Sunday, May 10, 2009

Coleopterans in the Coleus!

Hercules Beetle found in old bags of leaves out back. Truly an amazing sight!

Well, spring has sprung and the beetles have begun appearing all over the farm... and all over my precious plants. Some Coleopterans (beetles) I value and protect (when I can), like our bright Ladybugs, but many others, are here to drill into the trees, worm under the bark, eat the leaves, lay eggs to hatch larvae to eat everything.... ah, it's amazing how much damage they can create across a property. There are over 300,000 distinct species of beetles and the parade of them is relentless. Did you know that across North America, there are over 400 species of what-we-call Ladybug or Ladybird beetles? I try to be fair and forgiving of most living things, but I'm working to get a lot more savvy about beetles since I've started seeing serious bark beetle and ambrosia beetle damage in our fruit trees. The trick is to learn who's who, so I'm targeting the damaging insects and not the helpers.

It's interesting that it is usually the beetle larvae who are either the heroes or the villains -- the adults become the visual clue to the presence, now or later, of those larvae. I discovered a few seasons ago that I'd been diligently wiping the bright yellow eggs of the Ladybugs off my plant leaves, which explained why I wasn't getting any wierd little orange "alligators" (larvae) to eat my aphids. On the other hand, they aren't the only orange egg layers and things get really crazy. The key, always, always, seem to be continued observation, slowly getting to know who's who in all their stages.

When the famous evolutionary scientist, J.B.S. Haldane was asked "What has the study of biology taught you about the Creator, Dr. Haldane?", he replied, "I'm not sure, but He seems to be inordinately fond of beetles."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Plant A Row for the Hungry - Hampton Roads

Plant A Row for the Hungry is a people-helping-people program to help feed the hungry in local neighborhoods and communities. Launched in 1995 by the Garden Writers Association (GWA), Plant A Row encourages gardeners to grow a little extra and donate the produce to local soup kitchens and food pantries serving the homeless and hungry.

Drop-off sites are being set up across the region so that as our gardens come into full production, there will be places you can easily donate produce from your garden to help your local Food Bank. This year, with the financial crisis and resulting job layoffs, Food Banks are supplying more hungry Hampton Roads residents than ever.

You already know that nothing beats the taste and nutrition of freshpicked vegetables and fruits. Growing and eating from your own garden can improve your health, save you money, increase your sustainability, and decrease your carbon footprint. And now, just as important, your garden can help a lot of people in need. By donating produce directly to the food agencies, gardeners help organizations stretch their meager resources. Fresh produce is often lacking from the diets of economically challenged families because canned or processed foods are easier for humanitarian organizations to obtain and store. During the summer, at least, we can change that, making sure that area children have access to the same wonderful vegetables and fruits that we harvest from our gardens.

There is a new page on the website to assist the local PAR campaigns. As drop-off sites are finalized, the information will be posted on our Plant A Row for the Hungry webpage. This year, you don't have to wonder what to do with all those extra tomatoes, squash, beans, figs or other garden bounty -- donate them so that less fortunate folks in our communities will have some delicious, fresh vegetables on their tables.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Seeking Clarity

You may notice some interesting changes in the blog format over the next few days as I work to find the most easily readable format. There are lots of fancy templates available but the aim is to make sure that most of our readers can enjoy the entries and photos with minimal effort (in other words, without new reading glasses). Enjoy!