Saturday, November 28, 2009

Confederate Jasmine Vine

(Trachelospermum spp.)

I won this huge jasmine in a raffle. I hope it doesn’t become the subject of a Garden Bloggers Death Day post someday. It is a (very large) house plant in my zone 6.

There are 86 questions and answers on the Gardeners Supply Plant Care forum. Almost too much information.

I’ve never grown a jasmine and I don’t know anyone who has. I’m trying to get it to live and bloom – enticed by stories of heavenly fragrance. I’ve only had it for two weeks. So far, so good.

If staring at the plant is any help, mine should do just fine.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Thanksgiving Prayer
by Susan D. Anderson

I’m thankful for my mother,
I’m thankful for my dad.

I’m thankful for my sisters, and

for all the fun we’ve had.

I’m thankful for my brother, Tom,

(even when he’s jerky.)

But most of all, I’m oh-so-thankful

not to be a turkey

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Leaf Trick

I apologize for posting a day late. This blog started out as a complaint against Mother Nature. No matter how many times I rake the leaves out of the corners and from under bushes, she insists on blowing a new bunch right back.

Then I read the Susan Harris’ post “The Great Dead-Leaf Debate – who knew?” at Sustainable Gardening blog. Susan presents the alternatives in 2 parts.

Susan also mentions the “leaf it be” movement. You know - letting leaves decompose where they fall

Here are my reasons why I will never be part of the “leaf it be” movement:
- When I worked on farms, no one had the time or the energy to worry about leaves (although we did sometimes clean up the perennial beds). We were too busy tossing bales, feeding animals and cleaning up after animals. The leaves had to take care of themselves. That was then and this is now. It’s different in city life.

- Leaves accumulated in corners do no good. They make a slimy, messy pile and a perfect hiding place for rodents and insects.

- A rug of maple leaves on the lawn will smother grass. It may do the same to groundcovers and perennials. Even though we’ve reduced the size of our lawn over the years, we still need a place for kids to play kick ball and throw a Frisbee. So we need some lawn. We leave some shredded leaves on the lawn but there are way too many to shred them all.

- Leaves block storm drains and cause flooding. It’s a driving hazard. I’ve seen it happen. . (There’s nothing more foul than a flooded, stagnant intersection with rotting leaves floating on top.)

- Leaves on sidewalks become slippery when wet. I don’t want to see granny with feet flying above her head.

- Leaves stuck in tender shrubs by the whimsical wind do not decompose. They have to be picked out by hand. They look messy and will still be there when we harvest the tomatoes next summer.

- Leaves can rot wooden decks. Decks are too expensive to let rot.

- And, raking is good exercise on a crisp, fall day. It promotes family togetherness. (The younger family members may try to make grownups feel guilty at their forced servitude with a rolling of eyes and deep sighs. Don’t fall for it.)

My compost bin is full. I have a large pile of leaves to add all year.

If I can’t use all the leaves from my yard, why not let the city make compost for everyone? We picked up a nice truckload this fall. And, it’s is so much better than dumping them in the landfill.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

IPM - Part 3

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug” - Mark Twain

Integrated Pest Management – IPM (continued)

After a lot of searching, reading, getting confused, starting over, I ran almost ran out of energy. I’ll try to summarize the rest of my research. So hopefully I’m using the “right word” not the “almost right word” ----- or the completely wrong word ---- or omitting an important point. I’ve included a link in each section if you would like more information.

Mechanical Control of the Adult Beetle

Mechanical methods are very straightforward. Just pop the little buggers into a bucket of soapy water. (And hope they don’t fly away before they hit the suds.) It is suggested this be done in the early morning when they are sleepy.

Chemical control of grubs

It’s possible to reduce the number of Japanese beetles by attacking the larval stage if the insecticide is applied at the right time. (See part 1.)

One product advertised for Grub control is Grubex manufactured by The Scott Company.

According to Pesticide Action Network (PAN) the hazard warning label is: “III Caution” or slight toxicity.

The active ingredient is halofenozid which is listed as a “potential” groundwater contaminant. It is easy to apply with the proper spreader setting. One bag costs about $20 and covers 5,000 sq. ft.

Biological control of grubs
Milky Spore - Bacillus popilliae

Bacteria can also be used to combat grubs. Milky Spore Bacillus popilliae is specific for Japanese beetle larvae. The US EPA fact sheet includes a description of the active ingredients, its uses and risks.

Milky spore is found naturally in the soil and is not harmful to humans. It does not affect beneficial insects. On the downside, it is relatively expensive and may require application for 3 or 4 years before it is effective. But it may be effective for 10 years.

At Gardener’s Supply a 10 oz can of Milky Spore powder costs $39.95 and covers 2,500 sq. ft.

Nematodes - Heterorhabditis bacteriophora

Biological Control: A guide to Natural Enemies in North America,” Cornell University notes: Relative effectiveness depends on several factors. They have to be kept alive during shipping and application.

Nematodes are roundworms that have a very short “shelf life” Nematodes need to be kept wet and breakdown rapidly in sunlight and are effective in a narrow range of temperature. When used correctly they can be very effective

You can buy 1 million nematodes in Grub Guard (Steinernema sp. and Heterorhabditis sp.) at Gardener’s Supply for $19.95.

The biggest drawback to using nematodes seems to be the difficulty in application.

Grub Guard – is a manufacturer of organic fertilizers in Bradford Vermont. “Grub Guard nematodes are shipped alive and should be released into a thoroughly moist soil or growing media as soon as possible.”

Thirteen instructions for application, mixing and dilution are listed.
Bt - Bacillus thuringiensis

University of Virginia Extension lists several varieties of Bt. It would be necessary to find the right variety for grubs.

Bt occurs naturally in soil. Bt products are applied much like synthetic insecticides and treatments are inactivated within one to a few days in many outdoor situations. Repeated applications may be necessary for some crops and pests.

Bt products need to be handled with care. Inhaling dusts or mists may cause allergic reaction or if rubbed on the skin may cause irritation. It is advised that you wear gloves, long sleeves and long trousers during application and wash thoroughly afterwards.

There are several online sites that offer Bt products for sale.


This series of posts was really not about the Japanese beetle. As I worked on the series I tried to follow one pest through the IPM process as honestly, objectively and logically as I could.

The posts are really about the ease or difficulty of the IPM process.

Did I make this process harder than it needs to be? Am I missing something? I don’t know.

I learned a lot during the process. There are now more things that I won’t have to search out again. Somehow a great idea like Integrated Pest Management should be easier for the average gardener. I think it is worth the effort if we are truly concerned about the environment.

What are your thoughts about Integrated Pest Management?

(Comments, arguments, corrections welcome)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Taking a Break

I’m taking a break from IPM research to enjoy the Bethlehem Garden Club’s Flower Show. (See Bethlehem Garden Club link at right for details.) The show continues today from 10 AM to 3 PM.

I’ll continue with IPM on Wednesday.
Here are some pictures from the show.



Special Exhibits

Bake Sale

Plant Sale
and Raffle

(Dear fellow garden bloomdayers,
I've cheated a bit here to include this blog as my bloomday post. The show was much more interesting than the yellow Knock-out rose, calendula, sweet alyssum and snapdragon blooming in my garden. Carol at May Dreams Garden is the host of this wondeful event on the 15th of every month. Sorry Carol - The devil made me do it.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

IPM - Part 2

Integrated Pest Management - IPM (Continued from last post)

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not."
— Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax

This is an extremely long post and for that, I apologize. Even with all its length, I could not cover everything. It is not a scholarly work – I am as far from being a chemist as anyone could be - but I’m determined to continue my journey through IPM with the Japanese beetle as best I can.

In order to make an informed decision, I need to understand the effects of the options from the last post - chemical, biological or mechanical. I started with a spray for adult beetle.

Spraying – Chemical Control of Adult Japanese Beetle

Have you ever read a pesticide label - that is, assuming you have excellent eyesight or a magnifying glass? Directions for use are very clear. “Read the label and follow the directions”, has become a gardening mantra. I can do that.

But what is in the spray? I chose Bayer Advanced Dual Action Rose and Flower Insect Killer because it is labeled for Japanese beetles (adult). I mean to neither promote nor condemn this product but I had to pick something. I have not used this product. This is simply an example of what it took for me to understand a pesticide label.

Bayer Advanced Dual Action Rose and Flower Insect Killer label:
ß-cyfluthrin................................. 0.0015%
Imidacloprid.............................. 0.012%
OTHER INGREDIENTS.................... 99.9865%
ß-cyfluthrin is the chemical name for Tempo® Ultra.
Imidacloprid is the chemical name for Merit®.
EPA Reg. No. 72155-28
EPA Est. No. indicated by 2nd and 3rd digits of the batch number on
this package. (65) = 432-TX-1 (39) = 58996-MO-1
(68) = 67572-GA-1 (75) = 5905-AR-1 3953398 R.0

I used Extoxnet and clicked on Pesticide Information Profiles (PIP) link to find the chemicals in this spray. It reads like a scholarly/governmental publication.

As far as I can tell from the label, this spray is in Toxicity Category III – “Caution” (Slightly Toxic). The Toxicity Categories are: IV None, III Caution; II Warning, I Danger - with “Category I Danger” being the most toxic. This scale is based on the LD50 number.

LD50 is the amount of pesticide, measured in milligrams per kilogram of body weight, that will kill one half of the exposed population.

First, ß-cyfluthrin – Tempo® Ultra

LD50 for a 150 lb. human for category III Caution ingestion total of one ounce to one pint, I think. I could use some help here. I found the Toxicity section of Extoxnet difficult to understand. From what I got it would take a pint of Cyfluthrin to kill 50% of the chickens or something like that. If you understand this measurement, please enlighten me. The amount of beta-cyfluthrin in this spray is .0015% in 24 fl. oz. or close to 1/25th of an ounce.

“Cyfluthrin is a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide that has both contact and stomach poison action” What is a pyrethroid? Pyrethroids are axonic poisons. Definition from Wikipedia: “Pyrethroids are axonic poisons that work by keeping the sodium channels open in the neuronal membranes of insects.” (Huh?)

There is a lot more information in the PIP but how much can you read before your brain goes tilt?

Next, Imidacloprid - Merit®.

Extension Toxicology Network search for Imidacloprid brought up a Pesticide Information Profile. “Imidacloprid is a systemic, chloro-nicotinyl insecticide with soil, seed and foliar uses for the control of sucking insects…”

I won’t go through the entire toxicity report. Imidacloprid is moderately toxic to mammals. LD50 is 450 mg/kg body weight in rats – the low end of category III Warning. The spray contains .012% or somewhere near 1/5th of an ounce.
Environmental Effect

I thought I would look at the Environmental Fate section of the PIP and try to understand the long term effects of Imidacloprid on the environment. “The half-life of imidacloprid in soil is 48-190 days, depending on the amount of ground cover.” “The half-life in water is much greater than 31 days at pH 5, 7 and 9. No other information was found.” I have no idea what the “Breakdown of Chemical in Vegetation” section means.

Effects on other animals

Are there animals that eat the beetles that will be affected by the poisons? I remember the disastrous effect of DDT sprays on birds. I couldn’t find any helpful information on this level.

Also, while eliminating one pest, I don’t want to kill beneficial insects and make my garden problems worse. A warning on the label:“• Apply the product to flowering plants during early morning or late evening, when bees are not present.” I must assume it will kill beneficial insects and another good reason to follow label directions.

What about groundwater contamination? Since it is sprayed on foliage groundwater contamination does not seem to be a major concern.

Agriicultural and Environmental News from Dr. Allan S. Felsot, Environmental Toxicologist, a Washington State University has this to say:

"Imidacloprid has a comparatively high water solubility (510 mg/L) and very low vapor pressure (1.9 x 10-9 mm Hg), so it is unlikely to evaporate from soil and plant surfaces and become an air contaminant. On the other hand, its biodegradation rate in soil has been characterized as moderately slow, with about 50% of the applied residue dissipating in a range of 48-190 days.”

Other Ingredients

Who knows what 99.9865 “other ingredients” are? The answer, it turns out, is no one except the manufacturer.

According to EPA “Regulating Pesticides”

“An inert ingredient means any substance (or group of structurally similar substances if designated by the Agency), other than an active ingredient, which is intentionally included in a pesticide product. Inert ingredients play a key role in the effectiveness of a pesticidal product. For example, inert ingredients may serve as a solvent, allowing the pesticide's active ingredient to penetrate a plant's outer surface. . .”

I hope you can see difficulty of trying to interpret the pesticide label. I hope my conclusions are correct. (I kind of gave up at the end of this post and resorted to quotes. Sorry.)

One conclusion – we need an easier way for the public to make informed decisions about pesticide use. At least there is somewhere to look for information.

It seems that “slightly toxic” is just that – but it is not without concerns.

Next post will look at grub control and mechanical methods. I hope you return.

(Comments, arguments, corrections welcome)

Bethlehem Garden Club Flower Show

“Home for the Holidays”

to benefit BGC Scholarship Fund.
Ideas galore for your holiday décor.
Sale of house plants, baked goods, holiday decorations, books.
BGC always does a beautiful job. Come and enjoy.
Location: Advent Moravian Church, 3730 Jacksonville Rd. Bethlehem.
Dates: Friday, November 13, 3-8, Saturday November 14, 10-3.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

IPM – Part 1

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Man at the market: "My wife asked me to buy ORGANIC vegetables. Have these been sprayed with any poisonous chemicals?" - "No," replied the gardener, "you'll have to do that yourself." Anon.

I sat in on an IPM class at Lehigh County Extension this week. I came away determined to better understand IPM use in a home garden. It turned into a major project. I’ll try to follow my steps on this and subsequent posts. I hope I don’t cause you to doze off or run screaming from your monitor.

Integrated Pest Management definition: A scientific approach to effectively manage pests while minimizing negative effects on the environment.

“IPM for the Home Garden” by Karen Delahaut, Integrated Pest Management Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Madison explains it better than I ever could.
Possible slug damage on Rudbeckia.

(The basic management methods for IPM including plant selection, maintenance, etc. are listed in my IPM post of December 7, 2007 and are a very important part of Integrated Pest Management.)
IPM is a decision making process. The steps: 1) Properly identify the pest and it’s life cycle. 2) Monitor the pests’ presence, locations and abundance. 3) Establish a limit to the amount of pests you can tolerate. 4) Decide on a plan of action (or non-action).

I’ll try to follow the Japanese beetle through the IPM process.


Most gardeners recognize the hard-shelled, iridescent beetle and it’s destruction on trees, vines, roses, canna and other ornamental plants. That’s the simple part and the reason I chose Japanese beetle. Some pests are not so easy to recognize. And Japanese beetles give most gardeners fits in my area. So . . . check off identification.

Japanese beetle on bean leaf.

In 2007, Japanese beetles overran my garden. The last two years populations have been much less. How many beetles are too many? For some gardeners the answer is one. Others will put up with a few. Some will gardeners tolerate a chewing mob of beetles and just ignore them.


I’ll begin a year-long life span of the Japanese beetle when they are seen happily chewing away on a plant. The female leaves the plant from time to time and burrows into the soil to lay eggs. The eggs hatch in midsummer and the grubs begin to feed on roots. They remain in the soil becoming inactive going deeper in cold weather. They move toward the surface again in early spring. In warmer weather they turn into pupae and adults emerge to start the cycle over.


Japanese beetles are difficult to kill in the adult stage. Pheromone traps that have been developed confuse breeding beetles but tend to eliminate only about 50% or 60% of the population. Traps actually attract more beetles to the garden. There are sprays that may kill the beetles. I have not heard many good reports of the effectiveness of sprays.

Hand picking into a bucket of soapy water every morning when they are slow to move is an excellent non-chemical solution but it may not be an option for every gardener. This may be the best practice if there is a low count or if the gardener has a high tolerance for large populations.

There are options that are effective in the larval stage. Here timing is important. Grubs need to be near the surface which usually happens in June or July here in zone 6. We can tell when there are grubs near the surface in our yard. When the skunks forage for grubs at night, they leave round shallow holes in the grass. This is a sure sign that grubs are near the surface. Lifting a small clump of sod will also unearth some grubs.

I am trying to keep an open mind. I’ll look at the options in the next blog. Are we having fun yet?

In the meantime, here are two publications recommended by Lyn Garling, Program Manager PA IPM, Penn State University “Welcome to IPM” and the ”Extension Toxicology Network”.
(Comments, arguments, corrections welcome.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Garden Bloggers Death Day

I’m a little late for Garden Bloggers Death Day started by Kate at Gardening Without Skills. Postings are usually done on the last day of the month.

I planted this little shrub, marked “Pinus - Pine Shrub”, in June. I don’t know what happened. It just didn’t make it. Purchased at Home Depot for $19.97 on a whim, I guess it wasn't meant to be. I'll try another evergreen in spring.