JAPANESE BEETLES…need I say more. This is turning into a terrible year for Japanese Beetles. Typically, I recommend to my clients to treat their property with grub control in the spring. This will kill the grubs (Japanese beetle larvae) that turn into the beetles that devour our vegetation. I cheat, and have a lawn company treat my lawn areas every year with a grub control. Not only will this kill the grubs, but it will also reduce your mole population since they are attracted to the grubs. If you treat your property, that’s wonderful, but if your neighbor does not, then you may still have a problem.
Unfortunately, it’s too late for that now. The beetles are here. So now, what can we do?
DO NOT purchase a Japanese Beetle Trap. They simply attract everyone’s beetles to your house.
Option 1 – Go out early in the morning with a jar of soapy water. Pluck off the beetles, and drown them in your jar. When your jar is full, and the beetles are dead, just dump into the back of the garden and start over again. Leave the jar outside so that it’s always handy.
Option 2 – Dust the foliage with Sevin Dust, available at most garden centers such as Home Depot, Lowes, Valley View Farm. One friend puts some dust in an old stocking and swings it around the foliage to be treated. Try to avoid getting the dust on your skin, in your eyes or breathing. Try to avoid getting the dust on flowers since it will kill many of our beneficial pollinators. Hibiscus syriacus / Rose-of-Sharon is one of their favorites. It’s not in bloom yet, so now would be a good time to dust.
Option 3 – Treating the soil with Nematodes in the Spring. Nematodes are living organisms that will kill the grubs. Go to www.gardensalive.com for reliable information.
PRUNE SPRING FLOWERING SHRUBS…. It’s not too late to prune spring flowering shrubs such as Azalea, Pieris, Rhododendron, Spirea and Viburnum. After the flowers have dropped off, you can safely prune, and the plant will have plenty of time for the buds to set for next year.
DEAD HEADING PERENNIALS DOES HELP….Most perennials only bloom once a year. After the blooms are finished, it does help to cut the flower stem down to the height of the attractive foliage. This prevents unnecessary energy flowing to the development of seed, and instead flows into the development of the root system. If you want to propagate your plants from seed, then leave at least a few flowers for this purpose.
COLLECTING SEED TO GROW YOUR OWN….I have trouble keeping a few of my perennials going, such as ‘Nora Barlow’ Columbine / Aquilegia ‘Nora Barlow’, and of course Foxglove / Digitalis which is a biennial. For these, I collect the seeds before their capsules burst, and I plant them quite shallow in a designated part of my garden. It’s in the back and out of sight. I know where to look for the progeny of my effort, and I’m careful not to be too hasty about weeding. The germination has worked well. I’ve been a bit lazy about transplanting the young plants to more ideal locations later, but at least I have the option to do so.
WHEN TO LEAVE THE PERENNIALS ALONE….Many birds love the seeds produced by our plants, and sometimes the dried seed heads are very attractive in the winter. A prime example is Black-Eyed Susan / Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’. After the flowers are finished, you are left with the round, black center which persists all winter long, and is quite attractive against the snow.
RENEW UNSIGHTLY FOLIAGE…Foliage of our perennials can discolor during the growing season either from too much sun (Sun Scorch) or too much humidity (Powdery Mildew). There are other afflictions as well, but the key is whether the appearance of the foliage bothers you. If so, cut down the plant to the height of fresh new foliage or to a height of 2-3 inches if all of the foliage is bad. Usually, the plant will generate new, healthy, disease free foliage this season. In the rare case that foliage does not reappear, don’t panic. There is a very good chance that the plant will still appear again next year.
WEEDING AND WATERING… will be the greatest challenge for JULY. When I walk past a weed, I generally stoop down to pull it, and then just leave the weeds in a small pile next to the bed. Then, when I actually take some time for ‘gardening’, I pick up all the piles. It may not be the prettiest way to handle it, but it does seem to help. For large areas of weeds, RoundUp is my new best friend. The poison is absorbed through the leaves, and then heads down into the root system to kill the plant. Extreme caution should be used to protect the leaves of plants you want to keep. There are some organic options available including one that involves vinegar, but I have yet to try them.
THISTLE…has a tap root that seems to go on forever. When pulled, you rarely get the whole plant. There is a product on the market that targets Thistle called Lontrell, available at John Deere Landscapes, and others. Spray on the foliage. It will be absorbed into the root system, and kill the plant. The good news is that it does NOT seem to bother other trees and shrubs. It will damage some perennials, so do use caution when applying.
The DROUGHT… will probably arrive in July / August, and we will all need to watch our water consumption. I know most of us have learned to avoid watering in the evening to avoid mold and mildew developing on the foliage, but when we experience extreme heat, sometimes an evening watering is actually the best way to go. At least the water will have a chance to soak into the soil without immediate evaporation by the sun, and the foliage will dry before it gets hot. I frequently water between 6p-10p. If you have a timer, you can water at 3 or 4am. Remember, a thorough soaking for 15 – 30 minutes 2 times per week is much better than a brief spritz daily.
HAVE A NICE SUMMER, AND ENJOY YOUR GARDENS.