Natural events: orchard edition, July 2017

Featured this month:

  • Harvesting
  • July weather
  • What are the big problems in the orchard?
  • Mammals
  • Woodpeckers
  • Japanese Beetles on:
    • Perennials
    • Annuals
    • Wild plants
  • June quiz answer
  • A few orchard insects

Harvesting this month: One of our goals is to get a steady stream of fruit from our plantings, and that didn’t quite happen in July. Blueberries normally produce in July, but they were done in June this year. Peaches produce in July; our blossoms were killed by frost, but we did acquire some from another source. Blackberries came on eventually, but yields were disappointing, in part because of damage by Japanese beetles. We ate some nice William’s Pride Apples (left photo), along with a number of slightly messed up apples (mostly William’s Pride and Initial) that dropped off the trees for one reason or another. Towards the end of the month, we had a few small bunches of grapes; the variety is Bluebell, and it has been the most vigorous of four vines that we planted a few years ago. The bunches may look a little pathetic, but given the Japanese Beetle pressure each year since they’ve been planted, along with the young age of the vines, we’re pretty excited to get anything at all. And they are really, really tasty.

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Natural events: orchard edition, June 2017

Featured this month:

  • Early June optimism
  • Late June reality
  • Japanese Beetle feeding behavior
  • Japanese Beetles over the years
  • June weather
  • Stalk Borer
  • Quiz

Early June optimism: Fruit crops were looking pretty good in early June. The blueberries began ripening ridiculously early. We actually managed to eat a handful of cherries off of our sour cherry tree, which was remarkable since we didn’t put up bird netting (on account of the cherry quantity being too low to bother). One of our young grape vines was setting nice clusters, and the blackberries were heavily blooming and setting fruit.

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Natural events: orchard edition, January 2017

To have a chance at being successful fruit growers in Missouri, we need to be keen observers of the ecosystem, able to identify and understand what is going right and what is not from the perspective of our fruit plantings. This means delving deeper into entomological ID, paying attention to details of plant growth, noticing what herbaceous plants are around, poking around in the wood-chip mulch at the base of the plants to monitor life in the soil, and more. In other words, it means perfect fodder for a continuation of this natural events series.

This is our motivation for a planned shift in this series’ focus from the whole farm to the parts where we’re growing (or attempting to grow) perennial crops, especially fruits. As shown in the orchard photo below, these areas are managed but far from manicured, and there’s more than enough wildness and nature here to keep the amateur naturalists in us busy for a long while.

Featured this month:

  • Basic bud identification
  • Twig damage
  • Signs of mammals
  • Understory plants
  • Swans overhead

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Natural events, December 2016

This post completes our 6th full year of monthly natural-events blogging; the full archive can be viewed under the Landscape and ecosystem tag. What started primarily as a monthly bird list back in 2011 has gradually evolved into a monthly photo essay. We plan yet another shift in focus for 2017, this time toward an emphasis on the orchard and perennial fruit production. More on that when January comes to a close, but first the final installment for 2016.

Featured this month:

  • Frost flowers
  • Barred Owl
  • Bird nests
  • Forest floor greenery
  • Unhappy raccoon

Weather recap:
December started cold and ended warm. Joanna milked the goats on two successive -2ºF mornings in early December (brr!). But temperatures rapidly turned balmy, followed by genuinely warm. Christmas night thunderstorms gifted us with nearly an inch of rain, a welcome amount as fall and early winter have been on the dry side.

dec_natural_frost_flowers
Frost flowers: Frost flowers bring joy to some of the days of first real cold. Certain plants are responsible for these amazing and delicate ice structures. This one is White Crownbeard (Verbesina virginica); though it is a native Missouri plant, we did not have any here, so we acquired some seeds from Joanna’s parents. We started this specimen from seed in the greenhouse last spring, planted it near the house, and more or less forgot about it. What a nice reminder of the effort when we noticed this “bloom” on December 9! Yellow Crownbeard (Verbesina helianthoides) is also well established near the house, verging towards weediness; though in the same genus, that plant does not produce frost flowers.

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Natural events, November 2016

Featured this month:

  • November flowers
  • Shingle Oak dispersal
  • Orchard fungi
  • Blueberry plant status
  • Seed set on invasive vines
  • Cute(ish) fuzzy mammal of the month

Weather recap:
Similar to October, November was above normal in temperature and below normal in precipitation. This made for some really nice outdoor working conditions. It was a first in our experience to enter the month with frost-sensitive plants still going strong; in the photo below, note the zinnias, marigolds, tithonia, luffa, pole beans, and more. However, enjoyment of the weather was tempered by concerns about whether plants were getting the right cues to harden off and prepare for winter.  nov_natural_mg

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Natural events, October 2016

Featured this month:

  • Spore producers
  • Lepidopterans
  • Unhappy caterpillar
  • Beetles
  • Hymenopterans
  • Oh, deer
  • Rose mallow

Weather recap:
October was warm and rather dry. A few nights brought light frost, the first of which was the morning of October 13. These frosts did only the most minor damage to some flowers and tender leaves (such as those of cucurbits) in exposed locations, but most crops didn’t mind. It is very unusual for us to make it to the end of October without a killing frost; see this Tweet from NWS Kansas City for a nice chart of first freeze dates over time.oct_natural_frostOctober 13 brought frost (left, frost on Gift Zinnia), as did October 21 (right, frost on kale).oct_natural_cover_cropsCover crops have had plenty of time to grow and thrive. The sunn hemp (tall plant with yellow flowers in the background) is frost-sensitive, but is still going strong. The oats and peas in the foreground are untouched, as it takes deeper cold to kill them.

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