Another reason to avoid turfgrass?

Another reason to avoid turfgrass?
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This orienpet, Saltarello, is a strong butterscotch color. It’s in a container.

Conversations over the Garden Walk Buffalo weekend lead me to believe that—knock on wood—my lack of turfgrass may also be a reason for my lack of plant-destroying and other pests. I know that Japanese beetle grubs feed on grass and I rarely see any of the adults—maybe one or two a year in recent summers. It’s not just my yard; very few houses on my shady block have even a small patch of grass and all of our backyards are too small for lawns. We specialize in courtyards, patios, and containers. It might be an environment that’s more friendly to winged creatures than creeping or crawling creatures.

These Black Beauties and tigrinum flore pleno are among those that thrive in my clay soil and partial shade.

Now, of course, there’s a new beetle that seems even more dreaded than the JB, as there are few controls. The scarlet lily beetle is ravaging lilies and fritillaria throughout the Northeast. It completes most of its active life cycle on the lilies, pupating and overwintering in the soil. Many of the gardeners visiting last weekend immediately asked me about lily beetles once they saw all my lilies (species, oriental, OTs, trumpets, and others). The beetle has reached Ontario and is prevalent throughout eastern and central New York and even as far west as Rochester, but I’ve not seen it. Yet.

I have to wonder if our urban practice of small beds separated by hardscaping and extensive use of containers (about half my lilies are now in containers) may play a role here. I also wonder if there are ways to make the overwintering process more difficult for them. So far the recommended remedies are Neem and spinosad, with biological controls under investigation. But couldn’t there be ways to make their lives uncomfortable outside of spraying? That’s what I’m thinking.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on July 28, 2015 at 7:47 am, in the category It’s the Plants, Darling.


    • Susan
    • 17th October 2016

    Elizabeth, I’ve had far fewer lily beetles this year, which leads me to hope that maybe they’re finally reaching the end of their life span here (probably a forlorn hope) much like the viburnum leaf beetle did a number of years ago. Many of my lilies and even most of my frits were largely unmolested this year. However, I found that they also seem to benefit from an untidy garden over the winter – they seemed to thrive in leaf litter and dead plant material that didn’t get completely cleaned up. No scientific basis for these observations – they’re merely my observations, for whatever they may be worth. And don’t you just love the color on ‘Saltarella’?

    • tara dillard
    • 23rd October 2016

    Is there anything better than discovering a fat white grub, and squeezing it dead between 2 fingers ?

    • David The Good
    • 5th November 2016

    “It might be an environment that’s more friendly to winged creatures than creeping or crawling creatures.”

    • Tibs
    • 8th November 2016

    I have the same amount of turf area (well maybe a little less. Beds have an amazing ability to expand) and I have had very few Japanese beetles the last 4 or so years. They go in cycles of about 5 years, or so I read on I believe THE OSU extension site. I’m due.
    And Tara, more satisfying than squishing a white grub is crunching a Japanese beetle on my raspberries. Just remember which is the crunching hand and which is the munching hand.

    • admin
    • 9th November 2016

    I completely believe the turf grass/Japanese beetle correlation due to my experience in my current neighborhood (I live at the corner of Mow & Blow). I have never seen so many of those stupid things. While I’m reducing my turf grass slowly, my neighbors will never give theirs up because the lawn looks so nice next to their giant, bare piles of mulch. I’ve been experimenting with some ways to keep them off my most fragile plants, and using oil of oregano diluted in water. My roses seem to be less ravaged than in the past (they are my grandmother’s roses so I’m sentimental) but they blindsided me with an attack on my green beans and I just didn’t notice in time. Next year I’ll know.

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