Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just Hovering

Thursday, October 28, 2009

Already past 6:30 but it seems like I have been up for days. 37 degrees out and still darker than a pocket. It will be darker still come Sunday when the time falls back an hour. Daylight Savings Time is an interesting concept.

The phone rang at 4 this morning and it was Lifeline calling. Some gardeners have a plant kind of Lifeline to wake them up when the outside temperatures are about to drop into frosty depths or when the furnace goes out in a greenhouse. Some gardeners have a mental Lifeline that kicks in when the weatherman cautions that tomorrow morning will be below freezing and if you want a couple more days, maybe another week to enjoy your flowers, pick one last pepper or cuke, you better break out the sheets and blankets and odd pieces of plastic and cover things up. Today's Lifeline at our house was the people alert calling to advise that Gail's uncle had fallen again and was ambulance bound for the hospital. Those things happen when you are 92. This man in his prime was one of Vermont's best hunters and trappers, a Veteran of New Guinea during WWII, and a terrific gardener. I hope he is ok but age takes things out of our hands and decisions are made at a higher level. No matter what happens, I always will remember this man for a story from his military past and for his gardening ability.

As a Vermonter fighting a war on far off Pacific islands, history reminds us that all our soldiers were often at pretty bad odds. Richard was a hunter in Vermont and his collection of deer mounts hanging in his house and his knowledge of how to locate, cultivate and harvest ginseng were equally as strong. He had very good hunting skills. Story has it that one day he was fed up with canned rations and he was possessed to head into the jungle himself and bring back a deer. His friends advised against it but they also knew his skills and hoped for the best. Some time later he appeared carrying a deer, small by Vermont comparison but venison for him and his friends. I doubt there are many if any from that group still alive to remember this but it was a fact he was known for. For Gail and me, seeing him appear in his pick up truck every fall with a bushel of buttercup and butternut squash is also a memory. Lots of people grow buttercup squash but there was something about his that we will always remember. We hope he's ok.

Some gardeners read lots of magazines trying to figure out how to grow that perfect buttercup squash or flower. We fit into that group. I don't think we subscribe to as many as we used to, partly because some of our favorites aren't even around any more. Some that we read are trade magazines and some are now offered on the Internet. The online magazines are probably great for kids who know no different but for Gail and me, it's a tough learning curve to be able to navigate around an on-line magazine. Just the same we read a lot and apply all we learn.

The latest Greenhouse Management & Production Magazine had an interesting article on biological controls. Take a look at the article. It says that hover flies are useful as they feed on aphids, thrips and small caterpillars. Look closely up top at the cosmos picture (click to enlarge) and you'll see an adult hover fly, named for the way it hovers in one spot in your garden, looking for a new place to feed. As we know, aphids are plant specific and different aphids bother different plants. Thrips are a perennial problem with daylilies and drive many growers plain nuts with their ability to be so tiny and so destructive at bloom time. Caterpillars are only really nice when they appear in books for small children. Hover flies feed on all of these insects.

If developing a successful hover fly population interests you, plant dill like we do. The dill plant and its family members are a natural nesting place for hovers. Dill, fennel, etc are easy to grow and great to cook or pickle with and the dill can even be used in floral arrangements. This is also an easy way to keep chemicals out of your life which spicing up the garden and the table. Give it a try!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond and saying thanks to the gardener who ordered the five Tetrinas Daughter daylilies. They'll go out today.

George Africa
TheVermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm


lynn'sgarden said...

George, I was surprised even at 7 this morning, it was still pitch black. Yes, darker yet to be come Sunday!
Enjoyed the hunt story of Gail's 92yr. old uncle...hope he's alright.

No mention of Karl lately, he's ok?

joey said...

With warm thoughts on your chilly mountain ~ Happy Halloween, George!

garden girl said...

I hope Gail's uncle is ok George.