Garden Gone Berserk!

Since we were away for the weekend, and it rained so much this week, things have rapidly gotten out of hand in the yard. There’s the usual stuff, like the grass needing mowing, plants needing lots of dead-heading, and pruning. In particular, all the maximillian sunflowers have fallen over, the autumn salvia has overrun just about everything around it, the lyre-leaf salvia is sprouting everywhere, and the trumpet vine/passion vine monster at the end of the porch is threatening to swallow most of the yard.

In addition, the insects have come to rule. Leaf-foots, stink bugs and worms of various sorts have all claimed the vegetable- producing parts of the yard, while the mosquitoes are so thick they pretty much rule the air. I’ve spent a couple hours collectively hand-picking leaf-foots and stinks off the tomatoes. This has made the mosquitoes very happy.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad. Spider populations have ramped up, too, as have butterflies of all sorts. On Monday morning I briefly held a gulf fritillary butterfly that had just emerged from its chrysalis. And there appear to be dozens more chrysalises all around the back porch, as well as a healthy profusion of bees, caterpillars I actually like, and at least one praying mantis.

Some things in nature are both eerily horrifying and morbidly fascinating at the same time. Such is the case with a type of wasp that targets tomato hornworms, a braconid wasp. (It was fascinating to me, though Jenna was horrified by the notion of it.) This small wasp finds hornworms and lays its eggs just under the skin of the hapless worm. The wasp’s larva feed on the innards of the worm and pupate, eventually killing it. I found just such a hornworm that had succumbed to the wasp larvae, the pupal cocoons hanging off the back of the incapacitated worm. Creepy in all the right sci-fi ways, but I’m glad it’s there.

I’m also beginning to regret my decision to kill of all the grass around the firepit I built last Fall. Not that I particularly love the St. Augustine grass we had, but I failed to come up with a plan that would forestall vegetative chaos. Since I had used that area for a few years as the staging grounds for shredding and composting, a fair amount of seed had dropped, and now I have a mix of frost weed, sunflowers, tropical salvia, mexican hats, and other weeds all vying for dominance. That doesn’t sound bad on the surface – the flowers are nice – but it’s all just a mess, and one that is probably harboring a lot of the detrimental insects mentioned above. Not to mention it’s ruining the firepit and blocking access to the compost heaps. I’ll probably mow it all down this weekend and wait until I can sow some buffalo grass.

And in the meantime, until I can get some maintenance time in, I hope it doesn’t all swallow me.

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