By Master Gardener Volunteer Lesley Arrandale
mail@floridanewsline.com

As of early May I’m contemplating a slow, relatively confined summer — staying safe is our family’s focus, since we all fall into the “vulnerable” category of folks.

There is a remote, ongoing, free vegetable gardening class available from our Urban Garden Program through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-vegetable-gardening-10-weekly-webinars-tickets-101647614752?aff=ebdssbeac. Once you register you will have access to the whole series, including previous webinars, which are recorded. It’s very popular.

Lori Hershey for School Board, District 7. A school system we can all believe in.

For more information on vegetable gardening, there is a new website from the Extension Service: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/get-growing/. With the still-restricted services from our local office, this is another useful resource. There is also our own Master Gardener Volunteer help-line: duvalmastergardener@gmail.com as well Extension’s latest innovation, a virtual office visit for you to get person-to-person advice: www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b4ea9ae28a3f94-virtual. 

I’m attempting to grow summer vegetables and hoping that the harmful insects that are beginning to show up aren’t going to be a big problem. So far I’ve seen a few whiteflies and some tiny inchworms on our collards. The predatory guys are in evidence, particularly small wasps, cruising around the flowering parsley. While they certainly aren’t on everyone’s favorite insect list, they do feature on the “beneficial” list. Many wasps are actually harmless to us, and since we know not to antagonize the larger species we can normally co-exist comfortably. 

Growing vegetables in the summer can be brutal, but there is an unusual climbing bean that likes our hot humid conditions: the Asian long bean or yard-long bean. It’s a rambunctious grower and needs a tall framework on which to climb. Its pea-type flowers are a pretty pale lavender color, which is a plus. There are several varieties, but they should all be picked when the pods are young and firm, not a yard long, for the best texture. They are perfect for stir-fry dishes, or use them like any green beans.

Watching birds has been a pleasure. With an unruly backyard the more timid species have opportunities to move around safely without having to brave open spaces. Recently I observed some migrants, notably an ovenbird, and male and female black-headed blue warblers, common yellow throats, and American redstarts. Warblers are often difficult to identify, but these species are very distinctive and are worth looking up online if you haven’t seen them before; the Cornell website is a wonderful resource: www.allaboutbirds.org/news/. As well as being lovely to watch, warblers eat a variety of insects and are great garden allies.

In a large stand of shell ginger (probably Alpinia galanga), I was fascinated to see how at least one large bee took its fill of the nectar at the base of the flower. Expecting it to either land and go straight into the flower, or “rob” the flower from the outside by piercing it at the base, I was astonished to see what happened. After landing, the bee maneuvered itself onto the bulky stamen overhanging the lip of the flower and, clinging on, turned upside down to hang from the stamen. From that position it crawled into the flower, thereby dislodging pollen onto the bee’s hairy lower abdomen! Since then, I have seen more large bees robbing the flowers, so I’m left wondering if the behavior is species specific. 

Stay safe and well, and enjoy your garden!

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