I'm looking for that Robin sitting on the very peak of my roof-it will rain on that day, according to gardenlorist Donald C. Watts, but it's almost too hot to go outside to look for such.
While we anticipate rain indicators, there are constructive yarden chores to be done around the landscape-add compost everywhere and zap the grasshoppers that have invaded your territory. Since my lawn has already gone into dormancy and is quite brown in color, I'm putting a 1 to 1-1/2 inch layer of compost over it. I soaked the lawn areas, added the well-rotted compost (which was moist) and then watered deeply again, making sure the ground was wet to a depth of 12 inches.
Next, four to six inches of compost was spread over all garden spaces. For right now, this will serve as fertilizer for fall flowers and vegetables, keep weeds away, protect the soil from wind, sun burn and minimize watering, but spring plantings will really be the benefactors. The soil will be covered for winter's heaving; compost will have more than six months to break down into the top soil.
Earthworms will immediately set up house and tunnel through the entire landscape, so I don't have to till or dig. As you know, I love earthworms and read and write about ‘em all the time-did you know that in a year, an acre of worms can move 20 tons of earth? Dedicated, hard workers they are. Worm castings are the richest food for plant roots, and the most economical. Worm action creates great soil texture. As the worms turn raw organic material unto humus, the soil becomes moist, loose and more like the ideal loam plants love. If your yarden soil is healthy, it will be full of earthworms.
If you've not tried the compost technique to improve yarden soil, I challenge you to do so, for a lot of reasons. Do for your garden what your banker says to do with your finances-plan/work now for later.
Droughts drive our gardens into unfamiliar circumstances that probably surprise plants, animals and insects. Did grasshoppers ever dream that 2011 would be such a gourmet year for them? They feed on a variety of plants and usually swarm in drought-stricken areas. Biological controls are best. Plant herbs, shrubs and trees to attract birds and plant flowers to attract beneficials. Make hiding places for lizards, create a frog habitat.
Protect plants with floating row covers. Female grasshoppers deposit masses of elongated eggs in burrows in the soil or on weeds. Eggs hatch in the spring; nymphs grow and molt for 40 to 60 days. Adults feed until cold weather.
Nosema locustae is an effective, long-term, biological control. A simple, all-purpose flour dust will gum-up mouth parts of grasshoppers and other chewing insects. After 2 days, rinse off the flour with a fine spray from a hose. Plant oil products are effective control when sprayed at night; grasshoppers don't travel at night.
Just in case you were wondering about the scientific name and identification of this garden pest, it's Order Orthoptera and the family is Acrididae. Adults are black, brown, yellow or green. Their large hind legs are for jumping. A lot of grasshoppers have brightly colored under-wings.
Grasshoppers are great grub for fish and small animals. Feed the fish fresh out of your garden.
McDaniel is an organic gardener, writer and lecturer who gardens in Brown and Taylor counties in Texas. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org