How to identify and manage caterpillar pests of the cabbage family

Michgan State University Extension:

During this time of year in many backyard vegetable gardens, members of the cabbage family are growing vigorously, but their leaves are beginning to take on the appearance of lace. Several caterpillar pests find cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower and related cole crops very appealing.

Identifying caterpillar pests

One of the most common caterpillar pests of the cabbage family is the cabbage butterfly. Cabbageworms are the larvae of cabbage butterflies, a species with white wings that have black margins and black spots. They can be seen fluttering around vegetable gardens where they stop to lay eggs. In three to five days, the eggs hatch into velvety, pale green caterpillars. After feeding for two to three weeks, larvae are full grown and pupate. Younger larvae chew holes in the foliage, leaving the veins behind. Older larvae may keep feeding on leaves or tunnel into heads. There can be four to five generations per year. They overwinter as pupae near their host plants.

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Television personality Jamie Durie comes to Metro Detroit

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Jamie Durie

On Saturday, July 25 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., award-winning landscape designer Jamie Durie is appearing at the English Gardens store in Royal Oak, Michigan (4901 Coolidge Highway). Durie will share tips on creating a beautiful outdoor living space, answer questions and sign two of his books: “Edible Garden Designs” and “The Outdoor Room,” available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public. Space is limited. Register in-store or online at www.EnglishGardens.com to reserve your seat.

An exclusive event will be held on Friday, July 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for English Gardens Garden Club members. Customers can sign up for the Garden Club in-store or online to attend the exclusive event.

The author of ten best-selling books, Jamie Durie has hosted over 50 prime time design television shows, airing in over 30 countries. Durie was introduced to America by Oprah Winfrey in 2006 and since then has starred in “The Outdoor Room” on HGTV, hosted “The Victory Garden” (the longest-running gardening program on PBS), and won numerous awards for his television work. Today, he continues to work on design TV projects with the A&E Network on the FYI channel.

Healthy-looking rose bushes fail to bloom

I have 6 rose bushes that get morning sun. The foliage looks great but I get no roses. I inherited these plants when I bought the house and I don’t know anything about them. I have good drainage and have given them rose fertilizer. C.M., Allenton

Your roses with no blooms are more than likely not receiving enough direct sunlight. In order to produce flowers, roses must have full sun, which is usually defined as a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of direct sunshine. Morning sun doesn’t sound like it fulfills that requirement. Perhaps the rose bushes have become shaded as the surrounding landscape has matured and trees and shrubs have grown larger, creating shade where there was once full sun. If that is the case you have two options.

First, it may be possible to prune back the offending trees or plants that are creating the afternoon shade, thereby allowing more sunshine to the roses. In a mature landscape that can be difficult due to the probable destruction of the aesthetics provided by the larger plants. A second and more viable option is to simply transplant the roses to a new space with the full sun they need. The best time to transplant roses is in the very early spring, while they are still dormant, before any new leaves have sprouted. You can get a jump on the process by digging and preparing the new rose bed this growing season in anticipation of the big move. Then, next spring, dig each bush with the largest root ball you can handle and move them into the light.

Northville Garden Walk: Wednesday, July 8

The Country Garden Club of Northville presents its 22nd Annual Northville Garden Walk on Wednesday, July 8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Six private gardens will be open. Attendees will also enjoy garden/craft vendors at Mill Race Village, complementary homemade cookies and live music. The walk fee is $10 and proceeds support local, state & national non-profit organizations. For more information, visit www.cgcnv.org.

Janet’s Journal: In July, let garden problems slide by

Focus on this kind of scene to dispel some of July’s heat and frustration. What a relief it can be to learn that your best response to many of summer’s garden woes is to do nothing but make future plans.

Focus on this kind of scene to dispel some of July’s heat and frustration. What a relief it can be to learn that your best response to many of summer’s garden woes is to do nothing but make future plans.

by Janet Macunovich / Photos by Steven Nikkila

In July it can be oppressively humid. As the heat takes its toll and frustration sets in, let’s look at some common summer garden problems.

Holes in hostas are history. 

Most of the damage you see in July took place months ago when that foliage was cool and new. As bad as your hostas may look, the condition is far from fatal. The plants have had plenty of time in the sun to photosynthesize all the sugars and starches they need for the year plus sock away the surplus for next spring. In between holes, they still have lots of leaf surface left to keep on banking starches right into fall.

Holes in hostas are history. Do nothing now. Next spring is when you can act to head off the damage next year.

Holes in hostas are history. Do nothing now. Next spring is when you can act to head off the damage next year.

Whatever you do, don’t put out little saucers of beer now, even though it’s true that they will attract and drown slugs. The time to deal with that slug problem is next spring. Then, clear away all the mulch and other plant debris from slug-riddled areas. Leave the soil surface naked and dry. While hostas and other plants are emerging, during the last half of April and first half of May, set out slug traps. Beer traps are fine, but wetted sections of newspaper are at least as good, and they’re far less messy. Just lay them down in the morning near the first hosta shoots, then flip them over before the sun goes down and kill the slugs you find hiding there. They hide there because you took away all the other places where they might have escaped the sun. Dispatching a hundred slugs in April is more productive and far less smelly than drowning a thousand in July.

What goes down will come back up.

Eye-cooling lobelia, pansies, verbena and some other annuals have the habit of opening one last flower on the fourth of July then stretching out to give dirty sweat socks a run for the “Most Ugly” title. They can be made a bit neater in July but will rarely resume blooming until mid- or late August. That’s because it’s too hot at night. So chemicals that would be created within the plant’s cells while it’s cool and dark don’t form. Those chemicals provide the only nudge that can make the plant produce new flowers. Without their chemical cues, the plants sit out July—green, seedy and waiting.

What goes down will come back up. Annuals such as verbena (above), lobelia and pansy that thrive in cool weather but disappoint during the dog days can be clipped back, watered, and left to regroup for an encore in fall.

What goes down will come back up. Annuals such as verbena (above), lobelia and pansy that thrive in cool weather but disappoint during the dog days can be clipped back, watered, and left to regroup for an encore in fall.

Cut back your heat-stalled annuals now. They’ll grow back over the next month and resume blooming shortly after the heat breaks in August. The first aim of cutting back is to eliminate all the seed pods that are developing—as seed forms, it delays formation of new blooms. The shearing also stimulates new, bushier growth. You can clip so far as to leave only a few inches of stem. Keep the plants well-watered and apply a half strength, water-soluble fertilize after a couple of weeks. Be careful not to overdo the water or fertilizer for plants in a container. Once cut back they have less leaf surface to take up water. They may need less frequent watering than they did in spring since they’re taking longer to use what the pot can hold.

Just close your eyes and smell. Tall phlox and bee balm may be gray with powdery mildew, but their scent is still wonderful.

Just close your eyes and smell. Tall phlox and bee balm may be gray with powdery mildew, but their scent is still wonderful.

Just close your eyes and smell.

Powdery mildew annoys people out of all proportion to the damage it does to plants. In spring, one kind of mildew fungus or another can and usually does infect the leaves of tall phlox, bee balm, aster, zinnia, perennial sunflower and some other garden plants. During the cool weather the fungi grow slowly within the leaves, which continue to function normally if less vigorously. Then when conditions are right, the fungus finishes its development and covers the leaf with gray spores.

By the time we see gray, the damage is already done. You can try to arrest the mildew’s spread by plucking off all discolored leaves and spraying a fungicide on those that look healthy. Or you can sit back, close your eyes and smell—those sweet-smelling flowers still come, using energy captured by the leaves over more than three months.

Spraying can add fuel to the July fires, though. Whether it’s a purchased fungicide or one made with the baking soda on the kitchen shelf, applying it always carries some risk of burning the crabapple foliage or the leaves of sensitive plants nearby. The chances of causing a chemical burn are much higher when the air is hot and the plant is stressed by drought or heat—July conditions.

Don’t run up a tab for a scabby crab.

Crabapple scab is a fungus that acts much like powdery mildew, infecting early and showing itself late. It’s not unusual for a crabapple that’s susceptible to apple scab to defoliate by August. Its leaves yellow and drop off one by one as the fungus finishes its work. Once again, this is disfiguring but not a threat to the crabapple’s existence. Given an observant resident gardener as a guide, you can find at least one full-sized, regularly-blooming crabapple in every neighborhood that has dropped its leaves early every year for 30 years or more. Even if July’s pressure makes you feel you must do something for a scabby crabapple, all you should do at this point is rake up the diseased foliage and cart it away.

Don’t run up a tab for a scabby crab. The tree won’t suffer any lasting damage if its leaves are destroyed by fungus and fall off in July. Rake up the mess, throw it away, and let the tree’s bare branches help you imagine yourself sitting in September’s cool breezes.

Don’t run up a tab for a scabby crab. The tree won’t suffer any lasting damage if its leaves are destroyed by fungus and fall off in July. Rake up the mess, throw it away, and let the tree’s bare branches help you imagine yourself sitting in September’s cool breezes.

Then, if you still feel anxious about your crabapple next March, you can call a tree care company and sign up to have the tree treated several times with a scab-preventive fungicide, beginning when the leaves first begin to grow. Don’t try it yourself—most home spray equipment is far too small and most crabapples are far too big to be an effective match.

Janet Macunovich is a professional gardener and author of the books “Designing Your Gardens and Landscape” and “Caring for Perennials.” Read more from Janet on her website www.gardenatoz.com.