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Japanese Beetles are on the Prowl
You can count on Japanese beetles choosing the prettiest roses in your garden for their lunch. Killing them on the spot brings some satisfaction, but it is merely a brief solution. Their friends will fly in from other places, so stay on top of them with Sevin dust, imadocloprid spray or other approved products until the season passes.
The only long-term fix is to decrease next year’s beetle trouble by treating lawns where the grubs live. Treat lawns that have shown signs of grub damage in the past with imidacloprid now, before their eggs hatch.
Make this work its best by getting your neighbors on board, too. Because Japanese beetles are such strong fliers, you can expect visitors from miles away, so the more lawns around you that are grub-free, the better.
Still Time for Seeded Flowers
You know those old favorite flowers like cleome that pop up in the garden on their own? There is still time to buy a few packets of seed and start them where they can reseed themselves year after year. Just barely scratch the seed into a flowerbed and keep the soil moist while the seeds sprout. Right now you can sow seeds of zinnia, cleome, sunflowers, tickseed, tithonia (Mexican sunflower), heirloom cockscomb, non-hybrid marigolds and cosmos. They’ll start blooming in late July and August — a refreshing sight for mid-summer. These are good flowers to cut and bring inside, too, but leave some in the garden in fall to drop seeds to start the bed all over next year. If possible, sow on a flat piece of ground to keep seeds from washing down slope.
Look Out for Hormworms
Be on the lookout for hormworms on tomato plants. At first these pests start out so small that you don’t notice them. By the time they’re a full-grown 3 or 4 inches long, they’ll strip a plant overnight. Even though hornworms are easy to miss at first, their droppings are not. If you see barrel-shaped black-green hornworm dung like what is pictured at right, then drop what you’re doing and check your plants carefully. Often towards the tips of stems will rest a hornworm, or two or three. There are rarely more than just a few per plant, so the simplest way to get rid of them is to pull them off and destroy.
Go Hosta Shopping
Looking for good shade perennials that need little care? Try hostas. Now is a good time to shop around for the ones that suit your fancy because they’ve grown to full size in gardens and in nursery containers by June. With so many shades, patterns and sizes available, look carefully before buying. The ones with lots of white in the leaves really brighten a shady bed when planted like a ground cover, while a single, big chartreuse or blue one becomes a punctuation mark in a bed.
Even in warmer South Alabama, there are plenty of hostas with a subtropical lineage that will please you. Good ones throughout the state include Alba marginata, Aureo mar-ginata, Elegans, Francee, Frances Williams and Patriot. Royal Standard and So Sweet will surprise you with sweet blooms.
Mix hostas with masses of astilbe or fern under trees. They make great companions for daffodil bulbs, too, because the short time that hostas are dormant coincides with when daffodils come up. As daffodil foliage dies down, the emerging hosta leaves tend to hide it. Keep this combo in mind for September when the bulbs arrive.
In places where slugs are a problem, you’ll need a pet-safe slug bait to protect leaves because slugs may like them as much as we do.
Mulch Helps with Summer Heat
Your key vegetables, flowers and shrubs will appreciate a layer of mulch right now if the ground around them is bare. Mulched tomatoes are less likely to crack. Mulched shrubs and flowers don’t wilt as easily. A layer two to three inches thick keeps the soil cool and maintains moisture. Organic mulch such as clean straw, pine needles, pine bark or compost is best because it adds organic matter to the soil. If you can’t mulch everything, mulch your prized plants.
Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.