Saturday, May 6, 2017

May Garden Updates

Schinus molle blossom Inspected By Ant

May Garden Updates

It's kind of hard to find things to write up in separate posts when most of the things in the garden are tracked by separate pages.  Pages are for perennials.  I guess we'll stick with insects and annuals for the postings.

That is quite alright.  I really enjoy getting photos of insects in the yarden as the seasons change.  I had no idea how many varieties of insects are in the home yarden until I started taking photos and trying to figure out if we have friends or foe.

Organic Control Milestone
Ramshorn willow with aphids

I hesitate to write this up.  As soon as I smugly post how great my organic non-pesticide garden is going I'm sure to be hit with a plague.  However, it was quite interesting to monitor some activity with bated breath... on the brink of using pesticide only to have a garden predator completely decimate the foe.  We have friends.

As the story goes, we have this adorable little ramshorn willow.  Little willow is coming along great this year.  April 30 comes and the top leaves are smothered in dark colored aphids.  I was not happy.  It was distressing.  I waited...  we had all these syrphid fly adults buzzing around everywhere.

Syrphid fly adult on fig leaf
The syrphid fly adults are quite cute.  They can fly like a helecopter - any direction and even maintain a hovering stationary position.  Syrphid flies are also called hoverfly or flowerfly.  The adults pollinate and look for the best places to lay eggs.  This is a good thing.  This is why we waited and did not spray plants.

As an aside, the best first defense is having healthy plants.  This is done by ensuring they are well watered, and receive all the proper nutrients to develop healthy roots, strong branches and delicious fruits or vegetables.

Anyway.  We waited.  The hover flies were all over the place at the end of April.  I haven't seen them all that much since then.

We have seen several different assassin bugs.  Assassin bugs are awesome.  I believe we have two
Zelus Renardii adult assassin bug
different types we caught with the camera in the yarden.  We have seen them in different stages of development.

We have had the adult and nymph versions of the Zelus renardii assassin bug (Leafhopper assasin bug).  These guys like aphids.  They can eat quite a bit and are pretty opportunistic.

Zelus Renardii nymph
We found a nymph version flailing around an aphid while trying to dodge the camera.

As the abdomen testifies, they are doing pretty well in the food deparment.  No shortages here.

Becoming accustomed to where these guys decide to play house, we started checking daily to see how the prey and predator are doing.

This morning, aphids and assassin were gone.  All that was left was this
Syrphid fly larvae
one syrphid fly larvae.  I did not see even one aphid on the plant this morning.  There was quite a population just yesterday evening.

Conclusion...  I really like the syrphid flies.  Hands down the absolute best natural aphid assassin.  The other great benefit of the syrphid fly larvae is that ants don't seem to care if it is around their aphid farms or not.  I've seen a couple of posts covering this, but no explanation why this happens.

Lacewing larvae or 'aphid lion'

Other Assassins

In April, we get a lot of the green lacewings flying around.  Then they lay the eggs on these long threads to prevent the eggs from getting eaten.

The eggs hatch and out come the 'aphid lions'.  Lacewing larvae and ladybug larvae look similar in shape, number of legs and the pincers on the heads.  The big difference is the coloring.  Ladybug larvae tend to be colors of browns, reds and blacks.  Lacewings tend to be beige and green.  Some lacewings even attach fuzzy things to their bodies including dead aphid skins, but ants deter them from intruding on their aphid farms anyway.

We believe we have a different type of assassin bug.  It looks much like the Zelus renardii but the
Assassin bug nymph
coloring was off.  I'm not sure if it was going to molt to the next instar or if it is really a different assassin bug.

We have another larger assassin nymph that housed itself up in the attar of roses plant.

I see it just sitting there, with the long forelegs folded up mantis style just waiting for a flying insect to show up.

The assassins tend to hunker down and try to find hiding places when the camera comes out.

Assassin bug nymph
Daily monitoring will continue.  We have seeded the planters with white and red clover seeds for a living mulch/nitrogen fixer.  Hopefully this will attract more pollinating adult predator insects.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Too Soon For Summer

Greenhouse Frame With 30% Shadecloth

Too Soon For Summer

The greenhouse top came off and was replace by a 30% shade cloth.  With the greenhouse cover on, the temperature was getting a bit hotter than the rest of the yard area.

Kind of a bummer, because it was helping to retain humidity a little more. With the wetted soil, the mini water garden and transpiration, the humidity is about 5% higher there than the rest of our yard area.  It is also about 5 or 6 degrees cooler than the rest of the area.

Or normal Phoenix temperatures are in the mid to high 80s and we are heading into the 90 degree weather already. Phew.  Some of these plants will have to be moved indoors when it breaks 100.

Phoenix, Arizona Climate Trends
This is also the time of year that we receive much less rain until the Monsoons come around...  And much longer days with the sun beating down on the little plants with a much lower humidity.  This is when the plants  start looking like they're passing out midday from heat stress.

June will be the absolute most tortuous month for us gardeners here, so we can slowly get started on getting stuff prepped to beat the heat.

But, back to the nicer April weather.

zWave Weather and Shade House Readings
After giving the now named shade house a watering on the soil and a spray down on the plant leaves the difference from our ambient temperature and the shade house temperature is noticeable.  The humidity sky rockets for a bit as well.

Making a regular study on this it may be a benefit to put a humidifier or timed misting system low to the ground.

Getting back to what is going on here this month.

What's Growin On In April

Fuyu Persimmon Blossom
The new persimmon tree has started blossoming.  The blossoms are so cute and many photos will be on the persimmon page.   We're learning about growing and training persimmons. I'm so looking forward to trying a persimmon, I haven't the heart to pick off the blossoms this year.  I'm not sure how harmful that is for the overall development.

We have a new purple honeysuckle plant, jasminum officionale (Poet's Jasmine), Attar of Roses, vanilla bean orchid, soursop and Phet Pakchung atemoya. We ended up replacing one of the Sicilian Sunshine Bay Laurel trees as the one started indoors completely failed. The replacement is quite robust!

We started a simple layer propagation of the Wisteria vine so that we can have our Cat-In-The-Hat duo, Thing One and Thing Two back. The original Thing One failed, and we're just going to clone up another one.

In The Hive

Honey Bee Hive
We haven't checked the hive for some time.  We've left them alone to completely fill up the full length of the 4 foot long top bar hive.

The bees kind of went cockeyed with the comb. This will make honey thieving a little harder when June comes around.

They have a lot of fresh comb, as indicated by the light coloring of the wax. There is some propolis deposited around many of the openings and the clear liquid honey is quite visible in the open cells.

Honey Bee hive

The bees still have so much emptiness left, we are not likely to get a split from the hive this year. maybe next year... We still have an open, unloved hive.