I could not resist taking photos of our SEPTEMBER GARDEN NEW
there are new colors and shades:
Fall Leaves NEW
For us super-organic gardeners - indeed for any gardener - leaves are one of the most beautiful and most powerful resources of all. Basically, the only difference between totally barren aggregate, such as pure silt, sand and clay, and rich fertile loam, is organic matter.
That's all. It is as simple as this. And leaves are 100% organic matter. With a high content of organic matter also come all the properties of rich fertile loam. Excellent moisture holding capacity; and from this, soil temperature equalization; also excellent nutrient holding capacity; a rich and varied fabric of invaluable soil biota - all the way from dew worms to nitrogen fixing bacteria and mycorrhyzal fungi; a wide range of natural 'fertilizers' from the decay products of the organic matter - comprising almost the whole spectrum of the 92 natural elements of the Earth, moreover, in exactly the right proportions as needed by plants ( - of course).
You see, the trees and shrubs which have made all those leaves, have taken up the simple elements of the Earth and have assembled them into the highly complex organic compounds of their leaves - and much enriched by the nitrogen the trees have - with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria - obtained from the air. And then, in the fall, they shed their leaves in great numbers to decay, and enrich the soil with their highly complex organic compounds. In this manner, good 'ole Mother Nature has created all the rich and fertile loam of the Earth; all of it.
And rich fertile soil has spawned and maintained all of the Life which has arisen from it - including our kind and selves.
Most people will be a bit surprised to find out that a fundamental, and immensely vast and powerful law of the universe is behind all this. It is the law of Progressive Complexity which has driven the progressive complexity of our universe from the simple energy of its big bang birth, to its present-day astronomical complexity. Along the way its has also created and driven the evolution of biospheres - such as our's - and including the emergence and evolution of Life to progressively higher levels of complexity - such as our kind and selves - all over the universe.
And the same vast universal law drives the progressive complexity which has created trees in the first place - and the high organic complexity of their leaves. It is also the same law which we employ and use when we gather the leaves of fall and bring them into our gardens, to add to and increase the organic content and complexity of our garden soil. Be it known then that when gathering the leaves of fall and bringing them into our gardens, that we are working hand-in-hand with the most beautiful and the most powerful law of our universe itself.
So, go forth then and gather the leaves of fall and bring them home, to add to your garden and increase the complexity, fertility and friability of your soil to your hearts content - in full knowledge that you are working hand-in-hand with the cosmic law that has created the universe, Life, our Earth, its teeming biosphere - and eventually, our kind and selves.
Can one overdo it? Hardly. The richest fertile loam has about 10% organic content - which amounts to about 1/2 of its physical volume, and that is a lot of leaves. At 10% organic content, your soil will feel slightly springy when walking upon it. However, our crops use up much of this organic content for their own growth, so we need to replenish it regularly. Fortunately, and as good 'ole Mother Nature would have it, it supplies a rich abundance of leaves every fall, and best of all, free for the taking. Moreover, you'll also be helping our city by reducing its costs for the gathering and disposal of this annual cornucopia of fall leaves.
So bring them home, spread them over your garden beds as a mulch, or to cover empty beds, and let them decay into your soil. In spring, turn what is left of them into your soil. Or you can add them to the compost pile, or let them decay under the shrubbery, and use the resulting compost in your garden.
And perhaps, and with any luck, there will come a day when the city's expense of gathering and disposing of the leaves of fall is eliminated altogether by gardeners everywhere, as they wait eagerly with open garbage bags under the trees for the rich cornucopia from above.
Masha's Lemon Tree NEW
I do not know how did she get it : we bought two lemon trees together - hers is blooming - mine has only two new shoots... huh? I am going to talk to mine tomorrow morning - will show Masha's photos on my mobile to my lemon tree ... just to explain gently what is required: FRUIT, no more branches please...
every spring i think this CHERRY TREE NEW is not real, but bees love it... may be they see it too...
It is so nice to have this guys popping out everywhere in our garden - seems like cold and wet winter did well for them. ALMOST SPRING? YES, PLEASE... NEW
It's almost spring meaning gardening season. There is one important aspect that we usually neglect when gardening: beneficial insects... Forget about frogs - they are also very good for your garden but so rare nowadays - I hear it almost like an sensational event of a lifetime if some of my friends suddenly see a frog in their garden. I think it is very hard to attract frogs - your place should be perfectly environmentally clean for this... We have small lizards. They are like small hunters - very active when we add compost to our roses. I believe flies attract them. But let's start with more general -
To lure good bugs to your garden, first get to know the players, then give them the right habitat
It happens every spring. First a few aphids appear on the cole crops. I barely notice. A week later the aphids have doubled. I start to get concerned. After another week the number has grown again. Should I panic? Reach for the soap spray? Will my helpers come to my aid again this year? And then, one morning, there they are, lady beetles wandering among the aphids, dining contentedly. In a few days there's hardly an aphid to be found. I'm always amazed that the lady beetles come in such numbers, and at the right time. And they always do the job.
Our garden consists of numerous vegetable beds surrounded by a diverse border of annual and perennial flowers, herbs, and fruit trees. Next to the garden are wild areas where some of the less troublesome weeds grow to maturity. And among the vegetable beds are plots of alfalfa, clover, and buckwheat. In these places dwell a militia of beneficial insects, ready to emerge to eat or parasitize other insects that may be harmful to our plants. On a warm summer day, I can see a light haze of tiny parasitic wasps visiting the fennel flowers in search of nectar. The nectar will sustain them while they look for aphids or caterpillars in which to deposit their eggs. It's a relief to have such formidable allies. I haven't needed even an organic pesticide in 15 years.
To create a welcoming habitat for your insect helpers, first you need to know something about them. A good way to start is to grab a hand lens and a picture book of insects and take a rough census of your resident population. If you've avoided using pesticides and have a variety of plants growing, you may find many allies already present. The ones you're most likely to see include lady beetles, ground beetles, lacewings, hover flies, a couple of true bugs, and a few tiny wasps. These can be divided into two groups: those that eat their prey directly (predators) and those that deposit their eggs on or into their host (parasitoids).
BEETLES - The two kinds of beetle that are most helpful are lady beetles (a.k.a. ladybugs) and ground beetles, both predators.
LADY BEETLES - Lady beetles prey on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. The adults will eat as many as 50 aphids per day. If you have enough aphids, and the beetles stick around long enough to lay eggs, each hatched larva will eat some 400 aphids before entering its pupal stage. There are many species of lady beetle that attack many different prey. The adults are independent, flighty creatures. If you buy some at the garden center and release them into your garden, be prepared to watch most of them fly away to your neighbor's yard. Those that stay, though, will be a big help.
GROUND BEETLES - Ground beetles don't fly much, preferring to run away when disturbed. You probably won't see them unless you uncover their hiding places. If I see them at all, it's when I'm picking up old piles of weeds. They're relatively large (about 3/4 inch), and dark, with long, jointed legs. They're nocturnal hunters, rooting among leaf litter for insect eggs and larvae.
Our garden is also home to hoards of soldier beetles, which show up for the late spring aphid feast. And I sometimes encounter mite-and-snail-destroying rove beetles that inhabit piles of decaying organic matter.
LACEWINGS - When the fairylike green lacewing flutters silently by in search of pollen or nectar, I find it hard to imagine it in its fiercely predacious larval stage, during which it devours aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, leafhoppers, insect eggs, and whiteflies. It even eats other lacewings. Up close, the larva looks like a tiny (1/2 inch) alligator. If you keep a supply of flowering plants, adult lacewings may take up residence. If you decide to introduce beneficials to your garden, lacewings are the most effective predators you can buy.
HOVER FLIES - With their striped abdomens, hover flies look like small bees, but they move through the air more like flies, zipping from plant to plant, hovering briefly before landing. The hover, or syrphid, fly is one of many predatory flies and the most conspicuous beneficial in our garden. I can find them just about anytime anywhere in the garden. They visit a variety of flowers in search of pollen and nectar, and they lay their eggs near aphids or other soft-bodied insects. The eggs hatch into hungry larvae that eat up to 60 aphids per day.
TRUE BUGS - There are bugs and then there are true bugs. True bugs, like the minute pirate bug and the big-eyed bug, belong to the insect order Hemiptera. Many are plant feeders but many are predacious, with tubular mouthparts they insert like a straw to suck the juices out of their prey.
The minute pirate bug is a tiny (1/12 inch) predator with a wide-ranging appetite; it eats aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, and insect eggs. It lays its eggs on the leaf surface near its prey; nymphs hatch and begin feeding. The cycle from egg to adult takes only three weeks.
The other important true bug is the big-eyed bug. It's a little bigger than the minute pirate bug and has a similar diet. It also eats nectar and seeds, so it may stay even if it can't find an insect to eat.
You might come across some other common predatory true bugs, including assassin bugs, damsel bugs, thread-legged bugs, and a couple of species of stinkbug.
PARASITIC WASPS - These very helpful creatures, ranging in size from small to minuscule, will defend your garden against caterpillars like corn earworm, tomato fruitworm, cabbageworm, and tent caterpillars. The smallest and perhaps most popular parasitic wasp is the trichogramma, a dust-size creature that lays up to 300 eggs in moth or butterfly eggs. You can buy them through the mail if you're expecting an infestation of caterpillars. They don't live very long so timing their release to coincide with the presence of pest eggs is pretty important.
Braconid, chalcid, and ichneumid wasps are much larger than trichogramma, and parasitize caterpillars directly, laying eggs in or on the caterpillar. The hatching eggs eventually either kill the host or disrupt its activities. Braconids parasitize aphids as well. If you're scouting with a hand lens and notice some mummified aphids with neat circular holes in them, you'll know a braconid was there. A young wasp developed inside the aphid and ate its way out.
If you build it, they will come
We're living in a bug-eat-bug world. And I want to keep it that way. To do so, I've transformed my garden into an insectary, a habitat where my beneficial insect friends will feel at home. I provide them with food, water, and shelter. I keep the soil covered with organic matter. And I avoid putting any harmful chemicals into their habitat.
The menu for beneficials changes constantly as the pest population shrinks and swells, and as different flowers come into bloom. Many of the predators and most of the parasites will use pollen and nectar for food. I try to sustain them throughout the year by growing a variety of flowers that bloom at different times. Since many of the beneficials are tiny or have short mouthparts, I offer them tiny flowers with short nectaries. Many plants in the carrot and aster families offer just that.
I water my garden with overhead sprinklers, so insects always have puddles and wet leaves to drink from. If I were using drip irrigation, I'd offer them water in a saucer filled with pebbles, so they don't drown.
Just like the rest of us, beneficials need protection from heat and rain. They need to hide from birds and insects who would make a meal of them. Again, a variety of leafy plants offers protection. Ground beetles hide in low-growing ground covers and in mulch or leaf litter. Flying insects hide in shrubs, on the undersides of leaves, even among the petals of marigolds.
Beneficials also need a reason to stay on when they've finished cleaning up the crops or at the end of the season when you've cleaned up the garden. Consider trying to recreate in a corner of the yard or on the edge of your garden the thick, wild diversity of a hedgerow by using a variety of early-flowering shrubs, perennials, and grasses to provide year-round shelter and a place for alternative prey to dwell. Keep this beneficial insect reservoir as close to your garden as you dare. If the insects get too comfortable in the hedgerow, they might not be inclined to travel very far for a meal. As long as there is a place for pests, the beneficials may stay to eat in your weedy refuge rather than head for the neighbor's yard.
Gardening strategies that attract beneficials
Insect allies hate dust. Keeping the soil covered at all times, either with mulch or with growing plants, conserves moisture, moderates temperatures, and eliminates dust. It also provides habitat for ground and rove beetles. Try not to eliminate every weed. Leave some for the insects.
If you use selective insecticides to rid yourself of pests, you run a very strong risk of ridding your beneficials of prey, as well, even if you're using relatively benign products, like Bt or other biologicals. Nonselective pesticides could rid you of beneficials altogether. I believe there's no place in an insect habitat for these chemicals. When you abandon chemical control for biocontrol, you may experience a sudden increase in pests. It may take a while for the beneficial insect population to expand to the point that you can relax your guard. In the meantime, I'd rely on less-harmful botanical and natural controls to slow down the bad guys until the good guys show up.
Creating a habitat for wild insects is a very imprecise activity. With experimentation and observation you may hit on the right combination of insectary plants that encourages the right combination of insects for your garden. Your success will probably vary from year to year as the climate and vegetation change and new pests arrive. You should expect the development of a habitat where pests and beneficials exist in a rough balance to be an effort of several years rather than a season or two. Despite the presence of so many beneficials in our garden, I still find myself from time to time having to hand-pick squash bugs or rub scale from the branches of the fruit trees.
There are a lot of plants to choose from
Creating your habitat can be a colorful affair. Start luring beneficials quickly with annuals like alyssum, cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds. At the same time, set out perennial flowers and herbs, including golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria), yarrow, lavender, mint, fennel, angelica, and tansy. Beneficials are also fond of dill, parsley, and cilantro flowers. When you've finished harvesting these herbs, leave the plants in the garden to flower. I like to let a small patch of carrots run to flower. Their blossoms are sweetly fragrant; beneficials love them.
I try to intersperse insectary plants with my vegetables. I figure if the target pests are close by the pollen and nectar source, there's a greater likelihood the beneficials will find them. If you add to all this a patch here and there of alfalfa, buckwheat, or clover (all quite attractive to beneficials), you'll be well on your way to establishing an arsenal of insect allies. Your garden will be healthier and safer because of it.
NM: there is one important thing to keep in mind - if your garden plants are attacked by "bad" insects do not get upset - this only means - nature is taking its true course as the plant will never allow to eat itself it it was healthy. You might need to enhance the soil so your plants will enjoy themselves and will not commit suicide by attracting "bad" insects... :)
I would really like to attract wild animals to our garden... like lions or giraffes but first of all this is too far for them to travel and secondly I do not think our next door neighbours would enjoy such company... and last but not least I have to stop writing and save this topic for another story...
Our Almost Spring Garden
OUR JULY GARDEN WINTER FLOWERS AND OUR GREEN WALLS
talking about green walls as promised i added some photos of our green walls and some of our winter flowers
Rural Australian Gardens
i love Herald Sun - Alex brought a new present last night from his work: Rural Australian Gardens hard cover book - not that i will be reading but the pictures are so awesome... it will be in our house library next time you visit - please ask for it to browse through...