Thursday, July 20, 2017

"American Rose" Article on Organic Japanese Beetle Control

Here is an article about organic control of Japanese Beetles, which I wrote for the July/August American Rose magazine, in collaboration with rose gardener extraordinaire and fellow organic gardener, Paul Zimmerman, who writes a regular column in the American Rose.  I think it's very promising that the American Rose Society (ARS), of which I am a long-time member, is taking up the cause of organic rose gardening.  ARS president, Pat Shanley, is also an organic gardener and I am encouraged that ARS is reflecting her leadership and commitment, something that has been a long time coming.

Someone asked me the other day what it means to be an "organic gardener", and that's a good question.  I would say that you must first recognize that most destructive or invasive insects can be controlled by beneficial insects or, as in the case with Japanese Beetles, by methods that kill off or divert the JBs from their target food, such as roses.  In other words, going organic means making a commitment to stop using insecticides, in order to stop killing-off the beneficial insects that then kill-off the destructive insects you are targeting.  A simple example is having an infestation of aphids and believing (correctly) that you can squirt them off the plants with a sharp stream of water a few times, while awaiting the arrival of lady beetles which will take them out permanently.  However, if you succumb to the knee-jerk reaction of spraying insecticidal soap or something stronger like carbaryl (Sevin), you will kill off both the lady beetles and the aphids, which will surely return and have no natural predators to hold them down.  With Sevin you will also have killed off the bees and other pollinators, which begins a downward spiral toward creating a toxic waste site, which, unfortunately, many pretty rose gardens already are.

The only exception I can think of is the use of a miticide to eliminate eriophyid mite infestations. Spider mites can usually be held down with regular water washings, but the hundreds of different eriophyid mites, including phyllocoptes fructiphilus, which carries the rose rosette virus, are far more difficult to control without a miticide like Abamectin (Avid).  Miticides are different than other insecticides, however, in that they do not kill off most beneficial insects (except naturally occurring beneficial mites which can be reintroduced after the miticide is finished). In this regard, please read my most important blog post "The Pesticide-Free Rose Garden":
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-pesticide-free-rose-garden.html

And now, here is our new American Rose article on organic control of JBs... a good place to begin an organic gardening journey:


Organic Japanese Beetle Control

By Jack Falker “The Minnesota Rose Gardener” and Paul Zimmerman “Paul Zimmerman Roses”


JBs mating on Earth Song

Using insecticides to control Japanese Beetles (JBs) destroys beneficial insects (like lady beetles) and pollinators (like bees and wasps) and accomplishes virtually nothing in controlling JBs, other than killing off the current cloud of invading critters.

To control JBs organically, you must know your enemy.  First, understand that most of the JBs invading your garden come from amazing distances, up to five miles away, where they pupate in the rich turf of golf courses, cemeteries, parks, pretty neighborhood lawns etc.  In other words, the vast majority of JBs you see during the four or five weeks they invade your garden do not originate in your garden or lawn. So, you can spray them with insecticides but you can’t stop them from coming; and you can treat your lawn with a grub control like the milky spore bacteria to control the JB grubs for next year, but unless everyone within a five-mile radius does the same thing, you can’t stop them from coming and coming and coming.

The first step in organic JB control is pretty simple: once in the morning and once in the evening, knock them off the buds and leaves of your roses into a can of soapy water. Skin-tight surgical or milking gloves help, if you’re squeamish about touching the JBs.  You’ll soon realize that JBs have a dropping instinct, which makes them easy to drown.  They’re harder to catch in the hot sun of mid-day, when they quickly fly away. You’ll find that JBs are very docile and don’t sting or bite, leaving only a little stain in your hand of what we’ll call “beetle juice”. Using a few drops of dishwashing detergent in the water creates surface tension and impedes them from making an emergency takeoff.  Here’s how that looks:


Drowning JBs in Soapy Water

This is important: Don’t be tempted to squish JBs!  When you squish a female JB, her sex- pheromone is spewed out and brings in every male in the neighborhood!  This is also why JB traps are not a good idea, at least in your own garden.  Here’s a quote from the University of Minnesota on JB traps:

“Pheromone traps contain the sex pheromone of the JB female. The pheromone is very powerful and will call in beetles from a few thousand feet.  Research demonstrated that more beetles fly toward traps than are caught, resulting in surplus beetles that feed on your plants. Think twice before purchasing and installing a pheromone trap.” 

JBs are amazingly canny critters and it's useful to observe what they do as they approach your garden.  When a JB arrives in the garden, it hovers, like a helicopter, looking for a suitable place to land. Almost always, it will land on a flower or leaf that has one or more JBs already on it, or on a flower or leaf that has been previously chewed by other JBs; obviously attracted to the sexual pheromone of other JBs.  Therefore, it's important to get rid of tainted leaves and flowers, whenever possible. It’s hard to pluck a brand-new bud that has two JBs imbedded in it but it's necessary, in order to stop it from attracting incoming beetles.   Using the old-fashioned, thumb and forefinger method of dead-heading, while drowning JBs, is very effective in encouraging rapid growth on roses, which is indicative of the positive multiplier-effect that organic gardening always has.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the mid-south, where the infestation of JBs is huge. In 2016, an organic rose-gardener in Virginia was ready to succumb to commercial spraying of the pyrethroid Demand CS to remedy a seemingly uncontrollable infestation of JBs.  Here is the classic organic-gardening advice she received from rose-gardener extraordinaire, Paul Zimmerman, who gardens in South Carolina:

“As organic gardeners, we don't use insecticides. We build a host environment for beneficials and let them take care of it. That works for native pests but, of course, JBs are not native so they have no enemy.

“Around here the JBs appear in early June, which is after our spring flush. When the JBs are out in full force, we clean up the gardens from the spring flush and get them ready for fall. We trim the roses back, do a thorough deadheading and clean out dead and weak wood. Essentially, we’re cleaning out a lot of the parts of the roses the JBs like, during normal maintenance. As the beetles start to wind down, the roses wake back up again.

“We’ve also added perennials amongst the roses. This was for aesthetics but more so to help create a host environment for beneficials. The JBs seem to flock to the perennials and, while there is some damage, it's not as noticeable as on the roses. Essentially, we work with the JBs that way, using their arrival as part of normal summer cleanup, and plant other plants they find more attractive.”

An Ultra-Beneficial Lady Beetle on a Companion-planting Echinacea in my rose garden

As in South Carolina, we use companion plantings in and around our Minnesota organic rose gardens, for both insectary and aesthetic purposes. We have beds of zinnias where the JBs gather and we now drown more JBs on the zinnias than on the roses; lots of chewed leaves but they’re very fast-growing and keep ahead of the JBs. We also have big shrub-roses in our tomato/insectary garden, away from the main rose gardens, that attract clusters of JBs, which we drown, eight and ten at a time. The shrub they really like is Dr. David Zlesak's amazing "Above and Beyond" and, since it's done blooming for the year, we cut it back, making it far less attractive.

JBs love Zinnias more than Roses (so plant zinnias)

The key element in organic gardening is PATIENCE! Remember that JBs only last about four weeks and, if you work hard to deter them organically, they ultimately go away, leaving you with lots of beneficials and pollinators, as well as fully fertilized and dead-headed rose gardens for the rest of the growing season.  Remember that every JB you drown is a monster-bug that can't breed more monster-bugs next year.  It’s particularly enjoyable taking them down when they’re atop one another, stopping the breeding cycle.


For more information, see these “Minnesota Rose Gardener” blog posts:






Monday, July 10, 2017

Controlling Japanese Beetles Organically

I saw my first JB on June 19th this year, the same date as 2016 but, unlike last year, I saw very few in the next two weeks, until after the 4th of July, when they started to show up in earnest.  They're still not at the levels of previous years, however, which makes me wonder what might be happening here in east-central Minnesota this year.  My best guess is that the four golf courses (and one cemetery) within a five-mile radius of my garden have started using grub control on their fairways and lawns.  Unfortunately, that probably means they are using neonicotinoids, like imidicloprid, which have been strongly implicated in bee colony collapse disorder.

In the last few days, I also noted that a Master Consulting Rosarian in the Minnesota Rose Society said on Facebook that he is spraying JBs with carbaryl (Sevin), apparently unconcerned (or unaware ) that Sevin kills bees, lady beetles, predatory wasps, syrphid flies, lace wings and virtually every other beneficial insect in the garden. I also noted that the Minnesota Rose Society posted the same advice on their website.

In my mind, spraying JBs with an insecticide like Sevin is the classic "fool's errand" because what you spray today affects the JBs (and pollinators) in your garden for a day or so and has no effect on the thousands of JBs arriving in your garden from somewhere within a five-mile radius of your garden for the next six or eight weeks.  This is also true of the pyrethroids, which linger longer in the garden. The implication is that, ultimately, one would have to spray again and again, creating, for all intents and purposes, a toxic waste site, devoid of all life except roses. (Confession: I know this so well because I sprayed insecticides, especially the pyrethroids, to control JBs, until I became aware of the damage I was doing.  It has taken several years for the beneficial insects to return and, happily, they are back in force.)

The irony in all of this is that organic control of JBs is extremely easy and totally non-disruptive to the eco-system of your garden.



Know Your Enemy


To control JBs organically, you must know your enemy.  First, understand that most of the JBs invading your garden come from amazing distances, up to five miles away, where they pupate in the rich turf of golf courses, cemeteries, parks, pretty neighborhood lawns etc.  In other words, the vast majority of JBs you see during the four or five weeks they invade your garden do not originate in your garden or lawn. So, you can spray them with insecticides but you can’t stop them from coming; and you can treat your lawn with a neonicotonoid grub control, like imidicloprid, or a biological control like the milky spore bacteria to control the JB grubs for next year, but unless everyone within a five-mile radius does the same thing, you can’t stop them from coming and coming and coming.

Here's an article I wrote one year ago: "Attacking Japanese Beetles -- Know Your Enemy":

Organic JB Control


The first annual step in organic JB control is pretty simple: once in the morning and once in the evening, knock them or pick them off the buds and leaves of your roses into a can or bucket of soapy water. Skin-tight surgical or milking gloves help, if you’re squeamish about touching the JBs.  You’ll soon realize that JBs have a dropping instinct, which makes them easy to drown.  They’re harder to catch in the hot sun of mid-day, when they quickly fly away. You’ll find that JBs are very docile and don’t sting or bite, leaving only a little stain in your hand of what we’ll call “beetle juice”, so I seldom wear gloves when working on them. Using a few drops of dish-washing detergent in the water creates surface tension and impedes them from making an emergency takeoff. Here's what that looks like:




The second step (actually it should be the first overall step) is to redesign and prepare your garden for organic JB control.  I call it varying and mitigating the JB target so they don't land solely on the roses. Having a variety of perennials, annuals  and herbs, like oregano and cilantro, among your roses gives the JBs somewhere else to land and the damage is not nearly as noticeable as it is on the roses.  I have beds of zinnias where the JBs gather and I now drown as many JBs on the zinnias as on the roses; lots of chewed leaves but they’re very fast-growing and keep ahead of the JBs.  Here's a recent picture (just before that JB went into the soapy water, between my thumb and forefinger):


I also plant patches of oregano in each rose bed to attract beneficial insects, particularly predatory wasps, into the garden.  The JBs like that too, which makes it doubly effective, and they certainly can't hurt the oregano!  Here's how that looks right now (and that JB bit the dust too, after posing for me):


I also have big shrub-roses in my tomato/insectary garden, away from the main rose gardens, that attract clusters of JBs, which I drown, eight and ten at a time. The shrub they really like is Dr. David Zlesak's amazing "Above and Beyond" and, since it's done blooming for the year, I cut it back with my electric hedge clipper, making it far less attractive.

Step three is to aggressively dead-head your roses while attacking the JBs.  One of the things I have noticed is how JBs tend to cluster on spent blooms that are losing their petals.  I don't know why that may be but it's a very good reason to get all of those spent blooms off the plants. And, while you're doing that, you're setting up your roses for the next flush of bloom, when the JBs are finished.  Here's what I mean by spent bloom clustering.  If  you look carefully, you can see the sexual activity resulting from the JB female pheromone:



If you don't panic, there's a bit of sport in this too. JBs are amazingly canny critters and it's useful to observe what they do, especially in the heat of mid-day, as they approach your garden.  When a JB arrives in the garden, it hovers, like a helicopter, looking for a suitable place to land. And, almost always, it will land on a flower or leaf that has one or more JBs already on it, or on a flower or leaf that has been previously chewed by other JBs; obviously attracted to the sexual pheromone of other JBs. (I've actually gotten pretty good at grabbing them in mid-air as they look for a sexy place to land, and that's fun.)  So, it's important to get rid of tainted leaves and flowers, whenever possible. It’s really hard to dead-head a brand-new bud that has a JB embedded in it but it's necessary, in order to stop it from attracting incoming beetles. Using the old-fashioned, thumb and forefinger method of dead-heading, while drowning JBs, is very effective in encouraging rapid growth on roses, which is indicative of the positive multiplier-effect that organic gardening always has.  There will be more new buds!

This is important: Don’t be tempted to squish JBs!  When you squish a female JB, her sex- pheromone is spewed out and brings in every male in the neighborhood!  This is also why JB traps are not a good idea, at least in your own garden.  Here’s a quote from the University of Minnesota on JB traps:

“Pheromone traps contain the sex pheromone of the JB female. The pheromone is very powerful and will call in beetles from a few thousand feet.  Research demonstrated that more beetles fly toward traps than are caught, resulting in surplus beetles that feed on your plants. Think twice before purchasing and installing a pheromone trap.” 

For more information on this, please take a look at my article from last year: "Attacking Japanese Beetles -- Organically":

Also, please take a look at my most important blog post of all "The Pesticide-Free Rose Garden":
  

And finally, please remember that the key element in organic gardening is PATIENCE!

Don't panic; JBs only last about four weeks and, if you work hard to deter them organically, they ultimately go away, leaving you with lots of beneficials and pollinators, as well as fully dead-headed rose gardens, ready for the rest of the growing season.  And remember that every JB you drown is a monster-bug that can't breed more monster-bugs next year.  It’s particularly enjoyable taking them down when they’re atop one another, stopping the breeding cycle.

Jack Falker
@mnrosegardener
Edina, Minnesota
612 385-6226















Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Thaw... Plus Thunder!

One week ago today, here in Minneapolis, we woke up to temperatures of -20 F (-29 C), with wind chills around -35 F (-37 C).  And we had upwards of a foot of fluffy snow, which was blowing and drifting in the wind.  Now, lest you dismiss this as being normal for Minnesota, in the third week of December, you are mistaken; it is not!  This was the Polar Vortex, that shifting of super-cold air from around the north pole, pushed southward, with the jet-stream, by temperatures in the Arctic Circle, which have been hovering right around freezing for several weeks, a departure from normal polar temps of  -25 to -35 F. (-32 to -37 C).  In other words, as counterintuitive as it may seem, the shift of the polar vortex southward into North America and Siberia is the effect of global warming in the polar region.  See my December 2016 blog:
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2016/12/here-comes-polar-vortex-again.html

Now, on Christmas day (and for the last several days), with the Polar Vortex past, we are experiencing unusually warm temperatures for late-December and our once-fluffy snow is melting fast.  Right now, at noon, I am looking out my window at wind-blown steady rain, with the air temperature hovering just above freezing. Thunderstorms and temperatures in the 40s are predicted for later in the day, with upwards to an inch of rain, and it's likely that most of our snow cover will be gone by tomorrow.

Thunderstorms on Christmas Day in Minnesota?  No one can remember this happening before, but it serves as a very good example of what winter-protecting your roses is all about, if you live some place where winter (and especially the Polar Vortex these days) affects your garden.  Last week at this time, my roses were frozen solid, probably at least a foot or more below the surface (it doesn't take long for that to happen at -20 F (-29 C).  Now, with temperatures well above freezing and rain coming down, the ground surface will start to thaw after the snow melts, but I know my roses will stay frozen solid because they are mounded with dirt and insulated with leaves and/or marsh hay.  Likewise, tomorrow morning, when temperatures fall and the surface re-freezes, they will be unaffected, because they did not thaw.

Now, for example, if you live near St. Louis, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, Boston or New York, and your ground and roses were certainly not frozen before the Polar Vortex came through last week, but you had at least mounded them and your bud unions are planted several inches below the ground, it is very unlikely that they froze from that short blast of polar temperatures (which we may see again in January or February). So, like mine, they are just fine for exactly the same reason: they were winter-protected from freezing and thawing.  The only difference is that mine didn't thaw and yours didn't freeze; so no problem either way.  If you haven't already seen it, please read my recent blog: "Five Important Steps to Winter-Protecting Your Roses".  Here is that address:
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2016/08/five-important-steps-to-winter.html .

As I have said repeatedly in the last few years, you can debate why global warming is happening but the facts clearly demonstrate that it is; the Polar Vortex notwithstanding.  As mentioned earlier, the Polar Vortex is caused by extreme warming of the polar regions pushing cold air southward into Siberia or North America (or both this year), via the jet-stream. And because it is still unusually warm in the Arctic, we can expect the Polar Vortex to re-emerge in any winter going forward, particularly in January or February (December was a surprise).  Please see my March 2014 blog "What the Heck Was Wrong with this Winter":
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2014/03/what-heck-is-wrong-with-this-winter_5.html ,
as well as my October 2014 blog: "Winter-Protecting Roses in a Climate-Change Environment".
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2014/10/winter-protecting-roses-in-climate.html

Bottom line?  If you live in any zone where winter comes along at some point each year, do something to winter-protect your roses, even if it's only planting your bud unions several inches below ground and providing some mounding with mulch or dirt around your plants each fall, because we can now say, with a fairly high degree of certainty, that the Polar Vortex will strike again in North America, in any year going forward.

Jack Falker
@mnrosegardener
jfalkersr@gmail.com



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Here Comes the Polar Vortex... Again!

The last time the dreaded Polar Vortex invaded the lower 48 states was nearly three years ago, in January 2014, and it was pretty rough, especially for rosarians in parts of the country who aren't used to deep cold, as we are here in the Upper Midwest.  I remember writing back then that we would probably see a vortex invasion again, because it's something that's always circulating up there at the north pole, and it would be just a matter of time before it found its way south again, especially with the weather anomalies we are experiencing on a regular basis these days.  I also cautioned readers in my previous blog "Five Important Steps for Winterizing Your Roses": "Don't forget the Polar Vortex of a couple of years ago (and act accordingly)!"
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2016/08/five-important-steps-to-winter.html

Well, I hope you did, because here it comes again!  However, for those in zones 6 and 7, If you didn't get all your winter work done, you may have a few more days to protect your roses from the effects of freezing and thawing.  See the animated map below to see when the vortex will strike your area.

The good news is that this particular polar vortex incursion isn't going to last too long.  Obviously, we can't know for sure, but there seems to be a pretty good chance that the vortex will not repeat itself in January, when the the polar air is considerably colder

This is all from my friend Paul Douglas' blog, which I read daily:


What Is The Polar Vortex? NOAA has a very good explainer, separating fact from hype: "...The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles. It ALWAYS exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter. The term "vortex" refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles. Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream (see graphic above). This occurs fairly regularly during wintertime and is often associated with large outbreaks of Arctic air in the United States. The one that occurred January 2014 is similar to many other cold outbreaks that have occurred in the past, including several notable colder outbreaks in 1977, 1982, 1985 and 1989. There are several things the polar vortex is NOT. Polar vortexes are not something new. The term “polar vortex” has only recently been popularized, bringing attention to a weather feature that has always been present..."

Here's the full description:

And here is an excellent,timely article from the New York Times: "Feeling a Chill? Blame the Polar Vortex. And Global Warming".

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/15/science/feeling-a-chill-blame-the-polar-vortex-and-global-warming.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

And here is Paul Douglas' take on the odds of this happening again this winter:

Late-Month Moderation. I want to see a few more model runs, but GFS 500 mb predicted winds looking out 2 weeks suggests a more zonal flow for the USA with temperatures at or above average for late December. The question is not: will we endure more arctic fronts. We will. The question is how pervasive will bitter air be east of the Rockies? Will the polar vortex weaken and break down, allowing subzero air to consistently flood south? I'm still not convinced it's going to be nearly as numbing as it was 3 years ago.

Thank Heaven! But it's better to be safe than sorry.

The map below tracks the polar vortex incursion through the end of December:




Monday, August 29, 2016

Five Important Steps to Winter-Protecting Your Roses

There is a continuing misconception among many folks who grow roses in the "cold zones" (i.e. USDA zones 3, 4, 5 and 6), that "winter protection" means protection against freezing.  That's not right in zones where the ground freezes solid.  No matter how much protection you add to your roses (and that includes the "Minnesota Tip"), it's impossible to stop them from freezing when the ground freezes down one or two feet (or sometimes more here in Minnesota).

So, it's not the freezing that kills roses, it's the repeated thawing and re-freezing at the surface, when temperatures go above freezing in the daytime and fall back below freezing at night.  So our winter-protection objective must be to stop repeated freezing and thawing.  By the way, this principle applies equally to more temperate zones where the ground doesn't consistently freeze, but winter temperatures hover around freezing for weeks at a time.  In a way, I think that the winter-cover methods described below, or some variant thereof, may be at least as important (or perhaps even more so) for gardeners in zones 6 and 7, where the ground often doesn't stay frozen and freezing and thawing is very fickle. Don't forget the "Polar Vortex" of a couple of years ago (and act accordingly)!

For example, here is a beautiful picture of Teresa and Greg Byington's home and garden at the height of the "Polar Vortex", near Indianapolis (zone 6, per National Arbor Day 2015 data), in January 2014.  The extreme minimum temperature (EMT) in Indianapolis was -15, i.e., right in the middle of zone 5 that year.  That means that the ground froze solid in Indiana, during that period, and likely thawed out and froze again, judging from the bright sunshine in this picture.  In St. Louis, zone 7, their EMT was -8, putting them in zone 6, so the ground froze solid, before thawing, there too.  That's why some form of aggressive winter protection is also important in both zones 6 and 7.



Here are my five important steps to stop the killing effects of freezing and thawing:

1.  Always plant the bud unions of your grafted roses, or the crowns of your own-root roses, at least three inches below the ground.  Not only does this help insulate the bud unions from freezing and thawing, but it's also good horticultural practice, no matter whether you garden in a cold zone or a warm zone.

2.  In the six weeks prior to the first hard freeze in your area (25 degrees f. or below), harden off the canes of your roses by giving them a weekly potassium feast.  See my blog:
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2014/09/potassium-feast-for-your-roses.html

3.  A couple of weeks before the first hard freeze, mound your roses, up ten inches or so, with several shovels of compost or black dirt.  This cone of soil, which should be frequently watered and is the first to freeze, further insulates the bud unions and crowns of your plants (which should already be below ground level).  In zones 6 and 7 (where I grew up), the extent of mounding might be reduced somewhat, perhaps to just a heavy mulching that stays put over the winter and is naturally worked into the soil in the spring.  Again, however, remember what happened with the "polar vortex" and act accordingly.  It can't hurt to use more mulch.

4.  Next, at about the time the soil freezes (late November or early December in Minneapolis) or, in the warmer zones, when you anticipate consistent night-time temperatures below 25 degrees (probably early January), put some leaf or hay cover over your mounded roses.  I like half-filled bags of mulched leaves, which I slit open on the bottom and push down over my plants.  At this point, the plants have been cut back to about 18 inches and bundled up with twine, so as not to hinder placement of the bags.  You can also use wire fence cylinders filled with leaves but I think the slitted leaf bags work better; a practice that has been used in the Chicago area for many years.  In Detroit (zone 6), where my parents grew roses, we simply raked leaves over our rose beds, without mounding, for winter cover.  I also remember that they replaced several roses each year, so it must have not been quite sufficient.  However, I believe that the combination of mounding and generally covering your beds with leaves or hay would probably work just fine in zone 6, as long as your bud unions are planted below ground level. For much greater detail, please see my blogs "Winter Protecting Your Roses" and "The Big Coverup":
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2013/09/winter-protecting-your-roses.html
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-big-coverup.html

5.  Finally, if this isn't already enough, you must now protect your roses from voles, those voracious rodent pests that are to winter gardening what japanese beetles are to summer gardening. This must be done just before you place leaf cover on your plants, i.e. just before they freeze.  Castor oil and rodent bait should be strategically applied, as described in these two Minnesota Rose Gardener blogs:
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2015/11/protecting-roses-from-vole-damage.html
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2012/10/voles-and-roses.html

Here is a picture of my Earth Song bed, all put to bed on Christmas day 2013, with each of the five steps above performed, plus a natural eight inches of snow for added insulation.  The now-dreaded Polar Vortex would begin in the next month, with more than 50 nights below zero and a one-night EMT of -23 (zone 4), but I suffered no losses in 2014.



So now your fall work is cut out for you!  Please let me know if you have a question.

Jack Falker
@mnrosegardener
jfalkersr@gmail.com






Friday, August 19, 2016

Attacking Japanese Beetles -- Victory!

The JBs arrived early this year, on June 19th, and they have been the worst ever. Over the last two months, on many days I have drowned several hundred in soapy water, but today I drowned only one.  While I fully expect to see a few more in the next couple of weeks, I think we can now declare victory for 2016!

I calculate, roughly, that I killed upwards of 5,000 JBs, entirely organically, while preserving the lives and habitat of all pollinating insects, like the hundreds of varieties of bees, and the beneficial predatory insects in my garden, including lady beetles, predatory wasps, lace wings etc., by not spraying insecticides; and I am proud of that! Those 5,000 JBs will never find their way into my lawn to produce more JBs next year and that is better than all the grub control or milky spore treatments one could muster.

My rose gardens have been extensively dead-headed, chewed-up leaves removed, fertilized, and positioned to quickly outgrow and outbloom the effects of the JBs, over the next couple of months.  That's a pretty good result, I believe, and that's what organic gardening is all about.

If you haven't read my earlier posts on JBs this year, take a look at "Attacking Japanese Beetles--Know Your Enemy", which also includes the addresses of my several other blogs on JBs:
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2016/07/attacking-japanese-beetles-know-your.html

I would be interested in knowing how it has gone for my readers this year.  I know, for example that JBs made it further north in Minnesota than ever before; the result of changes in Minnesota's climate, which is warming faster than anywhere else in the country, other than Alaska.  Let me know how it has gone for you.  Have JBs made it to Europe or South America for example?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Falker
@mnrosegardener
jfalkersr@gmail.com


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Attacking Japanese Beetles -- Know Your Enemy

Author's note: If you haven't read my last post: "Attacking Japanese Beetles -- Organically", please take a look at it.  You will learn more from this post if you read my last one first: 
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2016/07/attacking-japanese-beetles-organically.html

JBs on Earth Song

To get to know the JB enemy, let's consider again where JBs originate.  The adult beetles mate in the process of feeding on their favorite foods (like roses, many trees and other flowers like zinnias) and you can see this happening if you observe them clustering.  The female JB then finds a lush bit of turf and deposits her eggs.  The eggs hatch as grubs and feed on the grass roots.  If enough JB grubs populate your lawn, you will develop areas of dead turf, which, when dug up, will have one-inch, white, JB grubs clustered in the roots.  That whole area of your lawn will die unless you apply grub control in the fall or early spring.  This is one of the things that golf course managers have learned and why they have been using huge amounts of imidacloprid, as the most effective grub control, over the last several years here in Minnesota.  I had this problem myself, several years ago, and applied granular imidacloprid to save my lawn.  You can bet that this is part of the reason that we have seen such an upswing in bee colony collapse disorder, which has been directly linked to imidacloprid.  One extreme example of this is Orem City, Utah, which applied imidacloprid across all neighborhoods of the city, several years ago, when JBs began to affect the floraculture and nursery industries. They even went so far as to warn homeowners not to eat any of the produce of their fruit trees, because of the systemic nature of imidacloprid. It worked, but I can't even contemplate the extent of the damage to honey bees and other beneficial insects, like lady beetles, in Utah, as the result of this extreme measure.  Here's the Utah story:
http://ag.utah.gov/home/blog/518-how-we-stopped-the-japanese-beetle.html

I also want to point out that as soon as we began to see JBs in the Twin Cities, I made the rather sizable investment in Milky Spore, with a special tubular applicator and all, and went all over my lawn and portions of my neighbors' lawns laboriously applying patches of it, exactly as specified (and I breathed-in a lot of it, as well).  I watched, hopefully, for the next few years to see what the milky spore infection would do to the JB population on my roses and I can say with certainty that it did virtually nothing to significantly reduce the population of beetles in my gardens! Oh, I'm sure that Milky Spore and a subsequent, equally expensive, application of nematodes knocked off a bunch of JB grubs in my lawn over the next few years, and they still may be doing so, but that's not where the great majority of JBs landing in my gardens are originating.

Please see quotes from the University of Minnesota about the ineffectiveness of Milky Spore here:
http://theminnesotarosegardener.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-beetles-are-coming-beetles-are.html

Fact: JBs travel amazing distances, from where they pupate, to find the plant foods they relish (like your roses).  There is evidence that they may fly as much as five miles to reach your plants, so unless all the turf within a five-mile radius of your garden is treated with Milky Spore or imidacloprid (like in Utah!) there is no way that what you alone do to your lawn will stop JBs from invading your gardens. Milky Spore and imidacloprid can protect your lawn from dying, but they can't stop the vast majority of JBs from flying your way each summer.  Save your money and concentrate on killing the JBs as they arrive, before they can lay eggs in your lawn.  As I point out in my earlier blog posts, pyrethroid insecticides, like Demand CS, work well, but they also kill beneficial insects such as lady beetles and pollinators. That is why I advocate the organic approach of manually drowning JBs. Either way you decide to go, it's far more important to concentrate on attacking and killing JBs than it is to try and prevent them from hatching on your property.

Fact: If you haven't already figured this out, JBs are amazingly canny critters. To effectively attack them, it's useful to observe what they do as they approach your garden.  When you have as many as I do, it's interesting to observe their behavior (just before drowning them!). When a JB arrives in one of my rose beds it hovers around the bed, like a helicopter, looking for a suitable place to land. Almost always, it will land on a flower or leaf that has one or more JBs already on it, or on a flower or leaf that has been previously chewed by other JBs. So, obviously, the JBs arriving in my garden, from some distance, perhaps miles away, are attracted to the scent of other JBs, presumably by the female sexual pheromone, which is all kind of amazing to me. So, it's important to get rid of tainted leafs and flowers, whenever possible.  I know how hard it is to pluck a brand new bud that has two JBs imbedded in it, but it's important to do that in order not to let it attract incoming beetles (I did it just a few minutes ago and it is painful).  Interesingly, when they can't find an old leaf or flower to land on, they seem momentarily confused and can be easily picked off. Also, believe it or not, while they are hovering around looking for a place to land, I have been quite successful in grabbing them in mid-air!  That actually makes the whole exercise kind of fun once in a while.

The good news is that JB season should soon be over.  They started early this year (June 19th) so they should soon be finished. Better days ahead.

Jack Falker
@mnrosegardener
July 21, 2016