Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Petite School Butterfly Garden

Another project I was working on recently was installing a small butterfly garden at my children's school garden. We had a limited budget and small space but lots of enthusiasm!

Here is the space before... lots of weeds and too much shade. However, there was one existing milkweed plant. It always amazes me how they manage to grow in less than ideal circumstances.

The children helped clear the area of debris and weeds. We added nectar (zinnias, marigolds, pentas) and host plants (milkweed and parsley), mulch, and bricks for edging. Some of the milkweed plants were transferred from other parts of the garden where they had just popped up.

The children were so eager to work in the garden - it was impressive. And they were so excited to find caterpillars in the garden just two weeks later. Success!

Looking for caterpillars

Friday, July 5, 2013

Our Kitchen Garden Part IV

Ok, I know that June is not the typical time of the year to start your vegetable garden in 9B. But I was not going to let my new raised beds sit empty until the Fall planting season - that would be torture! So I tried to plant things that would hopefully tolerate the heat and bugs.

I planted lots of herbs: Italian, purple, and mini boxwood basils, oregano, thyme, common and chocolate mint, flat leaf parsley, rosemary, and sage.

I also planted my favorite vegetables: tomatoes (Mortgage Lifter, Celebrity, Purple Cherokee, and Sweet 'N' Neat), eggplants (Black Beauty and Japanese), peppers (Thai Long Sweet Peppers), collards (Georgia Southern),  bush beans (Dragon Tongue and Royalty Purple Pod), and zucchini.

The zucchini did not do well - too much rain brought on powdery mildew. I tried spraying it with diluted skim milk which helped. However, it became a big battle and I decided planting it was just not a good idea. The Italian and purple basils are hanging in there. I'm getting enough to enhance my sauces and sandwiches but not enough for pesto. Surprisingly, the boxwood basil is thriving in the heat and attracting lots of bees. The rest of the herbs are growing nicely. I have picked some Celebrity, Purple Cherokee and Sweet 'n' Neat tomatoes. No mortgage lifters yet. The collards are coming along but getting chewed on by something that I can't see. The peppers are growing slowly but surely. I had to replant those seeds because I planted them too deep the first time. The bean plants are flowering but no beans yet. The Black Beauty eggplants have not set fruit -  it may be too hot. The Japanese eggplants are  prolific and we have enjoyed many eggplants for dinner.

Lastly, our large pot arrived and Allison planted blueberries in it. She also lined the back fence with raspberry plants.

As you can imagine, I have been very busy with the vegetable garden but enjoying every minute of it! I'm already thinking about the next vegetable season!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

More Summer Snapshots!

I found this chubby caterpillar crawling up the milkweed this morning. Maybe he was looking for a good place to spin his chrysalis?

Monarch caterpillar

This Monarch butterfly stayed still for this photo longer than I expected. Monarchs really enjoy sipping the nectar from our Butterfly Bush.

Monarch on Butterfly Bush

My dear friend Donna (who is a wonderful photographer!) sent me this beautiful shot from her garden. Purple coneflowers are one of my favorite nectar plants. The bees like them too!

Donna Williams Photography

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Our Kitchen Garden Part III

We added a stone path that leads from our back porch to the garden. This is one of my favorite design aspects of the garden. I enjoy watching the kids skip along the path on their way to the garden.

Then Allison's crew planted boxwood around the perimeter of the raised beds. I thought this would soften the look and I've always admired boxwood hedges. 

The electrical outlet is now behind the fountain.

Edging was installed to define the garden space. It also keeps the gravel in and the grass out.

Next up:  what I planted!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Update: Black Swallowtail Caterpillars

I recently posted a photo of some Black Swallowtail caterpillars on the parsley in our kitchen garden. Look at them now!

The host plants for Black Swallowtails include parsley, dill, fennel, carrots, and Queen Anne's lace.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Our Kitchen Garden Part II

Allison's crew continued to build our raised beds and filled them with compost, peat moss, and vermiculite.

The electrical outlet began to stick out like a sore thumb so I requested that the electrician move it somewhere less obvious. Our fountain arrived... I loved it even more when I saw it in person. It's color and style go well with the design of our Mediterranean home. And the sound of the water flowing is so calming. Our neighbor directly behind us said he enjoys listening to it while he has his coffee on the back porch in the morning. The benches were also added to the raised beds. I thought this made the garden a little more formal and allowed for places to sit. Pea gravel was placed over the landscape fabric as well.

I purchased this Meyer Lemon tree at the Leu Gardens plant sale last year (a great place to buy citrus trees by the way). We used to live in the San Francisco area and I've always remembered the lemon trees covered with fruit. We never had to buy lemons back then. I could not decide where to plant it in the yard so it was in a large pot on the back porch. It had just about outgrew the pot so Allison helped me decide where to plant it. It is now located on the right side of our backyard in front of the kitchen garden. I think it makes a nice specimen tree next to the kitchen garden and contributes to the overall feel I was going for. It also attracts bees when it is in bloom and boy, do those lemon blossoms smell good when I walk outside!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Snapshots!

In the garden today...

Gulf Fritillary on purple Vinca

Young Black Swallowtail caterpillars (3) on parsley
in the kitchen garden. I need to plant more parsley!


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