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Connecting to Our Food Web

Dedicated to educational resources towards building and sustaining viable food webs and ecosystems
Elizabeth Wahle's Welcome to My Jungle
Dec17 WTMJ
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Welcome to My Jungle - December 2017

The medlar ( Mespilus germanica ) project was a success. I had enough bletted (very ripe but not rotted) fruit from one tree to make a small batch of jelly and try a new dessert bar recipe featuring medlars and walnuts. Having never tasted medlars before, I was worried I would hate the taste and had wasted my time, but I really enjoyed the unique, stewed-apple-like flavor created in both...

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Tree Dolly to Move Large Pots IMG 9931r
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Welcome to My Jungle - November 2017

My 'to do" list seems to be getting longer rather than shorter as I prepare my Jungle for the coming of winter. Some items on the list have been relatively simple, while others have presented some interesting and humorous challenges. One of my easy tasks was collecting and washing gazing balls. Some gardeners leave them out for a bit of color in the winter garden but I prefer to bring mine in t...

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Hyla versicolor-chrysoscelis Gray Tree Frog IMG 2462
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Welcome to My Jungle - October 2017

It's that time of year when all gardeners need to start thinking about tender perennials and what their fate is to be. Do you overwinter them or do you let Mother Nature shorten their life? How much time do you have? Well not much. In the St Louis Metro East, about 90% of the time, the first frost has occurred by October 27 th . The earliest we have had is September 20 th and...

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21Aug2017 Eclipse Clifftop IMG 8771
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Welcome to My Jungle - September 2017

A personal thank you to the staff and volunteers of Clifftop. I could not have asked for a more beautiful site to view the solar eclipse with my family and friends on Monday, August 21 st . A 360° sunset is a site I will never forget. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into making this such a special day for so many. As quoted on Clifftop's Facebook page "It was a long, hot...

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Bald-faced Horbet Nest IMG 8551r
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Welcome to My Jungle - August 2017

Did you know grape berries reach physiological maturity well before they taste good? Grape berry maturity occurs when seeds are able to germinate, which is immediately after véraison, or initiation of fruit ripening (start of color change). Try tasting a grape berry at this stage. I can guarantee the experience will pucker you up. Grapes are actually harvested at what is termed their technologi...

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Softneck Garlic IMG 8173
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Welcome to My Jungle - July 2017

It is one thing to see food in the produce isle, it is altogether different to see that same edible portion growing on the plant. I have worked with specialty crops much of my adult life, but I have never lost my fascination of plants that produce food. Who can't stare in awe at a tree full of peaches or smile in excitement when pulling up peanut plants to reap the hidden rewards. I rec...

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Penstemon tubaeflorus - Tube Beardtongue IMG 5570

Welcome to My Jungle - June 2017

June begins the season of green, when the trees and shrubs are fully leaved and spring blooms have faded. My Jungle is primarily an iris garden, but it would be boring right now if made up of only green swords of foliage. Not to worry though, numerous late spring and early-summer blooming plants pick up the color standard so the Jungle does not suffer summer blahs. One of my favorites is trumpe...

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Welcome to My Jungle - May 2017

Birds are arriving from their winter home to add their beauty and song to my landscape. I hope that I have created a suitable environment for them to complete a successful breeding season. A ruby throated hummingbird alerted me to his presence very recently, so I dropped everything to put out feeders. He seemed rather pleased. I have also sighted two pairs of rose-breasted grosbeak, indigo bunt...

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Welcome to My Jungle - April 2017

Sticker shock, but definitely worth it! Some plants like lady slippers, a.k.a. hardy terrestrial orchids, can be relatively pricy in the world of herbaceous perennials (think ITOH and herbaceous yellow peony prices), and when combined with some very exacting growing conditions, most gardeners aren't willing to risk the added investment. This is definitely a species to research thoroughly before ca...

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Cherry Rootstocks Gisela5 Mahalab Seedling

Welcome To My Jungle - March 2017

Dwarfing rootstocks have always fascinated me, and the sweet cherry trees in my jungle really demonstrate their useful versatility. I have three sweet cherry trees and they are all similar in age, but they are all on different rootstocks, making them extremely different in size. My largest sweet cherry tree grew from a cherry pit a friend of mine had chucked into his garden, resulting in a stan...

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065 Pieris japonica cv Shojo - Japanese Pieris

Welcome to My Jungle-February 2017

Winter is still with us but a number of winter interest plants are already brightening an otherwise sleeping garden. Winter blooming plants like witch hazel ( Hamamelis ), hellebore ( Helleborus ), mahonia ( Mahonia ), Japanese pieris ( Pieris ), and paperbush ( Edgeworthia ) are especially good at harking the coming of spring. If you are unfamiliar wi...

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Soil Blocker IMG 0918

Welcome to My Jungle-January 2017

Winter has barely started, but it is already time to begin the planning process for starting vegetable transplants. Very hardy vegetables like broccoli and cabbage can be planted outdoors without protection 4-6 weeks before the last average frost-free date, which means transplants need to be seeded well in advance of this date. The Illinois State Water Survey...

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Red-seeded asparagus bean

Welcome to My Jungle-December 2016

Most gardeners can relate to the giddy anticipation generated this time of the year when nursery catalogs start filling the mailbox. Aside from all the wonderful nursery stock that inspires oohs and aahs, I spend an equal amount of time studying seed catalogs. I plant seeds for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is some plants, like pole beans, grow very reliably from seeds and it is...

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Pinus strobus - Eastern White Pine Reduced IMG 2483

Welcome to My Jungle - November, 2016

Using the term "evergreen" to refer to all conifers can be somewhat misleading. Not all evergreens are conifers, just as not all conifers are evergreen. Bald Cypress ( Taxodium distichum ) is a good example of a deciduous conifer, but you would never refer to as a deciduous evergreen! The term "evergreen" can also be somewhat misleading when applied to pines ( Pinus ). Pin...

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Fall Vegetable Garden Harvest IMG 2411

Welcome to My Jungle - October, 2016

I harvested squash this weekend and it definitely turned out to be a serendipitous event. I had noticed around mid-summer that several volunteer cucurbit vines were growing around my composting area, of which I decided to leave in place just to see what type of fruit would develop. About a month ago, it was pretty clear the vines were producing several 2-4-pound round squash with skins similar...

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Hemaris thysbe - Hummingbird Clearwing on Sutellaria - Scullcap DSC04611

Welcome to My Jungle - September, 2016

I'm always so torn when I realize hornworms are feasting on my tomato plants. If I leave them in place, they will totally defoliate the plant. If I kill them or move them well away from the tomatoes, they will most likely die and never have the chance to transform into it's equally large adult form, a hawk moth. This year, my tomato plants were inundated with tobacco hornworms so I decided I wa...

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Allium cv Forelock - Ornamental Onion Reduced IMG 8485

Welcome to My Jungle - August, 2016

I recently returned from "The Gardens of England" tour coordinated for Illinois Master Gardeners, which included the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the largest flower show in the world. Imagine a flower show that encompasses 25 acres and offers an opportunity for guests to see every possible herbaceous perennial (not really, it just seemed like it) throughout...

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Oxydendrum arboreum - Sourwood Reduced IMG 5134

Welcome to My Jungle - July, 2016

It is not surprising that the very fine, soft, bright green feathery leaves of Eupatorium capillifolium 'Elegant Feather' (dog fennel) stumps even some plant nerds as to its identification. Well, at least this plant nerd was stumped. At first glance, it appeared somewhat reminiscent of Amsonia (Blue Star) but taller (5'), and the foliage significantly more soft and fine. If th...

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Pisum sativum var saccharatum - Snow Pea IMG 4313

Welcome to My Jungle - June, 2016

Tomatoes are finally in their happy place in terms of sunshine and warmth, and in response are really putting on a growth spurt. Champion II and Genuwine (Brandywine x Costoluto Genovese) are both indeterminate types being grown this year, both trained on a string and maintained to a single stem. To accomplish this, all suckers are regularly removed, which means checking every few days to catch...

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Straw Bale Gardening Day1 148

Welcome to My Jungle - May, 2016

Straw bale gardening has been an interesting project. After reading several books on the topic, I decided I was ready to try my hand at growing "something" in straw bales. My design was simple; four straw bales side by side, set on a weed mat of layered newspapers in the back driveway. Placement is critical; once bales are saturated with water, they become very difficult to move. Orientation is...

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Bird Feeder Baeolophus bicolor - Tufted Titmouse and Sitta carolinensis - White-breasted Nuthatch IMG 3052 cropped

Welcome to My Jungle - April, 2016

Bird feeders, though wonderful for feeding and bringing feathered friends in close, require regular maintenance to maintain the health of visiting birds and visual appeal of the garden. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, feeders should be hand cleaned about once every two weeks with soap and boiling water or a dilute bleach solution (no more than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water), and t...

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098 Hamamelis x intermedia cv Barmstedt Gold - Witch Hazel

Welcome to My Jungle - March, 2016

Dogs and turf don't always mix, especially in small confined areas. For homeowners, pets (mostly dogs) are the most frequent cause of uneven patches of succulent dark green growth and/or brown areas. And although the exact mechanism of how urine injures turf is not completely understood, its damage is very similar to that resulting from a salt-based fertilizer spill. This has led to a generally...

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Troy-Bilt Chipper Shredder Vacuum RIMG 5843

Welcome to My Jungle - February, 2016

Had it been the middle of summer, the weather we all just experienced the last weekend of January would have been downright cold and worthy of a sweater. But temperatures in the mid to upper 60's in the middle of winter just begs for short sleeves and working in the yard…at least for this spring fevered gardener. I chose to spend some of my time outdoors gathering all the fallen branches and tw...

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Narcissus - Daffofils Frosted  004

Welcome to My Jungle - January, 2016

While taking down outdoor holiday decorations recently, I noticed daffodils popping up throughout the Jungle. My first thought was "that's not good" before moving on to selfish aggravation that my daffodil display would most likely be less than spectacular this spring due to probable freeze injury to early exposed leaves…what with so much winter still to come. Clearly the daffodils had met thei...

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Helleborus - Hellebore P1010117

Welcome to My Jungle - December, 2015

Growing giant vegetables usually takes some extra effort, but sometimes Mother Nature provides just the right conditions for some crops to exceed normal growth expectations. Take turnips for example. Normally, turnip are harvested as they reach the size of a tennis ball or slightly larger up until soil freezing. This ensures reaching peak flavor and maintaining a smooth internal texture. Like m...

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