Season Still Good!

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)May 5, 2012

I've found numerous salt marsh caterpillars, tulip tree beauties, American ladies, red-spotted purples, plus the usual group of swallowtail cats. The only ones missing are giant swallowtails and black swallowtails - I have plenty of host plants for them, including the "weed" mock bishop's weed for the black swallowtails. The pipevine swallowtails are so numerous, both flying and cats, that the only thing I know to do to have any possibility of keeping up is to fertilize the pipevines.

I've found several long-tail skipper cats, which is great, since they've been mostly missing since 2005, the year of the big hurricane. I got these two pictures of one of them. I had to make one picture of the tell-tale skipper head and one of the tell-tale short, yellow/orange marks on the tail, because it wouldn't come out from its nest. It's on stick tights/Desmodium paniculata, a common "weed" that I've encouraged to become more common -


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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

My season is looking up. RAs finally started laying eggs on my stinging nettles yesterday. First luna cats of the year started hatching today. OTOH, I had a small female luna outside last night. At least 5 males showed up. They must not have liked her looks though because none would mate with her. :( I put one of the males in the fridge since I'm giving a talk to a Girl Scout troop on Tuesday and he is a beauty (and he will still be in good shape to fly off after the meeting).


    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 1:52PM
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congrats on your RA eggs KC! I thought my "false nettle" died but was happy to see both of my plants have popped up from the grave...too bad they didn't start sooner. There have been tons of RA's fluttering about since the end of March. would love to see a luna moth! not sure if they make it up this way? Tony

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 3:14PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Good to hear you're getting some lep activity, KC!

And it's good to hear that your false nettles are coming back, Tony - maybe they'll be ready for next year.

I found my first hornworm of the season on a tomato plant, a white hatchling. It was on one of my Pink Brandywine heirloom tomatoes, so I cut off the part of the leaf the cat was on and attached it to a Better Boy that's growing in the shade - I don't think these four Better Boys are going to do anything but make leaves in the shade. I got a picture of the tiny little thing, and I notice that it's got the black horn already. I've got another picture I took several years ago of a hatchling on a tomato plant that was white all over, including the tail. I'd like to think this difference is because this is an actual TOMATO hornworm, not the typical tobacco hornworm like we usually get here, but it probably had a black horn, because it was a few hours older, I'll see.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 8:29PM
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Hornworms are white when they emerge from the egg before they consume the green foliage. I have found them as they are turning green (looks very strange).

I haven't found any on my tomatos yet, MissSherry, and I have about 14 plants. Better Boy, Black Cherry, SunSugar, SunGold, Chocolate Cherry, Cherokee Purple, Big Beef, Juliet, Bush Goliath, Indian Stripe, Top Sirloin, Siletz, New Big Dwarf, Mountain Princess.

I move the hornworms I find on the tomatos to the Datura. I hope I still have the Datura for awhile, because they have been outlawed here in OKC due to kids using the seeds as drugs. Several died last year from consuming them, hence, the banishment of these plants. I deadhead mine so it doesn't produce seeds, but who knows what they'll do if the Datura Police find them.

Congrats everyone on your butterflies and cats! Right now I'm also fighting Genista moth caterpillars on the Baptisia.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 7:19AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Sorry about the genista moth cats on your baptisia, Susan. My red bell pepper looked fine yesterday, then when I went to the garden this afternoon, about half the leaves were being skeletonized. There are JILLIONS of little cats on the underside of the leaves, don't know what they are.

You've sure got a lot of different types of tomato plants! Please let me know which ones do good for you and make the best tasting tomatoes.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 7:07PM
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Yes, I get a lot of helpful info on tomato varieties on the Oklahoma Gardening Forum, which is, IMHO, better than the Tomato Forum. As a Southern tomato gardener, our environment is unique as we have to deal with extreme heat and humidity. I have tried Black Cherry, and love them. The blacks have a very smooth, rich smoky sweetness and depth of flavor that the reds and other colors do not. It is an OP heirloom. SunGold is a sweet, "can't make it into the house" type cherry. Verrrrry good. It is a hybrid.

I am growing a mix of hybrids and heirlooms. Both Cherokee Purple and Indian Stripe - fruit are larger on CP - supposed to be one of THE BEST flavored tomatos around. They are heirlooms. Some of my plants are dwarfs or determinates because I have to grow in pots or grow bags, e.g., Bush Goliath, New Big Dwarf, Mountain Princess, Siletz. Just a few reasons why I grow the varieties I am.

Sorry to get off topic here.

Some of my butterflies have moved on - not as many RAs, MCs, VFs, but still enough around to continue egg laying. Exception is the Mourning Cloaks. Not finding any eggs on Willow, but they also are known to use Elm and Hackberry. They may be laying eggs on these higher in the trees. I still have a couple coming to the fruit dish, and would have thought they would have moved on North by now.

I think Black Swallowtails are experiencing a slump this year in numbers. I have one lady that still comes to lay eggs, but she's not laying in large numbers - just a few here and there. I have heard the Giants' numbers are low this year as well.

Sleepy Orange is still coming to lay eggs on the tiniest Senna bicapsularis seedlings.

Are your Butterfly Bushes blooming? Mine are not yet.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 7:23AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Yes, Susan, mine started blooming about ten days ago, at least the Ellen's Blue did. The new White Profusion hasn't grown much, and I don't remember seeing any blooms on it - it's growing next to the huge lantana, so that may be stunting its growth.

I saw several black tomatoes for sale, but didn't get any - 'sounds like I should have! Maybe they'll still have some, and I can try one of them.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 9:47AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I was wrong about the White Profusion not blooming, Susan. I made a point to actually LOOK at it :) today, and it's got lots of long panicles of white flower buds about to open.

The Ellen's Blue is really beautiful. The first flush always has the longest panicles and is always the prettiest!


    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 10:53PM
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I can't wait, MissSherry! Does Ellen's Blue grow relatively fast? Mine is still small and in a pot, but I have decided on a place to put it, and will get it planted out soon.

I just planted out my Royal Red. It had overwintered in its nursery 2 gallon pot, but was showing signs of stress. I had given it some Fish Emulsion, but it was still sulking, so I dug a new bed for it, and surrounded it with my dwarf Okra 'Little Lucy', which has burgandy foliage and, of course, the typically "hibiscus" flowers. Should look nice. I amended the sandy soil with some decomposed pine bark fines and our favorite - CHICKEN MANURE! After 3 days, it already looks happier.

I decided I would take a cutting or two of my Bicolor rather than attempting to dig up and move the entire bush. It's not very big - 3' - but my old back and all just can't do a lot of that heavier work and I was afraid I might lose it in the transition. It and my Ellen's Blue are my two favorite butterfly bushes.

OT - I harvested my first tomato yesterday! Yippee!


    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 7:55AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

You got your first tomato yesterday, Susan? Wow! It must have come from one of your determinant bushes?

Ellen's Blue grows fast, not as fast as Royal Red, but faster than the small butterfly bushes. I love the size of it, bigger than the small ones, but it doesn't grow huge like Royal Red, no taller than about 6 feet, at least for me.

It's interesting that you've planted okra in your garden. I did the same this year, but mine aren't the little ones, so mine may eventually tower over the other plants. I love fried okra, so it occurred to me, since the flowers are pretty and look just like hibiscus flowers - which they really are - why not mix a few plants in with my butterfly/hummer plants?

Besides Pink Brandywine and Better Boy, I've got four Arkansas Travelers. They're calling it an heirloom now, which is funny, because I can remember when it was just an older variety you could buy. 'Shows I've become an heirloom myself! :)


    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 10:19AM
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Heirlooms - that's what we are, Sherry! That DOES mean we're "special", right?

I think that Okra is an very ornamental veggie, but I can't grow the humongous ones in my small garden. If I could, I would grow Stewart's Zeebest (Baker Family Heirloom Seeds). It can get up to 12' tall, but is very productive. I may try one called Jing Orange next year - it is another pretty one.

I'm also (for the 1st time) growing:

Pole beans (Rattlesnake, Blue Lake Pole, Louisiana Purple Podded, and Romano) and one bush bean, Dragon's Tongue.

Summer Squash (Belmoral scallop, Yellow Straightneck, Zucchini Spineless Beauty, and regular white scallop.

Cucumbers, Spacemaster 80 (fresh eating), Homemade Pickles (canning)

Peppers - Jalapeno (3 kinds), Green, and Orange Bell

Watermelon, Yellow Doll, icebox

Canteloupe or Muskmelon, Minnesota Midget

Pumpkin, Windsor

All of my veggies are container grown and most are patio types. Yellow Doll has fruit about 4-5 lbs, yellow flesh, very sweet; Minnesota Midget canteloupe, orange flesh, 4-5 lb. fruit; and Windsor Pumpkin, same size, good for pies.

My pole beans were picked specifically for growing in hot, humid South.

The tomato I picked yesterday is actually from an indeterminate vine. People started the growing season early, early this year due to our early spring. It is from 'Juliet', which is the tomato from which all grape tomatos are derived, but Juliet has larger fruit - up to 2 oz. As I understand it, Juliet is a tomato that people either love or hate. We'll see if I like it, but I'm not too hard to please. It is getting to be an enormous plant, tho, with tons of fruit all over it. Tomatos grow in large clusters. I have about a 10 oz. Bush Goliath, which is a dwarf, not really a determinate because it produces tomatos over a long period of time, unlike determinates, that is blushing now. I'll probably pick in a couple of days to ripen inside.

I have heard that Brandywine Pink (and Black, too) are very, very good tomatos. I wish I had someone to give a few plants to because I have lots of extras that I grew from seed - Black Cherry, SunGold, Mountain Princess, New Big Dwarf, Indian Stripe, Top Sirloin. The others I bought at either Lowe's or my local nursery like SunSugar, Cherokee Purple, Chocolate Cherry, Black Prince, Better Boy, Big Beef (supposed to be one of THE best hybrids for flavor), Juliet, Bush Goliath. I want to try more of the Goliath series as well.

I can't bring myself to try a "green when ripe" tomato yet. Just doesn't seem like a real tomato, except for fried green tomatos, which I can do with other varieties. I would also like to try the new Blues, and the new Dwarfs that have been out on the market this year, as a result of the Dwarf Tomato Project started by Craig LeHoulier in North Carolina. The dwarfs are perfect for container gardening, and are bred for "indeterminate" production in larger tomatos on dwarf plants.

There I go - off on another tomato tangent, but I'm a newbie to them, and love growing something I can eat fresh from the garden. Veggies in the supermarket just aren't the same - flavorless in comparison, especially tomatos, plus the cost has gone up so much, I can't afford a lot of things anymore.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 4:34PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

You've really got a good veggie garden going there, Susan! My butterfly garden used to be a vegetable garden until it gradually got taken over by butterfly plants.

This is my first year to grow Pink Brandywine. I bought them, because somebody told me it didn't make many tomatoes, but the ones it made were real good. I've also heard that Arkansas Traveler makes a lot of good ones, too. I used to see it for sale, but I never bought it until now.

You're right about the price of vegetables - all groceries are VERY expensive!

The caterpillars are still going good, four of the QMs have made their chrysalis, the first of a second batch of pipevine swallowtails has made its chrysalis, and I brought in a mid-instar American lady that I found on a pitiful looking cudweed. I stuck the stem the caterpillar is on into a leftovers container with water in it and put a nice piece of cudweed next to it. I wasn't going to raise any more ALs, but I felt sorry for this one.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 5:44PM
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