Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Frog Files

I have written repeatedly about my fascination with the frogs that have managed to find our new pond. We do have permanent water, a tiny creek, about 100 yards away from the house, but when you think about it, 100 yards is a long hike for a little frog. Especially since it must run the gauntlet of household pets lurking between the creek and our backyard. Frogs also need to keep their skin moist, so they must travel when the weather is damp. Perhaps our unusually wet summer has facilitated their migrations. We had spring peepers, a couple of kinds of tree frogs, and the lady in the photo.

I am no herpetologist, but I suspect this is a common green frog, Rana clamitans. It occurs throughout the Southeast wherever there is adequate water. Apparently our 1500 gallon pond is sufficient. Of course, the pond offers something the frog will not find everywhere, small fish. Earlier in the season I added about two dozen livebearers from the aquarium store. Now we have hundreds. We are in the habit of feeding these and our two goldfish every evening an hour or so before sunset. The frog has gotten used to this ritual, and gorges herself on fish. I thought frogs only ate insects, but a quick search of the Internet revealed the green frog eats all sorts of prey, including birds. The American bullfrog, Rana catesbiana, which looks like the green frog on steroids, also preys on fish, birds and even small mammals. With concern growing that some frog species are threatened with extinction, it is nice to know this droll-looking little predator seems to be thriving.

Vegetable Notes

Vegetable gardeners should be thinking about sowing seeds for fall greens, if you haven't already done so. We started cell trays with kale, savoy cabbage and lettuces this week. I also planted a pot of leeks. All these should be ready to transplant within about 30 days, with the exception of the leeks. The leek variety is 'King Sieg.' It was bred to overwinter for spring harvest, and last year's crop was excellent. They are good keepers, too. We ate the last of the stored ones in July.

The kale variety is 'Lacinato.' It is highly cold tolerant, and I expect to harvest leaves all winter long. The cabbage will be transplanted to the coldframe in September. Lasy year, 'Savoy Perfection' was our best winter cabbage, and we are aiming for an even better crop this season.

I planted heat tolerant 'Jericho' lettuce, in case we have a warm fall season. I also planted a tray of 'Tom Thumb,' a delicious butterhead that makes midget heads about the size of a softball. This time of year, it is important to check and water lettuce seedlings every day, as one bout of hot, dry conditions can kill them all.

Late August is a good time to sow beets, carrots, turnips, and scallions. By the end of the month, you should get good results with direct seeded spinach, too.

Cucumbers planted a couple of weeks ago have succumbed to a pathogen. Rather than try to figure out why, we just ripped them out and planted 'Sugar Snap' peas instead.

Today we are continuing to pick beans and okra, and we have the most beautiful sweet basil that we have grown in years. With the cooler, less humid weather, we are shaping up to have a spectacular autumn season, both in the garden and in beautiful East Tennessee.

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