Garden Alert, Mid-Late June: Columbine Seeds and Japanese Beetles and Japanese

If you marked some columbines for seed-saving, check the pods for the yellowish color that shows they’re almost ripe. Put a paper bag over them and gently bend the stalks near the base, so the bag is – more or less – right side up. Close the bag with a clothespin. Cut off the stalks when the pods turn brown and start to split and spill seeds. (That’s the reason for the bag routine). Let them dry another few days, then sow them where you want them to grow, pressing them lightly into the soil. Don’t cover; they need light to germinate.

If the Japanese beetles haven’t hit you yet, this should be big rose bouquet time. Don’t forget to cut on an outward facing slant, right above a five-part leaf.

Speaking of Japanese beetles; sigh, I can barely stand to do it. But I’ve had some success fighting them with neem, a botanical insecticide and fungicide – good against a whole range of pests – derived from an Asian tree. It comes as an extract, in two forms. One is a combo of neem and insecticidal soap, which provides quicker knockdown for some soft-bodied insects. The other is just plain neem. The plain stuff discourages insects before killing them and seldom provides that agreeable “DEATH! Right Now!”sensation one often longs for, but it is safer for more plants than the kind with the soap mixed in, so that’s the kind I use.

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