From Square Foot Gardens

Getting Rid of Pesky Japanese Beetles



It’s the time of year when Japanese Beetles find there way into your garden and they can create devastation in no time if they aren’t dealt with quickly. While they generally don’t eat dogwood, forsythia, holly, lilac, evergreens and Hosta, they’ll eat darn near everything else. These beetles feed on flowers and fruits making a skeleton of the leaves by eating the green parts and leaving the veins. Adults are most active from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on warm summer days. These voracious pests prefer plants in direct sun, so shady areas are usually less damaged.

Adult Japanese beetles are one quarter to one half inch long with copper colored wing covers and a shiny metallic green head. Between the green head and tiny tufts of white hair along their side you’ll recognize them easily as they happily munch on your roses.

The bacterial spore, sold as ‘Doom’ or ‘Grub Attack’ is generally used to control these pests. Using a hormone lure in your yard simply attracts more beetles to your yard. Put the lure somewhere else a hundred yards away encouraging the beetles to go elsewhere. Unfortunately, reducing the beetles in your yard will not reduce their attacks in succeeding years. These beetles are great fliers and can travel upwards of ten miles from where they hatched.

Handpicking is also effective on your prized plants – drop the beetles into a bucket of soapy water to kill them. There is some data that suggests hand picking is as effective as spraying noxious chemicals and you know you have killed the beetle when it drowns in your soapy bucket. One trick is to hold the bucket of soapy water under the plant and then shake the plant. Beetles will fall off the plant right into the bucket and you’ll get more beetles if you do this in the early morning before they start feeding and flying. Several birds (grackles, cardinals, meadowlarks) feed on the adult beetles so encourage birds in your yard.

If you decide to use a lure, place it at least 100 feet away from your garden. Lures like the Tanglefoot 300000665 Japanese Beetle Trap attract beetles and if you place one in your garden, you’ll have all the neighbors beetles visiting as well. Find a neighbor who doesn’t garden to host the lures and traps.

Top 10 Perennials for Summer Gardens – My Pick

Blue Delphiniums
Blue Delphiniums

As much as I love the ability to walk barefoot through the back lawn to my raised bed gardens and pick fresh, pesticide-free peppers, tomatoes, herbs and whatever else I’ve decided to plant in any given year, I love perennial flowers even more.

What is it about perennials that enthralls me the most? Certainly the longevity of the plants is at the top of the list. I have irises and peonies that have been passed down through several generations on both sides of the family. Deep red peony blossoms that are fragrant beyond belief – unlike many of the hybrid flowers on the market these days (which brings me to the second reason – the heavenly smell). Memories of strolling barefoot through my grandmother’s flower gardens, carefully tiptoeing along the limestone paved paths as summer breezes carried the sweet scent of garden phlox through the air.

Here are my top 10 favorite perennials and the reasons why I like them:

Irises – One of the hardiest plants you can find that require very little care other than keeping them free of borers. They come in hundreds of colors and you can even create your own with a little practice.

Peonies – another very hardy plant that is available in a multitude of colors. The size and smell of the blossoms are heavenly. A fresh bouquet will brighten any room. Very romantic too.

Blanket Flower – these are low maintenance, bright and cheerful and do well with little water. They make a great mid-summer colorful addition to the garden.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – bright and compact, this winner will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. It spreads easily but is not invasive.

Black-eyed Susan – similar to the blanket flower, this compact daisy-like flower adds sunny color the mid-summer to fall garden. It can easily be reseeded and is hardy and low maintenance.

Coneflower – This is a daisy-like flower also, but is taller. It adds height to the garden and is great for attracting bees and butterflies as well. The roots are used in the natural cold remedy echinacea.

Hostas – Talk about hardy! Hostas will grow in the shadiest area you can find. The number of options and selection of colors and varigated leaf choices is almost unlimited.

Delphinium – these are not so easy to grow but when placed in the proper location they produce the most romantically beautiful spiked blossoms. The colors of blue and purple simply can’t be beat.

Creeping Phlox – This is a low creeping ground cover that flowers in mid-spring. I love the way it drapes over a rock edging. It’s works wonderful as a rock garden border.

Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)– A mid-summer bloomer that will attract many friendly garden visitors too. Traditionally a tall spikey plant, it can also be found in 18-20″ heights with white, purple, or pink blossoms.

Finally – the thing that I love most about perennials is how easily they can be shared with friends and family. Plant exchanges are a popular way to increase the variety of plants in your garden. Perennials need to be thinned out every few years, so it’s a great opportunity for you to offer to share your garden favorites with others. Younger family members are sure to love a shoot from Grandma’s favorite peony bush or Aunt Mary’s purple irises. If only these treasured heirlooms could talk – think of the family history (and secrets) they could share!

Keeping Japanese Beetles Away From Strawberries

How to rid strawberries of Japanese Beetles
Japanese Beetle on Strawberry Blossom

While strolling through my garden this evening, I encountered a colorful (very unwelcome) visitor on my strawberry plants.  Japanese Beetles love strawberries and eggplants (and most other vegetation) and will quickly destroy a plant in no time.   They are one of the most destructive garden pests.  Its best to deal with them as soon as they appear, since they attract each other with pheromones.

Since I only saw one, it was easy to deal with but from what I’ve read on some of the gardening sites, they can be very difficult to get rid of.

Some organic methods that are recommended are:

  • Flicking them into a dish of soapy water which will kill them.
  • Using traps to attract them (this is favored by some gardeners, but not recommended by others since it seemed to make the problem worse by attracting even more).
  • Applying Milky Spore (click here for product info) to your lawn and garden areas (one treatment can last for up to 15 years).
  • Picking them off and killing them.

Harvesting ripe fruit promptly helps too, since they are especially attracted to overripe fruit. I’ll be keeping an eye out for these pests and removing them as soon as they appear so they don’t take over my garden.

Raised Bed Gardens – Why Start One?

raised bed gardens
Raised Bed Gardens

Over the years when I drove by a home that had a raised bed garden, I often wondered why bother? Why didn’t they just till up the ground and plant their vegetables in the earth like humans have been doing for ever? I’m sure the Garden of Eden was not a raised bed garden!

During all of the years that my family was growing (my baby is 20!!!), I planted, tended, and harvested large amounts of vegetables from my massive garden plot -100′ x 50′ at one point. It produced an abundant supply of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, beans, cukes, sweet corn, popcorn, radishes, peas (though they were often eaten before they made it to the table), green beans, kohlrabi, squash . . . you get the idea.

We ate fresh produce from the family garden all summer long, and during winter months, enjoyed preserved vegetables and fruits that were frozen and canned in the fall of the previous summer.

As the kids grew and my work responsibilities became more time consuming, the size of the vegetable garden shrank to a more manageable 50′ x 40′ area and I created a water garden including a pond with a waterfall in the area that was reclaimed. Tending both gardens was often my therapy. My eldest brother once commented on how beautiful my gardens were and I told him it was my therapy. He promptly replied, “You must need a lot of therapy!” At that time my kids were fully grown and venturing out on their own and I was recently divorced and needed a way to keep myself occupied that didn’t cost a lot of money. Gardening for me, has always been a way to forget my troubles.

Beau in the Backyard Pond
Beau in the Backyard Pond, July 2002

Moving yards of mulch one wheelbarrow at a time and hoeing, weeding and cleaning out the pond are as dirty a job as anything I’ve done, including cleaning out the dairy barn on the farm I grew up on. But it is so satisfying and rewarding to be able to reap the rewards of the hard labor and aching muscles after a day in the gardens. And I sleep so much better than after a stressful day of managing computer networks and user requests.

After Steve’s stroke my gardens have gone to seed and weeds. I spend very little time at my home, although I do hope to get them under control at some point. In the meantime, I’m gardening in my new home at Steve’s. We setup two raised bed gardens last spring, and added another last weekend. We chose to do raised beds for a number of reasons. The main one being that there are two massively huge oak trees shading both the front and back lawn. They’re beautiful, but the roots are large and barely below the surface of the ground so digging up the lawn for a garden would be harmful and difficult. With the raised garden beds,
we can locate them in the area that receives the most sun without disturbing the ground and tree roots.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to like having to garden within the confines of a 4’x4′ wood structure. Turns out I love it! They are so easy to prepare, plant, weed (it takes second – truly), and the produce is delicious. It is truly amazing how much is produced from one bed. I follow Mel Bartholomew’s method the All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space which describes in details how to get started. I loaned the book to my neighbor so she could learn about the method, and we installed a 4’x4′ garden in her backyard two weeks ago.

The true beauty of the raised bed gardens is that it frees up my time so that I can give more attention to the water garden and perennial gardens, which I enjoy even more than the vegetable gardening.