Garden Journal: Nab beetles before they attack plants


Blare the trumpets! The Beetles are back!
No, not those Beetles. These beetles are the lily leaf
beetle, viburnum leaf beetle and flea beetles.

n Inspect your Oriental and Asiatic lilies now for half-inch long, bright red beetles that are feeding on the leaves. If you have only a few plants, the beetles can be easily hand-picked and dropped into a jar of soapy water. For the squeamish or where the numbers of beetles are too large to manage by hand-picking, try applications of a microbial insecticide product containing spinosad. This organic product can also be used to control the slug-like larvae of this pest.

n Examine the foliage of viburnums for skeletonized foliage, a sign that the larvae of Viburnum Leaf Beetle are present. The larvae are quite small, yellow in color with small black spots. Unless controlled early, the larvae are capable of defoliating the entire plant. Application of a product containing spinosad is the safest and effective control.

n Make daily inspections of young vegetable plants, especially members of the cabbage family, and look for tiny black beetles which hop like fleas when disturbed, hence their name flea beetles. Flea beetles can destroy seedling vegetable plants in a short time. Placing floating row covers over recent transplants or emerging seedlings can offer protection against flea beetles. However, if the beetles are already present, apply any one of products containing spinosad, neem, kaolin clay (Surround) or insecticidal soap. Even though these are "organic" products, read and follow label directions.


Beyond battle with the beetles:

n Apply fertilizer to lawns if no other applications have been made this spring. Don't use a heavy hand; a light application of low to moderate amounts of nitrogen is better than a large dose of fertilizer.

n Widen the crotches. Huh? Well, that certainly needs some explanation. It has long been known by apple growers that wide angles between branches and the trunk promote higher yields and larger fruit. Branches can be widened by weighing them down with weights or by spreading the limbs. Spreading is done by placing a strip of lath, with V-shaped notches at each end, between a young side branch and the tree trunk. Do this type of training while the trees are still young.

n Carefully inspect bedding plants and vegetable transplants when shopping. Look for any signs of pest problems, e.g. white fly and spider mite. Also, check leaves for spots and stems for blotches. You don't want to bring pest and disease problems into your gardens.

n Sow seeds of warm season crops -- i.e. sweet corn, beans, squash, melons, cucumbers, okra and pumpkins -- but wait until next week to set out transplants of vine crops, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

n Mark these two events on your calendar:

Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners will be soil testing and answering gardening questions at the Berkshire Mall Farmers' Market on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Directions for obtaining soil for testing may be found on the web site.

Mass Audubon's Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary welcomes all to Family Fun Day on Saturday, June 7, at 472 W. Mountain Rd., Lenox, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. There'll be indoor and outdoor activities, kids' crafts, nature walks, lectures including Tom Tyning's "Stupendous Snakes" and Project Native plants for sale. Admission is free.


Lest we forget what this holiday weekend is all about, I offer these lines from the poem "What Heroes Gave" by Roger J. Robicheau:

Remember this from year to year

What heroes gave -- shan't disappear

We'll never let their special day

Their time for honor slip away

These brave fought for a nation free

If not for them, where would we be?


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