What a summer! It has been like no other in our Cambria garden. The sun does not wait for late morning to make its appearance and greets us when we rise. Sun-loving plants like basil and tomatoes are loving it.
Critters have noticed the weather change too. Those pesky western cucumber beetles (Diabrotica undecipunctate), disguised as our beloved ladybug, have not shown up in force as usual. You’ll still find them snuggled in the petals of yellow dahlias and roses, but their numbers seem reduced. Because they lay eggs in the moist soil beneath plants, and the soil is anything but moist, we got a reprieve this year.
Speaking of moist earth, have you noticed that the snails have packed their bags and left? Too warm and dry for the slimy creatures to “slip and slide”!
I’ve lived in California all my life but never encountered this insect until this summer. The Indian walking stick is an insect about 2½ to 4 inches long. It is not native to North America but rather India and is believed to have escaped from travelers who brought it to our country as a pet. Go figure! There are a few native varieties of walking sticks, but those varieties are not considered pests.
The Indian walking stick resembles a twig, brown in color with a long, slender body. When startled, it stands very still, making itself difficult to see. The female does not need a male to fertilize eggs, and she drops them “willy-nilly” as she feeds on leaves. Don’t ask me how this works!
I discovered some green-yellow-black caterpillars munching on a dill plant I use in cooking. The little “munchkins” are the larva stage of the striking western tiger swallowtail butterfly.
Unlike the magnificent monarch, swallowtails have “tails” on their hind wings that resemble long tail feathers of swallows, hence the name. The wings are black and yellow with black tiger-stripes. In the caterpillar stage, the swallowtail live about a month eating leaves of common garden plants and trees. Once they pupate and turn into butterflies, they spend their short life floating through gardens, stopping to sip nectar from flowers.
Another creature new to “our neck of the woods” visited our garden this month. What looked to be a huge hawk sat on a nearby telephone post, gazing curiously (or was it hungrily) toward our chicken coop? He stalked (flying to a nearby tree) the hens next door, then took off in frustration. We later found out that the “hawk” was indeed no hawk at all, but a juvenile bald eagle.
With all the goings on in gardens this year, I hope you had time to pick up a few creatively potted succulents at the Pinedorado grounds. Remember that even though succulents store water inside their leaves they do need a small amount of water each week.
And speaking of watering, “my garden hat” off to the CCSD board for allowing us conditional watering of our landscapes. With a little planning, at least some of our garden may actually survive this wretched drought!