Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Beauty Of Butterflies

Our Annual butterfly event and release will be held this Saturday.  Come join us for a day filled with all things butterflies!  Click here for a complete schedule of events:

Plant Your Own Butterfly Garden!

Sure, you can attract a couple of butterflies just by planting a few of the right flowers in a window box or a corner of your vegetable patch, but to observe a true diversity (as many as 40 different species) and watch their transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis and finally adult, you’ll want to create a haven specifically for them - A SEPARATE BUTTERFLY GARDEN!

Your butterfly garden should offer plenty of sun and protection from strong winds - the south or southeast side of a stone wall, building, hedge or slope are excellent.  If you don’t have such a sheltered site, you can arrange the plants in the garden in a bowl shape, with the taller ones on the outside creating a sheltering effect.

Your butterfly garden doesn’t have to be large, but the more naturalized the better.  Chemical pesticides are, of course, deadly to butterflies and their offspring.  But if you’re an organic gardener, you don’t have to worry about accidentally killing what you’re trying to attract.

Good butterfly plants HAVE three traits:  shape, color and fragrance.  Butterflies sip nectar through their tongue (proboscis) so plants that allow them the easiest access to that nectar are preferred.  Many butterfly flowers are purple, lavender or pink, but because butterflies see differently than we do, their response to flower colors is not entirely predictable.

A heavy perfume appeals to butterflies, so stick to the old-fashioned or heirloom varieties in place of the faint-scented modern forms of the same flowers.  Butterflies have an acute sense of smell.  They can detect the most fragrant flowers from afar and will delight on them rather than on modern hybrids that have little or no fragrance.

The average adult butterfly lives only two weeks, and much of that time is devoted to reproduction and egg-laying.  To lay those eggs, females search for a proper host plant on which to deposit their eggs.  When those eggs hatch, the larva (caterpillars) emerge and begin feeding, usually on the leaves of that host plant.  These host plants are often different than the plants that adult butterflies use as nectar sources.

You don’t absolutely need host plants in your butterfly garden, but by having a few of them around - either in your main planting or somewhere nearby - you will help to increase the local butterfly population and increase your opportunity for observation of the next generation’s adult form.  Most butterflies travel only a few hundred yards from where they grow up as caterpillars.

You can raise your own butterflies indoors - even after summer has passed.  No matter what your age, it’s fun to watch the metamorphosis from egg to butterfly.  By releasing the adults, you may even help to increase the butterfly populations in your outdoor garden and neighborhood.  If you have just one square foot of space, you can easily raise 50 to 100 butterflies.  It’s relaxing and rewarding.  When you release a new butterfly that you’ve raised, you can make a wish or simply watch your cares fly away with it.

The first step is making an aviary - or butterfly house.  To begin, identify the proper host plant for the kind of butterflies that you wish to raise, and pot one up so that you can bring it indoors.  Then use two long pieces of wire to construct a teepee-like frame work over the plant.  Cover the framework with mosquito netting or an old sheer curtain and fasten the bottom of the net to the pot with string or a rubber band.

Now find a female butterfly - the right species for your host plant - and catch her.  What’s that?  How do you tell a male from a female?  The best way is to consult a good field guide to butterflies:  Males and females of the same species often have distinguishing marks or flight patterns that will be illustrated or described in the guide.  For example, the male monarch’s scent pouch on its hind wing looks like a large black dot.  (Hold the butterfly upside down by its wings, and look at the tip of its abdomen.  You’ll see claspers on a male, but not on a female.

Butterflies are most active, and therefore easiest to spot on sunny days.  Late morning is prime time.  Late afternoon is also good for seeing and catching butterflies, but they often hide during the hottest part of the day.  To catch your butterfly, wear subdued colors and approach very slowly.

Almost any female that you catch in your garden will already be fertilized.  After you put her in the cage, add a small melon cube for food (sugar), or provide a few nectar flowers, such as cosmos or zinnias.  A brand new, never used orange pot scrubber in a shallow dish filled with sugar water also works.  At first you may need to coax her to eat by opening her proboscis with a tooth pick (Yes, you can do this!  It’s easy!)  and she’ll soon catch on.

Cover the entire cage with a brown paper bag to keep the butterfly calm; strong light will cause her to become active and she may hurt herself in the enclosed space.  After 24 hours, begin checking the leaves of your host plant for eggs - a female will generally begin laying in one to seven days.  (After she’s laid a few eggs, you can release her.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Preventing Late Blight on Tomatoes and Potatoes

Late blight is spread by a fungal infection that produces millions of spores during wet seasons and quickly infects healthy plants.  Not only can spores survive in infected tubers and soil, once active, spores can travel great distances and infect neighboring areas 5-10 miles away.  Late blight was responsible for the Irish potato famine in the 1840’s and is detrimental to entire crops.  Late blight generally emerges in August when weather is hot and humid and can destroy plants in days.  Rain can gather and carry spores for miles away.  Once the infection is evident, very little will save the plant, but you can prevent the spread to other plants.
1.  Check plant daily.  Dark brown or gray lesions on the leaves, stems, joints and new 
growth are common.  Leaf browning, white powdery mold or lesions on fruit are all 
signs of blight.
2.  Avoid overhead watering; water plants at the base not on the leaves.
3.  Remove infected plant immediately and put in the garbage - do not compost or bury 
plants because blight can continue to survive and spread.
4.  Spray healthy plants with fungicide every 5-7 days (read the label).  Active ingredients 
include maneb, mancozeb, chlorothalonil or fixed copper.  Apply liberally.
5.  If a wet season, spraying early may prevent blight all together.  
6.  Use mulch or landscape fabric as water splashing from the ground onto plants may set 
blight into motion.
7.  Plant tomatoes at least 2 feet apart to allow for air circulation.
8.  Rotate crops to other areas from year to year especially tomatoes and potatoes.  

Bonide Copper Fungicide - Apply in flower bed as soon as plants are established.  Repeat at 4-14 days intervals throughout the growing season (available in liquid and dust).

Bonide Garden Dust - to control insects and blights.

Bonide Tomato and Vegetable 3 in 2 - fungicide, insecticide, miticide.

Organicide K Neem Oil - apply weekly (organic option)

Late blight on Potatoes:  On potato tubers, late blight appears as a shallow, coppery-brown dry
rot that spreads irregularly from the surface through the outer 1/2 inch of tissue.  Lesions on the surface can be brown, dry and sunken.

Peppers and eggplant can also be infected with late blight.