Wasps and Hornets – Humble Workers in the Vineyard

Several painful encounters with wasps put enmity between them and their seed and myself at an early age. For most of my years since then, it was open warfare and I usually walked outside with a can of Yard Guard in each holster, ready to dispatch any member of the Vespa Genus that even thought about attaching a nest to any part of my domicile.

My attitude has softened a bit as I became more of a gardener, and I’ve developed, shall we say, a working relationship with these little creatures. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of respect for them, as they are armed, and they still sit down hard when threatened. But they are more helpful than harmful, and if you don’t threaten their nest,  they are usually quite docile.

The reason I’ve become more tolerant and respectful is because they do an excellent job of ridding the garden of pests. That means I don’t need to use any pesticides. It is interesting to watch them at work; they will inspect the underside of each leaf and if they find a bug, it gets a paralyzing sting, and then is carried back to the nest to be food for the next generation of gardeners.

Working in the Vineyard

It all revolves around wine.

As if that weren’t enough, I read an article from NPR this week that said that wasps and hornets are responsible for that complexity of flavors that is part of the enjoyment of a good wine. It seems that these critters bite the grapes while on the vine, probably to get a bit of juice. In their gut, they carry a microbe that is essentially brewer’s yeast, which they inject into the grape, which starts the fermentation process on the vine. That and other microbes that the wasps and hornets spread is responsible for the different fermentations and flavors that make for a good wine.

Nature is way more intertwined than we ever expected.

Final Plantings.

I planted two more hills of Zucchini for a fall crop, as this one will probably succumb to borers by the end of August if not sooner. I also planted a couple of hills of Butternut squash, but I am probably way too late. In any case, it will help me set the planting date for winter squash for next year.

Almost all of the fall stuff I planted earlier this week is popping out of the ground already.

I also pulled up the onions that Mary gave me as they were doing nothing. I planted that whole cell of the herb garden with seed for bunching onions. I won’t thin them, and I’ll see if they will produce perpetually.

I fertilized the whole garden today with Miracle Grow.

First Heirloom Tomatoes & Cukes.

Black Krim.

Black Krim, almost ready to pick.

I picked the first four Black Krim heirloom tomatoes today. They are a bit larger than a golf ball, and very tasty. We’ll see if the later ripening ones are any bigger. I made open faced sandwiches with basil, onion, Black Krimm tomatoes and banana peppers on toasted multi-grain bread, topped with mozzarella,a bit of parmesan and a generous grind of fresh black pepper. I stuck it under the broiler until brown and bubbly. Very tasty. Can’t wait for the other varieties of heirlooms to ripen.

We picked enough blackberries for dessert for FWG last night. I made shortcake from Bisquick. Jackie was in from Africa, so it was a fun evening. This is almost the end of the Blackberries, the heat and drought limited what should have been a bumper crop.

Char picked a couple of cukes from her side of the fence — these are the first ones. They are coming in fairly slow, but I planted quite late.

Fall Planting.

We finally got some more rain last night, I measured about 0.6 inches. Every little bit helps, but the temperature is supposed to be back to 100 tomorrow.

I did the fall planting in the new bed today, hopefully I’m not too late. Here’s what went in:

  • 2 Rows Roma Beans
  • 1 wide row of kale
  • 2 rows of Swiss Chard
  • 2 Rows pat-a-pan squash, 1 green and 1 yellow.

I also planted a wide row of Bloomingsdale Long-Standing spinach next to the existing row of Swiss Chard.

I also cleaned up behind the barn for a planting of butternut squash.

New raised bed.

New Garden Raised Bed

This is the new raised bed.

Since the blackberries have taken over one of my beds and most of the aisle between the beds, I decided to create a new raised bed from one of the old ones, perpendicular to the others. I wasn’t able to do much with the old ones for the past few years because of the shade. It took most of the day, as I had to dig a trench for the new bed , remove the old wood and rebuild it into a new bed, fill the bed with soil and compost and then roto-till it.

But, it’s done and ready to plant with vegetables for the fall. I got little red bites all over my forearms from some critters, but they don’t itch, so no big deal.

Blackberries are really starting to produce.

Blackberries ripening.

Blackberries, almost ready to pick!

We’ve had blackberries for a week or so, but the production has kicked up enough that I was able to bring enough for dessert for FWG tonight. I make cream puff shells and put in some ice cream and them topped them with loads of fresh berries and whipped cream. A little decadent, but it is the first major harvest of berries. Everyone enjoyed it.