» Archive for June, 2012

Cucumber Beetles

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Set out zinnias, cosmos, impatiens and begonias for lots of colorful flowers all summer long.
    • Star jasmine is an evergreen vine that prefers some shade. The fragrant blossoms fill the June air with their sweet scent.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.
    • Spray roses every two weeks with Neem oil to keep leaves free of black spot and mildew.
    • Water lawns deeply, preferably in the early morning hours. Set mower blade to the highest position to reduce moisture loss during the summer.

Cucumber Beetles

Late spring marks the arrival in our area of the Spotted Cucumber Beetle. This little green beetle looks a bit like a green ladybug, but it is not one of the “good guys.” They can do a lot of damage to your vegetable garden in a short time.

Cucumber beetles are a major pest of cucumbers, squash, melons, watermelons and gourds. They particularly like the tender parts of plants, like the flowers, which they may destroy with their feeding. They also feed on stems of young plants, chew holes in leaves and can damage young fruits. They will also attack flowers in the garden like roses, dahlias and zinnias, making unsightly holes in the petals.

Cucumber beetles overwinter in the adult stage in nearby weedy areas, and become active at about the time that the earliest cucurbits are transplanted or seeded, when temperatures reach 55 to 65 degrees. They may feed on alternate host plants until cucurbit plants appear. The adults lay eggs at the base of plants, and as soon as they hatch, the larvae begin feeding on plant roots. The larvae are sometimes called rootworms.

In addition to these visible signs, cucumber beetles can spread plant diseases, such as bacterial wilt, squash mosaic virus, and others.

Although cucumber beetles are common every year, their damage tends to be severe only some years. Heavy populations feed mostly on flowers of squash, melons and cucumbers.

A variety of methods can be used to keep the beetles under control. Floating row covers, made of polyester fabric, can prevent adult beetles from landing on plants in the spring. These thin blankets of woven polyester allow water and light to pass through but keep insects out.  Cover the plants loosely with the fabric and seal all the edges with soil. Remove the covers when plants start to bloom to allow the flowers to get pollinated.

Straw mulch discourages egg laying, for the one or two more generations that can occur through the summer, and attracts predatory spiders and ground beetles. But mulch should be avoided if you also have squash bugs, which it will attract.

You can also set out yellow sticky traps, which will attract and capture the beetles. Check the traps to make sure that they are not catching beneficial insects as well. If they are, it’s best to remove them.

Some flowers, such as yellow and orange zinnias, make fine cucumber beetle traps. They will congregate on the flowers, then when the temperatures are cool, you can vacuum the beetles up when they are moving slowly.

The cool of the morning or evening is also the best time for hand-picking. Carry a pot filled with a soapy water, jiggle of the plants, and the beetles will drop off the plants into the water and drown.

Neem oil has been shown to act as a repellent for cucumber beetles. The foul odor seems to keep them from feeding on the plant leaves. Spraying once or twice a week will stop the beetles from further invasion.

Take action now to keep cucumber beetles from becoming a real problem in your garden.

Fragrance in the Garden

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm.
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.

Fragrance in the Garden

Nothing conjures up memories of the past the way a familiar scent can. Orange blossoms, jasmine, lavender, fragrant stock, gardenia – even the words seem to perfume the air. To bring back pleasant memories and create some new ones, choose a few plants to place near the door or by the walkway, or fill your garden with wonderful fragrances all season long.

The first plants that wake up our noses in the spring are narcissus, hyacinth and lily-of-the-valley. Not far behind is the sweet-scented daphne, followed by the intensely fragrant flowers of the lilacs.

Chinese wisteria blooms with a profusion of fragrant lavender flowers in long clusters. The evergreen clematis vine, with its powerfully fragrant white flowers, adds its sweet scent to the springtime air.

The white snowball bush is another sweet scent in the spring garden and so are the tiny flowers of Sarcococca. Mock orange (Philadelphus) is an old-fashioned favorite with its strongly scented showy white flowers in early summer. The large pompom flowers of peonies bloom in late spring. Place one in a vase in a room, and it will fill the room with its delicate fragrance.

The spring flower bed can be filled with the lovely scents of stock and sweet peas. A carpet of sweet alyssum in purple, rose and white will perfume the air from spring to fall.

Summer brings us lovely lavenders, butterfly bush, star jasmine, lilies, honeysuckle and, of course, roses. Varieties like ‘Falling in Love’, ‘Rock ‘n Roll’, ‘Midnight Blue’, and ‘Strike it Rich’ have all been developed for their strong fragrances. Gardenias bloom in early summer with their legendary sweet fragrance so loved for corsages.

Heliotrope has large violet flower heads with a strong vanilla fragrance in warm weather. It’s hard to find a more sugary fragrance than purple petunias, especially the variety ‘Sugar Daddy’.

The large, beautiful, white flowers of the Southern Magnolia tree bloom in the summer and their heavy fragrance and welcome shade make the perfect place to relax on a hot summer’s day.

Late summer bloomers with strong fragrance include the exotic and heady fragrance of tuberoses. Sweet Autumn Clematis blooms profusely with wonderfully scented tiny white flowers. The pink flowers of Naked Lady Amaryllis have a strong fragrance that wafts on the air.

Don’t overlook the herbs for their fragrant foliage. Rosemary can be grown as a shrub or a ground cover. Thyme has many varieties with scents ranging from lemon and lime to caraway. The mint family has a long list of fragrant varieties as do the basils: lemon, cinnamon, spicy globe and Thai basil. Many Salvias, or sages, have beautiful flowers and fragrant foliage. There are lots of other herbs that can help create an edible, fragrant garden.

Fragrance plays an important role in our enjoyment of the garden. Plant some memories in your garden with fragrant plants you’ll enjoy all season.

Delightful Daisies

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Petunias can’t be beat for large, colorful blooms all summer long. The “Wave” petunias make wonderful hanging baskets for full sun. They come in purple, bright pink, and pale “misty lilac.”
    • Ivy geraniums make wonderful hanging baskets for partially shaded spots where they will bloom all summer.
    • Cage or stake tomatoes while still small so that you can train them as they grow.
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Ladybugs are a big help with aphids in your greenhouse or garden. Release at dusk in problem areas.

Delightful Daisies

Ask any 4-year-old to draw a flower, and chances are she’ll draw a daisy. Daisies have an innocence and simplicity that are attractive to young and old alike.

Daisies belong to the family called Composites. They are one of the largest families of flowering plants with some 25,000 species distributed all over the world. The family includes lettuces, artichokes and sunflowers as well as chrysanthemums, dahlias and many other popular garden flowers.

Most daisies are very easy to grow. They flourish in ordinary garden soil that is well-drained in winter, with plenty of sun. There are daisies for almost any garden setting, and they deliver an abundance of summer color.

Start with Shasta daisies, a hybrid created by Luther Burbank. This is one tough plant, growing happily on rugged hillsides where even the deer don’t bother them. Their beautiful white flowers are 3-inches across and grow on stems varying from 1 foot to 3 feet depending on variety. The wild ‘Crazy Daisy’ has shaggy, double white flowers that may be frilled or twisted with bright yellow centers.

The Gerbera or Transvaal Daisy is a real show-off in the garden. The large flowers come in every bright color and they bloom all summer long in sun or part shade. They don’t always winter-over in our climate, but they but on a glorious show all summer.

Old-fashioned painted daisies come in shades of pink and red. Their simple flowers grow on tall, straight stems. Give them afternoon shade in our climate.

Marguerite daisies are too tender to winter over here, but golden Euryops makes a fine substitute. Yellow flowers cover these dark green bushes all summer, and they’ll come right back next year and do it all over again.

Coreopsis is an easy-to-grow perennial. From the tall ‘Early Sunrise’, to medium-sized ‘Baby Sun’ and low-growing auriculata ‘Nana’, these golden beauties are constantly in bloom all summer long. ‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis has lemon yellow flowers and threadlike leaves, and it makes a good companion for ornamental grasses.

Dahlias are tuberous rooted perennials that come in all colors except true blue, and a large variety of flower types and sizes from 2 to 12 inches across. Tubers should be planted right away for summer blooms.

Sunflowers are always a garden favorite. Both the dwarf ‘Sunspot’ and the 10-foot tall ‘Mammoth’ produce edible sunflower seeds. People eat the roasted seeds; birds enjoy the raw ones. Sunflowers for cutting come on compact, branching plants and bear 4 to 8 inch blooms in a rich variety of colors.

Use daisies to fill up spaces quickly and create an ‘established garden’ look while slower perennials fill in, and to brighten corners with their cheery flowers. It’s nice to have plants you can depend on.