• Fourth of July Garden Tips

    July 03, 2015

    I’m not going to give you a bunch of Fourth of July garden tips that focus on planting red, white and blue things to decorate or making a red and blue berry salad with whip cream to feed your favorite patriots. Rather, let’s consider some safety precautions going into the holiday of fiery ka-boom!

    Here in the PacNW, we’re experiencing a record-breaking hot, dry summer. It feels like its been 90F since May. And, this blazing, record-shattering spring-into-summer is following on the heels of a not particularly moist or cool fall, winter, spring, and let’s face it, last year and a half!

    And, what happens at times like these? Plants croak.

    Fourth of July Garden Tip Example

    Plants live. Plants die.
    If you’ve got a croaker lurking your border, yank it before it becomes a flaming holiday torch.

    Okay, so plants croak all the time. But, when we’re low on water and high on heat during days when the sun rises around 4:30am and seems to finally set around 10pm, more plants are more likely to give up the ghost, and they do it quite a bit faster than during more “normal” temperate weather periods.

    Our #1 tip for getting ready for The Fourth: Pull out your dead, tinderbox shrubs and other kindling-worthy plants. Left in place, they’re just waiting for a stray bottle-rocket or other firework to spark them into a blaze of unwanted holiday glory. Yank them today! Even if fireworks are illegal in your area, we all know somebody is going to light them anyway, and you don’t want your home or garden to be that jerk’s victim.

    (You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)

    Tip #2 for readying your garden for Independence Day: Irrigate your garden. Assuming you aren’t under drought restrictions, get out there and moisten your planting beds and any flammable pathways. (If you are under water restrictions, keep reading. We’ve got solutions for you too!) If you have chosen to install “beauty bark” in your garden, be sure it is really well soaked. We’ve gotten more than one report over the years of this stuff spontaneously igniting on a hot day — no fireworks required. In Seattle there’s even an emergency response code for this kind of fire: BARK! (Just one more reason to hate the not beautiful bark junk.)

    Close up of dead Nandina

    If a shrub, tree or other plant is crispy like this Nandina we transplanted unsuccessfully in our own test gardens, put it into the compost heap today before the fireworks can ignite it!

    Fortunately in Seattle we aren’t experiencing water use restrictions thanks to forward thinking by our water planners. However, if you are under restrictions (or if you just hate wasting water), buy a bucket for less than $5 to keep in your shower. As you heat water to a shower-friendly temperature, you’ll probably collect a couple of gallons each time. Pour your collected moisture into a watering can and use it wisely ahead of firecracker day and throughout the long, dry summer ahead.  Having even a bit of water in your garden can help fizzle any sizzles that hit your land.

  • Powdery Mildew, Or Not?

    June 26, 2015

    Wondering if those white spots on your squash, zucchini, melon or cucumber is powdery mildew? Before you freak out and decide your crop is a goner, take a look at these two images:

    Not Powdery Mildew on Squash

    This is NOT powdery mildew. Rather, the slivery-white streaking & splotching radiating out from the veins of this zucchini leaf are natural coloring. It’s not disease!

    (You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)

    powdery mildew on squash

    This spaghetti squash leaf is heavily coated in powdery mildew. The powdery-whiteness does not radiate from the veins of the leaves. Instead, it begins as spots on both sides of the leaf. Left in place, the entire leaf will be covered & eventually the entire plant will go ka-put.

    Learn how to identify early infestations of this common squash problem and learn how we manage powdery mildew on all sorts of plants in this related post.

  • Hummingbird Fledglings

    June 19, 2015

    Anna built her nest and then laid and incubated two eggs that hatched to become hummingbird fledglings. It was amazing to watch how quickly the tiny birds developed over the course of just a few days.

    Two week old baby hummingbirds

    At about 15 days after hatching, the baby birds snoozed with their eyes closed.
    Their fluffy down began transforming into pin feathers.

    Anna's hummingbird babies with feathers

    Two days after the pin feathers began appearing, the babies showed more feathers than fluff. And, their eyes were open to observe the world around them.
    Notice how their beaks elongate rapidly too!

    (You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)

    Pair of baby hummingbirds just before fledging

    On May 18th I captured my last shot of the fledglings together in their nest – check out that tongue! Right after I snapped this, there was a squawk, a flap & one hummingbird had flown from the nest. The question that haunted me: “Did the 1st to fly survive fledging so young?”


  • Hummingbird Babies!

    June 12, 2015

    Anna built and then sat on her nest, and we all waited for days for the hummingbird babies to arrive.

    I spoke to her daily, cheering her on as she sat still for hours on end. She cocked her head at the sound of my voice. Skeptical? Perhaps. Afraid? Maybe. Annoyed? Quite likely. I was anxious that the babies might not hatch before I left town for a family wedding. What if I missed them?

    And then, just as the sun began to set on the evening before I had a pre-dawn flight, this:

    Anna hummingbird feeding newborn

    Anna feeding her first hummingbird baby on April 29th.

    Anna’s behavior that afternoon had changed, hinting that the hummingbird babies might just be coming out of their shell.

    Anna hummingbird perching on nest

    Anna stopped sitting on the cup of the nest & began perching on the edge –
    a hint the eggs might be breaking.

    As the light began to wane, Anna flew off to gather more food for her hatchling, and I saw a broken egg:

    hummingbird nest with hatched egg

    A broken hummingbird egg in the nest, but are there more babies?!

    The next morning, bright and early, I left town for the next 11 days. I had read on various birding sites like AllAboutBirds.org that the babies would be in the nest for longer than I would be away. Still, I couldn’t help wondering what I’d miss out on while I was away, but upon my return, this is what I found:

    baby hummingbirds in nest at about 12 days old

    A pair of baby hummingbirds snuggled in the nest about 12 days after hatching. Anna couldn’t have timed spring better for her babies. Their rhodie home was in peak bloom during the weeks between hatching & fledging. The big flowers helped hide & camouflage them. What a gorgeous view from their cozy little nest from the moment their eyes opened!

    In the days that followed, I continued to watch them grow, capturing photos as I was able through the thick, red blooms.

    Come back next week to see more photos of the hummingbird babies as they grow, as their scenery changes and see what happens when they’re ready to fly.

    If you missed part one of this story, don’t miss the images of Anna building her nest!

  • A Garden for a Hummingbird Nest

    June 05, 2015

    In April 2015 I came upon an Anna’s hummingbird building her nest in our garden. I nearly ran right into Anna working as I was pulling weeds underneath the rhodie where she was building her birdie cradle. After she fussed at me, I backed away and left her to do her work. Fortunately, she wasn’t frightened and chose to raise her brood just outside our front door. I’m out in the garden so much, she had to expect I’d be out there puttering as much as she was. In this post and perhaps the next, I’ll share a few snapshots of her work and her babies.

    hummingbird nest under construction

    On April 5, 2015 Anna had begun building her tiny nest made of readily available spider webs, moss, lichen & other goodies from our garden.

    hummingbird nest in rhododendron

    On her second day of building, Anna’s nest begins to take on a distinctive cup shape.

    (You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)

    Anna's hummingbird building a nest

    On day two, at the beginning of April, Anna adds a bit of spider’s web to her nest.

    If you haven’t noticed yet, Anna’s green back looks almost exactly like the rhodie leaves surrounding her — in shape and in color. She picked a perfect camouflage location. Too, she positioned her nest in a crotch of the shrub over which leaves overlapped in such a way that rain never seemed to drip on her. It almost rolled from leaf to leaf to ground like and old-time cartoon sequence. (more…)

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