Another reason to avoid turfgrass? by Elizabeth Licata

This orienpet, Saltarello, is a strong butterscotch color.

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.

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.

Another reason to avoid turfgrass? originally appeared on Garden Rant on July 28, 2015.

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