Sunday, September 21, 2008

African Blue Basil

As was the case last year, our African Blue Basil plant is attracting a crazy number of bees again this summer. Unlike last year, though, we haven't seen a whole lot of honey bees. We've mostly had bumblebees this year, and most of the summer it's been the really big ones. At any given time there are at least half a dozen on the one plant. For a week or so, we also saw some smaller bumblebees, about 1/2 the size of the current residents. I'm not sure if they're a different species or if they're a younger version of the big ones.

UPDATE: I've been looking all over the web trying to figure out what kind of bumblebees we have, and just figured out they're not bumblebees at all: they're carpenter bees. Bumblebees have fuzzy butts, while carpenter bees have a smooth and hairless back-end, like my photo. I knew we had carpenter bees by our deck this spring, but I didn't put two and two together. The web pages I've found indicate that the carpenter bee is a good pollinator, and they do bore into wood as their name suggests. However, they don't usually do serious damage unless generations of them stick around the same location.

Japanese Maples

We planted a couple more Japanese maples that have been in pots for most of the summer. The red one, 'Bloodgood,' was a housewarming present when we moved in two years ago, and it's been in the ground for awhile.

The one on the left is 'Sango Kaku,' and the small one on the right is an 'Orido-Nishiki' that Doug bought on Ebay.


I planted a couple of eggplants about a month ago. Today I harvested my first mini-eggplant. I suppose I should have let it get a little bigger but I wanted to get it before something else did! There are several more blooms on the plants so hopefully I'll get some more.

I also got a couple small zucchinis -- they definitely aren't growing as fast now that the weather has turned cooler. I only got a handful of beans -- some of them are plain old bush beans and some are scarlet runner beans. I keep finding little onions that I missed when digging up earlier, and I even found some potatoes that I missed when harvesting several weeks ago. This should make a nice little stir fry.

Here are blooms from the scarlet runner bean (along with little beanlets!) and my bush beans.

Mulching with hay

I managed to get in several hours in the garden today, and got a lot accomplished. I took lots of pictures so will post a couple different items.

This summer we're trying something different: mulching with straw instead of hardwood mulch or the composted leaves we get from the city pickup mulch pile. It's not the best looking when it's just been put down, but after a few rains it'll looks fine.

Why straw? It seems to be more economical than the hardwood mulch we get in bags at the big box store: one bale will cover as much area as probably 4-5 bags of mulch. We pay a bit too much right now because we don't have a pickup truck. That means we only can get 4 bales in the back of Doug's car, and we end up buying it at a feed store for about $5/bale. If you have a truck and can get enough to make the drive worthwhile, you can find farmers selling straw on Craig's List for as little as $2/bale.

It's not quite as economical as the leaf mulch we get in University City in the spring, but I think it's cleaner. The free mulch comes from leaves the city picks up curbside and piles up to compost all winter. However, I've found enough garbage in that mulch -- pull tabs from cans, plastic bags and other assorted plastic items, cigarette package wrappers, etc. -- that it really makes me wonder exactly what all I am adding to my yard. And who really knows what people spray on their trees.

Here's a view of the same garden area from the driveway. You can't really see the mulch until you're right up by the fence so I don't have to worry about what the neighbors think. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008


When driving home from work I avoid the highway because it's pretty clogged up that time of day. Winding through one of the suburban neighborhoods on my way home the other day, I had to wait for a turkey to cross the road. Seriously!

I held up traffic a bit as I stopped my car in the middle of the road to snap some pics.