31 October 2009

Inconsistent Princess

The Nasturtium seeds were purchased from Home Depot for the new side yard garden on the slope. Nasturtiums were tried about a decade ago, and were not a success story, but I was willing to try again this year. Princess of India (Tropaeolum majus) sounded like a good variety to try. Almost all germinated to my surprise, so some were planted at the side, and the extras were placed out in the back yard vegetable garden.

At first, the side yard plants did very well in the spring, and began producing flowers quickly. Leaves were dark green, and the plants grew into small mounds. One item that disappointed me was the small number of flowers on each plant, and the tendency for them to bloom down inside the leaf mound, making them difficult to see. Those photos all over the internet show a profusion of blossoms above the leaves. (Same for the seed packet.) Do the gardeners get credit for these, or Photoshop experts?

Also, one plant was a lighter shade of green than the others, so I planted it to the side. It turned out to trail along the ground more and produced red-orange flowers in contrast to the red flowers of the others. This was a rogue - definitely not a princess.

During the summer, the plants essentially stopped growing and flowering. They did, however, retain their compact shape and attractive leaves, and were not bothered by pests. Last month as the weather began cooling, the plants took off again. Shedding the compact mounded habits, they are now found crawling along the ground like drunken sailors. The blossoms are more visible now between the leaves, being more spread along the vines, and are also more numerous.

The backyard plants never got going. They remained small throughout the spring and summer, but are just now beginning to grow. They even surprised me with a few blossoms this month. I guess a Princess of India prefers to bask in the sunny locations.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, canna, nasturtium, mexican zinnia
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 1 tomato

18 October 2009

Squash That Bug

The cleome was tall, spindly, and dying at the end of summer. This is normal for many plants, and never having grown cleome before, thought it was normal. Upon cutting the plants down to tidy up the garden, hundreds of black and yellow beetle-like bugs were found covering the stems and some leaves. Most were thrown out with the plants.

Two weeks later, as I was tending to zinnias adjacent to the cleome bed, the same bugs were found on the zinnias. The cooperative extension was called, but was not much help over the phone. I went to the Bug Guide online to visually identify them as friend or foe. Nothing matched. I registered, posted my photo of the rascals, and someone responded. It turns out that they were on the bug site, but I was looking in the wrong place.

These are harlequin bugs, in the family of stink bugs, found in the southern US as far north as Pennsylvania and Colorado. They can be nasty critters that suck juices out of the plants. When I learned of this, I went out to the zinnias to commit bugicide, but found they had all flown the coop. I guess they got wind that I was onto them, and decided to feast elsewhere, for fear of the gardener's wrath.

The bug info page says they overwinter, so I will be watching for them in March. They can be picked off by hand, but with hundreds, there are faster ways of population control. Fortunately, I did not find any eggs.

For The Record:
  • Found on zinnia and cleome

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming:canna, zinnia, nasturtium, castor, aster, pink cosmos
  • Harvested: 1 pepper