A Gardener's Diary: Garden time flies too quickly

If the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun” is true, I must have a lot because I just don’t see it going by. June is already going fast and all my good intentions of planting my garden early have faded. Some of my ground cover really took off when I was not looking and invading many of my beds. It takes time to remove it all in order to put something else. In the meantime, my compost pile is getting bigger and doing very well heating up to 130 C in less than three days.

Maybe the cold winter we had took care of the earwigs. I transplanted marigolds and they are still there. I usually lose them within a couple of days to these critters. I noticed the flea beetles are back since I found holes in my bean seedlings. Adult flea beetles are very tiny. They’re black, brown, or bronze with enlarged hind legs. They jump like fleas when they’re disturbed. The larvae live in the soil and are thin, white, legless grubs with brown heads.

Adults emerge from the soil in spring to feed and lay eggs on the roots of plants. They die out by early July. The eggs hatch in about a week, and the larvae feed for two to three weeks. They pupate in the soil, and the next generation of adults emerges in two to three weeks. These pests produce up to four generations a year before the final generation of adults settles down for overwintering. Flea beetles attack most vegetables, particularly cabbage-family plants, potatoes and spinach. They also feed on flowers and weeds. You can recognize flea beetle damage by the small, round holes the adults chew through leaves. These beetles are most damaging in early spring, when heavy infestations can actually kill seedlings. Larger plants usually survive and outgrow the damage, unless they were infected with a plant virus spread by the beetles. Larvae feed on plant roots.

Organic damage control: Plant susceptible plants as late as possible to avoid the most damaging generation. Cover seedlings and potato shoots with floating row covers until adult beetles die off. Lightly cultivate the soil around plants before and after planting to destroy any flea beetle eggs and larvae in the soil. Flea beetles like to hide in cool, weedy areas. Confuse the beetles by mixing up your plantings. Surround their favourite food plants with flowers and herbs like Queen Anne’s lace, dill, and parsley, which attract beneficial insects. Dust your garden plants with food grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of flea beetles. This pulverized rock kills beetles by cutting and dehydrating them. You may have to reapply after the rain. I also squish them between my fingers. You have to be fast and put one finger under the leaf and the other one on top of the flea beetle and crush them up without wrecking the leaves. It takes practice but it works.

Don’t forget the People Place garden tour on Saturday. I put in an order for a sunny day with a gentle breeze.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast and a member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club whose column in The Morning Star appears every other Wednesday.

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