photos including a time lapsed slide show of a caterpillar morphing into a Swallowtail Butterfly. Tak time to watch the show - it's fascinating.
Photos: The adult butterflies that are swarming and eating and laying eggs in several flower beds.

A tall trellis that was constructed to hold tomato vines was taken over by a cantaloupe vine when the 105-degree days forced the tomatoes to shrivel.Last night's 2.5 inches of rain and cooler temperatures relieved us of watering for a while.
It also helped the garden considerably: The tomatoes have come back to life and the eggplant grew by inches in the past two days. I only put in Renee's Asian Trio and it stays blessedly small.
At the risk of harping, the Zinnias have put themselves on the map, taking center stage in the late summer beds where everything else has put a wet washcloth on its forehead and sighed. Even the Joe Pye Weed gave up the ghost after blooming and feeding butterflies for two months.

Add peppers to the list of vegetables that are thriving.
Three batches of pepper jelly are in the pantry already. I have made 50 batches over the years - many of them more syrup consistency than firm. If you have any interest in making some, the most successful recipe uses liquid pectin. It is: 12-ounces cleaned, chopped sweet peppers, 6-cups sugar and 2-cups of cider vinegar plus a dash of salt.
Pepper jelly is traditionally poured over a block of cream cheese to eat with crackers or cucumber chunks. Most of our is eaten as an accompaniment to chicken and other roasted meat. In old novels and garden books it is served at breakfast with biscuits.
Most recipes suggest Jalapeno peppers but we use sweet peppers and then add heat to taste by putting in pinches of hot pepper flakes until it is the right heat-sweet-sour flavor. What's the right amount of heat? Whatever you prefer.
The recipes say to run the peppers through a food processor but we prefer the aesthetics of using a chunky chopped size. That way, after the required cooking and boiling water bath, there are still specs of color in the final product.

Today the seeds of fall greens were planted in plastic strawberry baskets.
Susie Lawrence of Sand Creek Flower Farm in Braggs told me about this method working well for her. Sterilize the basket in 10-percent bleach water, fill it three-fourths full of sterile planting or seed starting mix, put in seeds and close the top. Check its moisture level daily.
Lawrence takes the seedlings out of the baskets and transplants them into larger containers or right into the garden. I cheat a little and put potting soil on the bottom half and seed starting mix on the top. That way when they put down roots they have some fertility into which to grow.
Enjoy this fall-like weather - it can't last.

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