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Careful what you wish for – two-month old Sapphire Gem (a new Czech breed) contemplates the weekend’s change in the weather

For any gardener in Maryland last week, your dreams were of rain. Wasn’t it just a few months ago that we were soaking, gross and saturated? WAY too much rain? Mud in my chicken run was so deep I worried for the health of my baby chicks!  But now those chicks are teenagers and experiencing days of 90-100 degree heat, burnt up grass, baked hard ground, and hot sticky nights.

Same for the gardens, where once lettuce was so lush, loving all that rain. So, Hooray for my hose! SUN + WATER = FOOD!! There is not much I can do when weather is too wet to help plants fight back the attacking mold and rot. But in the bright, sunny, too hot I can supply mulch and water – and voila!  Even in last week’s heat I added pepper, tomato, and herb seedlings into our front walk flower bed where squash vines already ramble. Thanks to lots of light fluffy leaf mulch (leaf pro or leaf grow, from my local nursery) and my hose they have survived their roasting first week looking good.

I have also been using the hose to BLAST the hoard of proliferating junior SQUASH BUGS off leaves and vines. Not sure yet if this is enough to get rid of them. Squishing them is best of course, but takes a lot longer. While I am there, I check both sides of the leaves for EGGS, scraping or ripping them off.

evil bugs

Article on squash bugs –  thanks to kind of a hippiesquash-bug-eggs

Everything likes to eat squash plants. Squash bugs, caterpillars, winged bugs I cannot identify but detest… it’s a birth-place, bar, and restaurant in one. All that juiciness.  High heat is stressful. Plants, hens, bugs, everything gets cranky and aggressive.

Getting enough water is prevention and cure for many garden woes.  The plants I keep watered are the ones that thrive, I remind myself, and keep producing food for us. True, water is a precious resource, and I have a bad habit of forgetting to turn off the hose…. We are lucky in this part of the globe to have a hose to turn on at will, when in many parts of the world getting the daily water is a challenge and chore. But eating from the garden means watering. Why do I so often get busy and forget to maintain the gardens in midsummer? Note to self: 1. yes, be grateful, but 2. go get that hose!

The same holds true for chicken health in the heat – mulch under foot and plenty of clean water. My two month olds are happy, healthy, and independent, not too picked on by the older hens. I rotate the flock between 6 paddocks, which includes the front and back grass. Edward is not at peace with chickens on lawns. On the lawns means access to garden beds. Chickens usually make a mess, raking through the mulch at the garden bed edges, uncovering roots, intent on their constant search for BUGS. But, wait…wait. Wasn’t I just complaining about bugs in the garden? So you see, it’s a trade off. This is supposed to be a bad year for ticks. Our tick tally is up to four so far this season.  I would rather have to pull the gardens back together than have a husband with Lyme disease. So — RELEASE THE CHICKEN PATROL!!  One more great reason to keep chickens (did you need another?) is vigilant insect management.

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The two month olds engage in vigilant insect management

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Surprise! As I photograph, Old Mama hen puts her body between mine and her former babies. Maybe she is still on the job, part time protecting them?

PS – Have you ever tried Dragon Tongue Lettuce? This is a great plant. True to the brag on the back of the seed packet, this lettuce still tastes good in heat, and it does not hurry into bolt mode! (Note: I could not find this seed again. Still hunting)

PPS – we finally got some rain in a thunderstorm yesterday!

PPS – we got a weekend of pounding rain and thunderstorms.

PPPS – Looks like a week of rain ahead. Oh-oh. Shelve the garden hose. Post the blog anyway. Dream of sunshine.

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Enjoying the grass and bug patrol