Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Big Net 2.0

Greetings! Those of you who read my blog post last August may remember my idea last year to defend my roses and other vulnerable plants from the Japanese beetle scourge: The Big Net.

As I wrote then, the JBs have gotten worse every year since I've been gardening (they were hardly seen in Iowa when I moved to my current house and started gardening seriously a decade ago). They've really made gardening a lot less enjoyable during the period from late June to early September (although there may be fewer of them this year, or at least they may be less active, due to the cooler weather we've been having, compared to last year).


Last year, I tried just about everything I read about: insecticides, deterrent sprays, milky spore, knocking them off into a cup of soapy water each evening. But nothing really worked. I didn't want to put nets over each and every flowering plant, so I bought a temporary metal structure over which I draped a big net to cover one whole flower garden area, my Paradise Garden, in which most of my roses are located.

As you may recall, the net worked pretty well last summer to keep the JBs off the roses and other flowers in my Paradise Garden -- until a storm with gale force winds of 70 mph tore the net in several places. I was able to clip the pieces together enough to hold up until the end of summer, but I vowed to try again, with several modifications:

Last year, I attached the grommets (that tethered the net to wires on each side) directly into the netting, but the wind tore the grommets right out of the net. This year, I reinforced the lines of grommets by inserting them through strips of back-to-back weather-resistant Gorilla tape on both sides of the net. We'll see if this helps....

The other major tearing of the net last year occurred where it was draped over the wood pergola at the end of the garden: the sharp ends of the wood tore into the net and the wind pulled the net so hard that it continued the tear nearly clear through the entire width of the net. This year, I covered the ends of the wood with hollow golf balls and a couple of small plastic pots stuck on the ends of the wood. Again, we'll see....

I moved most of my remaining roses into the Paradise Garden this spring, and gave away my climbing roses, which, unlike rose shrubs, can't be simply cut back after their first flush of flowers, as it defeats the whole purpose of climbing roses. Marigolds and daylilies are also attractive to the JBs, so most of those are planted in this area too. And I can move any potted plants that are targeted by them under the net as well.

The Result:

Since I put the net up several weeks ago, the number of JBs in my Paradise Garden has been greatly reduced (somehow a few still seem to be getting in, but not very many). My roses are starting to look healthier and less eaten than they were after the arrival of the JBs at the beginning of July until I got the net up several weeks later.

It's been nice to simply sit and enjoy my garden, smelling the flowers, and lightly puttering around deadheading and pulling a few small weeds like usual, instead of being aggravated by the bugs ruining my flowers. We'll hope that this continues for as long as the JBs are around.

Here are few scenes of the Japanese beetle-free beauty under the tent:

Buisson (bush-type) dahlia 'Jaipur,' starting to bloom in front of self-seeded tobacco and petunias. I can't believe how well these new French dahlia hybrids from Ernest Turc bloom, 3-5 feet tall and no need for staking. I really wish that more of them were available here in the United States (Brent & Becky's Bulbs has a few varieties, but I want more kinds!)

Pink flowering tobacco, lavender, petunias and 'Rooguchi' clematis, top.

Daylily 'Pardon Me' and petunias.
Roses (I think this might be the Buck rose, 'Hi Neighbor,' but I can't be certain) and lavender.

Oriental lilies and 'Persian Market' daylily.
Tall pink 'Ruby' snapdragons and other flowers.

The most enjoyable time in this garden is in the cool of evening and nighttime. I found this solar-powered LED lamp at Theisen's farm store this spring, and the cut-outs in the metal cast a beautiful pattern that fits in well in my Islamic-style Paradise Garden. 
Here's what the lantern pattern looks like when I set the lantern on the paving stones in the garden. It's really pretty magical at night.
Daylily 'Red Volunteer'.

This garden truly is my paradise. I've enjoyed making other garden areas, but never derived so much joy from maintaining and inhabiting a garden area as I have with this one. (And look at those roses, beautifully free from munching beetles!)

My revised Big Net seems to be doing the job. I hope the information about my trials and errors with it will be helpful to others trying to deal with the Japanese beetle scourge. Midwesterners can still grow and enjoy roses!

I hope you are enjoying your own gardens, filled with blooming flowers, and free from insect damage, as we reach the height of summer. Thanks for reading! -Beth