Whenever I am in the garden the camera is always at hand, typically perched on its tripod where the last photograph was taken. My objective is to document the garden’s biodiversity. Arthropods – insects, spiders, and the like, along with the plants on which they eke out their living, make up the majority of subjects in these photos.
Sometimes I can determine the creature’s name and from there learn about its life cycle, the role that it plays in the garden’s food web. Sometimes all that I can write below the image is “unknown”. Such is the case with this spider. Marjorie spotted it first and then held the raspberry cane steady while I took several shots. I heard here exclaim as she left the garden, “I wanted those two berries!”
Every mid-July day begins with a tour of the garden. This morning the grass beyond the porch steps is rain-soaked from a thunder storm, the burdens of dragging the hose and running soaker hoses lifted, a morning to focus entirely on the garden’s plants and animals.
Beetles abound. The first Japanese beetles appeared on July 17, a handful that were quickly dispatched in a bowl of soapy water. The next day there were many more, some clustered on a single grape leaf, turning it to lace.
I’m finding a lot of Japanese beetles with one or more tiny white fly eggs attached just behind the head and I allow some of them to continue feeding, knowing that the fly larvae will be their doom. Allowing the fly to complete its life cycle will guarantee more flies and fewer Japanese beetles next year.
Cucumber beetles are still around, many of them permanently clinging to the sides of yellow plastic cups covered with sticky Tangle-Trap (manufactured by Tanglefoot and available online), but some feeding on pollen deep inside a squash or cucumber blossom. Early in the morning they are reluctant to fly away and I can shake them out of the flower into my hand and squash them between my fingers.
Bright yellow daylilies are flowering along the border. While removing spent flowers I pick a fresh one to eat, one petal at a time, letting the subtle crisp sweetness melt on my tongue.
In the center island bed, blood-red monarda (Monarda didyma) is blooming, a boom for pollinators. Close by, a flat-leaved sea holly (Eryngium planum) flowers, the egg-shaped clusters of steel-blue flowers attracting the attention of both bees and flower beetles, while nearby flower clusters of nodding onion (Allium cernum) sway under the weight of bumblebees.
On the opposite side of the same bed, a silver-leaved yarrow with golden yellow flowers (Achillea x ‘Moonshine’) is in full bloom, the flat-topped inflorescences crawling with insects, and the willow bell (peach-leaved bellflower, Campanula persicifolia) continues to produce new flowers as it has since mid-June.
Sharing with the Birds
While circling the perennial bed, a chickadee catches my eye as it enters a birdhouse hanging within the branches of a red-veined enkianthus and just as quickly leaves. I watch for a minute and soon the little bird returns, again entering the house and then quickly leaving. Raising a brood in mid-July?
I flush a catbird out of the native serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) where it has been feasting on berries that Marjorie will miss. The berries do not all ripen at once and Marjorie prefers to let them turn deep purple before picking, snaking on them as she works in the garden. The catbird and a robin take the same approach whenever the coast is clear.
As I leave the perennial bed for the vegetable garden, morning glory and moonflower vines rooted in large terra-cotta pots have reached the top of the deer fence. In another week or two they will be flowering, the former during the day, the later at night. Many of their heart-shaped leaves are riddled with holes from the chewing of night-feeding insects.
In a bed on the outside of the same section of fence grows a vining perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius) planted this spring and already sporting several clusters of deep pink blossoms. The flowers lack the fragrance of annual sweet peas. With it are several tall cosmos plants in full bloom, a variety named Sensation Blend, a mix of white, pink, rose, and red flowers, all swarming with bees.
Fruits and Vegetables
Inside the vegetable garden, raspberries are ripening. I pick a few, one at a time, placing each berry on my tongue and pushing it against the roof of my mouth to release its sweetness. I spot a Japanese beetle feeding on a raspberry leaf above my head and make a mental note to come back after breakfast with a bowl of soapy water and thoroughly scout all three raspberry beds.
We are having raspberry weather, hot dry days with the occasional nighttime thunderstorm, the foliage and fruits drying off quickly in the morning. No sign of botrytis or other fungal diseases. We irrigate with soaker hoses to keep from wetting the leaves and fruits. This year may be a bumper crop with enough berries to freeze.
Strawberries have all been picked and their beds renovated. Blueberries are just starting to turn blue and should ripen just after the raspberries are gone. Elderberries have just finished flowering and the fruit set looks good.
I notice that the garlic leaves are yellowing rapidly now and in two or three more weeks it will be time to dig and dry the bulbs, opening up this bed for a fall crop of spinach. Meanwhile, all the summer vegetable crops are thriving in the heat of mid-July. Tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and squash are all setting fruit.
There is no better place to be in mid-July than in the garden.