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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mediterranean Introduction

Iris oratoria Egg Case

Lucky Garden Find For A Mediterranean Introduction

We have been fortunate to find mantis here and there in our garden, but have recently become very lucky to find an egg case (ootheca).

When searching for what this egg case is, many people were surprised to know that it is actually a mantis egg case as it doesn't look like the egg cases sold or commonly seen online.

This particular egg case is evidence of a mantis species commonly known as Mediterranean Mantis that has been introduced to the United States from Europe.  The initial sighting of this species occurred in California during the 1930s and has now spread throughout the warmer southern states.

Iris oratoria Egg Case
The interesting find is that the case is laid on our Mediterranean Olive tree, Bellatrix, covered in the bonsai diaries.  The egg case was discovered while making some risky cuttings to Bellatrix for imperial bonsai shaping.

Iris oratoria Open Wings
The mantis is easily identified when the wings are opened to reveal the iridescent circular spots reminiscent of the peacock feather eyes.

Lucky for us, these mantis have a habit of staying in close proximity to their birthplace most of their lives and we get to look forward to many generations (hopefully) of these mantis protecting our garden.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Creating A Tropical Microclimate In The Desert

Uppsala University Tropical GreenHouse

Create A Tropical Microclimate In The Desert

I started on this idea after watching a GrowingAGreenerWorld episode about four season gardening.  The show was basically about the FourSeasonFarm ideas that allows the owners to grow salad year round in a cold climate (Best Selling Book Here).

The part of the show that caught my attention was the use of the 6 mil clear plastic sheeting to effectively change the 'climate' 1.5 zones per sheet layer.  We can pretty much grow salad any time of year here, with just a little planning (row covers).

For us, being in Zone 9b, we would only need one of the plastic sheeting layers to reduce the light a
Feedlot Panel GreenHouse
bit ( by about 10%), in winter, throw over some shade cloth for summer and fog system year round managed by OpenSprinkler to gain our Zone 10/11 climate if no pond was inside the greenhouse.

The frame is pretty much a simple set up.  Some people use feedlot panels. The feedlot panels can be set up and taken down/stored flat really easily and not take much space. This would be especially great for people who had tiny homes and moved around but needed to have their green house with them.

PVC GreenHouse
Some people make pvc frames.  PVC frames are more easily customized and the pipes can be used to house the fog emitters without taking up any more interior space.  Mother Earth News has some info on plans to make a pvc greenhouse.

PVC green houses would probably be more year round type structures.  If we did something like this, we would want a smaller version and would put some wheels on it.

For a no fuss, small space green house, getting one already made
Small Mini GreenHouse
may be the answer. Time is money, after all.  There is a really cute one I was tempted by on, but it may not be big enough for our needs and we're still debating the idea.

For our solution, which we have not determined yet, we need to increase by a zone or two.  Keep plants more moist and increase the ambient humidity. We don't have a huge amount of space and have not completed the backyard overall design, so there is little detail on what we can do yet, but no harm in thinking about it.

If anyone else has experience with this, we'd love to get some insight and feedback on it.

Whats New In October

Praying Mantis On Basil Flowers

October 2, 2016

The weather is starting to cool off with a majority of days under 100 degrees (finally!)  The few plants we set out in late August are doing really well and attracting some beneficial insects.

We have a praying mantis hanging out on our sweet basil and green onion plants. Looks like it is doing a great job if we judge by the fat abdomen.

We've been chopping the basil back by half, leaving a few longer stems and it just keeps getting thicker.

The Bicolor Buddleia barely made it through the heat
Bicolor Buddleia
of summer and is starting to make a bit of a come back now that the weather is cooling off.  Once it is reestablished, many cuttings will be taken to propagate new plants.

The times the Buddleia has blossomed, I haven't seen much bee or butterfly activity.

Armenian Cucumbers
Our Armenian cucumbers are quite productive. We had a nice long vine with some good sized cucumbers developing, and the vine snapped for some reason - ending up in a big loss.  

We are just now getting some new cucumbers that can be harvested in another couple of weeks.  These are my all-time favorite cucumbers.

We have some Anaheim chiles that are perking up suddenly and
Anaheim chiles
making many flowers and fruits.  We're looking forward to letting these become red and making some home-made red chili sauce for enchiladas.

Texas Ebony
Our home-grown Texas Ebony seems to be suffering from an attack.  The bark has split down past the cambium layer and one of the branches is losing leaves.

The likely culprits are flatheaded borers, which are easier to prevent than to get rid of.  We did have some problems with watering consistency, and moving the tree in its planter from one location to another several times.  During these moves, we broke developing roots.  This could have stressed the tree to attract the little buggers.  This is another one to take some softwood cuttings of for propagation.