Effective ways to battle beetles, other plant yuk

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By Cheryl Steenerson

There are lots of words to describe the weather we’ve been having. Saying you can wear the air or cut the air with a knife are just two. When the humidity got this high in the olden days, my Grandma would say it is “close” out.
To me, it’s like wearing a damp towel. Combine the high humidity with the high heat and anyone who works outside, even a little, ends up feeling zapped. Like the weather just sucks all the energy from your body. Frequent breaks and lots of water help. Last weekend I decided lots of water meant a pool. Dang it felt good, after hours of hot mowing.
While our summer vegetables love the heat, the rain and humidity combines to make a perfect growing environment for some bad stuff to happen. It’s like having an outdoor Petri dish that can grow all kinds of yuk that will eventually reduce the harvest or even kill the plant.
I know the urge to water is strong when you get home after work and see your wilting plants, but don’t give in. Wait until morning to water. In case the water splashes up, this gives the leaves time to dry through out the day. Remember, water the soil, not the plant. Mulching with straw around your plants also helps to eliminate splashing. If you need to prune, to increase airflow around the plant, do it.
Japanese beetles have arrived here on the farm. Oh, boy. They seem to especially like my hydrangeas. The smelly onion and garlic spray I make helps to keep them off the plant. Killing them requires another formula. Bug juice is what I call it and it really does work.
To make bug juice you need to gather a full handful of Japanese beetles and then demolish them in an old blender with a 3 cups of water. Strain out the bug parts and use the water to spray the plants infested. They’ll leave or die. Either one is fine with me.
The heat affects how well picked goodies will keep, so it is always best to pick in the mornings while it is still relatively cool outside. Then, bring them into the air conditioned house. Keep beans in a paper bag and store in the fridge, but make sure they are dry. Wet beans, especially if they are in plastic bags, will mold.
Berries should be kept in an open container, like a little pint or quart basket in the fridge or immediately frozen in plastic bags. Don’t wash anything until you are ready to use it. Just knock the big stuff off with your hands or fingers.
Those who like to grill should be finding lots of recipes to use those garden veggies. My personal favorite is hobo dinners. It is so easy and so good. I like to cut up potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, sweet onion, cabbage and corn, add a little butter, salt and pepper and wrap each serving in aluminum foil. That way you can personalize each dinner.
My family likes to add pieces of smoked sausage to the mix. I’ve occasionally added turkey dogs. Leave it on the grill to steam for a long time. In the oven it takes about two hours at 350 degrees, depending on the size of your pieces.
Now get out there and inspect your plants every day. That way you can keep a close eye on them to watch for harmful bugs or disease, and treat immediately.  Remember to take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. Let the hose slip and drench yourself, and anyone around you. It’ll make you feel like a kid again. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News. She can be reached via e-mail at paysteen@shelbybb.net.