Robin Family Update

It has been a crazy week.  I can’t believe it has only been 7 days since the triplets hatched.  They have grown so much.  They began as little pink fuzzy blobs to little hungry looking mini dinosaurs and now their feathers are starting to come in and on Day 6 they opened their eyes.  Winken is still the strongest on the right, Blinken is in the middle or front left and Nod (aptly named) is usually napping in the back.  I just read that a bird’s eyes comprises about 50% of a bird’s head and if our eyes were comparable they would be the size of softballs.  Pretty creepy but these little cuties are rockin’ the big-eyed look.

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I usually go out in the afternoon to take a picture so that Mom and Dad have had time to make a couple of worm deliveries and it is warm and sunny and I can sneak up, snap a pic or two and be gone before either parent returns.  Mrs. Robin has gotten pretty used to me.  She is usually guarding the nest in the afternoon and she sits on a nearby branch and squawks until I go away.  But today it looked like it might rain so I went out this morning to get a pic before the babies were tucked under mom’s wings to stay dry.  Apparently Dad is not so mellow and as I neared the nest, he began dive bombing me.  And not just close flybys.  He assaulted both me and my camera!  He is so brave.  I bet Mrs. Robin is very proud.

Happy Birding and remember to “bee” positive!


Pest and Fungus Control Practices in an Organic Garden

I have been asked about my mulching and watering practices that I use to deter black spot on my roses.  First of all, I choose disease resistant roses, David Austen roses, Don Juan and Blaze, Peace, a few knockouts, Queen Elizabeth, Zephren Druin are all good but I also have a few tea roses and unknown hybrids that are a little more susceptible.

Second, all watering except for natural rain comes through a soaker hose I have attached with a timer for my cutting garden where most of my roses grow.  This prevents splashing on the leaves and minimizes the spread of black spot.

As for mulch, I clean out all last year’s mulch by January and prune the roses as needed.  Then, because some of my flowers re-seed themselves, I hold off on the mulch until any new plantlets have declared themselves.  This ensures my larkspur, bachelor button, and any new Rudbeckia and cone flower can set seed.  Then in May, I apply a fresh covering of live oak leaves at 3-4″.  I use live oak leaves because that is what I have and although live oaks are evergreen, they do “shed” a truckload of old leaves in the spring which is exactly when I need them.  Anything I don’t use goes to compost with a generous helping of bloodmeal to help them break down into great compost by fall.

That usually does it but sometimes our springs are a little soggy like this one has been and we didn’t have even one hard freeze this year so fungus and insects are at a high point and feasting on my roses especially.  Then I do use a fungal spray which also deters feeding insects.  Here is the recipe:

  • 4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 Tbsp. Horticultural Oil (I use a light year-round oil)
  • 1 Gallon of Water

Mix and apply to the leaves with a pump sprayer (pictured below) or a regular spray bottle.  I use both.  That’s it.  The baking soda takes care of the fungal infections and the horticultural oil encourages the mix to stick to the leaves and also deters the bugs.  I have used commercial sprays in the past for both fungal and pest control and I can truly say that going organic has not reduced my ability to control these garden problems.  Plus, when I see a tomato (also planted in my cutting garden) I can eat it right on the spot like an apple which is my favorite way to eat a homegrown tomato.

I keep the green spray bottle near a struggling crepe myrtle that is having a problem with big white nasty aphids.  I have transplanted this tree to 3 different areas as my garden has grown and it is now in a spot that I like but it does not have as much sun as these little trees like so it has been susceptible to these bugs that came in on some azaleas from the nursery.  This is what they looked like a few weeks ago but I am glad to say that most of them are gone.

So that’s it.  Water and feed your plants and add compost at least once a year.  Strong healthy plants are the best defense against an invasion of bugs or disease.

Organic Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

P.S.  BTW the baby robins are all doing well.  Mom and dad are flying their tail feathers off to feed the triplets and this is the sixth day from when they hatched.  Their eyes are open today and they are looking less like tiny dinosaurs and more like birds.  I will post some pics of the little family tomorrow.

I ran upon this blog about gardening and I too have lots of Chinese Privet. I love it because of the glossy green leaves and the scented pretty white flowers in the Spring which are a favorite of butterflies and bees alike. I sympathize though because it is very invasive and pops up everywhere. The toughness I love about my established shrubs frustrates me in trying to rid my beds of the “volunteers”.

Happy Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!


The Chinese Privet is blooming right now.  Apparently (according to my local Extension Agent Dr. Tom) they were a popular landscaping tree in the past decades but it has now been discovered that they really are nothing more than a noxious weed and very invasive. My house was built in the late 1980s so it would make sense that either the builder or the homeowner chose them for the landscaping.   I can certainly attest to the weed thing, I am constantly battling the seedlings in my flower beds and elsewhere and it would appear that nothing you can do to them can kill them.  Last year when trying to get rid of some in one flower bed (which had gone past seedling form) I cut them down to the stubs and then covered them with black plastic trash bags, securely tied at the base.  They didn’t care, they just…

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Old-Fashioned Hollyhocks – Not Lovin’ Them

I have a beautiful cutting garden.  It runs about 100 feet long and about 3 feet deep next to a chain link fence in my alley.  It is the only place where I get enough sunshine and ready irrigation to plant the gorgeous mix of roses, old-fashioned perennials, and annual cutting flowers I love.  Spring 2 years ago I planted six old-fashioned hollyhocks.  I love the vision of tall stakes of flowers so classic from the days of yore. (Yore?)  This is what hollyhocks are supposed to look like:

These pics are not from my garden.  My stubborn hollyhocks sulked in their beds for an entire year and another year after that producing in year 2 some large leaves that immediately became host to leaf miners; a cowardly little larva of an evil moth that actually tunnels into the leaf thus resisting insecticides which I don’t use and hiding from natural predators which I do count on.  These nasty little worms eat away on the inside of the leaf leaving a crazy labyrinthine channel that look like this:

But the plants were otherwise pretty healthy and did grow to about 18″ tall so I left them over the winter to do what they were going to do.  This spring the plants sprang up to about 5′ tall as my attention-deficit dog, Buck, is attesting to and actually look like they will fulfill their promise this year.  The buds have yet to open but they are formed.




So I have been watching them very closely and now see a scabby reddish gunk on the bottom-most leaves that is either scale or rust or some fungal infection, I think.

Now I am scrupulous about mulch and watering practices in this bed because of my roses and further deter fungal attacks with a monthly spray of baking soda as a fungicide. Even so this is what my hollyhocks look like:

In addition they seem to be on the menu for every leaf eating varmint in this area.  I have yet to do anything about these problems until I have researched exactly what I am dealing with and until and if these wimps ever bloom.  I may be so enchanted with the actual blooms that these will be a must every year.

But I doubt it.  My garden is no place for shrinking violets.  I am as attentive as the next gardener but if a plant is not tough enough to withstand the annual hell-worthy hot Texas summers, the occasional ice storm in the winters, and be resistant to the bugs and thugs of the garden, out it goes to make room for a hardier, more robust replacement.  When I first started the gardens years ago, I was happy to have any cutting of anything from any generous gardener or any half-dead plant marked for clearance.  Anything to fill the sad empty spaces in my beds.  But not any more.  Space is at a premium now and I have gotten over my reticence to pull a plant out of the ground while it is still on its last leg. My “2+” rule is in full effect.

I have discussed my “2+” rating system before but in a nutshell, it means that in order to qualify for a trial in my gardens, a plant must have two of the qualities I am looking for: drought-tolerance + long blooming season, shade tolerant + large blooms, etc. In addition the plant must then have one additional attribute to qualify; like heavenly fragrance, stunning foliage, or something along those lines.   And finally, it must survive without a truckload or insecticides, artificial fertilizers, and rivers of irrigation (except for my hydrangeas, but that is another story)

So unless these wimpy little whey-faced princesses can rally and demonstrate something spectacular this season, their days are numbered.  I may sound bitter but have you seen the rust picture?  Eww and this after 3 years.  3 YEARS!  I’ll keep you posted.

Ruthless Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

Day 2 for Winken, Blinken, and Nod

This is the last day for a while that I will blog solely on the triplets, I promise.  It’s just that they are so darn cute!  I am happy to report that Nod finally joined his brothers for mealtime and mom and dad seem tireless at providing worms all day long.  Here they are on day 2 looking fluffier and more active.  I watched as the parents bravely drove away a Grackel who had just come for a drink and a bluejay who looked decidedly suspicious.   At the same time they graciously allowed mourning doves, cardinals, and a few finches access to the yard.  Here are the newest pics:

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Tomorrow I promise back to serious gardening efforts.  I really have to because my flora residents are becoming a little jealous of all the attention to the new family of Robins.  How do I know you ask?  What – have you never heard the term “green with envy”?   Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.  Seriously, back to normal tomorrow.

Happy Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

Happy Birthday to Winken, Blinken, and Nod

April 24 was the birthday of three very special babies.  The three eggs in our Robin’s nest hatched! (see )   I have been watching them closely from my kitchen window and I saw both Mr. and Mrs. Robin flying back and forth to the nest with mouthfuls of tasty worms.  My binoculars showed little yellow mouths opening above the edge of the nest every time a parent flew in for a delivery so between visits I ran out to take a few pics.  Bad photography notwithstanding, are they not the cutest little things ever?!  Winken is strongest, Blinken is right there in the fray competing for choice morsels but I am a little worried about Nod.  He doesn’t seem very strong and I never saw three little mouths open at the same time.  We’ll see if he can make it in the days and weeks to come.  I searched the ground beneath the nest for the pretty blue egg shells but our wily parents seemed to have spirited them away so as not to alert predators.  I have included previous pics of the eggs cause they’re so cute! Here they are:

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Happy birding and remember to “bee” positive!