• 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…)

  • Pear & Apple Pest Control

    May 29, 2015

    Rock the socks off apple maggot and codling moth with this simple apple pest control barrier technique. It’s healthier than applying a ‘cide. You may even be able to upcycle old clothes to do the job. And, you aren’t likely to bite into another nasty, mealy, wormy apple from your trees again!

    asian pear in need of pest control

    Small Asian pear in spring: the perfect target for egg-laying pests or your maggot barriers!

    In the pacific northwest, apple maggot and codling moth are the nasty flying pests that inject their eggs through the skin of young fruit. When those eggs hatch, worms crawl through our fruit. Sometimes they leave before we take a bite. Sometimes they’re still squirming around in there.

    Yuck, right?

    The easiest way to avoid wormy, maggot-y apples and pears is to simply slip a nylon baggy barrier over young fruits in spring. The barrier makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the adult pest to inject its progeny into the growing fruit. And, as the fruit grows, the baggy will expand around it.

    Apple Maggot Barrier over pear

    Nylon pest barrier slips over young fruit easily. Keep it loose, but tuck the end into the open side to hold it in place as the growing season continues.

    Some folks prefer to hang plastic bags over their fruit to the same end. While neither the nylons nor the plastic bags are pretty to look at, to my eyes plastic bags look trashier and may magnify sunlight, burning surrounding leaves and branches. Want to use a paper bag? Go ahead, but it’ll probably melt after a decent rain.

    Timing is everything!

    It is critical to get your fruit barriers onto your plants early in the growing season — like by the end of May at the latest. If you’re late to the game, momma may get her eggs in place, and then you’re too late.

    This is the same time of year when knocking a few fruits off your tree may help your trees produce a more delicious crop. In fact, most fruit trees will release a few young, green fruit on their own. But if you knock off the least desirable fruit, you’ll likely find that the remaining fruit gets bigger and more delicious than it would if you left a bunch of little fruits on the tree, sapping resources and offering little in return.

    Young pear fruits

    When fruit is small like this, knock the least desirable of the two from the tree & cover the other with a apple pest control barrier. (FYI: We weren’t late in applying covers. The “dings” on the fruit to the left were caused by an insane hail in April that also shredded leaves.)

    So, knock off the worst fruit in a group. Sock the rest.

    Where to get the socks?

    Maybe you can make them from an old pair of stockings in your closet. The first year our Asian pear tree produced a fruit (yes, one single fruit), I decided using a pair of stretched out old stockings was worth a try.

    Asian pear protected from pests

    Fall harvested Asian pear surrounded by upcycled stocking protection.

    I snipped out a large portion of the foot, slipped that over the single pear, and tied it loosely in place with a twist-tie. The black color didn’t matter, and in the end, I harvested that single fruit, which had zero pest damage!

    pest-free asian pear

    Our first pear without apple maggot or coddling moth damage thanks to a DIY nylon barrier.

    This year, our tree produced quite a few fruits, and I’m fresh out of stockings to cut up, so I purchased a bag of about 100+ nylon socks from a local retail nursery. The nursery was selling them on behalf of the Seattle Fruit Tree Society. You can order from them directly here.  If you buy through the society, proceeds go to support fruit education and research.

    (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!)

    CityFruit.org, a Seattle area non-profit focusing on reducing waste from backyard fruit trees, expanding knowledge and more, has teamed with a number of local nurseries where you can pick up fruit barriers for free (spring of 2015). Details here.

    But my tree is huge!

    If you have an enormous pear or apple tree, odds are the fruit near the tops of the trees goes to the birds, so don’t worry about putting a sock on those. Slip your barriers over the low-hanging fruit that you’re most likely to harvest. If you really do intend to harvest every bit of fruit from your tree, barrier applications are going to be laborious – just like harvesting fruit from the top of your tree will be. Get a ladder, and get to it before your little fruits get much bigger than a cherry tomato.

    DIY upcycled apple maggot barrier

    Cut the foot from an old pair of nylons to DIY an upcycled apple maggot barrier.

    When harvest time comes, many of your nylon socks will still be in decent shape. Slip them off the fruits as you pick and save the best to re-use in future years.

    What about those scabby things on my pears?

    Pear scab is an entirely different problem, caused by a fungus rather than a flying pest. Unfortunately, your fruit maggot barriers won’t stop scab.

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