What’s Eating My Sweet Potato Vine?

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Unless you are very fast or very lucky, you’re not going to see the beetle that’s making the holes in this plant and others like it (morning glory, moonflower and that pest, field bindweed. It’s a shame we can’t train it just to eat that!).

This is a very interesting beetle. I’ve actually only seen it a few times back in my retail gardening days when we had so many of these plants that the beetles came in droves.

They looked like small golden ladybugs. They were beautiful–but of course very destructive. And, of course, that’s only part of the story because this is a very interesting beetle.

This beetle changes color under stress–for example, when we touch it. And of course, when it dies. So what I saw in my retail gardening days as a beautiful golden beetle becomes a red beetle.

Here’s a little bit more information–with some photos–about this interesting beetle from HGTV.

If you do a search for “what’s eating my sweet potato vine,” you’re likely to come upon all sorts of things out there. Take a good look at the photo in the my post. This is damage from the golden tortoise beetle. If your damage doesn’t look like that, it’s possible something else is eating your plant. After all, there are all sorts of insects and critters in our gardens, and we don’t all garden in the same place.

Deadheading Versus Self-Cleaning Annuals

Every week or two, as I am deadheading the spent blooms on my lantana, I think about this distinction. What am I talking about?

Think about annuals, for a moment. A true annual’s function is to set seed and die. Not all plants that we grow as “summer flowers” are annuals, of course. Many of the “annuals” that we grow up here in the frozen north, as I like to call my climate, would be perennials if I lived somewhere further south or west.

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So an annual, like a marigold, for example, or my lantana (which is technically a perennial in warmer climates), or impatiens or begonias or lots of the flowers we grow in the summer, either need to be deadheaded (have the spent blooms removed), or they are “self-cleaning,” a handy little feature which means that the flowers fall off themselves.

Now, in the case of something like impatiens, depending on species, sometimes they still form a seed head. That gives rise to one of their common names “Touch Me Not,” because if you’ve ever touched a ripe impatiens seed head, you know that it can explode with surprising force and send those seeds flying!

Perhaps the best example is something like basil. You’ve always heard that you don’t want your basil to flower. Why is that? Well, basil is a true annual and once it flowers it begins to decline.

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The same is true for cilantro, another annual. You don’t want that flowering (unless you’re growing it for the coriander seed it makes–or as a pollinator plant!)

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As for my lantana, every week–or two, if I am lazy–I just cut off the spent flower heads–and perish the thought, any seeds that they’re forming. I want all the energy to go back into the plant to produce as many flowers for bees and butterflies as possible!

Happy Memorial Day!

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Memorial Day is usually all about the planting of my vegetable garden–something I do to honor and remember my Dad, who was a World War II veteran. But this year, that garden is still contaminated with pesticides, I fear, so I’ve had to plant flowers.

So here is that look, above.

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And here is my “vegetable” garden, instead. It’s going to have to suffice.

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At work, we plant a vegetable garden as well. It’s a little unusual because there we garden with a woodchuck (aka, a groundhog, or a whistle pig, or whatever you might call them in your part of the country.

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Interestingly enough, usually he/it/they leaves the tomatoes and peppers alone–as well as my herbs that I plant to try to protect all that (and for the pollinators, of course!)

This year, something nibbled one of the tomatoes. I think it was a rabbit. We are too “urban” to have deer, and quite frankly the nibbling was too delicate for a deer.

Whatever it was, it didn’t care for the tomato leaves. It just left them there, and didn’t try any of the others. Whew!

So I end my post with a huge than you to all who served. You are not forgotten.

It’s Container Garden Time!

It’s finally warm enough to bring my plants off the porch, outside and to get them into containers. You saw one of them last Wednesday for “Wordless Wednesday.”

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This is an herb container. You may remember the Spanish Lavender from an earlier post. I have surrounded it with rosemary, thyme, chives (already starting to flower) and parsley.

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You can see that I am already starting my “edibles” wall. It has to be this way since my vegetable garden soil is still “poisoned” from last year’s unfortunate incident with the erring landscape company. I may find that I like everything so close to the kitchen that I never go back to the raised beds–who knows?

As for the Spoiler, he’s already said that he likes the flowers in the raised bed.

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I had a container garden lecture on Tuesday so I planted up some containers that I might not ordinarily do. This one is a “riff” on the geranium, vinca, dracena spike combo, but done with houseplants so the whole thing can be brought in for the winter if you choose.

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And since not everyone loves the look of all succulents (and we don’t live in Arizona or the desert southwest, so really, why do we insist on planting them everywhere?) this is my take on a dry container that will go a long time without water. (Actually I do love the look of succulents–but I keep them as house plants instead!)

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Finally, for those of you that were with me last year, you may remember that I did this combo last summer. The two colors of million bells fill in nicely under the croton and blend together to form an orange-y yellow carper over the top of the whole pot. It’s very nice. It the end of the season, I compost the million bells, fill in those spots with fresh soil and return the croton to a sunny window indoors.

So that’s some fun with containers at my house!

Container Gardeners, These Are For Us

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If you are growing plants in containers, have you tried the fabric pots yet?

I tried one for the first time last year and I liked it so well that I bought 5 more this year. They have everything going for them.

First, if space is an issue, they are a breeze to keep and store. This is a 5 gallon pot. It folds down to the size of a large, glossy magazine–just about as high and thick. I  bought a 5 pack of them. They arrived, folded, in an express mail envelope. Try doing that with any other sort of container!

They’re made right here in the United States, in Oklahoma City, to be exact, by a family company that began manufacturing them for trees.

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This is mine from  last year,  planted with a tomato and some herbs.  The tomato grew so well that I eventually pulled out two of the 4 herbs.

This year I am planning to be even more ambitious . I am planning a couple of tomatoes –1 per bag, obviously–& a bag of cucamelons. I will do a bag of just herbs, to give them room of their own. And I have a fig for one, that’s begging for extra room.

So I should have a nice edible garden–if I can get the Spoiler to haul the soil for me. Thanks to Amie, I won’t be moving much.

And I found–& buy–these all on my own. I get no credit or anything else for promoting this product.  In fact,  I know that there are other fabric type bags out there. I buy these because I like supporting an American company.  You can make your own choices.