After a long, busy day at work, I like to find an hour or two most evenings to work out in the garden. It is cooler then and sometimes a soft breeze can be had. I do have a bit of hand watering to do with 32 thirsty container plantings but then I can plunk myself down in the aromatic herb garden or amidst the vegetables or in one of several perennial/shrub beds and pull up weeds. While it sounds crazy to most, this is relaxing horticultural therapy for me. It gives me time to let my mind wander and pleasure at seeing a weed-free garden bed, and also keeps me in touch with what is happening in the garden and in the yard.

Ideally, mulch of some kind would get put down after weeding but this does not always occur in a timely fashion. A few beds were mulched with a bark mulch but with the hot, dry weather, the surface of the mulch has become hydrophobic (water resistant) and one has to either keep the sprinkler on for a long time or ‘prime’ it by poking a few holes in the mulch around the base of the plants to let the water penetrate and not roll off. I am having this problem because of late plantings (some last weekend –great summer sale at local garden center!). So I have overgrown 6-pack plants in small holes in very hot and dry weather. The root zone needs to be soaked every day and the bark mulch is repelling water.

Back to weeding. I found 3 Large Cabbage White caterpillars in one of my ‘Gonzales’ mini-cabbages. They were promptly removed and squished. Two other caterpillars to look for on members of the cabbage family are the imported cabbage worm and cabbage looper. They all seem to like green cabbages better than red ones. Hopefully that goes for Brussels sprouts too as I planted “Rubine’ red ones this year.

Damage from cabbage moth larvae

Dill self-seeds itself throughout the garden. This is great when drying the leaves for culinary purposes but there is a limit as to how much dill weed one can use. Many dill plants are weeded out but not before I check to see if there any eggs or larvae of the black swallowtail butterfly – aka parsley worm. Plants with caterpillars on them are left alone.

Parsley worm on dill

Not one honeybee to be seen but in these later evening hours, bumble bees and other native pollinators are still active. They really like the leeks that made it through the winter and are in full bloom. Good reading on the decline of our native bumble bees and what to do about it can be found in Conserving Bumble Bees. Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators from the Xerces Society.

In the herb garden I get to munch on pineapple strawberries and bronze fennel leaves while weeding. A cocoa hull mulch will go on this weekend. Most years there is a leopard frog or two living in the thyme bed but this year only grasshoppers are jumping about. Garlic chive seedlings are prolific as that October snowstorm dashed seedheads to the ground before they were deadheaded. Two of the four tri-colored sage plants overwintered but curiously several branches of plain-colored sage emerged from each plant and are now blooming. I suppose I should cut them off but the bees are so enjoying the blossoms.

Last year all leaves were variegated – this year plenty of green!

Early evening also brings avian visitors to the yard. The bird baths and feeders get filled then and cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches and more line up for food as if knowing what they don’t eat now will probably be consumed by the squirrels in the morning. The past few days a couple of juvenile red-winged hawks have been chasing each other in the back woods and putting up quite the ruckus. A wren perches on the tomato stakes as if to check out my work. The spicy perfume of nicotiana permeates the area. Crickets softly chirp. Life is good!

A very bad picture of a very noisy young hawk!

(Uh oh – mosquitoes buzzing – time to go in!)

Soil –fully yours!