Well, it has been almost a year since I’ve written here and I am quite embarrassed I have let time pass to this extent without checking in. Since I haven’t anything in mind to write about today, I wish to take this opportunity to invite you to view what I have been doing lately on my Instagram page at @natureisnurturing.
During the pandemic, I consistently posted nature-related photos at least once per day and most of the time I included interesting tidbits about the subject. It is a practice that I plan to continue as we thankfully emerge from this difficult, but in some ways, enlightening time. I hope you stop by my page and take a look.
In the meantime, I plan to brush up on my topics and get this blog up and running again!
Navigating this 2020 pandemic, I have made a point to get outside and walk in my neighborhood every day. Nature always brings a balance in life, I believe, and this is my way of balancing out the uncertainty we are all experiencing right now.
I began walking in mid March, and almost every day I have come across an interesting plant and/or animal. I have been diligent in taking my cell phone with me on my walks for photo ops. Actually, my cell phone is also my tracking device but I feel very fortunate I find something daily to photograph and research along the way.
One of the most unusual things I’ve found along my daily walks are oak apples – or oak galls. These thin-shelled, tan orbs about the size of golf balls are quite intriguing. At first glance, they appear to be something that grew from an oak tree itself – perhaps a fungal issue or otherwise. However, they are not derived from plant situations but, instead, from insect circumstances. The oak gall wasp, a very inconspicuous and small, hump-back insect, lays its eggs near oak leaf buds in early spring. Thereafter, a chemical reaction occurs during this egg laying process that miraculously transforms a leaf bud into a protective orb around the larva, making certain it survives without being eaten by a predator.
An interesting and odd fact is oak wasp larva do not expel any waste during this gall stage (they don’t poop) so the orb remains a very safe and sanitary place for the larva to develop. Once the larva transforms into a wasp, it bores through the orb wall and takes flight to start the process again next spring. (The wasps overwinter in the ground.)
If you see an orb on the sidewalk or in a yard below stately oak trees, most likely the larva has already emerged. Go ahead and pick it up and take a look inside. You will find web-like strings that kept the larva safe and centered in place until it was ready to escape.
Oak galls do not do a lot of harm to an oak tree unless they are inundated with them, so there is no need for great alarm if you see only a few on your tree (or on the ground).
While the oak gall wasp cannot be compared to a beautiful butterfly or moth, it does seem to be one of the more astute insects when it comes to protecting its young. And, that in itself makes this wasp quite a fascinating insect!
Hello to my subscribers and visitors! Today’s post is from nine years ago but is still a good one to read if you are considering planting an ornamental tree (with a bonus of bearing edible fruit) that will do well in North Texas. You see, I recently discovered many of my early blog posts had somehow fell off of my site. So, I’m slowly going through my former articles stored on my laptop and reinstating them to the blog. Unfortunately, they will not be in chronological order, so please forgive me. As I’ve done before, I’ll likely disable subscription notices after this post today so that I do not overwhelm your inbox while performing maintenance. Stay tuned for new “old” posts and thank you for your patience. Now, on with the article:
Originally posted 2011
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a large pomegranate tree on the side of my driveway, next to my veggie garden. I planted it there about 7 years ago when it was a tiny sapling. Having a fruit tree is every gardeners dream; not only do they look appealing, but it’s a way of staying with the growing trend of being self-sufficient in society. Not only that, but having garden fruit trees is an excellent way to get children involved and interested in gardening, and with so many trees available, such as apple, apricot and peach, you won’t need to shop for fruit again! Planting my pomegranate tree was an exciting time, but in the first year or two, it did not bloom and thus, did not produce fruit. It was an attractive, healthy shrub and looked nice regardless of its lack of blooms. It wasn’t difficult to wait patiently for it to mature.
The variety I have is called California “Wonderful.” Today it stands about 12 feet tall and is about 8 – 10 feet wide. It has reliably produced 25 – 30 pomegranates each year for the past five. Most of its fruit have been incredibly sweet (the way I like them) and then some have been typically tart (the way others seem to like them.) I have picked both sweet and tart from this tree in the same season so I do not know what environmental issues may cause the difference in the taste. My guess is that the opposing fruits may have matured at separate times when there was a varied amount of rainfall, temperature and/or sunshine.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to crack open and eat a fresh pomegranate, not only are you missing a tasty treat, but also the very interesting architectural display of the interior of this fruit. The fruit is divided by what I call honeycombed cellulose which supports and separates many small seeds. The seeds are each surrounded by wine-colored juice that is encapsulated in a gel sac. Speaking of wine-colored juice – pom juice indeed stains like wine – so beware!
You can eat a pomegranate in two ways – with or without swallowing the hard seed. Which in other words means – a “less messy” way or a “very messy” way. I prefer the very messy way as I am not interested in the somewhat chewy hard seeds (although I understand they are excellent sources of fiber and I have been told they taste pretty good in oatmeal.) Instead of swallowing the seeds whole, I chew the gel sac, swallow the juice and spit out the hard seed. This means I either need to be outdoors when eating or I must keep a discard bowl beside me when I eat the fruit. Sortof like when eating sunflower seeds. Even though it is an arduous task, it is well worth it. You see, not only is the pomegranate delicious, it is chock full of vitamins and antioxidants.
If you read the book of Song of Solomon in the Bible, you will find many references to the pomegranate. In fact, it may have been a pomegranate that Eve gave to Adam instead of an apple! For more information about the history and nutritional value of the pomegranate, go to http://www.medicinehunter.com/pomegranate-wonder-fruit.
Pomegranates are large deciduous shrubs that originate from the Mediterranean regions of Asia, Europe and Africa. I’d also like to add here that during the bare, winter months, the limbs of the pomegranate produce rather huge thorns. Just keep this in mind when you prune your tree come late winter or early spring. Incidentally, fruit is borne on new growth, so spring pruning is fine. If you don’t feel confident pruning your fruit tree, our advice is not to do it yourself. However, it does need doing to maintain the health of your tree, so looking into these tree surgeon jacksonville fl professionals is the best foot forward.
Well, let’s get to how to grow pomegranates! The good news is they are not fussy and are easy to grow. Poms will thrive in most any soil and are drought tolerant once they are established. They enjoy cool winters and hot, dry summers (one of the reasons they do so very well in California – and I must say, also in North Texas.) If you are in an area with such varied seasons, you are in luck! As with the Vitex, be sure to find a sunny area in your landscape to plant your sapling where the tree will have plenty of room to spread, again, up to 8 feet (see varieties at the link far below to consider smaller or dwarf versions.) It is best to wait to plant your pomegranate in the fall so that it is not stressed by the heat of summer, however you probably could get away with planting in early spring if you wanted to give it a try.
Please don’t be discouraged if your tree doesn’t bloom the first couple of years. It may take about 2-3 years for most pomegranate trees to mature to the point they will bloom and set fruit. Still, as I mentioned earlier, the shrub itself is quite attractive. However, as you can see below, the gorgeous pops of bright orange flowers that eventually emerge are very well worth the wait!
In conclusion, I encourage you to find an ample spot in your landscape for this beautiful biblical tree that also produces tasty and very healthy treats. For a descriptive list of pomegranate varieties, go to https://plantdatabase.earth/pomegranate. Surely there is one for you!
Originally posted July 2011. Since this post was written, you can find a greater variety of similar portable solar fountain devices for your existing bird bath.
Although I admit I become excited about products that really work (especially anti-aging products!), I typically do not tout about them to extreme. However I have to brag about this one – the Universal Solar Pump Kit, manufactured by Outdoor Solar Solutions – Nature’s Foundry and sold by Amazon.com. I had been searching and searching for an all-inclusive solar fountain to place in my existing bird bath for many months with no luck. One day, I saw an ad on Amazon.com that was exactly what I was looking for.
You see, I wouldn’t mind having a fountain with a solar panel attached, but my elderly blind and deaf dog, Buzz, would certainly get all tangled up in the wiring and either rip it out of the ground, ricochet it out of the bird bath or stay bound and gagged for hours until I got home from work! (See https://natureisnurture.net/nose-knows-know-better/ .) Besides, who actually wants wiring in the landscape if you don’t need it?
While there does exist a few all-inclusive solar fountains for ponds (one shaped like a lily pad) they are quite large and aren’t recommended for use in shallow bird baths. Actually, Outdoor Solar Solution’s Universal Solar Pump appears to be able to function in bird baths shallower than mine. (Mine is about 4 inches deep.) In fact, I have added a few rocks to my bird bath to sit the fountain upon and stabilize it so that it isn’t submerged entirely. It still works when submerged, but I like it with the pebbles underneath. It seems to allow for better water flow, in my opinion.
A couple of other things to consider, which I personally don’t find to be negatives, are the solar panels on this device do not store up energy and you may have to clean the pump every now and then. Re the solar panels – at night, on cloudy days and if situated in the shade, the device will not function. Since I’m usually not out on the patio during the dark of night or hanging out in the yard too much on cloudy days – this doesn’t bother me. Re cleaning the pump – I consider this a maintenance issue that comes with the territory of owning water devices. I understand this as I have a 55 gallon aquarium and algae is the norm. Just a couple of things to keep in mind.
So, why would you want this device?
Well I guess first you have to want a fountain. I wanted one.
It’s inexpensive. Again, I wanted a fountain – but cheap. That is, I didn’t want to buy a brand new bird bath or other type of fountain. I wanted to use what I already had and convert it. This fits the bill.
It doesn’t require wiring. No ugly wires and, best of all, no ugly wires that attach to your electrical outlets!
It doesn’t need batteries.
It comes with several different water dancing attachments, so you can customize to your preference.
It keeps mosquitoes from breeding in my bird bath.
It attracts more varieties of birds to my yard.
It appears to keep the water a tad cooler for the birds to drink during the hot summer.
It is pretty.
Lastly, it is relaxing. Kind of like having your own backyard eco/sound therapy session!
The pics in this post are of my personal bird bath and fountain. I took a few when I first received the device a couple of months ago and I took one today.
So, if you wish to add a small water feature to your landscape just in time for your 4th of July backyard BBQ, you now have an inexpensive option. I certainly enjoy my all inclusive solar bird bath fountain, and I know my feathered friends do too!
As we begin to enter Stage 2 of mandatory water conservation in my area, it got me to thinking about ways we can both help ourselves (economically) and the environment (ecologically) during this drought season. In addition to water-related ideas, I thought of a few other recycling-related tips I’d like to share with you as well. Some are quite specific, such as those concerning fish tanks and shaggy dog haircuts, and then there are those related to actions that we all partake in, such as drinking water and bathing.
Furthermore, if you run a company then there are some additional recycling measures that you can take to go above and beyond the call of duty! For example, a friend of mine works in a large warehouse and he told me that they use a baler machine to take care of their excess plastic waste. Apparently, baling plastic packaging waste like shrink wrap, film, PET bottles, and farm materials is an effective and low cost method of recycling plastics. You can find more plastic recycling solutions for businesses by checking out some of the Baler machinery for hire or purchase from phswastekit.co.uk.
Anyway, I certainly hope you find your household can benefit from a few of the below suggestions!
1. If you have a fish bowl or better yet, a large fish tank, when changing water, make a point to toss the old water into your veggie garden, flower beds and/or potted plants outdoors. This “fertilized” water provides excellent nutrients, is all-natural, and may assist in repelling detrimental insects. (Garden pests tend to dislike fish and/or seaweed concoctions.)
2. If the nectar in your hummingbird feeder becomes old – and it will do so very fast in the hot summer – do not throw it away or dispose of it in your yard indiscriminately. Drizzle the sugar water around wilted plants that may need an extra boost. I learned this trick by accident when my feeder fell and broke open into a clump of ferns. Those were the greenest ferns I ever had due to the extra boost from the nectar! A word of warning – this is one of those tips where a plant can get too much of a good thing. Sugar will eventually interfere with a plant’s growth and water uptake, so don’t sprinkle the nectar on the same plant each and every time – spread the wealth. As I said above, my feeder fell only once and that one time did the trick! P.S. Those little packets you get along with your purchased cut flowers essentially contain of form of sugar – simple fast food to keep your cut flowers prettier a little longer!
3. During the early spring when birds are building nests, toss out your dryer lint for our feathered friends to enjoy. If they don’t partake, it’s easy enough to retrieve and dispose of later.
4. Same with hair clippings from your dog. I usually give my dog a little trim now and then out in the backyard. I leave the hair in the yard for the birds to use to line their nests. Again, there isn’t much to worry with if the birds don’t notice the fluffy stuff. I just pick it up within the next day or two. (You’d be surprised how well they will notice it, though! I had a sparrow once come back for every tiny piece of my dog, Buzz’, soft hair one day after I clipped him. Those sparrow nestlings probably didn’t want to leave such a comfy abode!) For a short, funny video on this subject, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlovZIM3K5w&feature=related.
5. I’ve mentioned this one before. Instead of disposing of old or expired bread, crackers, cereal, popcorn and/or fruit, set it out in a platform bird feeder or a large plate on your patio. The birds, especially during drought times, will be ever so grateful to you – even if the food isn’t top quality! (Note: Place out only that which will be eaten in a day, otherwise you will attract critters you prefer not to have around such as rats.)
6. Collect rain water to water your indoor plants at least, and, your outdoor ones if you have an ample amount. You can invest in or create a rain barrel device or simply set out a large container to collect the rain. I use one of those large plastic bowls with handles – the kind you use to ice down sodas for a party. Think it cost me less than $5 at Wal-Mart. (This is another item you do not wish to place out for long periods of time as you will attract mosquito larva. Be sure to use the rain water within a few days.)
7. In addition to the above idea, I leave my large plastic bowl out all year on my patio to collect water from my sprinkler system that hits the concrete. I usually collect enough to water a few potted plants that the sprinklers don’t reach.
8. After your family meals, gather up your water glasses and ice cubes (from non-alcoholic beverages) and pour the excess into one large pitcher and take out to your bird bath. Your bird bath will be freshened up and cooled down at the same time, an especially nice treat for the birds during the hot summer.
9. When waiting for your bath or shower water to warm up, catch some of the initial cool water in a pitcher or two, set aside for later, and use for watering your plants indoors and out. Hint: If you allow the water to sit for 48 hours, most of the chlorine will have had time to dissipate and the water will be all the more healthier for your plants.
10. You’ve probably heard this one before. Mix in used coffee grounds around your acid-loving plants such as roses, azaleas, gardenias, hydrangeas and rhododendrons for better growth. This is another one that you don’t want to overdo, however. A little coffee goes a long way.
11. Recycle plastic 2 liter soda bottles as scoops for bird seed, mulch and potting soil. Simply cut the bottle in half and use the end with the nozzle as the handle (don’t forget to keep the cap on.) I love this idea since the extra-large scoop saves me footsteps too!
12. Use newspaper as a weed deterrent and to keep moisture in your flower and vegetable beds. (Personally, I’d avoid the colored inked pages just because there is a still a little controversy about the chemicals found in the ink, although through my research I read that the ink used today is virtually non toxic and actually contains carbon – which is a beneficial element for plants.) Layer 6 – 10 sheets thick of black and white print and keep moist. For a nicer appearance, you can add straw or wood mulch on top. The paper weed block will last only about one season, but it works well while it lasts. Best of all, it is porous enough to allow water and nutrients to pass through and a bonus is that it naturally degrades.
13. Dreaming of cooler weather . . . if you purchase a real Christmas tree, be sure to take part in your community’s after holiday recycling efforts. Cities typically shred the trees and use the mulch in community flower beds, parks, medians and along hike and bike trails.
Would you be willing to share one or two of your beneficial ecological and economical recycling tips with us?
I’ve got a few interesting blog posts I’m holding on the back burner for now, but I thought I’d keep them there until the heat wave subsides and instead write about something more timely. Actually, as hot and dry as it is, the plants I’ll mention here may indeed not be at their best, however, the most important thing I’ve observed about them is their amazing ability to remain green and survive these 100 degree temps over the past 5 weeks.
The plants I’ll mention here are not in pots, they are planted in the ground. Those you’d like to save that are in pots and baskets should be moved to full shade or indoors, as I mentioned last week.
While the below plants are not at their optimum, it is good to make note of them for when you consider next summer’s plantings. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we will not repeat this year’s 100 degree temperature streak for a long, long time. Nonetheless, it is always good to invest in landscape plants that haven proven to be tough and will have the best chance of survival.
One of my former blog posts speaks about annuals that will bloom all summer, and indeed Moss Rose and Purslane are doing quite well compared to most ornamentals these days.
Dwarf Mexican Petunia (perennial) is holding up extremely well in my back yard. It receives part shade, however.
To my surprise, Caladiums (annual, but bulbs can be overwintered) are doing well, too! Again, they are receiving part shade, but if you look closely at my pic below, you’ll see the Shasta Daisies behind them are not blooming and are quite cripsy comparatively.
Turk’s Cap (perennial) is hanging in there and still blooming.
Dwarf Mexican Petunia, Caladiums, Shasta Daisies, Turk’s Cap
As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, Tropicanna Cannas (perennial) are also hanging in there and blooming.
Lantana (tender perennial) is doing well in full sun, but blooming much more infrequently. It will step up as the temps decrease, however.
I do not have Pentas (tender perennial – annual in climates cooler than zone 9) in my landscape personally, but I saw a mass planting the other day at a nearby shopping center. Their foliage looked good and about half of the plants were blooming. It is the best shopping center planting I’ve seen in a while. Most shopping center beds are very stark due to their proximity to a lot of hot, hot asphalt.
As far as vines go, unfortunately my Moonflowers aren’t doing well at all and even my old time Hall’s Honeysuckle is struggling. The Honeysuckle will return next year in better condition. I would like to mention that Wisteria (perennial) is currently not showing signs of heat or drought stress. It s green and still sending out feelers.
Crape Myrtles (blooming trees) are incredible this year. Their vibrant red, pink and purple hues are the saving grace of North Texas landscapes when most everything else is brown and yellow in the midst of summer.
Well, I want to keep today’s post short and sweet. I simply wish to bring to your attention my observations regarding landscape plants that are holding up to the drought and extreme heat in my area. As I point out, most of the above are planted in part shade conditions, so do keep this in mind. However, also keep in mind these plants – especially the perennials – may be well worth a second look when you decide to invest in your summer landscapes next year. Perhaps there is a slightly positive reason for this season – to give us faith there are indeed a few wonderfully resilient plants.