Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Looking For Adventure

Lake Katherine Nature Center is just a short distance from home and so is a family favorite for an impromptu hike. Exercise,fresh air and wildlife encounters may be counted upon. With the small lake on one side and the Sag canal on the other, cultivated gardens near the Center buildings and a great man made water fall that the kids love, showing up is all that is required.

With many paths to chose from everyone scattered, then met up on the other side of the meadow. If you look close you can see heads bobbing in the distance.

This time of year when the temperatures have dropped and the sun sets so early the trails tend to be rather empty of people. Not so for the birds and animals that are all around. Problems with the camera kept me from getting a picture of the beaver lodge on the lake edge along the trail. Signs are posted so it is easy to find if you take a walk around. No sighting of the beaver this day but you could see where it had been working. Many of the trees had wire fencing around the base to protect from the beaver but many were left unprotected. A fair compromise.

Have you ever noticed how entrancing the flow of water can be?
Many ducks swim the waters edge looking for food. We watched what looked like a hawk swoop prey across the canal, too far away to see well. The most fun was just as the sun reached the horizon. Hundreds of geese flew in and landed on the lake, honking loud and clear.

Just outside the center a clump of Lamb's ear still green and soft.

Giant butterflies grace the garden all through winters worst.

Do you have a favorite walking trail?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pollination, Plant Diversity, Wildlife.

The cultivation of plants for our gardens keeps evolving plant life toward appealing to the gardener. Beauty, fragrance, ease of care, and in some instances where grown for food, taste are indicators of which plants will be cultivated in mass for retail. So far little attention has been paid to a plants benefit to wildlife or continued gene diversity to ensure survival through climate or environmental changes.

In a wild garden sex mixes things up.
Sexual reproduction helps insure the most combinations of available genes.

In plants, pollination (by wind scattering large amounts of pollen all around to land on exposed stigma, or wildlife pollinators moving pollen from anther to stigma, flower to flower, over and over again) stirs the gene pool. The combinations are endless.
More combinations, more chances for a trait to appear that aids survival within each situation.

Plant life keeps everything else alive. If it doesn't eat plants it eats something that eats plants.
Plants create food.
Photosynthesis , a process where carbon dioxide and water in the presence of chlorophyll (the green pigment) and light energy are changed into glucose (a sugar), supplies food for the plant and oxygen for other forms of life.

The gardener can imagine what will happen as a result of an action and make a change based on that imagining.
Which plants appeal to a gardener and the reasons why can change.
Gardens can be whatever will appeal to the the gardener.
I have imagined the world without a diversity of plant and animal life.
I prefer diversity. So I garden with wildlife in mind.

Will gardeners make a difference. Maybe, if only by understanding that more of an effort must be made to conserve the impossibly intricate web, those intermingled dependencies, of life on earth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November 15th Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

Not much blooming here in zone 5 Chicago. For a couple of nights the temperature dropped below freezing then rebounded up to 60. Some wind,a little rain and lots of cloud cover all taking a toll. I love the look and feel of autumn.
For a diversity of autumn gardens visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens .

Mums for color and cheer.

A patch of Heliopsis still blooming though not as thick as in the summer sun. This flower will bloom until temperatures stay below freezing for awhile.

A scattering of gaillardia flowers and fuzzy seedheads forming.

A few self sown petunia blossoms dot the fallen leaves

The Hobbit hill stays mostly green with thyme and phlox subulata but has spots of color in ajuga foliage and wild geranium leaves.

A woodland edge habitat at the back fence along an alley.

A path hidden in summer emerges with leaf fall...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

To Make A Worm Bin Use Rubbermaid Container

Having a worm bin for composting kitchen scraps has been way more fun than I had imagined. I thought it would be hard to keep the kids out of the worms but I find myself lifting the shredded paper checking daily to see how the worms are doing. Big globs of worms form around food looking really creepy but it is facinating to see the dark castings slowly begin to appear.

The above picture is a small Rubbermaid Roughneck container only 12 inches by 10 inches and 7 inches deep. A portable worm bin for demonstration use. Not nearly large enough for all the scraps from a family. The bigger containers are recommended for that. Drilling small (less than a 1/4 inch) holes in the top and sides allows good airflow.

We shredded newspaper for the worm bedding making sure to fill the bin well then sprinkled water on the paper until it was thoroughly wet but not dripping puddles into the bottom. Let it sit and soak up the extra water or add more shredded paper if necessary.
If you do not have access to a shredder hand rip the paper into thin strips. Pulling down the page from top to bottom, not side to side, to get long thin strips easily. Separate and fluff up the strips. You can use dry crumbled leaves that have fallen from your trees,either alone or mixed with the paper. For now I am sticking with the newspaper but might try the leaves in another bin to see what happens.

We added a few handfulls of garden soil which the worms use like grit to aid in digesting the organic matter.

For a large container start with 1/2 to a full pound of worms. There are about 1000 redworms (Eisenia fetida) to a pound.This small container we are using has only about a quarter pound but worms reproduce fast. If you buy a pound to split between 3 or 4 people it will take only a couple of months for each bin to reach full garbage eating capacity.
Worms like moderate temperatures from about 50 to 70 degrees, a moist environment (worms die if they dry out or if bedding stays dripping wet ), and food scraps but no meat, dairy or greasy foods that can become rancid. We have more than enough vegetable scraps to keep this bunch fat and happy. A much larger bin is in the works already.

It will take three to six months for enough castings to harvest. When all the food and bedding has disappeared and all you see is rich dark castings it is time.

Where does one keep a worm bin? Well, ours is sitting in the laundry room for the moment. A basement would work or a heated garage. Any ideas?

More information...

UIUC Extension Chicago Home Composting
Worm Composting

Slide show link

Got mites

Worms eat my garbage by Mary Appelhof

Worms eat our garbage by Mary Appelhof (Classroom Activities )

Buying Worms This is where our worms came from.