Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Grackle Moon (and Easter!)

Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, and this year that full moon happened to fall on Good Friday. It's been warm lately, in the low 80's, and we had such a mild winter, that lots of action is happening out in the garden. Easter is the holiday where we Texans enjoy the outdoors for one last time before it starts to get too hot to be comfortable outside anymore.

The roses are really taking off now. To the left is the big red rose bush, which now has 8 or 9 blooms on it. To the right is the smaller rose bush that was here, which has just revealed itself to be a yellow rose.

My in-laws gave us a couple of Shrimp Plants to plant in the front flowerbed, which is rather shady under some large oak trees. Shrimp Plant is a native to southern Mexico and Guatemala, but does very well here, and the hummingbirds love it.
The hummingbirds also like the Texas Lantana that's starting to bloom in the back yard.

And they love my Pineapple Sage. The most common hummingbird we have here is the Black-chinned hummingbird. They look just like a Ruby-throated hummingbird (which is the most common hummingbird east of here), but they have a purple throat instead of a red one (which looks black at certain angles). I wish I could get you a picture of them, but they're just too fast.

 Even the plain old Common Sage is blooming, with lavender flowers.

We got two cubic yards of compost from GardenVille to put in the vegetable garden. That seemed like a lot, but I've already used up about half of it. It says it has stable bedding in it, and it smells slightly of ammonia, so I hope that means it's rich in nitrogen.

The garlic that I transplanted from the old house is doing even better than I thought it would. It's already growing back new leaves. On some varieties you can hardly even tell anything happened to them.

The peppers are all in. Here you can see Basil checking on them.

The tomatoes are all in too. These are the ones I planted first, and they're already about twice as big as when I put them in.

I can already tell this is going to be a bad bug year. We had a mild winter, and then lots of rain. There are tons of mosquitoes, but also caterpillars. Some unknown caterpillars have already been eating up my tomatoes AND peppers. At first I thought it was the work of tomato hornworms, but when I found some of the caterpillars, they don't look like hornworms at all. They don't have the horns on their butts, and have dark stripes going down the sides. I went ahead and sprayed the plants with Bt since some of them have been almost completely defoliated.

Another bug in abundance are these strange looking creatures. They're EVERYWHERE. They're kind of scary looking too, shiny black with six legs in front, and big pincher-like jaws. There are also lots of these metallic green beetles that run quickly around. Well, some Internet searching, and searching through The Texas Bug Book, revealed that the green beetles are called Caterpillar Hunters, and the strange black creatures are their larvae (I thought they bore some resemblance to large ladybug larvae!). The good news is both the adult beetles and the larvae have voracious appetites for caterpillars! So from now on every time one of the larvae wander into the house or garage (and they seem to do that a lot!), I catch it and put it out in the garden. I've already seen two of them viciously attacking caterpillars several times their size in various parts of the yard. They are certainly aptly named.

Well, that's about it. Happy Easter from Basil and me!

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