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Coastal Gardening

Bug with taste for kudzu didn't stop there

By Bob Hearle

Hello again, fellow gardeners. It’s good to be back and writing this column that I enjoy so much. I spent some time in Durham, N.C., at Duke University and if you are ever in the area do stop by and visit their amazing botanical garden. The official name is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. It will remind you of a mini Brookgreen Gardens.

The first order of business is the kudzu bug, so named because devouring the vine was its reason for introduction. Unfortunately it did not stop there and rapidly developed a taste for wisteria vine as well as beans and legumes. Hundreds can appear seemingly overnight. They resemble a lady bug, but are a green color instead of red. If you squash one it has a very unpleasant odor. The solution is to directly spray them with a general insecticide such as insecticidal soap. It will kill those it contacts. Over time the remainder will move on to less hostile and perhaps better feeding grounds.

Continue setting out seedlings of eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes and peppers. This will assure a longer harvesting season. Also bring out the remainder of your house plants. Check for being pot-bound and repot if necessary. Fertilize with a slow release fertilizer. Also you should fertilize St. Augustine lawns at this time. Remember to sharpen the blade before cutting so as to not tear the grass blades. This is also the best time to lay sod, remembering to stagger joint lines.

Continue to plant perennials and stake those that get tall, for example sunflowers. Apply slow release fertilizer. Watch for aphids, spider mites and white flies. Either knock them off with a strong stream or water or apply an appropriate insecticide. Prune all spring flowering shrubs like azaleas now. Do not prune summer flowering plants until they finish blooming.

Two plants to consider this year are the astilbe and impatiens.

Astilbe have glossy leaves while others are almost fern-like. The color range goes from red to pink to white with many shades in between. They prefer moist soil and shade, but can do well in bright light. They bloom May into September depending on the cultivar. They are relatively pest free.

Impatiens are a garden work horse. They come in a wide array of colors including red, pink, purple and white. They spread rapidly and bloom continually from early spring to first frost. They also self-seed and will re-appear next season without any assistance from you. They are easy to propagate from stem cuttings in a glass of water. They do well in sun or shade, in the garden, hanging baskets, window boxes or containers. A new type called the New Guinea impatiens is a larger plant with variegated leaves. When planted in full sun they are prone to wilting because of their high moisture content. Again they are relatively pest free.

Send me an e-mail with your comments and questions.

Bob Hearle is a certified master gardener who lives and gardens at Pawleys Island.

Previous columns

  • It’s time to prune
  • A start on the new gardening year
  • Preparing for the holidays
  • Fall garden chores
  • The second season
  • Higher ed center classes
  • Plants that bring the tropics home
  • Chores for the doldrums
  • On the edge of summer
  • Plant hardiness and Zone 8B
  • Green ideas
  • Getting plants ready for spring
  • Reading your soil test
  • Prune plants for health and to promote growth
  • Seed propagation
  • Introduction / Soil tests

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