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Let's Grow: Light Up the Night

FOR NOW: Go outside on a warm summer's night and look: what's that flashing light in the bushes? Fireflies, or lightning bugs punctuate the darkness with greenish gold flashes. Just ordinary beetles, really, but their ability to create organic phosphorescence makes these insects amazing. Maybe Mother Nature couldn't stand the fact after dark, beautiful gardens descend into night; she just had to teach lightning bugs to wink at passersby.

Besides bringing a free, live light show to your backyard, fireflies light up for very selfish reasons. Boy and girl bugs communicate with each other by specific pulses and rhythms of natural electricity. If they couldn't glow, they'd never meet, mate, and make more lightning bugs to fascinate us.

Have you ever taken a jar, poked a few holes in the lid, and caught lightning bugs inside to make a lantern? Catch a few, enjoy them, and then watch them glow even brighter as you set them free.

AND LATER: Jack-o-lanterns light up doorways in October with eerie, golden glows that throw spooky shadows to welcome visiting ghoulies. You can grow your own big pumpkin, beginning with seeds in summer. Even without a vegetable garden, your vines will deliver plenty of pumpkins to illuminate the autumn nights.
Find a sunny corner in your yard, maybe in a flowerbed, or even in a compost pile. You'll need a large coffee or institutional-size vegetable can and some pumpkin seeds. Dig a hole the size of your can. Poke holes in the can's bottom and sides, and sink it, leaving about 1" of can above the ground. Next, plant pumpkin seeds around the can. Water where you planted seeds and fill that can with water, too.

Make a chart of Pumpkin's Progress: put down the date planted, then note when sprouts emerge, and record your vine's growth through the hundred days or so from seed to harvest. Pumpkin size depends on healthy vines, so don't forget about them. Fill your can with water and fertilizer weekly and water vines, too, when summer rains don't do the job for you.



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