Friday, April 29, 2011

My life in plants

Ahhhhh, Spring. It's the best season of the year. Autumn could be, if it wasn't the season that precedes winter.

Windows open, music up, hair down. Birds singing, wind blowing, flowers growing.

Here's what I've been doing. It's work, but it's so good.

SCOUTING NURSERIES. This is the time of year when I think, "I made a really good decision to go into horticulture". The weather is perfect and plants really put on a show. These rose standards are at Parson's Nursery in Georgetown.
TEACHING CLASS. I'm in the midst of teaching a 10-week class in Sustainable Agriculture for Trident Tech. I've got a class of great students who keep me on my toes. Here's Catherine McGuinn, the coordinator of the program, teaching a propagation lab last night:
Last week, we took a field trip to Joseph Field's Farm on John's Island. He's certified organic and grows everything from collard greens to heirloom tomatoes to pea shoots.

Here he is with his apprentice, Ella (she's also in my class). I have a lot I could say about Mr. Fields if I had more energy to devote to this tonight. He's just so good. In all ways.
CONSULTING. I had the pleasure of going out to a client's house on Wadmalaw last week. They have a beautiful home on the intracoastal waterway. Their view is to die for, but this poppy field that they planted across from their house was the real scene-stealer. Can you imagine?! It was perfection.
So tired. All for now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I caught a black vulture!!

This journal has well established that I am obsessed with birds. That being said, I never thought that I would ever capture a wild Black Vulture. My adrenaline has only recently subsided.

I saw this young vulture walking down my dirt road, dragging her wing. So I stopped and called The Center for Birds of Prey to let them know so that they could come a get her. The nice lady at the center asked, in a perfectly normal tone, "Do you think that you could catch it and put the bird in a box?". Assuming this was what you were supposed to do, I said okay.

Her response? "Wow! No one ever says yes!". Oh, gawd.

Being a closeted people-pleaser, I told her I'd at least try and I'd get back to her. Only on the inside I was saying, Shut up! Tell her it's a huge bird with a flesh-tearing beak!

Armed with a beach towel and a deep bucket, I chased the lame bird around until I was able to trap her between me and a long fence. Tossing the towel in the direction of the bird, it landed on her and I was able to pick her up. Now fearing the inevitable eye-poking-out that was sure to follow, I quickly draped the towel over her head and placed her in the bucket.
I'm happy to say that although I'm totally shocked, no bird attack occurred. And the Center for Birds of Prey was able to pick her up from Coastal Expeditions and take her for treatment. They're going to call when they have an update on her wing. I'll let you know how she's doing.

Springtime is for Aphids

If you have new growth on a succulent plant, aphids are interested. And I'm seeing aphids (and other insects) everywhere-- roses, oleander, spirea, river birch. It's unending.

So why now? Aphids are fairly delicate insects with thin exoskeletons (compared to say, a beetle) so when we get into brutal summer temperatures, their numbers dwindle. Water is more scarce, plants have hardened off...I call it "summer dormancy" and it seems that all of our temperate plants (and people) slow down and just focus on survival when the Fahrenheit stays in the 90's and above.

Aphids feed on plant sap, the high sugar liquid found in the phloem (and elsewhere) of plants. Phloem (for those that haven't been in botany class recently) transport carbohydrates produced by the leaves down to the roots, flowers and fruit.

How do you keep from having aphids? For one, don't overfertilize with nitrogen. Plants that are pushed with synthetic fertilizers often have higher aphid populations (it's like junk food for aphids and they are addicted). If you promote slower, more sustained growth, you often have less insect pests.

Second, diversity your garden and work to attract birds and beneficial insects into your garden. A garden with habitat for birds, native plant species incorporated into the landscape and high plant diversity will avoid outbreaks and epidemics.

And remember that I said that aphids have thin skins? That means that without a steady diet of sugary liquid, they dry up pretty quickly. If you just have a plant or two with aphids, spray them with a steady stream of water and knock them off your plant. They'll die before they ever have the change to climb back onto the host plant. It's an epic hike back to the tips of an oleander branch if you're a tiny aphid.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin