Tag Archives: dill

Caterpillar update

I’ve been hoping to follow my caterpillars through more life stages this year but that doesn’t seem to be happening. I’ve only managed to catch them at egg and first instar stages.

Last month after I saw my caterpillars in first instar and then disappear altogether, I wondered if predators got them. And then I regretted planting so much dill. I thought it would go to waste, but instead it bolted in the heat. I was surprised to see that it still attracts swallowtails to lay their eggs. My small plot that once had 4 caterpillars now has at least 8, and my large plot has a few as well.

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Two caterpillars (and shed skin?) among dill flowers in my large plot

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Another caterpillar. Flowers will form into seeds soon.

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I lover the contrast between the tiny yellow flowers, green stems and black caterpilar (and my fingers and calendula in the background)

After planting all that butterfly weed, I still haven’t seen any butterflies on it. I check under leaves and along stems for evidence of caterpillars, no luck. I have seen a few bees on it so I guess it’s a good thing I planted it.

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I think this butterfly weed is a stunning. Look at those flowers!

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At least the spiders like them

I did manage to spot a swallowtail butterfly in the garden last week, hovering over red clover running rampant in the grass. I guess my milkweed can’t compete with it’s simple beauty. I suppose the important thing is that they have lots of food sources.

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You can spot the butterfly right in the centre of the photo. He wouldn’t let me get closer for a more flattering picture

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Do you want to see my caterpillars?!

I’m sure I’m not the only one at my community garden that’s been asked by passing admirers about the garden and how to get involved. This past week I’ve been able to offer more than my usual spiel: swallowtail caterpillars, in two life cycle stages!

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More swallowtail eggs in my main plot

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The 4 eggs in my new plot have hatched! Can you spot all 4 caterpillars?

Everyone that I’ve asked, “do you want to see my caterpillars?!”, has been eager to see them and seemed genuinely interested, peering closely at the eggs and caterpillars in wonder as I talked about their life cycle. One even confirmed that I had 4 caterpillars!

I was telling one of my fellow gardeners about the caterpillars and new eggs one evening when we were both watering our plots. I talked about the many plants I bought at Urban Harvest‘s 50% off sale that day, including butterfly milkweed. She told me about the butterfly bush she planted and how big it got. I assured her I bought the milkweed rather than the bush (the bush looked really big in the image that went with the plant).

As I showed her the eggs in my main plot, I started telling her about the New England aster I harvested last year, pointing to the patch at the back. Perhaps it was her surprised expression and comment about how quickly they’d grown in just a few weeks of planting that made me check online what they should look like (again). It looks like they are milkweed and not asters! It must be the seeds I planted last year that are coming up now.

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Butterfly milkweed I had mistaken for New England aster

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These look like they will become the many blossoms of the butterfly milkweed and not the simple blossom of the New England Aster

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New England aster from the community spaces. I noticed butterflies and bees going nuts over them last year so I saved some seeds

I took my dad past the community garden after Father’s Day lunch this weekend. He was less than impressed with the caterpillars. In fact, he went on about the caterpillars eating everything in my garden! Although I explained I planted dill specifically for my swallowtail caterpillars, images of all sorts of caterpillars taking over the garden set in when I started to think about the unexpected mass of butterfly milkweed in my main plot. And I bought more milkweed from Urban Harvest (albeit only two or three small plants)!

I should really come to my senses. The caterpillars will stick to what I planted for them (dill and milkweed) and I’ll get the bonus of beautiful visitors to help pollinate my other plants. Win win!

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I have swallowtail eggs!

Although my patch of dill is nothing to speak of, a swallowtail butterfly decided there was enough to lay it’s eggs on it.

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Swallowtail butterfly eggs. Check out how perfectly spherical they are!

This is the first time I’ve ever seen them at this stage — I’m ecstatic!!! I need to plant more dill. I’ve seen how much the caterpillars eat, this isn’t nearly enough to satisfy one baby let alone four.

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About the size of a head of a pin. I spotted four of them!

I know they also like parsley but I’ve never seen them on my parsley, only on the dill, which I plant just for them.

What a reward for a late start to the growing season! I hope they survive.

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Canada Day musings

Boy, did I drop the ball last year with the blog. But instead of beating myself up about it, I will jump back into it with a challenge for myself: 31 days of blogging for the month of July. Let’s start with some 2016 highlights:

Community garden

The highlight of last season was the arrival of a swallowtail caterpillar.

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Beautiful! And so smooth!

I’m glad he was a pretty one and not one of the ones that look like snakes (creepy!).

I had several volunteer (did not plant) dill plants last year. It’s not one of my favorite herbs (although the best pho I’ve ever had had dill in it), but it does a lot of good in the garden as a companion plant, attracting beneficial insects and discouraging harmful ones. I purposely planted one this year in hopes of attracting the caterpillar, but no luck yet. Sadly it hasn’t done much to discourage cabbage worms.

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A discouraging sight on my collard greens. Had to pull them and my kale.

There was a new pest in the garden last year: mealy bugs. I’ve encountered them before. They decimated my succulents at work. But this was the first time I’d seen them in the garden. I got to see them up close.

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Fuzzy mealy bug

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You can see his snout much clearer here. I could feel him sucking in the air across my palm!

The dill were covered so I just pulled them. By then the swallowtail was nowhere to be seen. I’d like to think he became a butterfly rather than a bird’s meal. Someone told me if I left a stick near the dill, it would pupate there. I’ve also heard it could have pupated on the side of my raised bed. Wish I’d seen that. I did see the caterpillar in the instar stage so it would have been cool to see the full cycle.

In addition to the mealy bugs, I was sad to find a cabbage worm on my dill. Once I checked the life cycle to ensure it wasn’t a swallowtail caterpillar, it went right in the trash.

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Cabbage worm, with evidence of mealy bug cottony webs.

Even when I thought I was bringing some nice dill in to work for a colleague, it turned out to be infested with aphids. Trashed again.

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Not a nice gift after all!

Despite not really being able to use a lot of the dill last year. I think it’s worth growing it for the beneficial predators it attracts and the beautiful swallowtail caterpillar.

 

 

 

 

 

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Saving seeds

Last year I started saving seeds for the first time. I got the general idea of seed saving from You Grow Girl or Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail. I decided on sunflower seeds for a reason that now escapes me… I read about how to do it online and watched some videos on Youtube. You can either cut off the sunflower head and dry it or dry it on the stem. The cheese cloth is to keep birds or other critters from getting at it. I’ve also read you can use a paper bag but this must be for smaller flower heads.

Collecting seeds

I picked out the seeds from the head and dried them indoors on a hard surface. I kept them in a plastic bag all year, which is not good, but it surely didn’t affect sunflower production this year. In fact, the only difference this year is that the sunflowers were poly-headed (my scientific term), specifically with one large head and several small ones, whereas last year they were mono-headed. I still have so many sunflower seeds left that I don’t need to do it this year.

Sunflowers with one large head and many small heads

This year, I want to be more active with seed collection because it’s easy and it’s cost effective (no need to buy seeds next year). I decided to start with dill because the seeds caught my eye.

Dill seeds

I couldn’t remember exactly how I was supposed to do it (because the books are at the library), but I do remember from¬† Gayla’s books that you’re supposed to cut the stem below the seeds and put it upside down in a paper bag. The seeds will drop to the bottom once they’re dry. I started this last week:

Dill drying in a paper bag

To be sure I was doing it right, I searched the net and came across the Deep Roots at Home blog. What caught my eye was the suggestion to add holes to the bag for circulation! So I poked some holes in it with a safety pin. Hope that’s good enough. The blogpost also shows that you can have several stems in one bag. Right now I have 3 bags going with one stem each because I wanted to be sure they got enough air to dry properly. Totally unnecessary.

I know for sure that You Grow Girl had a template for seed packets. There are many seed packet templates online. I chose one at Carolyn’s Stamp Store because I liked the simple design and clear instructions for putting it together.

Folded template

I didn’t have a glue stick so I taped it together, put my sunflower seeds in and made a simple label.

Homemade sunflower seed package

You Grow Girl suggested fancy designs but I decided to make it simple. I don’t consider myself to be crafty, but I do have crafty aspirations!

Homemade vs professional

I came across this Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook online. I love that it tells you how long you can save your seeds. For example, it says dill seeds will last 3 years or more and sunflower seeds (between squash and Swiss chard on the list; there is no direct link) will last 5 years or more if stored properly.

Can’t wait to package my dill!

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