Jan 302011
trellis habitat House Finch Hideaway
trellis habitat House Finch Hideaway

Trellis habitat House Finch Hideaway will support a thicket of vines.

Garden Log (what I did):

1. Completed installation of the trellis habitat, House Finch Hideaway.

You, the Habitat Gardener (reflections):

Trellis wire on center post.

Trellis wire on center post. Note the crevices in the post's wood -- great shelter for small criters willing to make the climb.

1. Today’s job was to finish the trellis habitat, House Finch Hideaway.  For previous entries re this project, see HFH — Installed Posts and HFH — Trellis Wire Installed.  To most people, this job would be a trellis installation to create back-fence privacy, period.  But for me, this project is a great opportunity to grow food for our table.  Also, the trellis will provide food and shelter for critters.  I see a thicket of perennial jasmine vines with knock-me-out fragrant flowers, a sun-basking wall of hanging fruit, subterranean crevices and water for amphibians, a ladder system of wood posts for insects and lizards, perches and nesting shelter for birds, and a rising sun backlighting enormous grape and fig leaves.

Top cross wire loosely in place (before stapled).

Top cross wire loosely in place (before stapled). Note the post's lean away from the back fence.

After laying out and attaching the top wire loop with a Gripple lock, I realized that the wire was not as tight as I wanted it to be.  The distance between the two center posts was too long.   A 5th post, a true center post, will bridge the gap and prevent the someday vegetation-laden wire from sagging in the middle.  All the better to know now that my original plan for four posts was unrealistic.  Besides we can milk this mistake.  I’ll get the most out of changing the plan by a) charging more for the job, b) installing more beautiful driftwood in the garden, and c) installing a separate animal habitat when digging the hole for the new center post.  About a) charging more — Oh well, I forgot this is an unpaid job.  About b) more driftwood — YES!!!  How better to fix a problem than to pull out the driftwood?  Better yet, the center post is a union of two pieces of driftwood.  About c) another habitat — Dano’s Great Newt Grotto is born; see my future post (I’m going to bed!).

Base of center post yet to be backfilled with rock, gravel, and soil.

Base of center post yet to be backfilled with rock, gravel, and soil.

We want Center Post to rise about a foot above the 7-foot-high top cross wire.  That one foot height over the wire will be a critter perch.  Perhaps a bird, squirrel, or a very stupid insect or lizard (wanting to be so visible) will use the lookout.  Our post is 9 and 1/2 foot long, so that does not leave too much wood to be buried below ground.  First off, give up on the one foot and settle for a 6″ perch.  Then, the post can be buried 2 feet (9.5-7.5) — way not enough for that heavy piece of tree to stay vertically suspended AND support the heaviest load of the trellis.  What to do?

Center post base (left) supporting center post pole (right).

Center post base (left) supporting center post pole (right). Note the available critter shelter between the two pieces of wood.

Another piece of driftwood comes to the rescue.  The second piece of wood to become Center Post is a glorious redwood root section.  Being of redwood root stock, it is extremely dense, insect resistant and strong.  That piece is dug into the ground about 5 feet and snugly holds up the center post pole.   In fact, the base piece perfectly cradles the post piece, making a perfect lean forward away from the fence.  Perhaps that lean away from the fence will keep the someday rotting posts from crashing through the back fence.  Fences make good neighbors AND busting up the fence between you and your neighbor makes for trouble.  Therefore, the heavy and strong Center Post has a slight lean away from the back fence.

grape cuttings at left end post

Grape cuttings at left end post. The small "wood chip" pieces of grape vine will make friendly mulch for the soon-to-thrive vines.

Plenty of rocks were used to fill in Center Posts’ hole.  The rocks will better pack around the wood posts because they will not compress like soil fill does.  Also, the rocks and gravel will help the posts stay dryer in the ground, which will slow down their rotting.  Not only will water filter through the gravel better than soil, but also the rocks and gravel will not retain moisture like soil or clay does.  Less water retained means dryer posts.  I also like the use of the larger rocks because cavities will be created around them during the natural settling process (of the soil, gravel, and rocks).  Those cavities will shelter critters.

Compost soil was used to fill in the remaining post bases and grape cuttings were planted at the base of a couple of posts.  The Center Post’s habitat, Dano’s Great Newt Grotto, incorporated a healthy transplanted jasmine vine rootball and short vine strands.  Those short vine strands will quickly thrive and climb up the waiting stake, to the Center Post, and then off in both directions along the cross wires.  Short stake “fences” were made around a couple of the post planting to keep foot traffic from destroying the plants.  The planted cuttings were then mulched with old straw to protect the soil from heavy rain.

Vines at base of posts -- caged and mulched.

Vines at base of posts -- caged and mulched. Jasmine is far left, next to tallest stake. Grape is right, inside short stake fence.

So exciting to have a planting in place.  Training the vines up the posts and weaving a living wall with flower and fruit vines will be fun.  What neighbors?  Oh yes, we have neighbors to the back of us, behind the vegetation wall.

Enjoy the regeneration of spring.

…………………………………………………………………… Tony

Jan 102011
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on redwood driftwood

Garden Log (what I did):

1. Cold here in Sebastopol, California — well at least for us — with the growing season nearly dormant.  We finally got some garlic starts in the ground about a month ago in the front veggie bed along the sidewalk.  Maybe this week I’ll plant fava beans there to grow SOMETHING.

2. Harvested hachiya persimmons from a neighbor’s tree.

3. Inspected Salamander Swimhole’s vitality.

4. Discovered brown marmorated stink bugs on a piece of driftwood in the front garden.

You, the Habitat Gardener (reflections):

1. Our garlic crop in the front bed will be ready next late spring, just in time for us to plant sunflowers.  We get garlic; the critters will reap the sunflowers.

2. The persimmon that was left on Oak Pedestal last night is half eaten.  A long deck screw holds the persimmon in place and secure from strong critters, like a squirrel, that might want to eat the persimmon elsewhere.  The long screw’s head was snipped off, then that end was impaled into the oak limb’s crotch, leaving the pointy  end of the screw skyward.

Top view of Oak Pedestal feeder with partly eaten persimmon.

Top view of Oak Pedestal feeder in winter garlic bed with partly eaten persimmon.

Oak Pedestal feeder -- side view

Side view of Oak Pedestal feeder in winter garlic bed.

So easy to screw an apple, a persimmon, a tough piece of food onto the screw and thwart thieving critters.  Ha!, I am smarter for once.

Oak Pedastal Feeder and SF leaves

Top view of Oak Pedestal feeder surrounded by a summer crop of sunflower. The black oiled sunflower seeds are bagged birdseed. How fun to place some seeds on the sunflower leaf platters. Note the up-ended deck screw (in the oak limb crotch), which is used to secure apples and other food offerings.

3.Salamander Swimhole, which seemed a lost cause because of foul water (see my November 27, 2010 entry: http://sporelore.com/residential-habitats/garden-pond/) is clearing.  The magnolia tree’s leaves have all fallen for a month now so the pond is no longer being overwhelmed with fresh organic matter.  Algae is growing faster now that more sunlight is reaching the pond; the magnolia leaves were shading the new pond water.  Just-visible microbes are whirling about in the water and the potted plants are showing new growth.  The pond will thrive, with luck in time for a pacific tree frog to want to lay eggs in it this spring.

4.  Brown marmorated stink bugs ( Halyomorpha halys) are in the insect family Pentatomidae and are known as an agricultural pest in their native range of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  Yes, they are not native to our California soil.  But they are so cool!  Given the species’ alien trait, I’d rather they didn’t exist in our garden BUT three bugs on one small piece of driftwood means there are probably many others entrenched in our neighborhood.  What’s a sustainability-minded Master Habitat Landscaper Apprentice like me to do?  Nothing, that’s what.  Sure, I rather the garden be full of native insects to work the garden and provide food for higher tropic animals.  But perhaps alien pollinators (or non-pollinators) will feed some of those higher tropic animals, i.e., animals more sophisticated/more developed.  An insect meal might just be an insect meal to a hungry woodpecker during these food-is-sparse short days of winter.

A couple of cool facts about these alien-to-California brown marmorated stink bugs: a) They are actually bugs!  “Bug” is often a lay term for “insect”, but “true bugs” are only one order of insect, like “beetle” is another order of insect.   b) Stink bugs get their name from a smelly fluid emitted from their thorax when threatened.   I was lucky to get the bugs pictured (below) without getting sprayed — surely their sluggishness from the cold was in my favor.  c) The term “marmorated” is derived from Latin for “marbled”.  Close inspection of the seemingly “brown”/dull-looking wing tips and exoskeleton’s back plates (pronotum, esculetum, elytron) reveals magnificent design and color.  Sure wouldn’t want to be an ant when that steel-plated star cruiser crawls overhead.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs on redwood driftwood Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs on redwood driftwoodBrown Marmorated Stink Bug on redwood driftwood

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on redwood driftwood Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on redwood driftwoodEnjoy all things, stinky or not.