We've Moved!

Gardenaut has been repotted at www.gardenaut.com as part of the new ZRecs Network. Come join us there, and let us know what you think!


Gardenaut goes dark

We're taking a break from posting while we all prepare for the relaunch of Gardenaut in our brand spankin' new digs on the ZRecs Network. We'll port over the feed so subscribers shouldn't have to do anything, but for your reference we'll be going live around Sept. 5 and if you don't hear from us, you should check in on the site (still at www.gardenaut.com) and make sure you didn't get disconnected somehow!

If you're a Gardenaut contributor who has been out of the mix for a while, please get in touch with us at our editors' address to discuss the migration and how you'd like to be involved in the new Gardenaut!

Photo by Eva the Weaver, shared on Flickr.


A truly "green" truck

Dale Dougherty spotted this at the California State Fair. I'd love to dress up the shell of an old van in a similar fashion as a cozy garden bungalow. Put an old desk in there and you have a sheltered potting bench or writing nook. [Link]


The haul so far: Meager at best

As we sense the nights cooling - even here in steamy Kansas - I begin to wonder if I'll end up with anything significant from the garden. It's been a weird year. Between hailstorms, tornadoes, and torrential rain, watering has rarely been necessary, but the deluges haven't helped as much as they've hurt, perhaps.

Some things have grown well and produced aplenty, e.g.- basil, thyme, sunflowers, and the ever-loving arugula monster twins. Other crops have been abysmal failures, and I don't have good answers since I've had good luck with the same seed or variety in previous years. Here's a list of the failures, with some speculation on what went wrong:

  • Tomatoes: haven't harvested one yet; late planting, weak seedlings
  • Eggplant: only two so far; late planting
  • Corn: tough; who knows?
  • Blauhilde beans: got about two pounds; planted way too many in the space
  • Armenian cucumbers: none yet; lots of male flowers, very few females
  • Amish gourds: ditto
I'd be curious if anyone has had similar experiences in this region, or might have an inkling about what might be wrong.

Not all is lost, the eggplant are producing beautiful fruit, and there are many in the works. Wish the tomato were mine. It's just a prop, grown by our CSA farmer, who thankfully is a more diligent gardener than I.

Oh, and this manly shot is for fellow Gardenaut Joshua. He was right. (See the comments to this post.) If you're stuck with excess arugula, stick it in a slice of pizza and enjoy. It's delicious.


Borage and ladybugs

Beautiful borage

My borage looked pretty for awhile. Quaint blue star-shaped flowers among the pebbly-textured leaves. But after the flowers faded, it went down the crack pipe and FAST. Now it's a skeleton completely covered in aphids. Aphids on the buds, on the stalks, more aphids than I've ever seen.

I was not always as you see me now

But phenomenally, the ladybug population it supports is almost equally huge. I've found ladybug eggs on almost every fifth leaf.

Orange Ladybug Eggs amidst a sea of green aphids.

The image above is of an adjacent plum tree leaf. I don't know why the green and black aphids seem to prefer different plants. The ladybugs however eat all aphids without prejudice.

On closer examination of the borage infestation, I realized the almost one out of every five of the black aphids is actually a ladybug baby. They're only differentiated by some white stripes on the insect's back, whereas the aphids are solid black.

Look carefully at the black aphids in the above photograph (if you dare) and you'll find the hungry baby ladybugs (white stripes on back) here almost outnumber the true aphids.

In the past, I've thought of ladybug larvae as rare, precious things. But here their numbers are astounding. That such density, such a crowd could be sustained, is eye-opening. I feel like I'm seeing New York City for the first time after spending most of my life in an Alaskan mining village.

I can barely handle the borage now without getting covered in brown insect goo. But after seeing such biomass, so much like a mature rain forest, I can hardly hack down all the borage and feed it to the chickens along with that parade of aphid larvae. So I carefully pick off the ladybugs, eggs and larvae and place them strategically among my nasturtiums, pumpkins and cardoons. And don't tell anyone, but I'm even seeding them with a few aphids. Just to make sure there's something for the adolescent ladybugs to eat.

A hungry adolescent ladybug and his mama.