Monthly Archives: May 2024

Best Fruits for the Urban Garden

With the right plant picks, you can grow a bountiful feast of fruit in your urban garden. From your favorite fruit trees to succulent vines to bushes bursting with berry goodness, your urban garden can be  highly productive, supplying delicious fruit for your nourishment and enjoyment.

What Fruits Need

Fruit-bearing plants need well-drained, loamy soil, adequate water for appropriate juiciness, and abundant sunlight for rich, productive growth. It can be a challenge to meet those needs in an urban environment, but your space may offer more resources than you realize. Study how sunlight moves through your garden space, including how shaded and sun-drenched areas change over time so you can best plan which plants to position for the best growth. Choose good quality potting soil if you’re planting in window boxes, pots, or containers, or amend your natural soil with appropriate compost and add the correct fertilizer to nourish hungry plants. Be prepared to water your plants adequately, particularly if natural rainfall isn’t enough for the plants’ needs. Regardless of the size of your garden space, you can meet fruits’ needs for a delicious and abundant harvest.

Best Fruits for Urban Gardening

The best fruits for urban gardens are those that keep compact shapes and adapt well to smaller spaces. They are also flexible with their sunlight needs, though most fruits require at least some full sun for the best production. Fruits that are well-suited to urban spaces include…

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Bush cherries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

The exact fruits that will do well in your space will vary depending on your gardening zone and climate conditions. Pay particular attention to the number of chill hours fruits may need in order to produce, as this is critical to ensure a good harvest. Depending on the type of plant and its needs, you may even be able to move your gardening efforts indoors and cultivate some fruit plants without any outdoor gardening space at all!

Tips for Urban Garden Fruits

There are different ways to ensure your fruit plants, bushes, trees, and vines thrive in your unique space. To encourage the best growth and healthiest plants…

  • Choose plant cultivars that are self-pollinating and don’t require multiple plants in order to produce fruit.
  • Opt for berry cultivars that are everbearing or repeat-bearing to extend the harvest and get the most fruit from the fewest plants.
  • Provide adequate support with trellises, arbors, pergolas, or other structures that are sturdy enough to handle the mature plants’ size and the fruits’ weight.
  • Create layers of gardening space by using hanging pots and vertical structures that will give you even more room for planting.
  • Use plant stands on casters so you are able to move sun-loving plants around to take advantage of shifting light angles and maximize the plants’ productivity.
  • Choose dwarf or super-dwarf tree varieties that will not only thrive in smaller spaces but will also produce fruit when younger, so your first harvest is not delayed.
  • Dwarf fruit trees are perfect for espalier against a sunny wall.
  • Take steps to encourage bees and hummingbirds in your garden to aid pollination and keep your plants productive.
  • Use netting, reflectors, or other tactics to discourage birds that may raid your harvest even before the fruit has fully ripened.
  • Be alert for pests that may threaten your plants’ health and productivity, as they can find their way into any garden space – even indoors.

Growing fruit in the urban garden can be a tasty and enjoyable pastime, so long as you opt for fruits that will do best with the resources your space provides. By making the most of your space, you’ll easily have a fruitful harvest for all your favorite fresh fruits, homemade jams, preserves, sweet salads, baked goods, and other treats.




Growing and Containing Rampant Spreaders

What do you do when you fall in love with a plant but you know it spreads and could take over your entire garden? You don’t have to give up your hopes of nurturing this plant, you just have to learn how to contain it securely without destroying its beauty.

Favorite Spreaders

Many different plants may be desirable, but have the nasty hidden personality of spreading out of control. Common spreaders that are still garden favorites include…

  • Mint
  • Lamb’s ears
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Beebalm
  • Loosestrifes

Any plant that is labeled as “fast growing” or “aggressive” can potentially take over a garden space and should be treated with caution if you want to keep it contained.

Literal Containing

Containing a known spreader could be as easy as planting it in its own container. Ceramic, metal or resin pots certainly put a punch of color in a corner, on a deck or by the front entrance. They’re also great for adding plant height and focal points in the garden, and they will ensure the plant stays put.

Perhaps a touch of whimsy would add pizzazz to your garden while controlling your marauder. Picture your potential runaway planted in a pot, “sitting” in a hole cut in the seat of a painted and weather-sealed wooden chair. This creates a colorful garden focal point, elevates your beauty and keeps it from spreading. Another quirky option is to use an old, rusty wheelbarrow as the container and position it near the garden or inside a flowerbed. It can be fun to get creative with container options, all of which will help you enjoy your favorite spreading plant without letting it get out of control.

Containing Plants in the Garden

If you want the potential invader in the ground, research the plant well before introducing it to your garden. Different plants require different control measures. Mowing to eliminate new growth controls some plants. Herbicide applications can have an effect on others, while some require hardscaping to control their roots and keep them in place. Some plants may not give in easily to any control methods.

For the Most Vigorous Runners

In cases where plants are nearly assured to take over without proper control methods, trench containment may be the best option.

  • Determine where you would like to plant, bearing in mind the needs of the plant for proper sunlight, moisture and soil condition.
  • Dig a trench 26-30 inches deep along the boundary of the planting area that you wish to contain.
  • Line this trench with a high-density polyethylene liner, leaving 2 inches of the liner above the soil line.
  • Overlap the end of the liner by at least 6-8 inches to that the plant root cannot escape through the opening.
  • Backfill the trench to secure the liner and hold it firmly in place. If desired, you may fill the trench with gravel or other inorganic material to create another level of containment protection.
  • Plant inside the growing area, taking care not to disturb the containment trench.
  • Periodically, check the edges of the trench liner to be sure the roots don’t try to climb over the barrier. If they are, be ruthless and cut them back.

Left to their own devices, vigorously spreading plants can quickly become a nightmare as they take over a garden or landscape. If you know how to contain these plants, however, your dreams of nurturing them in your yard can come true.


Rain Barrels

You’ve heard it said, “When it rains, it pours.” In gardening terms, this could easily refer to the amount of rain on the roof going through the gutters and downspouts, and then out to the storm drains and pouring away from your garden. With the unpredictability of rain and the cost of water, don’t you wish you could keep some of that rain and put it to better use? You can, by installing a rain barrel, or two, or three or more. Rain barrels don’t have to be expensive or an eyesore.

The Best Rain Barrels

By diverting the gutter downspout to the rain barrel, rainwater is collected during a storm and stored. A fine mesh screen across the top prevents rocks and debris from entering the barrel and mosquitoes from laying their eggs. It’s a good idea to use a small amount of algaecide to prevent algae from building up in the barrel as well. Some barrels even have a solid cover with an opening to fit the downspout into, and the darkness inside the barrel helps inhibit algae growth.

Most rain barrels have two spigots, one at the top and one by the bottom. Attaching a hose to the top spigot redirects excess water when the barrel is full. You may use this to connect to another rain barrel that stores the overflow from the first, or you may position the overflow hose to direct excess rain to a nearby flowerbed, tree, garden or other plantings that can benefit from a good soaking.

A hose attached to the bottom spigot allows the stored water to flow for use. Incidentally, the water pressure increases if the rain barrel is elevated even just a few inches, allowing gravity to assist getting every drop of precious water out of the barrel so it can be put to use.

Value of a Rain Barrel

Is it worth it? According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a rainstorm measured at 1/10th of an inch, over a 20’x30′ roof, would more than fill a 32-gallon rain barrel if all the water is properly directed. Multiply this amount by your water charge per gallon and you’ll see it won’t take long to pay back the small investment made in a few barrels.

Furthermore, rainwater is often better for watering garden plots, containers, flowerbeds and new plantings, and is even better for many houseplants. Rainwater does not contain the same chemical treatments or compounds found in tap water, so collecting rainwater is a healthier alternative for keeping all your plants well hydrated.

Get out there and capture what Mother Nature is providing for us! Your plants and the environment will Thank You!


Yellowjackets: Good Guys or Bad?

When you hear “yellowjacket,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A buzzing, stinging insect ruining your outdoor meal or a treasured pollinator of many plants? A yellowjacket is both!

About Yellowjackets

The most commonly found yellowjacket is the Eastern yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons). The Eastern yellowjacket is a wasp that is 1/2 to 5/8 inch long and is black and yellow striped. The body is curved under and is wider than the head. Yellowjackets do not have any “hairs” such as are found on honeybees and bumblebees.

Yellowjackets are generally ground nesters, however, in some situations, especially in urban areas, they will make their nest above ground such as in hollow walls and attics.

During the spring and summer, the colony population increases from the fertilized solitary queen, who survived the winter, to several thousand. Adult yellowjackets feed protein to the young wasps and larvae while they subsist on sugars. Foraging for food, the wasps cross-pollinate plants while seeking small insects and nectar. Yellowjackets provide a valuable service to humans by consuming numerous insects that eat ornamental and cultivated plants.

On the other hand, yellowjackets are drawn to cookouts, picnic areas and garbage cans. Their sting, unfortunately, is especially painful. Unlike honeybees, which only sting once, wasps can sting numerous times. Some people react severely to the venom and may have problems breathing or other dangerous reactions.

To Minimize Yellowjacket Interactions

Despite their good characteristics, many people prefer to keep yellowjackets away from picnics, play areas and yards. To reduce the possibility of inviting yellowjackets to your outdoor party…

  • Don’t leave moist pet food outside during the summer. Bird seed is fine, but not suet.
  • Keep garbage cans washed. Securely cover all garbage cans and recycling containers. Rinse beer, wine, soft drink and ice cream containers before disposing of them.
  • Keep garbage cans away from entertainment areas, play areas and pathways.
  • If eating outdoors, cover all serving plates and drinking glasses/bottles to prevent yellowjackets from getting into food or drink. When yellowjackets are in the area, be sure to check your food and drink before consuming.
  • Yellowjackets feed on aphids and scale on trees and shrubs. Therefore, spray for these pests in July and August, if needed, to remove that food source.
  • Repair dripping hoses and faucets as the puddles can attract wasps.
  • Wasps enjoy rotting fruit. Harvest tree and cane fruits when ripe. Carefully pick up all fallen fruit (gloves are a good idea!) and dispose of it in a covered container.
  • Wasps create a flight-path from the nest to food sources. Avoid this area. If this is not possible, consider removing the nest.

Yellowjacket Traps

To help make your outdoor gatherings more pleasant and safer, yellowjacket traps can be effective. Hang these around the perimeter of your yard if you plan to eat outside, but never hang traps near the food area, as you will only increase the attraction to that area. Some traps are disposable and have the benefit of reducing the sting possibility. Others are “reusable” and must be emptied and refilled with bait. These increase the probability of being stung but can be more affordable in the long term.

Eliminating Yellowjacket Nests

When absolutely necessary, the elimination of a yellowjacket nest should not be undertaken lightly. If it’s early in the season and the nest is visible, a forceful water blast will break it apart. To reduce the chances of being stung, do this during the day while the workers are not home. Wasps return to the colony as dusk. Sometimes the workers will begin rebuilding in the same place. Pesticide sprays can kill wasps, and after the nest is destroyed, spraying the area can discourage rebuilding. If it’s later in the season, the aerial nest may be too large to eliminate safely.

Underground nests are a much bigger challenge to destroy. Because the entrance may be at an angle to the nest, flooding seldom works. Never try to burn a yellowjacket ground nest by pouring kerosene or other flammable liquid into the entrance and lighting it. In addition to many stings, more serious injuries may occur. This also pollutes the soil and a fire can quickly get out of control. If the flight pattern to the entrance creates a serious hardship or is close to a building, it is best to consult with an expert for safe nest elimination.

If the yellowjackets have built their colonies within your house walls or attic, it may also be necessary to contact a professional. Note: if yellowjackets are nesting in your home, do not plug the entrance/exit hole or they may chew the rest of the way into your house! You may search “Pest Control” for your city on the Internet to locate the professionals.

Yellowjackets do have their uses, but if you have no use for these stinging insects, there are many ways to eliminate them safely. Using several techniques will be most effective and will minimize the risk of being troubled by wasps again.



Amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii, commonly known as Arkansas blue star, Arkansas amsonia or threadleaf bluestar, grows 36 inches tall and 36 inches wide in a mounded form. This hardy perennial grows in hardiness zones 4-9 and is a versatile North American native ideal for many landscaping uses in all types of yards and gardens.

Amazing Seasonal Interest

Unlike many plants that truly shine only for one season, Amsonia hubrichtii offers a variety of features throughout the seasons. From late spring to early summer, 2-3-inch wide clusters of small, light blue, star-shaped flowers are borne above the delicately soft, ferny or lacey foliage. The alternate-arranged, narrow leaves are a marvelous bright green in spring and summer, but turn a bright yellow-golden color which is second to none among herbaceous perennials in fall. In winter, the foliage can hold its shape and support snowfall, creating a beautiful mounding effect in the winter landscape.

Caring for Amsonia hubrichtii

These plants thrive in full sun to partial shade and perform best in average, moist, well-drained soil with a neutral (7.0) pH. Full sun will promote the best autumn color, but spring and summer blooms will be more prominent in a part-shade location. In a full shade location or when planted in too-rich soil, however, the plant may tend to open up and flop over, losing its full mounding traits. Though initially slow to grow and less lush and attractive when young, once established, it can tolerate drier conditions. Having no known severe insect or disease problems, other than minor occurrences of Mycosphaerella leaf spot and rust, this is a very easy to care for perennial.

After the flowers have faded, cutting back the foliage to 6-8 inches will help keep the mounds full and compact. Late season growth will fill in the plant in plenty of time for its showstopping autumn color. When the plants are large, they can be divided for transplanting to add even more specimens to the landscape.

In the Landscape

Amsonia is a real asset in borders, native gardens, cottage gardens or open woodland areas. Because of this plant’s versatility, it is also ideal in rock gardens or even rain gardens in well-drained soil. It is best when planted in masses and very attractive when mixed with ornamental grasses and other plants that have attractive seed heads. It tolerates deer and attracts butterflies, making it wildlife-friendly as well.

The outstanding ornamental qualities, ease of maintenance and many uses make Amsonia an invaluable perennial selection for any gardener.

Raise ‘Em Right

Lousy soil? Not to worry! Try growing in a raised bed. Popular in colonial times, this style of gardening is making a tremendous resurgence and is ideal for many types of gardening ambitions.

Why Raised Beds

There are many benefits to gardening above the grade, including…

  • Better Soil Conditions
    Growing in raised beds is an excellent choice if you have poor soil. Once constructed, you may add the soil and amendments of your choice to provide the optimum conditions for root growth in exactly the space you will be planting. Because a raised bed is not stepped in and is carefully monitored, it is easy to maintain this peak condition.
  • Higher Yield
    Better soil equals better root growth which then leads higher yield of flowers, produce or herbs. Also, intensive planting in raised beds means more plants can be grown in a smaller area than with conventional row-cropping as no space is wasted between rows.
  • Maintenance
    If properly thought out, every area of the raised bed may be comfortably reached from the side allowing for less bending and reaching and easier maintenance for thinning, weeding and other garden tasks. A garden seat makes gardening in raised beds even easier by bringing the soil surface closer to your upper body. Intensive planting cuts down on weeds by shading the soil surface. Improved soil conditions (less compaction and controlled moisture) make weed removal easier.
  • Critter Control
    Pests are less of a problem in raised beds. A simple frame may be erected with plant stakes or bamboo. Cover the frame with garden netting to prevent birds and other critters from destroying your plants. The bottom of the bed may be lined with hardware cloth to prevent burrowing rodents from getting in. The smaller area of a raised bed is also easier to protect from unwanted insects.
  • Water Conservation
    A raised bed is advantageous for water conservation. Use an appropriate watering system to ensure that water gets only to where it is needed. Soaker hoses and drip-type irrigation systems disperse water in patterns well suited to raised beds. They also reduce disease by directing water to the soil instead of wetting the leaf surface with overhead irrigation.
  • Extended Growing Season
    Increased drainage speeds up soil warming and allows it to dry quicker after a spring rain for earlier planting. The addition of a portable cold frame will extend the growing season even further by also keeping the soil warm later in the fall. Not only does this allow for later harvesting, but it is possible to harvest crops from raised beds that simply wouldn’t have time to mature in a traditional garden.

With so many benefits, why not get started with raised beds this year?


Jump Start Your Pond

Are you ready to get your pond started up for another beautiful spring and summer? It can be a big job to rejuvenate such a large water feature so it remains balanced and healthy after a long, harsh winter, but with a few careful steps, your pond can be back in shape in no time.

When to Reopen Your Pond

It is important that you don’t try to get your pond started too early in the season. All risk of hard freezes should be long past, and even nightly frosts should be tapering off or already finished before you restart your pond. The exact time will vary based on your pond’s size, depth and location, as well as your ambient weather conditions and the pond’s overall ecology. For example, a smaller, shallower pond in a sunny area will be warmed up and ready to restart before a larger, deeper pond in a shady spot. It can be helpful to keep a journal or calendar from year to year to note when you reopened your pond and how successful your efforts were. In time, you’ll be able to adjust your calendar easily without risking the health and wellness of your pond, even if annual conditions change.

Easy Steps to Restart Your Pond

When you are ready to jump start your pond…

  • Remove the netting that was set in place last fall. If needed, clean and make repairs to the netting right away so it will be ready to use next fall. Store it safely where it will be easy to reach when needed again.
  • Remove excess sediment from the bottom of the pond with a vacuum or a net. It is not necessary to remove every bit of sediment, but most of the debris should be removed so the pump can function effectively.
  • Test last year’s pump and replace if necessary. Be sure to test any additional moving or electrical features, such as waterfalls, fountains or lighting around the pond so repairs can be made if needed.
  • If water level is low, add fresh water to desired height. Avoid overfilling the pond, however, which can disrupt the essential chemical and microbial balance that keeps the pond healthy.
  • Add de-chlorinator as necessary to remove heavy chemicals from the water that has been freshly added to the pond. As with any chemical treatments, be sure to test the water several times to be sure you reach the proper balance.
  • Place aquatic plants in the pond and begin fertilizing to meet their nutritional needs. These may be plants that you’ve overwintered in a safe location, or you may choose to add new or exotic plants in late spring.
  • Begin feeding fish when water temperature stays above 55 degrees. Keep feedings minimal at first as fish come out of dormancy, as excess food will only rot and lead to greater bacteria and algae growth in the water.

It is perfectly natural for your pond water to turn green at first, but with the proper plants it should balance itself out in no time. It may take a few days or even a couple of weeks for your pond to return to its healthy, active state, but if you’re restarted it properly, you shouldn’t have any major problems.

pond

Try Something New: Pomegranates

Want to grow an exotic fruit that is delicious, nutritious, beautiful and incredibly hip? You really should consider planting a pomegranate! It’s not as difficult as you may think.

Why Pomegranates are Popular

Pomegranate is a stunning superfood rich in antioxidants, folic acid and vitamins A, C and E. It has no cholesterol, and is also rich in fiber and potassium. Because of these nutritional advantages, pomegranate is showing up in a multitude of supermarket products like yogurts, juices, salad dressings, jellies and desserts. It can be added to sauces, fruit crisps, salsas, relishes, dips and more. You can even make a pomegranate martini! And, of course, it’s an extraordinary experience eating a fresh pomegranate. These are stunning, delicious fruits that are rarely seen in backyard gardens, but can make a great landscaping statement when properly grown.

Growing Pomegranates in the Landscape

Pomegranates grow as multi-stemmed, small trees or large shrubs. They reach 15 feet tall by up to 15 feet wide. In spring, vibrant, gorgeous orange-red flowers grace the branches of this plant. These beautiful blossoms develop into the luscious pomegranate fruit containing dozens of tart and tangy bright red seeds and pulp. The fruit ripens somewhat square in the early fall and has a leathery skin that can be yellow to red in color.

The cultivar ‘Wonderful’ is hardy to zone 7 and is easy to grow. Plant your tree in full sun. It will thrive in the summer heat and in most soils. Pomegranates are drought tolerant, however, the fruit is better and the seeds more plump with regular deep irrigation. Because this fruit tree is self-fertile, there is no need to plant a second one for pollination.

Enjoying Your Pomegranates

If you’ve never cut your own pomegranate, it can be frustrating to learn how to separate the juicy seeds from the husk and membrane. To access the seeds…

  1. Cut off the crown of the fruit.
  2. Score the leathery husk in quarters from stem to crown end.
  3. Set the scored fruit in a bowl of cool water and let soak for a few minutes.
  4. Hold the fruit under water and break scored sections apart with your fingers, separating the seeds from membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Discard the skin and membrane.
  6. Drain the seeds on paper towels.
  7. Toss pomegranate seeds into your salad, mix them in your yogurt or smoothie or shake them into a martini and enjoy!



Beetle Mania

It’s hard to forget the years that we’ve been plagued with Japanese beetles. These ravenous creatures can destroy your lawn, garden and good nature in one season by eating away precious time and money invested in our landscapes. As they know no boundaries, Japanese beetle control methods are most effective if neighborhoods band together in their efforts. So, rally the troops!

Identification & Damage

Japanese beetles are a problem at two stages of their life cycle: larvae and adult. The larvae, called grubs, are actively feeding from August through October and again in April through May. It is during this time that the grubs are closest to the soil surface feasting on plant roots, especially grass roots. A heavy grub population will result in dead patches of turf that can be lifted like a carpet. Japanese beetle grubs are 1 & ½” long, C-shaped and white with a brown head. When gardening, you will almost always find some grubs in the soil. Small populations of grubs can be present in the soil without significant damage to the lawn. If you notice more than a dozen per square foot, however, this constitutes a problem that should be dealt with.

Adult Japanese beetles have a hard-shell body that is about ½ inch long. They are metallic-green and copper-colored. At this stage, beetles can decimate a plant in record time by skeletonizing the leaves – nibbling off all the foliage between the veins. Adult beetles start to emerge from the soil with a frenzy of feeding, mating and laying eggs. You will find adults feeding in groups in full sun, and they feed on over 300 different species of plants. These insects maintain this frantic level of activity through the first half of August. The females lay their eggs on the ground. When the eggs hatch they dig their way into the soil to feast on plant roots in preparation for winter. As soil temperatures decrease the larvae move deeper into the soil only to resurface and feed on plant roots again in spring.

Beetle Control Methods

There are several methods to control both Japanese beetle grubs and adults, some environmentally-friendly and some more harshly chemical. Always read pest control labels in their entirety even if they are listed as organic or environmentally-friendly. These labels are meant for the protection of you, your plants and the planet.

Environmentally-Friendly Adult Beetle Control

Effective options for controlling adult Japanese beetles with the least harm to plants and the landscape include…

  • Manual Removal – Pick off and destroy the feeding adults even if you see just a few. Japanese Beetles produce pheromones that will attract many more to your property, so it is best to pick them off and destroy them right away.
  • Use Non-Attractive Plants – If you have a shade garden you will not have a problem with Japanese Beetles. In sunny areas, choose plants that beetles don’t like (they actually do exist).
  • Trap – Pheromone traps lure adult beetles, sometimes hundreds a day, and trap them in a disposable bag. Replace the bag as necessary. Place trap at least 20 feet from the plantings that you are trying to protect to lure the beetles away.
  • Row Covers – Floating row covers of reemay fabric may be placed over plants to avoid beetle damage by keeping the beetles from accessing the plants.
  • Pyrethrins – These insecticides are naturally derived from the pyrethrum daisies. Pyrethrins attack the insect’s central nervous system, producing a rapid knockdown. The residual effect, however, is only 5 days, so several applications may be needed to control severe infestations.
  • Insecticidal Soap – This soap is a contact kill with no residual control, but can be useful for smaller infestations or few beetles.
  • Neem Oil – This oil is an organic control that repels Japanese beetles. Spray early in morning or on an overcast day. Because neem is an oil, you may burn plant leaves if spraying in full sun.

Chemical Adult Beetle Controls

When using any chemical controls, read the product label completely and follow application instructions meticulously. It is a good idea to use a spreader sticker so that the chemical will adhere to the plant for the greatest effect. Popular chemical options to control adult Japanese beetles include…

  • Sevin – This chemical is absorbed through the skin and will kill beetles on contact. It has a 7-10 day residual effect but must be reapplied after a rain. Consult label for recommended time that fruit and vegetables may be consumed after application.
  • Pyrethroides – Synthetic pyrethrin-like insecticides kill on contact and have an 8-10 day residual effect. Fruits and vegetables may be consumed in a shorter time period after application than Sevin.
  • Acephate – This systemic control works by poisoning the plant. The insect dies when the plant is ingested. Must not be used on edibles.
  • Malathion – This chemical must be ingested by the insect, however, this product may be used on edibles. Check label for number of days between last application and safe harvest.
  • Imidacloprid – Sold as a liquid form of Merit, this product is systemic and must be applied at least 20 days before anticipated adult Japanese beetle feeding. Only one application is needed per year. Use only on ornamentals.

Environmentally-Friendly Grub Control

For truly effective Japanese beetle control, it is also necessary to control the grubs. This can be done in a number of environmentally-friendly ways, such as…

  • Milky Spore – This biological control effects only Japanese Beetle grubs. Once this bacteria is established it can last in the soil for up to 20 years. It is completely harmless to people, pets, birds, fish and beneficial insects. Apply anytime the ground is not frozen.
  • Beneficial Nematodes – These microscopic worms kills grubs by feeding on, and reproducing in, the grub’s body. This is an excellent choice for a vegetable garden and should be applied after the soil is warm. Late summer/early fall application is best.

Chemical Grub Control

Chemical controls can also be effective at minimizing the harm from Japanese beetle grubs. Good options include…

  • Merit – The granular form of this chemical is a systemic, season-long grub control with a 4-month residual effect, though it must be ingested by the insect. It is applied 3-4 weeks before grubs are actively feeding, mid-May through mid-June. Must be watered-in within 24 hours of application.
  • Dylox – This compound is absorbed through the grub’s ‘skin’ and will kill within 24 hours of application. Use only in late summer through early fall while grubs are still close to the soil surface. Must be watered in. It is active for up to 7 days in the soil.
  • Sevin – In its granular form, Sevin is a contact kill and will not remain active in the soil longer than 7 days. This product is used most effectively from mid-August through mid-October. Must be watered in.

With so many options for effectively controlling these pernicious insects, there is no reason why you need to keep being bothered by Japanese beetles. Once you know more about these insects and their habits, you can easily keep them away.


Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses can reduce your watering costs, lessen your mowing time and increase the interest level of your garden. No matter what your garden’s needs, there’s a grass to solve it. From short ground covers to tall bamboo, there’s something for every site.

About Ornamental Grasses

Generally defined as “a plant with narrow upright leaves growing from the base,” ornamental grasses come in different sizes, shapes, colors and with differing growing requirements. While they may be cut to the ground each year, they are not mowed regularly, and work well as borders, specimen plants or part of coordinated beds. When choosing an ornamental grass for your site, consider the following:

  • Size
    Some beautiful grasses are just inches tall. Others, such as bamboo, grow to 20 feet or even taller. A shorter grass is a perfect edge for a walkway or to border a flowerbed, while a taller grass provides screening or background height.
  • Deciduous or Evergreen
    The winter form of a grass can be very different from its summer form. Evergreen grasses do not die back in the winter, their form remains the same. Winter colors may change and provide interest. Deciduous grasses die back or lean over. Consider the plant’s use when choosing between deciduous and evergreen. If using a grass as a screen, deciduous may not be a good idea.
  • Running or Clumping
    Clumping grasses stay where they planted, and as they grow, the overall plant width increases. However, a running grass sends runners through the ground to grow another grass plant. Sometimes this can be up to 6 feet away. This is advantageous when using the grass as a groundcover or trying to fill in a larger area. Clumping grasses can be divided if they become too large for the site.
  • Color
    Ornamental grasses are available in many colors, including variegated shades with contrasting edges. Additionally, many grass colors change throughout the year. Blues, reds, greens, yellow and variegated shades work well in different situations. A gold or white-hued grass can brighten a dark corner, whereas a dark green grass may be a perfect backdrop for smaller colorful plants.
  • Growing Requirements
    Sun, water, wind and soil requirements vary among grasses. Some require full sun; others grow best in the shade. Some grasses are ideal in rain gardens or wet soils, while others thrive best in drought conditions. Some don’t mind a breezy location, while others need to be more protected. Some prefer a rich, organic soil, while others will look great even in poor soils. And, of course, there are grasses for every range in between.

Before going to the garden center to purchase an ornamental grass, make a list of your requirements. You may want a short grass to line a walkway in full sun with sandy soil. Alternatively, you may need a grass to fill a dry and shady corner. Perhaps you would like to watch a grass clump emerge in the spring, grow to 6′ tall, change colors through the summer and harvest dry seed heads for an autumn arrangement. Choosing the correct grass ensures the beauty of your garden for years to come.