Tuesday, October 29, 2013

End of the season!

Our Library garden is done for the season. All that's left is the mulch we used for pathways and around the plants, a few weeds with seed pods, and the faithful milkweed plant, standing like a sentry over the small field with memories of the monarch who was born on it. We had a great time sharing our garden with the families of Ames, and we hope you had a great time in your garden this year, too!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our monarch flies away (on Wednesday September 18)--

In his jar on the picnic table at the Library garden

Sitting on a stick, feeling the wind


He flew over and up to a nearby tree, where he hung for quite a while (until we left). You can barely see him hanging like a triangle. Find the end of the leftmost branch. Where that branch meets the leaves of the branch above it, the butterfly is hanging. He's ready to go to Mexico now!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monarch has emerged!

Wow! We have a Library butterfly! This picture is from 10:30 this morning. (Sorry that it's sideways. The green lid should be on top.) It emerged from its chrysalis around 9:30, and spent the morning pumping fluid from its body to its wings. (See how fat the abdomen is? And how you can still see the empty chrysalis?) At 1:00, it started flapping its wings, drying them out and strengthening them, which will be its afternoon project. I put a little sugar water in a sponge in the bottom, so it may eat, too.

**Between 5 and 5:30 PM today, if all goes well, I'll be releasing him (or her, we're not sure) into the Library garden. They like hot and sunny weather, so today is perfect. Join us if you'd like to! It's in the community garden plot that's 2 blocks south of S. 4th Street and S. Maple Ave.

Curious to know more about monarchs? Check out these links:

(By the way, sharp-eyed readers may notice I moved the jar lid this morning and placed it over a larger vase to give the butterfly more room to flap its wings.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New Monarch Soon!

Our caterpillar is on its way to becoming a butterfly! On the left you can see the chrysalis as it was for 12 days--light green with beautiful gold dots. On the right, you can see how much it has changed--see the beautiful black and orange wings peeking through? (Sorry for the sideways pictures.)

Wow! We will probably see our new butterfly tomorrow (Wednesday). We hope to release him into the garden and send him on his way to Mexico. If you'd like to be a part of that, call the Youth Desk at 239.5644 for an update on what time we'll do it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Our Own Very Hungry Caterpillar!

 A very welcome sight awaited me in our library garden plot on Wednesday morning--a monarch caterpillar, munching on the milkweed plant! You may remember from our earlier posts that the milkweed grew on its own in May, then died from a mole invasion, and then grew back strong and healthy.

Our milkweed now has three fresh stalks and lots of great leaves, so it made a great home for the caterpillar! (Most other milkweed has gone to seed by now. I'm not sure how much difference it makes, other than that ours just looks fresher.)

 By the time I found it, it had already munched through several leaves (as you can see from the picture). It was really large--about as long as my finger and fatter. It was munching furiously when I came and had slowed down by the time I left, so it may be making a chrysalis soon. 

We have been watching our milkweed all summer to see if it would host any monarchs, since milkweed is the only plant monarchs eat and its supply is decreasing in North America. We are thrilled to play temporary host to this little creature! Watch the blog for more updates. (Here's an update!)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Baby Pumpkin

It's getting to be the time of year in the garden where you realize some plants are just not going to make it. We're pretty sure our pumpkin plants are in that category now.

We planted them in our Fairy Tale garden, along with beanstalks for Jack and lots of flowers. We thought Cinderella would appreciate having a coach for the ball. :)

The vines grew well for a while, but there is only one pumpkin--and you can see from the picture that it is pretty small. Even these hot days can't help it catch up! In addition, the leaves are now covered with powdery mildew (click here for more info). At this point, we are considering pulling out the whole plant to keep other vegetables from getting infected. Sometimes that's the hard-knock life of gardening!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


We picked these delicious cucumbers and ate them at our program on Tuesday evening!

Cucumbers (and many other vegetables like summer squash) are often tastier and more tender if they're picked when they are small. But sometimes we don't get out to the garden soon enough, and that's okay too!

We grew our cucumbers on the ground this year since we had so much room in our garden plot. Another option is to place the vines on a trellis of some sort and grow them vertically.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Have a Green Garden!

While it's true that most (successful) gardens have a lot of green in them, there are ways to make your garden more green--that is, earth-friendly! Using compost instead of commercial fertilizer and collecting rainwater for watering are two great ways to bring an environmental emphasis to your garden.

We'll have hands-on demonstrations of both compost and rainwater capture tonight at our Have a Green Garden program! We'll also be taste testing our harvest--everything from basil to tomatoes and watermelon to flying saucer squash. It will be fun for the whole family--don't miss it!

7PM tonight (Tuesday) at the Library's plot in the Squaw Creek Community Gardens, 2 blocks south of 4th Street on S. Maple Ave.: Have a Green Garden!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Our garden is looking pretty good, considering how dry it's been this year. We've had a lot of help keeping it well watered, and the hay mulch helps preserve the moisture. You can see our watermelon growing in the bottom right corner, and our marigolds are still going strong, too. We're harvested lots of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers! We have lost a pepper plant and all of the kohlrabi though due to hungry deer.

How is your garden doing, now that it's mid-August? Leave us a comment!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Time to pick the onions

August in the garden means the end of some crops. Sometimes by this time, squash vines have died completely. Some of our gourd plants have died, possibly from a squash borer (more info here) that crawled into the vine and ate it, or possibly from a deer stepping on it. Can you find the deer print in this photo?

Other crops are simply ready for harvest, like these onions. Onions are special because you can eat the green stems (above the ground) and the bulbs below the ground, too! When onions get brown and fall over, they're ready to harvest. (Find more info about onions here.)

How do you like to eat onions? I like mine fried for a long time until they get caramelized and a little crunchy. Often I cook them with zucchini, somewhat like this recipe, only I use a LOT more onion! Try it and see what you think!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Our watermelon plants are growing very well. They have started to creep into the areas where other vegetables are growing! How many different colors of green can you see in this picture?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cherry Tomatoes: Biggest hit of the garden

We have a few cherry tomato plants, and they are typically the biggest hit at our garden programs. Tomatoes taste especially amazing when you eat them right off the vine, warm from the sun. Many people who don't like "regular" tomatoes from the store enjoy these!

**Join us at the garden this Tuesday at 7PM for "Watch What You Eat," a program on food safety and gardening. This program is for the whole family and will feature education, activities, and freshly-harvested food from the garden. (The Library garden is at the Squaw Creek Community Gardens, 2 blocks south of 4th Street on Maple.) 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's a Watermelon!

Okay, so it's not quite so exciting as the recent "It's a Boy" announcement that set the world abuzz, but we are pretty proud of our little guy too! It's very small, but it's healthy, and it is growing up to be a big, strong, watermelon. (Did you guess correctly from Tuesday's post?) 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Want more garden updates?

We're posting more pictures in a Picasa Web Album--if you'd like to see more garden photos (or want to learn what this vegetable is!), check it out by clicking here-- Our Library Garden.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fighting the Weeds

Weeds have been a big issue in our Library garden, like they are for many people. The crabgrass has been the hardest to get rid of, and there are plenty of other weeds that grow really fast--well, they grow like weeds!

One gardener's remedy against weeds is to first get rid of them in an area and then lay down a layer of mulch. The mulch shades and smothers the little weeds in the ground and keeps them from growing too much. You can use ground cover cloth, wood chips, dried grass clippings, chopped leaves, or many other materials.

We've decided to use dried meadow hay. There is now a thick layer of it around many of our plants. So far it seems to be working! (Now we just have to pull the weeds in all the other spots.) Can you guess which plant this is? Leave your guess in the comments and we'll post the answer on Thursday.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Milkweed Recovery!

Remember our milkweed plant that had completely died because of a mole tunnel? (See the whole story here.)

Well, amazingly, after I pulled out the dead one, a new plant grew in its place. See how healthy and green it looks?

It's a very hardy plant, which is good news for monarch butterflies!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cucumbers are all grown up!

Remember the tiny cucumbers we had in the garden just a couple weeks ago? (See them here.)

Now they're all grown up! This cucumber would be wonderful in a salad with tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh herbs. Yum!

I think we'll have some more cucumbers next week--look at blooms on the vine.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tomatoes are tops!

Cherry tomatoes are ready for harvesting! Nothing tastes better than a sun-warmed, ripe red tomato, eaten right in the garden.

Almost-ripe tomatoes can be picked and stored on the counter. They will ripen and taste delicious! (This is a good idea if you think bugs or squirrels might eat your tomatoes before you do.)

Want to try a tomato? Come to the Library Garden this Tuesday, July 16, at 7PM for our Bug Out! program, and meet an entomologist, too! (The garden is at the Squaw Creek Community Gardens, 2 blocks south of 4th Street on Maple.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Weeds: Good and Bad

One favorite gardener's definition of a weed is "anything that grows where you don't want it to." By any definition, we have lots of weeds in our library garden! There's grass, vining weeds, trailing weeds, straight up and down weeds, etc. Every now and then, a plant grows that we didn't plant--but we still want to keep it. Milkweed was one of those (read more here), and dillweed is another one. You can see the dill in the left side of the photo--it's very feathery. Like all herbs, it smells great when you rub it. (Smelling it even made it more fun to pull the weeds!) There's a little yellow stick next to it to remind everyone that we'd like to keep this plant and see how it grows. Peas are what we planted in this section--you can see them in the upper right corner. The little strings are called "tendrils" and they help peas climb. We planted these pea plants from dried whole peas--and used the rest of the bag to make pea soup!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our First Harvest and Thinning the Radishes

First harvest--One beautiful red radish! (Saturday, June 22). It's easy to know when to pick them since the red parts poke out of the ground and stand out so well among the green leaves. :)

Second harvest (Wednesday June 26). Today I harvested some radishes and thinned out our radish patch. Thinning means pulling out a few of the plants that are too close to each other, and it helps the plants and vegetables that stay in the ground to grow stronger and bigger. When Miss Jerri the librarian saw this picture, she said, "I've seen the harvest and I choose the bottoms!" Although in this picture the radishes happen to be at the top of the picture, the yummy parts grow underground. Have you seen the giant radish at the Library? Stop by to see it, and while you're there, pick up the book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens so you can understand Miss Jerri's comment. :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tiny Cucumbers!

Our cucumber plant is blooming: and there are tiny cucumbers at the ends of the blossoms! Cucumbers often grown quickly; when do you think they will be ready to harvest?

The Story of the Milkweed

This is a recent picture of a healthy milkweed plant. Many gardeners in the Ames Community Garden allow milkweed to grow in their plots because it's a very special plant. It's the only plant that monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on! To learn more, check out the book Monarch and Milkweed from the library.   

We had a milkweed plant in the Library's section of the garden, too, and we were pretty excited about it. Unfortunately, part of the reality of gardening is that we share the area with animals (not just butterflies), and some animals are not garden-friendly. See how cracked the dirt is in this photo? That's because a mole tunneled under it. They like to eat the grubs in the ground. The tunneling only killed one of our plants--check the next photo to see which one.
See the brown leaves? That is the remains of our milkweed plant. No butterfly eggs for us this year! Oh well, that's how the garden grows!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ready to grow!

Our garden is ready to grow! We walk on the paths that are covered with wood mulch to keep the seeds and plants safe. It looks like there is a lot of dirt now, but check back in a few weeks and hopefully the plants will be much bigger!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Welcome to the Ames Public Library garden!

Hi everyone! Ames Public Library Youth Services Staff and Smyles the Library Dog welcome you to our blog about our library garden. The theme this year for our summer reading program is Dig Into Reading!, so it was only natural to have a library garden this summer.

Here you can see Smyles getting ready to plant a kohlrabi. Next up was a batch of chives that you can see in the background. You can eat chives like green onions--they have a mild onion taste. They are super easy to grow and often come back year after year.

We'll be posting updates throughout the summer about the progress of our garden's fruits and vegetables. We also have programs that take place right in our garden, so if you want the chance to get dirty and do some digging, join us!