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March 2021: Outside the plant science building

By Melinda Hatfield at the TAMUC plant science center

These things are everywhere but I only took pictures of the ones that I particularly enjoyed. I most likely looked like a lunatic outside looking through the areas at the prettiest plants.

By Melinda Hatfield at TAMUC plant science center

Other plants where there but they hadn’t adjusted to spring or they might have been dead. I didn’t want to depress you so I didn’t take pictures of the dead looking or dormant plants. No one wants to see a bunch of dead plants, but if you want to I can take pictures next time I come.

By Melinda Hatfield at the TAMUC Plant Science Center

I think I would enjoy this as a ground cover as well but I don’t know if it has any usefulness. I will have to look into it and figure out if it has some use other than spreading like a disease.

By Melinda Hatfield at TAMUC plant science center. This is catnip. It had a sign to tell me that it is catnip

This is a healthy little catnip plant. I love the shape of the leaves and I enjoy seeing it spread. It was one of the plants that came back stronger. It also looks great. They must not have a lot of cats in the area.

By Melinda Hatfield at TAMUC plant science center.

These are beautiful blooms. I was just excited to see there are more flowers blooming around this time.

By Melinda Hatfield at TAMUC plant science center. More catnip

I just wanted to come back and say that I am planting catnip in line with my sprinklers so that it will lure my cats in and then blast them. I know I shouldn’t but they mess up so many of my plants I just can’t help myself.

By Melinda Hatfield at TAMUC plant science center

This is just a really pretty weed that I wanted to share… and below is more clover? Maybe I don’t know. I’ll have to look into it.

By Melinda Hatfield at TAMUC plant science center

I love the color green. Did you know green is my favorite color? These are so pretty.

By Melinda Hatfield at TAMUC plant science center

Horticulture Lab: Planting things

Thats right we were planting things. I have to say that it has been very exciting being in plant and bug based classes. I feel as though these classes will benefit me long term. I also feel like I am learning a lot. For example, most plants die from over watering or not enough life (especially houseplants). Also there is a correct way to water plants, which is not something I even considered.

By Melinda Hatfield

Now first we planted beans. He showed us three ways to do it as an experiment and we put them in the pot. You should be planting your seeds no deeper than 2x their size. If you plant them deeper it could cause the plant to poorly develop. They’ll be trying to hard to get to the sun and they’ll give up. So make sure you are properly planting the seeds to the accurate depth otherwise your seeds may not grow to their full potential if they make it to the surface at all.

By Melinda Hatfield

So first we did the bean experiment, which was fun. Next we grabbed a tray with 18 slots to plant things. He had lots of seed options but on this tray I chose….

By Melinda Hatfield

Oregano because I love the herb and it can easily be added to my collection. I cannot wait to have it as one of my many coexisting ground covers. It’s going to be amazing. Now more mowing the grass for this lady. Also I just enjoy oregano as a herb, it is good stuff.

By Melinda Hatfield

Also the yellow pear tomato. I have never planted these before but I am excited about planting them for sure. They are allegedly really delicious. My professor said they were amazing and I was in for a treat. I cannot wait to see these start growing. I know it is a couple of days before the seedlings germinate but I want to watch them like a stalker.

I don’t know, I’m weird watching dirt and waiting for sprouts is just something I’m into. Don’t judge me.

By Melinda Hatfield

Next we planted three seeds of Texas Mountain Laurel. My professor said that they have beautiful flowers that smell like grape kool-aid and I said, “I’m in. Let’s do this.” As you can see before we could get to the seed we had to get through the hard shell. The seeds are those bright red things.

By Melinda Hatfield

That’s a close up of the seed. It is red in color and, although it doesn’t look like it, the seed has a very hard outer shell. Its bright red and with this seed, the Texas Mountain Laurel, we planted three seeds again but this time we tried to file part of the seed down with one and put the other in sulfuric acid for ten minutes with another and planted one regularly. Filing the seed down was no joke and took more than ten minutes. I can’t wait to see which ones turn out better and which ones don’t.

By Melinda Hatfield

I even decorated my pot with a dead leaf. I cannot wait to see the results of this experiment and then plant all three in my forest. Flowers that smell like grape kool-aid- I’m so in. Let’s do this.

By Melinda Hatfield

Finally, I planted another row of eighteen because he said we could and I was just so excited about the entire adventure. So in my next tray of eighteen I did half…

Mammoth dill and half kohlrabi. I can’t wait to see how these babies turn out. I have no dill planted right now but I am sure I can find a place for it. He says they get a little big and I want to eat some kohlrabi. I’m excited about it.

Have a good day and I hope you’re planting something awesome as well. Until next time

New Life this spring 2021

By Melinda Hatfield

Beautiful green layout looking amazing over here. I like that there is so much of the green stuff, it kind of looks like a moss but to be honest I have no idea what it is. It’s probably in a different class. Regardless, I loved the natural look of the sticks and rocks with the green ground cover. Looking good spring. Looking good.

This is mint that I planted last year and to be honest I am surprised that it survived so well. It really is branching out. You can see all of the runners creeping around and spreading. I think mint will be a lively ground cover. When I was outside with the kids we noticed that the off shoots had gotten harder and there were tiny runners that were easier to move.

By Melinda Hatfield

Out first flower from the countless bulbs that we planted. I love the purple color and as you can see there are more shoots coming up around it. We are excited because we planted quite a few to add color to our land. These bulbs will allegedly come back next year but we’ll have to wait and see. If so we will be very excited.

By Melinda Hatfield

This is random plant smells like oregano but we did not plant it. I am assuming that some how it jumped across the yard. I’m not mad about it but I thought it was neat. I am actually excited about it. This oregano plant looks much healthier than our other oregano even though the other plant is older. When they say plants in the mint family spread they weren’t lying. I love it though. It’s a lovely long lived herb if its allowed to spread like this and I am going to let it spread out everywhere. Don’t judge me.

By Melinda Hatfield

This is just come beautiful patch, I think it is clover but don’t quote me. I haven’t learned to identify plants like that just yet but I’m working on it. I just thought it was beautiful.

By Melinda Hatfield

Here is some more mint. Really I want this to be one of my primary ground covers. Mint will eventually cover the entire place and choke everything else out but mainly the grass. I do not want grass anymore. I hate mowing. I will not mow mints I will harvest them. I enjoy harvesting.

By Melinda Hatfield

This is getting out of control. Salad Barnett is a wild little herb. It has spread out everywhere and its very soft to run your hands through. None of it died in the winter snow storm and it stayed green and flush. I am impressed. I may have to cut this back a lot.

Regardless I am very pleased with the signs of spring and I hope you are as well. Have a great day and enjoy these spring items.

Insect Reproduction

In farming it’s pretty important to understand you insect populations. I say this because there are many types on insects and each one has a specific set of rules and roles. There are also more beneficial insects than just lady bugs and butterflies. That isn’t saying that they aren’t beneficial, but it makes sense that there would be other insects that are both beneficial and general pests.

Photo credit to Larry Silsbee

Differences in reproduction

  1. Females are more selective when it comes to mating and often try to find the best suitor to lay their eggs with. They are often preoccupied with habitat selection and progeny development. These activities expend most of their energy after mating. Once they mate, females limit mating.
    1. Eggs fertilized as it leaves the ovarioles. (I know it’s too much information but it’s a scientific fact, so please understand that we’re discussing ovarioles for science.)
    2. By knowing a females mating patterns, after identifying our insect population, we have a better chance of preventing the spread of a pest or stopping further reproduction. There are many ways of doing this, but I’m not expert. Just make sure you’re reading the labels about application and the time between sprays. A lot of people don’t look at those and it could cause you to have ineffective treatment methods (I have been guilty of this myself).
  2. Males search out receptive females persistently and frequently. Locating mates and producing sperm expend more energy. After mating males frequently search for another mate.
    1. Sperm is stored in the spermatheca
    2. I know it’s gross but males are often doing mating dances and defending their territory in case any female comes along. They don’t seem to be as picky as the females.
  3. They find mates using:
    1. Vision
      1. Swarms
      2. Color
      3. Light
    2. Hearing
      1. Cicadas
      2. Grasshoppers
    3. Smell
    4. Touch
Lovely insect habitat right outside my own home

Many insects find each other through mating dances, light flashes or ‘sex-attractant’ pheromones which can be produced/performed by either males or females. Mating dances are specific to each type of insect and allow for their mate to find them or for them to find their mate. Dance patterns can be anything from flying in circles in an attempt to attract the females attention and she might possibly fly through his fancy dance to staying in a specific territory and zipping back and forth to assert dominance.

Pheromones -This is one of the way that pesticides are effective. It isn’t the pheromones that kill the insects but what is at the end of that tunnel. People put out bait that is coated in pheromones (which varies from insect to insect) and they either trap the insects inside a sticky trap or a net trap or they lure them to their deaths by poison or insectide.

I’m not advocating for any specific way but I am inserting that many people allow for a certain amount of pests inside their gardens, homesteads or whatever they are growing. They only spray when a population has grown out of control or once a season during a specific time before breeding is able to take place. Over spraying is a huge issue and can cause populations to grow out of control.

A nice green area with lots of spring growth (I really hope it doesn’t freeze again before April)

I’m just now learning about these things and I find that they are important to know and understand when I am attempting to start my own food forest. That being said there are a lot of homemade sprays that can kill or deter insect populations, just remember to know what insect you are spraying for. Guessing could kill many unnecessary insects in the process.

Without basic knowledge of insects in my area I might not notice when there is a problem or issue; also I might not notice when an invasive insect arrives. Also, having a diverse population of insects can help with the health of your plants.

More stuff to come… hopefully it’s interesting.

Photo credit to Larry Silsbee

Plant Names and Classifications

Are you like me and didn’t know that common plant names are not the best way of identifying plants because a lot of the common names get confused or could overlap with others? I mean there are trees that are called oak trees that are not in the same group. It’s just a bunch of craziness and I just want to make it clear: up until this point I was entirely ignorant. I’m cool with it.

Now there is a science to plant classification and in that science there are two categories that we should be aware of and that is the plant taxonomy and plant systematic systems. We used to go by common names but it often became confusing  for a lot of people. Today we classify all plants based on their genetic and evolutionary characteristics, this means that the plants are grouped based on who their common ancestors are.

In horticulture they are primarily concerned with the last three levels of classification: Species, Genus and Family.

The species is the most basic level of classification and below this there can be many subspecies. These plants are usually the most closely related to one another and they can interbreed freely.

The Genus is a group of related species.

The Family is the general group of Genus who are all related by a common ancestor.

There are two important flowering plant families that my professor made sure that we covered. Frankly, I’ve already learned more than what I knew before and I am pleased, but we’re only part of the way through so I’ll continue to let you know what I know or I am learning.

First is the dicot family, which is a flowering family with two cotelydons (embrodic leaves). Just to let you know those cotelydons are inside and this is the largest of the two families. There are over 200,000 types and they are everywhere. They are roses, myrtle trees and so many more.

The second flowering family is the Monocot. They are grass like flowering plants that only have one cotelydon per seed. In agriculture the majority of biomass is created through monocots. You might find a monocot as wheat, rice, bamboo, sugar cane, forage grasses and many others. This family includes many bulb flowers like daffodils, lilies, and iris. They are not simply flowers and grasses but also tumeric, garlic, and asparagus.

Both are angiosperms and very popular. I really enjoy these classes and can’t wait to learn more. How many more things am I going to learn? Who knows but I can’t wait.

Although this information may not be useful right away I am certain being able to identify plant families will be useful in the future. These pictures are by a wonderful lady named Vivian Morris.

Plant names are identified not my their family but by the genus and species. Common names change by region and can be confusing because a rose is a rose and can be any different species of rose if you are looking for a specific type. Although common names can be misleading botanical names are not. The Botanic name is a Latin name accepted world wide.

For example: Magnolia alba or Ligustrum album.

Until next time…