The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mighty Thunderstorm Soaking the Roses, Germinating Dill, Filling the Rainbarrels

In Midland, someone asked,
"Do you have dill growing everywhere?"
I would use some on tomatoes and sow the rest.

Low pressure fronts are my Kryptonite. Twice I have pulled the car over and stopped, because I felt so weak and sleepy. A tornado was close by, both times. Last night I had some grading to do, but that same drowsiness stopped me from finishing.

I was watching the weather websites, and they agreed about a powerful storm rolling through late at night. I bribed Sassy with Blue Buffalo bites to take one last visit outside. We all fell asleep, waking hours later to the crashing lightning, distant thunder, and heavy rainfall.

The non-arrival of storms is a regular issue in this area. Do the Ozarks north of us and the Boston Mountains south serve as a jetty to hurry the storms past us? From our front porch - Sassy and I watched a 4 PM storm race past us recently, clouds without rain, much like the speakers at Luther Days.

White Profusion Butterfly Bush will add to the
insects, butterflies, and hummingbirds in the backyard.


Rain benefits the Butterfly Bush outside our window in two ways. When a serious rainstorm threatens, I dump the large bird bath and the rain barrel on the Butterfly Bush area. If it also rains, the bush is really ready for growth. I want fresh water and protection against mosquitoes breeding in the rain barrels. The bush is growing accordingly, so Mrs. I looked out the window at the storm and said, "Look at the weed growing up to the window."

I said, "That is the white Butterfly Bush I am coddling so we can watch hummingbirds and butterflies from the window. And - I let some grassy weeds grow high too."

This time Mr. Gardener joined us in mowing before the storm, which seemed predicted by the stillness and the humidity. Our helper beat back some of the bordering weeds with his whining weed-wacker. However, we kept a swath of Dutch white clover, almost knee-high, and areas of tall grass.
The aim is to develop more self-sowing plants that favor beneficial insects and feed the birds.

Pokeweed has interesting white flowers that
redden as they ripen into berries.



Weeds We Should Appreciate
Weeds also provide beneficial insects with alternate hosts. A species of tachinid fly, for example, can use a ragweed stalk borer as a host when its preferred host, the European corn borer, is not available. Ragweed, as a matter of fact, is shown to support many alternative hosts and therefore to increase parasitism rates of the desired target pest. The same can be said of smartweed, pigweed, stinging nettle, lamb’s quarters, goldenrod, and other plants commonly thought of as weeds. Weeds also bring more prey insects like aphids and mites; this could lead you to believe that their presence means beneficials might prefer to visit them and eat their associated pests rather then gobble down the aphids in your lettuce, but most of the time this isn’t the case. All that extra prey means more reproduction, a greater chance of survival, and improved parasitism rates. However, in some situations, particularly on farms, natural enemies do prefer to stay in sheltered weedy habitats rather than moving into open fields. Some farmers solve this problem by timing the mowing of weed habitats to force predatory insects to move into crop fields and orchards when they are most needed.

Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 1614-1622). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.

Before the storm I planted and sowed Feverfew, Comfrey, and Dill. Amazon offered some large packets of Tansy and Yarrow, so I ordered them for a future rainstorm.

Weeds are plants whose virtues have not yet been discovered, so many of those listed by Jessica Walliser above are now on my wanted list. Fortunately we can easily grow weeds loved by birds, because those plans grow wherever birds roost. Thus a Wild Garden can be built with roosts and even with a wire stretched across supports to encourage bird planting.

As I wrote before, I found he giant Pokeweeds intimidating until I realized birds planted them after enjoying the berries. The weed can grow in the cracks of a sidewalk, in the shade, or in the sun, so its berries soon arrive and attract dozens of bird species. Pokeweed is easily pulled up when it is not wanted and does not have the allergic effects of some  noxious plants for beneficial bugs (Cow Parsnip, Poison Ivy). A large plant hosting many insects at once could be trouble, as one reader told me. He developed a horrible rash from pulling up Cow Parsnip. I did the same, long ago, after pulling up Poison Ivy with my  bare hands.

Clearly God has created hundreds of plants to bloom at various times, feed a variety of creatures designed for that purpose, and set up a management system to keep this process going in all climates.
Creation, engineering, and management are all evident in the garden.

Grow vines, like this honeysuckle.


New Roses Leafing Out
My classmates are exploring exotic locations around the world. In contrast, I survey the backyard or the rose gardens. Weed identification is one hobby. Another is rose identification. I cannot figure out how one beautiful floribunda (with dense flower clusters) was planted along Mr. Gardener's fence. The rose has dozens of dark rose clusters, which I should remember from the rose magazines and rose websites I enjoy. But no - I am puzzled.

This thunderstorm will finish the new mulch, by soaking and pressing down the cardboard layer. New mulch could have a drying effect by soaking up moisture from the ground.

I dote on new roses by showering them with rainwater from the barrels or hosing the canes to keep them moist. Nothing can compare to hours of rainwater fertilizing the yard with usable nitrogen compounds, minerals from the dust in the air, and soft pure water.

As one farmer in Minnesota told me, "Irrigation keeps the crops alive. Rain grows them."

Rain, as designed by the Creator, washes the trees and plants, adding to the particulates useful for soil chemistry and soil life. The trees and plants enjoy a good bath, and by shedding their mantle of dust, debris, and animal excrement, fertilize the foundation of their health.

Earthworms, bacteria, protozoa, fungus, nematodes, and all life perk up with a rainfall. The amount of life sustained in the soil increases with moderate rain, so the roots can bargain with the fungi for he nutrition needed.

All We Do Is Tilt the Playing Field a Bit
So much is already in the hands of the Creator that we can only tilt the playing field.

I sat next to a man in the doctor's office who began talking my language in gardening. We laughed about people hauling away all their leaves when leaves are ideal for building up the soil. I told him how I screamed, "Stop! Thief!" when the city truck came by with green bags of leaves I coveted.

Almost Eden told me about all the wildflowers (weeds) that grow in the grass and feed the wild bees as they blossom.



I spotted cardinals nesting in my Crepe Myrtle bush, so I began the tilt by piling sunflower seeds at the base of their home. That attracted squirrels from across the street - not my plan. So now I add plenty of seeds to the platform feeder.


The cardinal now lands on the platform feeder and eats his seeds in peace and comfort. A cardinal will rapidly devour a lot of seeds by cracking them with his powerful beak.

Some readers are saying, "But you get squirrels on the platform feeder, too." Yes, that is part of God's management system. I have four kinds of food in a row, all along the bedroom window. On the far left is the Lowe's $10 hanging feeder, the best buy I have seen. It holds a lot of seed, and multiple birds feed from it at once. Squirrels reach from the window ledge to feed from it, but they do not dominate or wreck the feeder.

Squirrels also like the platform feeder, a favorite hangout for baby squirrels. "Go eat breakfast at the Jackson window, son. We will teach you natural food-finding skills later today." Squirrels eat from the platform, but not all day long. Various species stop by - finches, doves, cardinals, woodpeckers. We also have the alleged squirrel-proof feeder, which the rodents now ignore because I fill it with finch seed. Lastly, I buy seven pounds of suet at the meat market once a month. As long as they are eating the suet, I will supply it. Last summer they left it alone late in the summer and resumed in the cold weather.

I have seen that birds and squirrels flock to food, but they seldom pig out and take it all. Everyone gets a chance. That is good management.


Tilts for the Garden and Lawn:

  1. Let all the weeds alone in the lawn and control with frequent mowing. Even crabgrass will mind its manners when cut often. Tiny flowers on various weeds are good for beneficial insects and bees. Dandelions are the only herb that sows itself into the lawn and blossoms cheerfully. 
  2. Keep organic matter for yard instead of sending it away. Leaves are great under trees and bushes, and they make a good mulch for the garden. Grass can be left in place, used as mulch, or added to compost.
  3. Consider weeds that feed beneficial insects and birds.
  4. Avoid pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in the lawn and garden. God manages the bad stuff quite well, and man-made toxic chemicals do not.
  5. Use mulch and red wiggler earthworms for fertilizer.
  6. Do not rototill ever. Sell your machine to someone who buys fertilizer at the store.
  7. Look for plants with tiny flowers and buy that seed. Dill is a good example of a self-seeding plant that is great for seasoning and ideal for beneficial insects. Borage is a self-seeding herb that can be eaten - loved by bees (Bee Bread). 
  8. Place multiple bird baths, the most important attractant for birds. Also place shallow dishes where rain and sprinkling will keep them full and clean. The shallow dishes are for toads.
  9. Build stick piles, which birds like, or break them up into the mulch.
  10. Hang string on bushes and trees. Birds will use them for nests.
  11. Use garbage pails for rain barrels, if you don't have rainwater police. Use them regularly to refresh and save plants.
  12. Let tall weeds grow in the back. They are loved by various creatures, and birds will nest there too.
Grow berries for birds, squirrels, and even for the house.