Q: I need your help. We have farmed our garden for 52 years and haven’t ever had potato bugs until 2015 and 2016, and it was a nightmare. We tried picking them off by hand three times and sprayed them two times without any success. We only had stems left. We also need help in stopping slugs. Some are the size of a small snake. What can we do and where do they come from?
B. R. of East Carondelet
A: The potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata — which by the species name indicates that they are striped)) actually feed on potatoes, tomatoes and pepper plants. Both the larvae (organist-brown in color with black spots) and the adults (green with black stripes) devour the stems and leaves of these plants. The eggs (yellow-orange in color) are laid on the undersides of the leaves as the plants begin to grow in spring.
It takes about two to three weeks for the eggs to hatch. The larvae then fall to the soil and pupate and then emerge one to two weeks later as adults. The adults then lay more eggs. There can be three to four generations each growing season or a new generation of beetles every month. So you need to spray every seven days to control them by spraying both the top and undersides of the leaves. You can use fruit and vegetable insect spray, Sevin garden dust, or vegetable dust as soon as you notice them.
Slugs are basically snails without a hard shell, but are covered with a wet mucous slime to help them breath. They are night feeders so you usually don’t see them but you can follow where they have been by the shiny mucous like trail. They are attracted to the smell of stale beer (but a PhD student found they do not like the LITE beers, wish I would of thought of this experiment). You can put a little beer in a saucer of jar lid and when the alcohol covers their skin it suffocates them. You will have to fill these containers about every other night or after a rain. This could add up to a six-pack or more over time. But there is a compressed pellets (Bug-Geta Snail and Slug Pellets) which is easy, and clean to handle and two pounds of the pellets will cover about 2,000 square feet. Usually you have to retreat the area every two weeks or again after a rain. Slugs lay white eggs encased in slime in protected hard to find spaces. Also wet down any areas with a water mist to coat the soil and other plants to encourage movement so the bait will be more effective.
Q: I have two weeds growing in my yard. I have tried Round-Up and other weed killers, but they keep coming back. If I pull the one and lay it in the sun, it looks like it dies but if it gets back to the dirt, it starts growing again. They keep spreading. Any answers?
D. S. of Freeburg
A: Weed No. 1 is Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea). This plant roots very easily from the stem especially at the nodes where the leaves join the stem. Any small piece roots easily and spreads. This plant also produces many seeds from the speckled reddish flowers. I t can be controlled with Round-Up when the temperatures are above seventy degrees and actively growing. It can grow up to three feet in length with many nodes.
Weed No. 2 is Common chickweed (Stellaria media) which is identified by the long petioles where the leaf attaches to the stem. This plant survives even during the winter. It survives by producing many seeds, but when a piece of the stem breaks off can easily root and start many plants if the humidity and soil moisture is sufficient enough. If you cut this plant with a lawn mower first it can also be killed by Round-Up with higher air temperatures.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things to do this week
- If the soil is dry enough you can till it, but don’t rush it as if a rain comes, you can destroy your soil condition and make it compacted, slowing down plant growth.