August 1, 2014

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Kylee Baumle


The birds and bees, flowers and seeds PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, November 07, 2012 3:17 PM

By Kylee Baumle

When the growing season has come to a close, there are plenty of related activities to keep me connected to the garden. By association, I’ve become much more interested in butterflies and other insects, birds, worms, and anything else that affects or is affected by what we grow on our property.

The monarchs and hummingbirds have fled. The robins are loading up on the juicy red berries on our Washington hawthorn trees. Wooly worms are inching along as they seek the perfect spot for their winter hibernation location.

 
What do I do with all these leaves PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 3:51 PM

After adorning our landscape with jeweled tones of gold, red and orange, our maple trees have pretty much given up their leaves for the year. It’s like wearing all those colors is one last hurrah, going down in a blaze of glory. And now comes the raking.

We have oak trees too – big ones, with lots of leaves – and we’d be swimming in a sea of leaves by Thanksgiving if we didn’t do something with them. Some people look at leaves as a nuisance. I see them as organic food for the lawn and the gardens. But there is a little bit of work involved to make the best use of them in this way.

If you’ve ever walked through the woods and stopped to dig around in the soil there, you know it only vaguely resembles that hard, sticky clay most of us have around our homes and in our gardens. That’s because over years of the trees losing their leaves and them decomposing, they add to the enrichment and enhance the texture of the soil. Most of us are on a little shorter timetable than the woods though, so we may need to give Mother Nature a helping hand when it comes to our own immediate environment.

 
Observations from the desert PDF Print E-mail

By Kylee Baumle

A couple of weekends ago, I traveled to Tucson, Ariz. for a garden writers conference. This is held at a different location every year and when it was announced last year that it would be held in the southwest, I knew immediately that I wanted to go. I’d never been there and gardening in Arizona couldn’t be further from the experience of gardening in Ohio.

As the airplane flew in over Tucson, of course I noticed the mountains. Being from the flat plains, those mountains are a novelty and a wonder. (They also create turbulence for the airplane. Ugh.) But the next thing I noticed was the color. Everything was brown. It wasn’t the brown we experience when going through a drought or the brown of winter. It was a golden color, dotted here and there with oases of blue-green.

 
Gettin' buggy with it PDF Print E-mail

By Kylee Baumlee

One of the concerns about having such a warm winter last year was what effect it would have on the insect population. It’s generally thought that a warm winter won’t kill all the bugs it needs to. Every ecosystem has its balance and when things are shaken up by such things as temperature, you have to wonder if there will be changes in other parts of the whole.

I’m no scientist, but I like to think my brain works logically (most of the time). So my initial response to this bug thing was to say that even if many of the bad bugs weren’t wiped out by the usual prolonged cold temperatures of a typical winter, neither would their natural enemies. Balance would remain, right?

I don’t know what your personal experience in your garden was, but here’s mine: I had fewer bugs. That’s right. Fewer. In particular, the Japanese beetle numbers were down. For years now, I’ve kept a running tally of just how many Japanese beetles I’ve caught and destroyed throughout the summer.

I hand pick them off of their favorite haunts – the ‘Morning Magic’ climbing rose and the pink hybrid tea rose, ‘Memorial Day’. These are the only plants I find them on, with an occasional one or two found on the daylily ‘Big Smile.’

In my worst year, 2009, I found over 300 Japanese beetles in the garden. This year, only 33 TOTAL. Since my chickens find these to be a delicious treat, they were disappointed when I walked by their run with no treat, time and time again.

Was this because of the warmer winter? I have my doubts and like to think it’s because I’ve been diligent each year in removing them so there are fewer to reproduce for the next year. I also give the grubs I find when digging in the garden to the chickens, so those never have a chance to grow up to be beetles either.

As far as other insects go, the dry summer reduced the mosquito population to almost non-existent. They increased this fall as we got the badly needed rains, but not to unbearable amounts. I can remember some summers when they were so bad I couldn’t even work outside in the middle of the day without being swarmed by them.

Our garden is a Certified Monarch Waystation and we grow several types of milkweed so that the monarchs have another place to lay eggs. Milkweed (Asclepias sp.) plants are the only things that monarch caterpillars eat, and with much of that habitat disappearing, so are the monarchs.

I love the monarch and its miraculous migration story, so I want to do my part to help increase their populations. They were conspicuously missing in the first part of summer, but returned in the second half, although I never found a single chrysalis in my garden this year.

I didn’t have any problems with squash vine borer, and the flea beetles that usually pepper the foliage of many plants with tiny holes that look like they got hit with buckshot were minimal, too. I had the usual number of tobacco hornworms on the tomatoes (again, chicken treats!) and the katydid nymphs took their toll on the roses in similar fashion as years before. The spotted cucumber beetles were everywhere, but no more than usual and the same goes for cabbage loopers.

One of the most disgusting insects in my garden is the earwig. It can cause some damage to flowers, but I had fewer of those this year, too. If I noticed an increase in any unwanted garden pests, it was the slugs. I never actually saw too many, but my hostas suffered damage from them more this year than in any of the years prior.

This has been a record-setting weather year, to be sure, but I don’t know that it had much effect on the insects. At least not from my observation and perspective as a home gardener. Your experience may have been different and I’d love to hear about it.

Read more at Kylee’s blog, Our Little Acre, at www.ourlittleacre.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OurLittleAcre. Contact her at PauldingProgressGardener@gmail.com.

 
Looking forward to spring PDF Print E-mail

By Kylee Baumle

Looking forward to spring

I’ve said before that when fall comes around, this gardener is tired. Though I don’t exactly welcome the winter that follows, autumn brings rest from weeding, deadheading, cultivating, and numerous other chores in the garden. Most of those things I love to do, especially weeding and deadheading; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t garden. But the rewards for doing all that are the biggest motivators of all: gorgeous blooms spring through fall, scrumptious fruits and vegetables that taste better than grocery store versions, birds and butterflies that enjoy my garden as much as I do, and even in winter there are visually beautiful images. (Red-twig dogwoods, anyone?)

Nonetheless, I’m about gardened out by now and my numerous houseplants will provide just enough of that gardening fix I seem to need on a regular basis. So who’s going to plant all those bulbs that just showed up on my doorstep?

Because of my garden writing, I am sometimes gifted with gardening products, including plants and bulbs. Companies hope that I will like their products enough to write about them on my blog, thus spreading the word to other gardeners. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. This is the first time I’ve received free bulbs and the great thing about this was that I got to choose which ones I wanted. Well, that and the part about them being free.

 
Vindication for the innocent PDF Print E-mail

By Kylee Baumlee

Fall has absolutely positively arrived, both officially and unofficially. The wondrously cool nights and crisp clear days when the warmth of the sun feels good on our backs instead of making us sweat is a welcome relief from the hot, dry summer. The leaves are beginning to turn those lovely shades of red, gold, and orange and the frost is on the pumpkin. And those of us that have seasonal allergies are sneezing and itching and coughing.

Most of us with those kinds of allergies know that it’s ragweed that’s the biggest culprit right now, but do you know what ragweed really is? I’m here to tell you what it ISN’T.

You know those beautiful golden plumy things that are blooming right now in the fields and along the roadsides? That’s goldenrod, one of our most beautiful fall wildflowers.

 
The miracles of life - beans and babies PDF Print E-mail

 

As I sit here anxiously awaiting the birth of our first grandchild, due any day now, my mind wanders to the future. I look forward to lots of snuggle time with a newborn baby that shares my genes, and observing our younger daughter as she figures out this oh-so-important job of being a mother. I can only hope that I set what she feels was a good example for her, over the course of her growing-up years.

Being a gardener, I can envision sharing my passion with little Hannah, showing her how to prepare the soil, plant the seed, nurture it, then watch and wait as it grows. I know this is no guarantee that she will love gardening the way I do. My own mother has gardened her entire life, but I didn’t embrace it until just seven years ago. Still, it was a part of my upbringing and even if I didn’t take it up myself until later in life, I learned some very important things.

So many kids and even some adults have no idea where their food comes from. Oh, they know it grows somewhere, somehow, but they haven’t been exposed to, nor taken the time to find out, just how it all works. I’ll never forget the time, over 20 years ago, when one of my city-living co-workers asked as we passed a field of soybeans on the way to lunch, “Are those beans? Where are the beans? Underground?” Having grown up in a farming community surrounded by beans, as well as corn and wheat, it never occurred to me that people I knew wouldn’t know the answers to the questions she asked.

 
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em PDF Print E-mail

This is the time of year when I get kind of cranky and want to rip everything out, throw some compost on the garden and be done with it.

Like other gardeners that also experienced the drought, I’m reevaluating my plant choices and I have vowed to eliminate those plants that need too much babying. Dragging garden hoses around the yard gets old fast.

Though the rains we’ve gotten in the last few weeks have refreshed the garden and my spirit, it’s still easy to see which plants handled the drought well and which ones didn’t. It’s just too little too late for some.

For example, when I bought a nice, healthy ligularia (a.k.a. leopard plant or ragwort) a few years ago, I knew it was a water hog. But those burgundy leaves were more than I could resist. Bad move.

 
Chickens in the backyard PDF Print E-mail

Several years ago, our neighbors’ chickens paid us a visit. We were used to hearing their roosters crow at any given hour of the day, but when I could hear crowing loud and clear through closed windows, it got my attention. I walked outside and there they were, about six of them, scratching and pecking their way through my shade garden.

Now anyone who has chickens knows that they can wreak havoc in a garden, if they’re left unattended. I was not about to let that happen, but they’re fun to watch, so that’s what I did while they held court in the coral bells.

Eventually, they strutted themselves back home, but not before I’d been smitten and decided I wanted a few of my own. Having your own chickens was beginning to make a comeback among home gardeners and I wanted to jump on that bandwagon. There was just one problem. Well, two. We didn’t have a chicken coop and my husband didn’t share my desire to have chickens.

 
Migrations have begun PDF Print E-mail
Kylee Baumle

I’ve mentioned before that our garden is a Certified Monarch Waystation (monarchwatch.org). That means we purposely grow milkweed plants for their caterpillars. Plants in the Asclepias genus are the only ones monarch caterpillars eat and from the looks of things, they’re now chowing down in our garden. It’s the time of year that this final generation, perhaps the third or fourth of the season, will differ from the earlier ones in that they won’t mate and reproduce. Instead, they’ll soon begin their journey to the Oyamel fir forests of central Mexico, where they’ll make their home until next spring, when they’ll make the return trip north.

What fascinates me about this is that there’s nothing genetically different about this generation of monarch butterflies than the one that gave birth to them and the ones before them, earlier in the spring. So how do they know that they’re supposed to fly a couple thousand miles to a place they’ve never been before and how do they know the way? That’s been studied for decades and scientists don’t have all the answers to those questions either. It’s just one of the incredible miracles of nature.

Peak migration in our area is usually the middle of September. We happen to lie within a major monarch migration corridor so if you pay close attention, you might see large clusters of them roosting in a tree as dusk approaches and the temperatures drop. They can’t fly very well at temperatures below 50°F, so they huddle together in trees overnight to conserve energy and warmth, and then resume their journey in the morning as the sun warms things up. They will continue to feed on nectar from garden plants where they’re available.

 
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