Another week's progress to document in my Garden Diary. I don't know about your location, but once winter decided to hit the road, we have had a really nice spring. Day time highs have hovered in the high 70s/low80s, but nighttime temperatures have remained on the cool side (THE perfect weather) and we've had more than our fair share of rain, all of which have encouraged my garden to really take off. I'm enjoying documenting the progress from one week to the next. My cucumbers have grown another foot and half over the past 6 days.
And I'm really optimistic that the cucumbers on the trellis will form a shield against the sun for my tender lettuces.
The tomatoes are going great guns as well, however, when I looked back on my past garden diary, I realized that my garden is a good month behind where it usually is by this time of the year. This observation was echoed by my friends at Progressive Gardens recently. That's good for my lettuce and kale, but not sure what that'll mean long-term for my tomatoes and other heat-loving vegetables/fruits.
In an attempt to attract more pollinators, I planted several pollinator attracting flowers within and around my vegetable beds this year. At each corner of my cucumber trellis, I planted Scarlet Creeper Vine. This vine is know to attract bees and hummingbirds. Since it seems my cucumbers really struggled to get pollinated the last couple of years, I'm hoping that by having the Scarlet Creeper mingling with the cucumbers, my pollination rate will increase. I'll keep you posted. I've also planted bee balm and lavender right around my vegetable garden, as well as sweet alyssum, cleome, yarrow and purple coneflower throughout my backyard.
Something new I'm trying this year is having Zinnias planted with the vegetables intug several of my garden beds this year. Not only do I really love Zinnias as a cut flower (their jewel-tones scream ‘Summer!'), but they are great companion plants for several reasons:
Speaking of hummingbirds, in addition to the joy of watching them darting around the yard, they have benefits you might not have considered. Hummingbirds can pollinate flowers that can’t be reached by other birds. They don’t have the disadvantage of a small beak or large body when it comes to spreading pollen. This makes it easier to grow long-tubed flowers that need pollination.
They eat frequently, dining not only on nectar but also insects and pollen. Their fast heartbeats and breathing require a lot of food so with a good number of birds you will have some natural assistance with certain small pests. In addition to attractive plants, another means of attracting hummingbirds is a hummingbird feeder.
Attracting beneficial insects and pollinators is a cornerstone of our organic garden. I've been know to purchase ladybugs and praying mantis eggs, and would definitely consider purchasing parastic wasp eggs. However, I'd much prefer to attract this friendly gardeners to my yard naturally.
Here are just a few of the beneficial insects I'd love to have in my garden and some of the plants that attract them:
Ladybugs (eat primarily aphids):
For the Ladybugs, I will also keep a small saucer with some rocks that has a wee bit of water in it within my vegetable garden.
Parasitic Wasps (see above for what they eat):
Syrphid Flies ( aphids, scales, mealy bugs and small caterpillars)
In general, these predatory insects are very small, so need flat flower clusters for the nectar and pollen that fuels them for their hunting forays. So its a win-win-win…you get pretty flowers to look at, the beneficial bugs get good food and then they go to work cleaning the bad guys from your garden. How do you attract and keep beneficial insects in your vegetable garden?
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