That’s the summer weather I remember

I know the heat is truly unbearable in the plains states currently, but we haven’t had more than 93* F here all summer—until this week. Highs around 97* and heat indices around 103-105! At least we’ve had plenty of rain, so the bulk of my gardening is weed control, on which I am not doing well.

The strange weather continues to play havoc with the garden and the wildlife, really mild winters and warm springs interrupted by frosts of 30*F or lower, coupled with frequent, heavy rain in the summers.

I think this Papilio glaucus, the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly, is the first one I’ve seen since the early spring. Anecdotally, several of my friends have also commented on the lack of butterflies this summer. I think that last hard frost may have gotten the eggs or caterpillars.

If you look closely at the photo with the butterfly, you can see it’s flanked by a fall aster, red clover (Trifolium pratense), and Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). The stiltgrass is my nemesis; much of the orchard is not flat enough to mow, and that darn grass bolts upward with this weather. I’m at the point of preventing it from going to seed and waiting the 3-4 more years before the seedbank is depleted. When I need stress relief, pulling it is great because the roots are very shallow and I can get a large swath in no time.

The clover was the result of permaculture advice to plant cover crops to build the soil and keep out weeds after I cleared the land; problem was the advice came from somewhere with colder winters. It was supposed to die by spring, but it just grows all winter. Red wasn’t so bad, but the crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) that was mixed with it is fairly aggressive.

That was after I planted buckwheat two springs ago where it could be mowed, and last fall with groundhog radish (Raphanus sativus var. niger ). The buckwheat was cut before it seeded, but the radish was planted EVERYWHERE and was a failure. We were having absolute floods every week that wash all seeds to the end of the yard, so I was late putting it down. It didn’t grow nearly as large as it was reputed, but it did manage a few seeds because it didn’t die with the freeze. I’m still pulling those up.

I even put oats in with the garlic last fall to serve as mulch; the plan was that I would cut it down before the garlic sprouted. Well, a very warm late winter-early spring meant I couldn’t tell the garlic from the oats. I think it would have been fine to leave it, but instead a pulled a few garlic up with the grass. Got a decent crop for my first time!


Of course, I didn’t realize they have to cure in the shade. My doorway is vampire-proof for a couple of weeks.


I heard a good garden hint this week from The Informed Gardener, Linda Chalker-Scott. In her podcast “Garden Concoctions (August 2, 2011)”, she related results of an experiment to see if slugs really are attracted to beer. I’ve never had luck with that home remedy, and now I know why; slugs don’t really like microbrews, Corona, or stouts—they LOVE Budweiser! Since I’d rather be sober than drink Bud, I never had that to share. Let me know if you’ve had luck with beer-baiting slugs and what brand you use!


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