Garden Daybook 5/16/12

I managed to find time to collect my first basket of chamomile flowers today. After they are completely dry I will store them in a bale jar in my dark pantry cupboard. The chamomile flowers will make a soothing bedtime tea.

This particular plant is Matricaria recutita or German Chamomile. I first seeded this Chamomile into my herb garden several years ago. German chamomile is a hardy annual. This means that it grows, blooms, sets and drops seed, and then the mother plant dies. The seeds will lay in the ground until the following spring when they germinate, bloom, and drop seed and so on. So . . . once you get chamomile growing, you should have seedlings every year. If I find too many seedlings in the spring I simply pull out the plants I don’t want and allow the others form a patch in the herb garden. I will get several pickings to dry before the plants wither in the summer heat.

I found this beautiful praying mantid egg case in a weedy patch in the perennial bed today. Last fall, a praying mantid laid several hundred eggs and surrounded them with a foam that hardened and protected them over the winter. Click on the picture and you will be able to see the layers of the egg case. One female can make up to fifteen or more egg cases. When the temperatures are just right, in the late spring or early summer, the eggs hatch and hundreds of tiny praying mantid nymphs will emerge from between the overlapping scales of the cocoon. Not all of the hatchlings will live to adulthood. Most of them will become dinner for birds and other insects. I find it interesting that you can’t tell if the cocoon is empty because it does not split open. The tiny mantids simply escape the cocoon through the overlapping scales the mother laid down. Mama Mantid is quite an architect and plans the cocoon for escape.

I doubt you will see the tiny mantids but, if you are in the right place at the right time, you may meet an adult praying mantid in the late summer or fall. I love to watch them turn their heads to look at me. They seem very intelligent and I swear they could speak if they wanted to.

If you find an egg case you can bring it home and place it a few feet off the ground in your own garden. Hopefully the newly hatched nymphs will find food enough when they hatch and you will have a resident population. What fun!

Hey from the farm,

Fran, The Country Cousin

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