Celebrating the Seasons

Gabby Gardeners

Question: Is it too late to divide rhubarb? I live in Minnesota.

Rebecca says: I love rhubarb, not only to eat but as a decorative foliage accent in my garden. My "mother" plant has been divided many times, allowing me to embellish my gardens with drifts of this lovely plant. Rhubarb should be divided as early in the spring as possible. Divide it as you would any other plant: Dig up the root ball and slice it into chunks, making sure each division has at least one bud and a significant piece of root. Replant right away or store divisions in the refrigerator and rehydrate (soak in bucket of water for two hours) before planting. Water well after planting.

Question: My garden was growing beautifully until the end of July. Then, something started eating the foliage of many of my plants. The leaves were literally skeletonized! My husband found a beetle on one of the plants but wasn't sure if it was the culprit. Can you help us figure out the problem?

Rebecca says: The symptoms you describe point to the Japanese beetle. The insects are easy to identify. They are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long with a distinctive green metallic sheen and tan wings. Adult beetles chew foliage and flowers, leaving large, irregular holes. Sometimes they eat all the tissue between leaf veins, leaving only the lacy "skeleton." Hand picking the beetles is the easiest way to control the adults. Simply cruise your garden with a bucket of soapy water and knock the beetles into it. Do this in the cool of the morning when the insects are sluggish. Then, think about controlling next year's beetles. In fall, adult beetles lay eggs in the soil, which grow into C-shaped white grubs that feed on plant roots. There are two natural biological controls for these grubs. "Milky spore" is a bacterial disease that attacks the pests. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on grubs. Use one or both of these organic products to help control the grubs, following label directions carefully.

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