Friday, May 30, 2014

Hosting Butterflies

From reading some of my favorite northern gardening  blogs,
it looks like winter is finally gone!
With the onset of summer-like temperatures here in Central Florida,
a post about butterfly gardening seemed most appropriate.
Here are a few of the caterpillars and butterflies we currently host
and that you can attract to your garden.

This was our original veggie garden bed.  
After expanding it on the other side of the back porch,
we turned this one into a butterfly garden.
The plants have been changed out over time,
but it's remained a haven for those critters that fascinate us so.

This is native milkweed that we obtained from our local extension center.
We have several of these scattered throughout the backyard.
It is the only host plant for the monarch butterfly.

It's important to acquire the native for your region,
so that the butterflies have what they need wherever they travel.
We featured more about this lovely addition here.

When this plant is available,
the sweet lil' critters that find it irresistable
will give you hours of entertainment!

And when the time is right,
they will transform themselves right before your eyes!

What a blessing to be able to witness such an amazing event.

Along with host plants,
nectar plants are vital to the health and well-being of butterflies.
In our area,
we plant native salvia, pentas, lantana, butterfly bush, zinnias, and many others
to create an abundance of food sources for these magnificent creatures.

Another host plant is the native passionflower vine.
We profiled this beauty here.

Along with a spectacular display of stunning blooms,
this plant hosts several types of butterflies.

One is the gulf fritillary.
This tiny flyer is a voracious eater in the caterpillar stage.
Our passionflower vine is nearly bare by the time
the last of these cuties has morphed into their new bodies.

If you want to start a butterfly garden,
pick out a few of the natives in your area and see what happens.
If the host plant is there, they will come!
Many times when you purchase your plants,
caterpillar eggs have already been laid.
Look for tiny yellow dots on the leaves.

Another caterpillar that we have hosted for the last couple of years
loves parsley, dill, fennel and rue.
We have a lot of parsley growing just for them.
Shallow bowls with water or 
a birdbath with rocks or sticks in it 
will allow butterflies to get the moisture they need.

These are black swallowtail caterpillars.
If you decide to pick up some parsley at your local nursery,
oftentimes it will  be covered with eggs, as the plants are kept outside
where butterflies can frequent and do their magic.

The cats look similar to the monarch, with slight color variations.
The metamorphosis is an amazing sight to behold.
When the chrysalis gets to this stage,
it'll be a matter of hours before the butterfly emerges.
Most times, that happens between 6 and 10 a.m.

There is ample time to photograph them at this stage,
as they need time to dry their wings 
and will hang on the nearest branch for up to an hour.

Diversity is really key here,
as the better assortment of plants one tends,
the larger the collection of wondrous creatures that will call your garden home.

Here's hoping this weekend finds you blessed
with all the marvels of nature.

Spot The Pollinator

Tuesday Garden Party Co-Hosts

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thank You Dr. Angelou...

"If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, 
you will have succeeded."

-Maya Angelou

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Maple Hill Hop 32

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to  
The Maple Hill Hop!
This link-up is for those who love the great outdoors.
Feel free to share what's going on outside
where you are.
Grab our button and let's go!

If you follow any of our garden posts,
you know how much I love this passionflower plant.
Not only does it look good,
it attracts several types of butterflies,
including the gulf fritillary.
When the butterflies come and lay their eggs on this plant,
the caterpillars that emerge feast on it
until they are ready to morph into a butterfly and the whole cycle begins anew.
Since we give away the cats when we have them,
I wanted to be able to provide folks with the host plant as well.

And since the vines were starting to take over,
I thought it would be a good idea to take some cuttings 
and see if it could be easily propagated.

After all, this much beauty should be shared, no?

I snipped a half a dozen or so vines off,

then trimmed them down and stripped the bottom-most leaves.

Placed in water, they await their turn for the next step.

Lynn, my garden coach, had generously shared some of his rooting hormone with me.

A hole was made in the cell packs to receive the vine.

A generous amount of hormone was sprinkled on the entire stem
and the bottom part of the cutting.

If these are successful, I'll be trying my hand at propagating other plants.

This is one plant that adds so much to the landscape
and is a benefit to critters too.
What's not to love?

What have you been up to outside lately?
Let's HOP!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Farm School Spring Series Week Ten

Welcome back to Farm School,
our year-long series on
growing pesticide-free produce in Central Florida.
Each week we start with a tour of the garden.

The Sweet Million cherry tomatoes are producing tons of fruit.
These luscious nuggets don't seem to be affected
 by the blistering heat we've been experiencing the last couple of weeks.

A few more rows were transplanted recently
and will no doubt keep us in maters all summer long.
I've been roasting them and adding them to everything!

The Swiss Chard we transplanted last week is doing fine.
The kale in the background is acting as a "trap" plant,
and keeping bug problems at bay.
The critters go for the "trap"
and leave the newbies alone.

When we checked the kale,
Lynn noticed it swarming with worms...

with more on the way.

Last week, we showed you how Lynn thins the black-eyed peas.
It has simply been a joy to watch them grow.

With no sign of bug or disease trouble,
we are hoping for a bumper crop.

They have started to flower and seem to be getting close to producing a crop.

They are truly fascinating and it is fun to see them develop.

Have you ever eaten fresh black-eyed peas?

The peas have slowed down in the heat (like the rest of us)
but we are still hoping that a final crop will be produced.
A gal can dream, can't she?

The okra is plentiful and thriving.
The first batch picked will be pickled,
and subsequent harvests will be picked for sale at the farmer's market.

The New Zealand spinach is making a slow comeback.
This is our go-to substitute for lettuce,
which is difficult to grow in our climate during the summer.

We do have some lettuce making an amazing display.
These varieties are a staple during the fall and winter months,
and we are surprised to see them doing so well.

It was time for the broccoli crop to come out.
They have been producing for quite some time,
so the final harvest of tips was completed.

We had to make room for the eggplant.

Lynn and I worked to remove the spent broccoli crops,
clean up the pots and ready them for the transplants.
Keeping the plastic covers and cages in place
saved a lot of time.
Each seedling was gingerly placed in its new home.

For added support (it gets windy on The Hill),
Lynn's method includes his custom-designed stakes
made from steel rods and heavy-duty wire.

The transplants will be able to grow straight and tall
without having to struggle against unfavorable conditions.

Now they just have to grow!
We'll all be ready for those first gorgeous globes of goodness!

Off to the burn pile!

A project Lynn has been working on 
has been to use this handy relic to split his bricks in half.
This is a hand-forged tool from who knows when
and perfectly designed for this job.

The tool is placed on the brick and tapped a couple of times to score it,
then with another forceful thrust of the mallet,

he's doubled the brick population.
He uses these to weigh down the plastic covers on the containers.

Instead of buying more bricks, he increased his inventory the easy way.

These lil' beauties are grove peppers,
and they are not for the faint of heart-or stomach.

It was a scorcher today at Farm School
and summer hasn't even officially started.
Although the temperature may cut our jobs short,
we do what we can in the allotted time.
Every task is completed with attention to detail, 
a sense of integrity in producing a quality product,
and a whole lotta love.

All of our Farm School posts
can be found under our header.

Backyard Farming Connection

Tuesday Garden Party Co-Hosts