My garden update for the week is still a work in progress, as it has been an unbelievably crazy week. We discovered some issues in the house that have prompted us to move ahead with a long planned renovation that we are super excited about but did not anticipate we would be starting anytime soon, which has initiated a flurry of activity for my husband and me involving banks, contractors, and all the fun stuff. In addition to the things going on inside the house, I found a few issues that needed my attention outside the house, as well. Namely, Japanese beetles and powdery mildew.
I found these critters all over my raspberry bush, many in the throes of beetle passion, if you catch my drift. Not a sight you want to see on your beautiful plants! The photos below show the leaf damage sustained in a very short period of time.
My eradication method was three-fold – first, I hand picked all the beetles I could find. I got a cup and filled it about halfway with water and squirted in a little dish soap so they couldn’t escape and would ultimately drown. While time consuming, this method has seemed to work reasonably well. I have been consistent about doing it daily and while I do still find some beetles every day, there are a lot fewer of them.
Second, I cut back a lot of the branches that had already produced. The bush was getting very scraggly anyway and it was getting hard to get in there and find berries (and to pluck off the beetles) so I cleaned it up a lot. It will help the bush, help me with the beetle problem, and make the garden area look tidier.
Finally, I used an organic spray whose active ingredient is neem oil and is advertised to be a triple threat against fungus, undesirable insects, and mites to hopefully help kill any eggs and keep the beetles at bay. It seems to be helping – some. There are fewer beetles (although again, not sure whether to attribute that to the diligent hand picking or the spray) and they seem to be moving slower. I just try to use sprays, especially insecticides, sparingly so as not to hurt beneficial insects.
I have had issues with powdery mildew on plants in the past, particularly my peonies, and I have found it is important to get it early before it destroys the plant for the year and spreads around. This year, I found it on my bee balm. Some quick research indicated that I should cut the plants about halfway down the stem. I did this and then sprayed it well with my triple threat organic spray. I made sure to throw the upper half of the stems in the trash rather than the compost pile because the last thing you want to do is throw something that has been infected with a plant disease in the food for next year’s garden. I’m bummed that this plant didn’t do well this summer, but hoping that cutting it back and spraying it will help and that maybe there will even be a second round of flowers in the fall. I’ll keep an eye on the stems and see if their condition improves, and continue spraying as needed. At any rate, the most important thing is to make sure I keep the plant as healthy as possible so it will come back strong next year! If you planted bee balm, apparently it is quite susceptible to the powdery mildew so keep an eye on it and try to catch it and eradicate it early!