Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Drought

Some years are drier than others, so we had a plan in case of a drought. A gas-powered pump was purchased to transfer water from this old well in a low spot up to the garden beds above. Alas, the well is dry. Last year it was full of clear water. On to Plan B...

Pumping water up from the pond. I'm afraid that, too, is nearly dry. Barely enough water in there for the tadpoles and salamanders. On to Plan C...

...filling up jugs of water from home. This gets old very fast. Yesterday I made 3 trips, taking about 4 hours, applying 25 gallons per trip. The day before was 2 trips, and there were other trips as needed when plants began wilting and losing their leaves.

It doesn't work very well, but has saved most of the plants so far. We added organic material to the soil last year, which stores lots of moisture. Unfortunately, once it's bone dry, it also takes a lot more water to penetrate the soil. It seemed like I watered this area really well, but just scratch the surface and it's still bone dry. This can perk up a wilted plant, but it's wilting again the next day.

Watering efforts have focused on the Butterfly Bed and certain plants along the slope. This one hasn't had any help, and it shows. Earlier in the year the slope was always moist, even if it had been weeks since the last rain, due to water seeping from the hillside. No more seepage these days!
Or this one.

The Sensitive Fern is usually pretty tough to kill (this fern was growing here naturally), but this dry spell has been tough.

We're working on Plan D: Dropping off a holding tank up above the garden along the old drive that once serviced the swimming pool. In the meantime, everyone do a rain dance please!

Monarch Caterpillars; Swallowtail

This is what it's all about: Landscaping as an integral part of the ecosystem, not just something pretty (but sterile) to look at. Here is some leaf damage at Eklund that a person might be tempted to fight with pesticides. But look more closely... the insect eating the leaf is also something good...

...a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar, escaping the midday sun by eating from the bottom of the leaf (you have a better chance of seeing the caterpillars in the evening when it's cooled down). This caterpillar can ONLY eat one of the native milkweed species. It cannot eat any of the foreign plants from Europe or Asia or Africa that are used for landscaping, or which have invaded vacant lots and the sides of roads. There are many other native insects like the Monarch that rely on native plant species.

Common Milkweed is a rather coarse plant for a flower garden or along the house, so it's a good one in a special patch out back. If you have a sunny spot, mix it with Butterfly Weed and Bee Balm for a butterfly patch that is beautiful, deer resistant, native, and very hardy.

Here's a Tiger Swallowtail on the Bee Balm. This flower patch was full of bees, and we get visits from hummingbirds as well. A great addition to the yard. It's native status is unclear - some sources say the midwest, while the USDA says it is native to CT. It's also called Oswego Tea because the Oswego Indians made a drink from it.