Wednesday, June 4, 2014

15 Blueberries and a Black and White Blackberry Visitor

This morning, before I headed to the office, I checked on my blueberry crop.  By crop, I mean the fifteen blueberries shown in the picture above.  These fifteen blueberries are the culmination of nearly ten years as a blueberry farmer.  Good job, Rain!  

I took the photo above on May 9 of this year.  Aren't the fifteen blueberry flowers lovely?  I think they look like delicate white bells.  Many years ago, I planted four blueberry bushes in my yard.  I knew that my soil wasn't acidic enough, but I bought some sulfur and some peat moss and thought I could amend the soil each year.  What was I thinking?!  Now I know that I shouldn't even bother to plant something fussy, because I'm not good at keeping up with the fuss.  Remarkably, three of the four bushes are still alive.  They haven't grown more than four inches taller than they were when I planted them, and never get more than a couple of blueberries (which the birds eat), but this year they are really doing me proud.  Fifteen, wow.  I'll be lucky if the birds leave me a single one.  

My garden contribution to this morning's breakfast was five strawberries and a handful of snap peas.  Brandon, who provided toast, fried eggs, coffee, and smoked salmon, was a little doubtful about the peas, but I thought they looked lovely on the plate - a green pea garnish!  When I double checked to make sure Brandon ate his, he said he did, but he wished he hadn't eaten them last because it made his coffee taste weird.  So, maybe snap peas for breakfast is a little weird.  

These two rows of weeds are supposed to be rows of blackberries.  Sigh.  I think I'm giving up on them in this location.  For the first few years they produced like gangbusters, and I was covered up in blackberries.  Blackberry jam, frozen blackberries, blackberry smoothies, blackberry wine, blackberries in salads, and straight off the vine.  Those were the good old days.  But in the past two years, the trees and shrubs near them have grown so tall that they no longer get the evening sun, and the house shades them in the morning.  Plus, I haven't mulched them in a few years and the weeds have taken over.  Or maybe they are sick.  I don't get the number of berries I used to.    

But, even with all the weeds, neglect, and shade, there are still blackberries in there if you look closer.  This morning the blackberry blooms had a cool visitor.  

I think this is a mason wasp (Monobia quadridens), which isn't a wasp I've ever noticed in my yard before.  We usually have the big brown ones that like to nest under my shutters.  The brown wasps are great predators, and I like to watch them walk up and down the asparagus stalks hunting for little green caterpillars.  When they find one, they carry it to a perch and then proceed to eat it.  They bury their entire face in caterpillar goo and suck it up like it's a melting ice cream cone.  I like to watch someone enjoy their food.  

I think the mason wasp has a very pretty black and white pattern.   I read that the adult mason wasps like nectar from flowers, but that they hunt caterpillars to feed their larvae, which are placed in abandoned wood bee holes.  I welcome anything that hunts caterpillars in the garden.  

I really think the problem with my blackberry patch is that it's not getting enough sunlight.  The plant in the photo above is in the backyard, where it gets sun all afternoon and evening.  It's bushier, has more leaves, and already has green berries.  It's all about the real estate - location, location, location.    

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