SATURDAY MORNING GARDEN: SUMMER TOMATOES by Merry Light

SATURDAY MORNING GARDEN: SUMMER TOMATOES by Merry Light

FIRST CHERRY TOMATO

I usually start seeds for some vegetables and flowers in April, but this year I got a late start and didn’t get anything planted until Memorial Day weekend. Late starts notwithstanding, some very nice tomato seedlings grew into healthy big plants and they are fruiting nicely. Except one, which I discovered had been infested with stink bugs. (Not the one pictured above). Little b*stards will hide if they see you coming, although I’m pretty fast at catching them. They have spread to only two other plants, but I’ve hand-picked about a dozen bugs and drowned them in soapy water. I’ve also discovered the soapy water spray, which is just dish soap (non-antibacterial) and water. 1 to 2 tsp dish soap to 32 oz water. Be sure and spray them directly top and bottom thoroughly. It kills by clogging their breathing, which is through their skin.

Most of the ‘mater plants seem healthy so far and are growing like little weeds. They like this late summer weather, now that our summer monsoon has finally broken after 33 rain-free days. Even if it doesn’t rain, it gets cloudy and cools things down a bit.

TOMATO PLANTS FROM SEED

I actually was able to start cucumber seeds this year in a pot and they are doing quite well, to my surprise. In past years I never seemed to be able to get them going enough either in a pot or in a raised bed to make any cucumbers worth eating or canning. Oh, I’d get a few, but nothing to write home about. This year I planted them in a pot full of iris from the garden, stuck a trellis in there, and they are climbing up like crazy.

Some seeds I have started in years past re-seed every year after that somewhere in a garden. I pull them up morning glories in the front yard routinely because they are all pink and they strangle everything like the relative to bindweed that they are. But I started some blue ones from seed, which I’m sure will revert to a purple somehow and then die off. Pink ones are hardy and show up every time I disturb the ground.

PETUNIAS

I do like petunias so far. I had planted climbers and patios, mixed. The climbers survived and re-seeded, so they pop up in the oddest places and in the most interesting combinations. This pot full ranges from cream with fuschia stripes, the same in a mirror image, and then every shade of pink to red. They’ll go to seed again this year and pop up somewhere else next year.

I have so many packets of old seeds, I’m going to throw them all out into the garden this fall and see what comes up. I will have rose campion in the garden already, thanks to kishik!

They are much bigger now and will be ready to plant in the fall.

I’ve got a lot going on in the garden, but it’s too hot to do any work, until the afternoon. Then it clouds up and cools off, so I hope to get something done later today. This morning we are going to a fair and we intend to get back before it gets hot.

What’s going on in your garden these summer days?

[Merry Light’s  gardening piece documenting her experiences first appeared in Daily Kos, Saturday, July 29, 2017. It is reprinted by permission of Daily Kos.]

 

 

JUST PLAIN INTERESTING! (Pictorial)

JUST PLAIN INTERESTING! (Pictorial)

 

[Columnist with a View received the following set of pictures with commentary from a friend through Facebook. We are assuming they are in the public domain, coming as they did and being shared over social media. We do appreciate the origin (we suppose), which is the only source attribution:  www.yesemails.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRAGONS IN THE AIR by Desert Scientist

DRAGONS IN THE AIR by Desert Scientist

Dragonflies and damselflies (Order Odonata)  are among my favorite insects, perhaps after ants, bees and wasps. They are beautiful, especially when alive (even with acetone treatment, the colors are never as vibrant in dead specimens as in the live insects.) They are among the best fliers of the insects and have among the best eyesight of any invertebrate (cephalopods and jumping spiders eyes may be better.)

DRAGONFLY

DRAGONFLY

They are also very ancient, with fossilized specimens from the Jurassic being nearly indistinguishable from  some modern forms. Their relatives were flying in the Carboniferous forests and so they have survived several major extinction events, although the scorpions beat them out for the land arthropod survival record, having existed since the Silurian and had emerged onto dry land by the Devonian. 

ADULT DRAGONFLY

ADULT DRAGONFLY

I was first enchanted with dragonflies by reading an article in the National Geographic by James G. Needham (August, 1951.)  Little did I know then that I would eventually know the co-author, Minter Westfall, of the second edition of Needham’s Manual of the Dragonflies of North America, published in 1955 and followed by a completely revised version in 2000, after the death of Dr. Needham, with an additional co-author Michael L. May. Professor Westfall was an interesting man and I got to know him fairly well while I was at the University of Florida. Among other things I got to see his collection of odonates, kept in glassine envelopes instead of the usual insect pins, and treated with acetone to preserve as much of the original colors as possible.

While in New Mexico I taught courses in aquatic insects and thus added to my knowledge of both dragonflies and the frailer damselflies. I started to take photographs of them when I got the opportunity and thus added several species to the known fauna of the area. Some dragonflies are very difficult to photograph, especially the large darners, and it takes a lot of persistence to get good images.  Still it is very much worth it!

The Odonata are divided into three suborders, of which two occur in the United States and Canada. Our suborders are the Zygoptera (damselflies) and the Anisoptera (dragonflies). The most common families of the Zygoptera are the Calyopterigidae (broad-winged damselflies or demoiselles), Lestidae (the spreadwings) and Coenagrionidae (or pond damselflies.) The most common families of the Anisoptera are the Aeshnidae (the darners- the largest in body size members of the order), Gomphidae (the club-tails) and the Libellulidae (Skimmers, Meadowhawks, Pondhawks, etc.) The Libellulidae contains the largest number of species in North America.

DRAGONFLY

DRAGONFLY

The odonates, while as adults definitely terrestrial, and some almost always in the air, start out as strange aquatic nymphs (often called naiads- which I prefer as it tells you that they are aquatic, and these days the convention is to refer to them as larvae). These creatures look very different from the adults and have extensible lower lips (labia) with hooked claws.  They use these to capture prey, for they, and the airborne adults, are aggressive predators. In the case of the naiads, of small fish, tadpoles, other aquatic insects and even other dragonfly or damselfly naiads.  The naiads of damselfly species are easily distinguished from those of dragonflies because they have external gills as projections from their abdomen. Dragonfly naiads have internal gills. Odonate immatures can exist in very small puddles and some even can be terrestrial in rain forests, where they remain wet during their early stages.  

DRAGONFLY AT REST

DRAGONFLY AT REST

Adult dragonflies are especially familiar and their aerial acrobatics, beautiful colors and delicate wing structure have inspired poets and artists for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. They are, of course, important in their own function as predators of other insects, including mosquitoes. Although most odonates breed in water, the adults of dragonflies are strong flyers and can be found many miles from a lake, marsh or pond. Males often stake out territory from which they drive other males. Females coming into this territory are seized and mating takes place. The males of some odonates then clasp the female back of the head and provide a flying platform as they lay their eggs.  In other species the female lays alone and may even mistake a shiny car surface for water and attempt to lay eggs there. 

There are many references on odonates, and in recent times binocular identification has become popular, so several books treat the identification of them using these, such as Sydney Dunkle’s Dragonflies Through Binoculars (2000).  There are also several definitive books on odonate identification. Among these are Dennis Paulson’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (2012) and Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West (2009). A more specialized book is Tim Manolis’ Dragonflies and Damselflies of California. However it has excellent illustrations and most of the West Coast species are included.

[This article on Dragonflies first appeared in Backyard Science, SciTech, and Community Spotlight.  All of the pictures used are by the author.  We are publishing the story with the permission of Daily Koz. We found it both informative and interesting and believe our readers will, too.]