Beetle Mania

In the last part of October there were two days when swarms of beetles filled the air around the steel building on my property. One day was after two days of rain and the other day was after a day of strong winds. There were many configurations of spots on their backs as the following picture shows. I wonder which are beneficial and which might be detrimental to the plants that I am trying to grow.

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In the second picture they appear to be searching for an entry to the building and as a place to hole-up for the Winter.

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When one of the beetles is crushed, the aroma reminds me of the times when my mother was not happy  about how they invaded the ceiling light fixtures and were roasted.

 

Return of the Fall Webworms

The Fall webworms have been very active this year. The eggs are attached to a leaf in a small white silky mass. The resulting caterpillars create webs to protect themselves from predators while they eat the leaves inside the web and grow. Some trees have been completely defoliated. The following picture shows a pecan tree with numerous webs.

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The caterpillars do not seem to bother oak trees very much. The following picture shows a tall hickory tree completely engulfed whereas the nearby oak trees show very little effect.

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Weeds & Wildflowers

Seeing the pretty blooms of weeds in the field reminds me of something I need to do this Winter when the weather cools off. I need to study what plants grow in the fields and learn to identify most of them. But, care needs to be taken that the beauty of the blooms does not over rule any needed responses to undesirable or noxious weeds. The following pictures show blooms of weeds/wildflowers in the field.

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Also, I need to study the manual for my camera so I can take better close up pictures.

Name That Lily

This last week the flowers of the lily that probably has more names than any other flower popped out of the ground, grew stems about two feet tall, and produced some beautiful flowers. This all happened in a period of about four days. What is your name for the lily in the following pictures?

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How about surprise lily, magic lily, nekkid lady, ressurection lily, etc. It is interesting to note that this lily produced leaves early in the Spring that then died away before the flowers decided to pop out of the ground.

More Blooming Good Times

Previous owners of the property planted various flowers and trees at various sites that have outlived their ownership. A previous post showed some of the early blooms – here are a few that bloomed later.  Do you know their names?

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Two years ago I planted a sage bush which produces pretty purple blooms – picture below.

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How about a picture of Socrates’ poison plant (hemlock)?

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The white flowers at the top of the five to ten foot tall stalk look like fine frilly lace.  This year there seem to be a lot more clusters of these five to ten foot tall plants located along creek banks than in the previous two Springs.

 

Squishy Squash

Yesterday the temperature reached 96 degrees and I was not the only thing that showed the effects.

After seeing the somewhat wilted squash vines that are growing out of my compost bin/pile, I remembered the same thing in my mothers gardens when I was growing up. The following picture shows some of the big squash leaves that are drooping in the hot weather.

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And, here is a wider picture of the squash vines growing out of the compost pile as they continue to conquer territory.

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Now I need to decide if it is worth continuing to walk around the encroaching plant with the potential return of a few squash, or, should I chop the plant down and add it to the compost pile.

The June Beetles Came in May

Many of the pecan seedling trees in the field were damaged by what appears to be the work of June beetles.

When inspecting the damaged trees, no culprits were found on the leaves. That seems to be the nature of June beetles – hiding during the daylight hours and partying at night. There are good descriptions on the Northern Pecan blog.

The leaflets on some of the trees were completely destroyed – leaving only the stems of the leaves – see the following two pictures.

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A second type of bug damage occurs where the  attack location starts at the tip of the growing shoot. Adjacent leaves are glued together into a mass where a worm feeds inside – see the following picture.

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With other bugs gnawing on the leaves it amazing how the pecan trees keep trying to come back as the following picture shows.

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Moving the Potted Trees to a Raised Bed

After over-wintering the potted trees in the straw bale fort it is now time to move them to a raised stand where they will continue growing and their roots will be air pruned when they grow out the holes in the bottoms of the pots.

One goal starting trees in pots is to form a mass of roots inside the pots which will support growth after planting out into the field. A common technique is to use a process called “air pruning” to increase root mass inside the pot and also prevent root growth outside the pot. Although pecan and Chinese chestnut roots require some air in the soil to grow, when they try to grow out through the holes in the pot into pure air they are “air pruned” and cease to grow in that direction. If the pots had remained in the Winter fort where mulch was packed between the pots, the roots would have grown outside of the pots — through the holes in the pots into the surrounding mulch.

That will be accomplished by placing the pots on a raised platform about 15 inches above the ground as shown in the following picture. The bottom of the platform is made from cattle panel and supported about 15 inches above the ground. The ground underneath is covered in mulch to prevent weed growth.

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As observed in the next picture the potted trees fill in all the area of the raised platform.

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Potted Tree Bed

Last fall I had about 50 seedling trees in pots which had grown from seed sprouted in the two previous Springs, and, they needed to be protected from the bitter cold temperatures during the coming winter. Some people move the pots into a cool basement for the Winter. I decided to build an outdoor fort using straw bales and place the pots in it. Then for further protection I covered the potted trees with a mixture of leaves, straw, and grass clippings as you can see in first picture below. The second picture shows the fort this Spring after it had settled somewhat during the Winter.

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In mid-March of this year it seemed that the really cold weather was in the past and so I removed the padding from the fort as shown in the third picture. The trees in the smaller one gallon pots were sprouted from seed in May, 2014, and the trees in the larger three gallon pots were sprouted in May, 2013.  The square one gallon pots on the left contain Chinese chestnut trees.

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Assuming the trees survived the Winter without major damage they can now be transplanted into the field anytime during the next seven or so months. One advantage of growing seedling trees in pots is that they can be transplanted into the field in Spring, Summer, or Fall. Bare root trees, on the other hand, would need to be planted out into the field during Springtime before the trees wake up and start growing leaves again.

Another advantage is the ease of watering. During the Summer months the young  trees need lots of water to survive the hot weather. When the potted trees are concentrated together in one small area it is relatively easy to water them. Then they can be planted out into a field in the Fall when they require less water . The trees still need some water during the Winter months but normal rainfall usually suffices. It is recommended that the trees newly planted into the field be watered weekly during the first couple of Summers if rain is not sufficient. My back reminds me of my age after a day of carrying five gallon buckets of water around and watering field trees.

The series of pictures below show the potted trees after they began to leaf out during April through mid May when the leaves hide the pots under them.  The Chinese chestnut trees woke up earlier than the pecan trees.  But, whether pecans or chestnuts, they do not all come alive at the same time as their kin – the variation can be a week or two.

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The next step is to move the potted trees out of the bed onto a raised stand where the roots will be air pruned  –  a “Coming Attraction” to this blog will explain more .

Blossoms and Blooms

I am lucky that a former owner of the property made a couple of flower beds and enclosed them with small timbers. One bed has early Easter flowers as shown in the first picture. Of the many flowers that grow along the fence outside of the beds, the surprise lilies are storing up energy that will produce blooms in July and August.

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Another feature of the former owners gift is the location of the flower beds – the flowers and flower bed are situated along a fence with oak trees in the fence row. When the leaves drop in the Fall, the wind blows them around so that most of them eventually collect along the fence – see the second picture. As they settle and rot they become free fertilize for the flowers that grow there. When digging in that area the layers of decomposing leaves show natures history for the past couple of years.

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Also, there is a crab apple tree left by a former owner – see the third and fourth pictures. I missed the peak of the red blossoms by a couple of days but the tree is still impressive. Although you cannot see it in the pictures, the grass is full of red blooms from the tree.

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