A bouquet of gardening topics

There are several things that I want to talk about today.

First, as I walk and drive through my local neighborhood, I see that many more people are growing vegetables for the first time. Thats so inspiring! But it also reminds me that its been a while since Ive toured and written about someones vegetable plot. If you have a garden that you think is interesting and would like me to come out, please write or e-mail me.

What counts as interesting? Maybe you are growing all heirloom species, or perhaps youve figured out a foolproof fence that keeps deer and other four-legged creatures at bay. Perhaps you have a passion for eggplant and are growing 12 different varieties this year, or maybe youre growing and using culinary and medicinal herbs.

Ive yet to come across a vegetable grower, no matter how expert and proficient, who thought his/her garden was worth writing about. So, before you discount your garden as uninteresting, please know that I love meeting other gardeners, seeing their gardens, and sharing them with others. I love making those connections and I always learn something new.

If you truly believe that your garden is ordinary, do you know someone whose garden you think is extraordinary? Please let me know that, too.

Second, when I was out walking one night last week, I heard a strange sound coming from my next-door neighbors yard. The noise sounded like loud, chirping frogs in the trees; but that was impossible, wasnt it?

I was able to make a recording good enough to send to my friend Jen, who is connected with the Brandywine Valley Association. She asked around, and got a positive I.D.: gray tree frogs. I felt pleased that my idea of frog turned out to be correct. But I was also surprised that after living here for nearly 30 years, this is the first time Id heard these frogs. Have they been here all along, or did they just arrive this spring? Do they live here year round?

I learned that the gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) is a species of small (two-inch), arboreal frog native to the Eastern United States. You can watch (and listen) to a video of them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kd5c4p8-0M. I also learned that their diet consists of moths, tree crickets, ants, flies, grasshoppers and beetles, so Im glad to know theyre around.

Third, theres a new reason to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. A tropical disease called chikungunya has arrived in the United States, and experts fear that this new virus is potentially worse than West Nile virus. Four cases have been reported in Florida through the end of May this year. Florida is a long way from Chester County, but this news does remind homeowners to be vigilant in keeping their property free of standing water.

Mosquitoes can breed in surprisingly small amounts of standing water and can breed in as little as 10 days. Its important to drain water from garbage cans, empty flower pots, pool covers, etc. A good, safe option for treating standing water such as ponds, ditches, etc., is to use Bti (the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis), which controls mosquitoes at the larval stage. Look for Mosquito Dunks, which contain Bti.

And finally, a reader pointed out that while last weeks column talked very nicely about avoiding tick bites, it failed to say much about the why, i.e., Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is just one of several diseases carried and transmitted by ticks. Other infections transmitted at the same time as Lyme disease include Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Bartonellaosis, Ehrlichiosis, Mycoplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Left untreated, Lyme Disease can cause lifelong, debilitating symptoms.

The Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (LDASEPA) has excellent information about prevention, symptoms, testing, treatment and support groups on their website: http://www.lymepa.org/html/general_information.html.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pcbaxter@verizon.net, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442.