The Milkweed Diaries

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Seedling Update with Feathered Special Guest Stars

The hoophouse seedlings are all growing like mad, despite some cold nights.  We took some pictures at the three-week mark today.

By far the heartiest are the brassicas, with Red Ursa Kale (above) looking the most impressive.

The heirloom tomatoes and peppers continue their slow and irregular progress (below: tomato seedlings).

Lots of other things are looking lovely - some of the lovliest are the Burgundy Amaranth (left-the photo doesn't do them justice) and various types of nasturtiums (below, with their magical droplet-holding powers).

Lettuce, squash, artichokes, okra, herbs, flowers, and all of the 4,800 babies continue to grow and thrive.

Brassicas busting a move

Various lettuce babies

Over the past few weeks, we have nurtured these little plants every day and some nights. We have fretted that they are too hot, or too cold, too dry, or too wet, worried about "damping off" and pests and whether we should have sterilized the flats before planting.  And the plants have grown.  

Seedlings are so strong, determined, and full of sheer green life energy.  Watching them grow, I have felt intimately connected to these tiny bits of plant matter.  Almost invariably I head to the hoophouse first thing in the morning, sometimes even before caffiene, to check on "the babies."  

And there have been all manner of greenhouse adventures.

For example:

This afternoon when CF and I went in to check on the babies, there were two sparrow-sized birds inside the hoophouse.  They were flying around back and forth up near the ceiling, and at first we assumed they had gotten in through the door and couldn't figure out how to get out.  

But we watched them for a few minutes, and it was clear that they were not trying to get out--they were hunting!  They were zooming back and forth through the air, feasting on bugs.  One of the birds flew expertly out the door and then right back in. They knew exactly what they were doing. They had discovered a big plastic bug trap that collects and holds live insect prey for them -- a bug buffet.

We watched the birds hunt and feast for a while, and delighted in the wonders of natural bug control in the greenhouse.  We were so excited about what they were doing that we didn't pay very much attention to what they looked like.  I do remember that they were stripey and brown and the size of a largish sparrow. Perusing Peterson's later in the day, I thought they could have been female finches, or any number of types of sparrows, or maybe if I was really not paying attention to things like tailfeathers, even wrens of some kind.  I looked up the eating habits of wrens, sparrows, and finches and discovered that all three eat insects, so that was no help.

In my googling, however, I did turn up a good article about birds eating insects and how to attract insectavorous birds to the garden. It starts out with this great teaser:

"Imagine a device that could kill 1,000 insects in a single afternoon without doing any harm to the environment. Unbelievably, such a device has already been devised and could be flying past your window right now."

Read the full article by Darcy Logan here.  I especially recommend Part Two of the article, which offers details about specific insect-eating birds.

So the moral of the story is that nature has everything under control. Special thanks to the feathered agents of pest control in our hoophouse. . .and onward to frost-free nights!

The beloved hoophouse, full of baby plants.


Dana said...

I love it when birds show up and do a little something somewhere up in my business...Birds are the best.

Anonymous said...

i was just wondering how the babies were doing and was thinking about fb-ing you when i remembered i could just come here to the blog. beauty-full! love, reverend rivercane roundbelli xo