Thursday, July 24, 2008

Going Green: Blooms & Bloomin' Pests

I planted this lily when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter. Just shy of three years later, it has finally bloomed! Whenever I look at it, I think of the miracle of her.

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Midsummer is such a fun time in our garden. Spring and early Summer plants are setting seeds before Fall arrives. Tomatoes and peppers are fruiting heavily. The green beans are ready for a third picking and already blooming for a fourth. And the eggplant, cucumbers, pumpkins, and cantaloupe are all flowering profusely. I am so glad I decided to plant more than just tomatoes this year. We are enjoying the abundance that comes from vegetable gardening in the Midwest.

Of special note is the success of our herb garden. I have always grown oregano, parsley, and basil, because I use them heavily in our home cooking. Last year, I planted lemon thyme, rosemary and peppermint as a way to branch out. What success!

The peppermint, especially, has been thriving and is in bloom. Although I have to tend it carefully to make sure it doesn't steal garden space from other plants, I love the look and smell of it in the garden. I have even caught the children stealing nibbles of the minty leaves.

Elsewhere in the garden, we are enjoying carpets of black- and brown-eyed Susans. Large sunflowers and smaller 'wild' sunflowers are providing the birds with plenty to eat. Since yellow is my favorite color, I find the display delightful.

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There is, however, a pest I've been battling for at least a month. The dreaded Japanese Beetle has made a home in our garden -- again! Each year, I wage war with this creepy, seemingly indestructible bug. Fortunately, I find that my hatred (I know it's a strong word, but fitting) of this pest is overcoming my tendency to be totally creeped out by it.

I typically have used Japanese Beetle "bug bags" out to lure these beasts to their doom. In theory, the citronella-smelling bait attracts these horny devils into a bag, trapping them because they're either too stupid to fly out or too distracted by the teeming beetle orgy that eventually takes place. Personally, I don't care which it is... as long as they don't keep eating my plants.

I have noticed, however, that there are certain plants the Japanese beetles find irresistible. In my garden, it is the zinnias, evening primrose, and apple tree that have sustained the most damage. Lately, I have had success going from plant to plant knocking beetles into a cup of water and then pouring the fiends into the bug bag. I go around in the morning and evening, and I usually can collect 18-25 of the disgusting things in the cup before I'm done. It has helped to minimize the damage.

You may wonder why I don't just spray with an insecticide. I'll tell you -- chemicals are stupid. They don't know the difference between the super-creepy Japanese Beetle and the 20+ beneficial pollinators that help our plants be more productive. When a commercial- or home-gardener decides to let a spray do the work, they are choosing to kill bees, butterflies, and other fantastic insects like walking sticks and leaf-hoppers, and even spiders, praying mantis and other hunters. Garden chemicals can also easily leech into groundwater. I suspect they may be, if not the cause, certainly a contributing factor in our nation's honeybee problem, Colony Collapse Disorder.

Even against a pernicious pest like the Japanese Beetle, I don't believe chemicals are the answer. So, for now I'll keep doing the circuit with my cup of water. It's a good excuse to get out in the garden on a daily basis...

.. even if it is pretty creepy.

Midwest Mom


  1. I am always fussing with my flower gardens as well! I love seeing all the brilliance, and I'm adding odd bits of perenials that I've not heard of every year. It's becoming an obsession with me.

    Like you, my hub and I never use any kind of pesticides on our lawn or gardens. I don't like messing with mother nature, and we have a well. I would worry that those poisons would eventually find their way to our drinking water.

  2. I'm right there with you-- on both the chemicals and the damn Japanese Beetles. Those nasty little critters are doing quite a number on a grape vine in my garden. I wish dogs could scare beetles away. Oh wait, my dogs can't even scare away the rabbits that have taken up residence under our porch, blech. never mind. By the way, that photo of the lily, and the comments that went with it, made me cry. And a pps, thanks for the blog version of a kick in the pants. I was just wallowing in my self-pity for having no time to write. And then I remembered if I stopped whining, I might actually be able to jot something down. Funny how that works.


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