Rust Never Sleeps, Nor do the Japanese Beetles…

Late summer seems to bring on the pest problems or at least they get to a point that I can’t help but notice.  I know its getting to be late summer when I walk barefoot through my lawn and end up with weirdly orange toes.


Rust is a common fungus of turf and like many plant diseases the name of the disease describes the appearance of the spores.  Several factors contribute to its attack on grass.  Rust tends to attack turf that is growing slowly (our grass goes summer dormant July-Aug most years), has poorly drained soil, low nitrogen and conditions of cool nights and warm days creating heavy dew.  This certainly describes my yard in late July!  So what’s a garden girl to do?

A. Call a lawn care company to take care of it.

B. Take a walk with orange toes through lawn of enemy.

C. Nothing

And the correct answer is….C!  Thank goodness.  The rust seems to just go away on its own once the rain comes later.  Today the grass is looking beautifully green again after a week of rain and cool temperatures. 

Sept is a good time to fertilize so we will do that soon.  If I apply fertilizer now (Sept-Oct) we really don’t have to use herbicides as the turf becomes so dense the weeds are pretty well choked out.  

So rust never sleeps and neither do these guys. No siree they certainly aren’t sleeping…

The dreaded Japanese beetle has invaded my yard the past 2 years and is getting worse.  I had hoped last year’s cold winter would take care of them but no luck.  They love these Aztec marigolds but strengely enough seem to stay away from the French dwarf marigold.  They love anyhting in the Malva genus and almost completely stripped this plant of foliage. It continues to bloom its little heart out with cheerful pink flowers while ravaged by hordes of voracious beetles unmercilessly skeletonizing its leaves. 

Japnese beetle on malva by you.

The female beetle will soon lay eggs in moist turf which hatch into larvae called grubs and begin feeding in late summer on turf roots. Last summer I found grubs the size of my thumb under the grass.  They were so big the goldfish in my pond couldn’t even eat them.  Too bad the frogs are so shy.  I have not seen any dead patches or signs of their damage in the turf .  Perhaps next year as I’ve seen it in other people’s lawns. The grubs move up and down the soil profile in response to temperature.  Eggs laid this year will hatch into small grubs that feed on the turf roots until the root zone freezes in late October.  Cool, moist autumn weather keeps the grass growing so fast that it can overcome any root damage done by the small grubs.  The grub overwinters deep in the soil and comes up again in spring to begin feeding again as the soil warms and roots grow.  The second year grub is much larger and when grass growth slows in midsummer the feeding of this larger grub becomes apparent.  Dead patches appear suddenly or when the lawn begins to grow again in fall as the roots are chewed off.  This time the grass can’t keep up with the grub and is killed

So now what?  So far I’ve been just watching with a rather helpless feeling.  I could gather the beetles up and drown them in sopay water each morning but I have better things to do.  I tried repelling them with soap and neem but that didn’t make a dent in their population  I decided to simply sacrifice some plants such as the Malva and marigold and think of them as a trap crop. Last year they were really bad on my river birch trees, this year very little damage is seen.  I see them munching away on roses in other locations but the ‘Knock out’ roses in my yard are free of damage.  Nemtaodes are being used experimentally to control the grub but it is expensive and has not been found to be very effective. Imidocloprid and other insecticides are used conventionally to control the grub too but so far I’ll pass.

Soooo I think I’ll go fishing!  The salmon are running in the Kenosha harbor and big fish jumping all over. This guy below and his friend were reeling in these fat salmon all afternoon.  He must have caught 6 while I sat there watching my bobber for an hour.  He was using a tiny little lure that looked like a white rubber jellyfish about 1/2″ long.  How cool would it be to find that Japanese beetle grubs were much prized by salmon and bass, whitefish, perch and…

Salmon run

Every year something in my vegetable garden seems to take a major hit and die.  Last year no cucumbers, this year no zucchini.  Just when my zucchini were beginning to bear they mysteriously began to wilt and soon just  ‘melted away’.  I couldn’t even take a picture fast enough. I did not notice many cucumber beetles or squash vine borers but who knows? Bacterial wilt or beetles, the end result is the same – no zucchini.  I watch things decline but feel its usually so futile to thwart them I don’t even try! 

Instead I have cucumbers, literally 10 -15 pounds every other day!  I’m hauling cucumbers wherever I go trying to pawn them off on people.  Beware the cucumber lady!  They would prefer tomatoes!  Whatever attacked the zucchini has not effected the cucumber or pumpkins (cucurbit) right next to it. 

So the cool, wet weather is great for the grass but not tomatoes.  I should be canning and freezing away but instead am looking at green and pink tomatoes sitting for weeks on the vine.  I’ve managed to get loads of cherry tomatoes but no big ones.  The last few weeks has been very cool and rainy, dreadful tomato, weather so now I notice Septoria leaf spot on the plants.  I can usually harvest tomatoes until about Oct 15  but things are looking pretty rough right now. 


Powdery mildew always attacks pumpkins.  This is a picture of my pumpkin patch 2 weeks ago.

This is the patch today. The vines look pretty withered and the pumpkins seem ripe. I wonder if I should harvest or let them go a few more weeks?  I would like to yank the vines  as I could get better air circulation around the tomatoes and greens.  I need my kale, beet greens and carrots for the ‘green smoothies’ my husband and I drink every day (more on that later)

I know soon enough frost will come (about Oct 15) and I won’t have to worry about these pests or feel guilty about weeds.  Rust never sleeps and snow will soon cover it all over. Ugh!

Kids back to school this week and me Sept 9th.  Ya hoo!

One last picture of the devadog enjoying her day at the beach today as we say goodby to summer! 



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2 responses to “Rust Never Sleeps, Nor do the Japanese Beetles…

  1. Rust on my toes. I was wondering what that was. I love the picture of the fish. I bet he put up a good fight!

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