Gardening, the cultivation of both ornamental and edible plants, is more popular than ever. The pandemic has something to do with that, of course, and so does greater awareness of climate change and overconsumption. Growing our own food is a way to reduce our environmental footprint. Gardening is a good way to fulfill that goal. Flower and vegetable gardens are common in the Eastern Townships.

Vegetable gardeners know what they are eating and can cultivate different varieties not necessarily found in markets. Another advantage is having fresh produce that hasn’t had to travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to get here.

Gardening challenges

Any experienced gardener will tell you that the growing season isn’t always easy. This summer’s heatwaves and high humidity have created ideal conditions for insects to thrive and do damage to flowers and vegetables. The chief culprit is the voracious Japanese beetle: this East Asian import has been present in Canada since the 1930s and has spread to our region. Adult Japanese beetles are most active in hot, sunny weather and feed on over 300 different plants. They attack tender flower petals first before turning to leaves. The larvae eat grass roots, which is why there are so many yellow lawns this year.

Dealing with the problem

To be honest, there are no simple solutions. Gardeners with enough time and patience can remove the beetles by hand early in the morning or else use a small vacuum cleaner. There are some who buy special beetle traps and others who claim success by spraying plants with a mixture of water and dishwashing liquid, but just as many who maintain that neither method is effective. In closing, it is important to note that these insects damage plants but do not kill them. All gardeners can do is hope that a miracle product will be developed before too long.

Translation: Brian McCordick

Gaétan Deschênes, a new contributor to Tempo, is a specialized journalist and author of books on horticulture and gardening. He has also judged competitions in Canada, the United States and Europe.