Adventures in gardening

Tomatoes purchased at the Douglas High School Ag sale survived Tuesday morning's cold snap and are starting to bloom.

Tomatoes purchased at the Douglas High School Ag sale survived Tuesday morning's cold snap and are starting to bloom.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Recent sunshine and pleasant temperatures offer inspiration to get outside and work in my yard. These days, however, my efforts feel less about beautifying outdoor spaces and more about preparing a buffet for the ravenous deer that peruse our backyard in the nighttime and early morning hours.

Though I haven’t actually seen any deer in the yard, their presence is fully evidenced by the piles of scat dotted across the lawn and in the number of newly emerging plants that have been chewed to the ground. These hungry hoofers are emboldened enough to come right up to the back patio and munch from the potted plants set near the back door.

I’m determined to find a combination of pollinator-friendly flowering plants that will thrive in our yard in spite of all the foraging and feasting. A generous friend offered irises from her own yard earlier this spring, and I’m hoping for blooms from those in the coming years. A neighbor shares clusters of daisies and black-eyes Susans that have naturalized in his yard, and those have both transplanted well without much disruption from the deer. Lavender and Salvia don’t seem to entice the deer, either, so those will also play a prominent role in this year’s cultivation.

Another ongoing challenge is the abundance of aphids that have taken up residence in a flowering plum tree near the front door. We’ve got a rosebush out front that typically sees some aphid activity, but the flowering plum has never had an insect issue in the twenty years it’s been in the yard. Recently, there’s been a telltale sheen of sticky honeydew on the tree’s leaves, which are gnarled and curled at the tips.

I’ve been blasting the tree with a strong stream of water each morning and evening to try and get rid of the little suckers, and a few ladybug sightings here and there give hope that the problem will be solved without much more damage.

Then a few nights ago, I noticed a bunch of insect activity around a honeysuckle vine near the back fence. The plant was teeming with oblong beetles that had dark wing covers and reddish-orange heads. The beetles moved constantly, flying from leaf to leaf, and I couldn’t get a photo of one in spite of their numbers.

A quick online search brought up an image of a Podabrus pruinosus, or Soldier Beetle. Turns out this aptly named critter is great at helping to keep aphid populations in check and a welcome addition to the garden. Hopefully, a few beetles will make their way to the flowing plum tree out front and enjoy a feast.

Summer solstice and a full moon

Wednesday marked the last full day of spring. Summer officially arrives today at the solstice, when the sun reaches its farthest point north in the sky. This takes place 1:51 p.m. Thursday, so take advantage of the longest day of the year and head outside to enjoy some extra sunshine.

Friday brings June’s full moon, which offers a great opportunity to go outside in the evening hours and see some moonlight magic.

Check out this video from NASA for some helpful skywatching tips and other upcoming celestial events to look out for this month:

Amy Roby can be reached at


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