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On Leafy Spurge and Flea Beetles

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On Leafy Spurge and Flea Beetles

Post  mollyhespra on 6/10/2013, 11:58 am

***WARNING: LONG STORY***

When I first moved into my home in 2001, there was no landscaping except for a few lonely hostas along the foundation on one side of the house. The yard was all lawn & weeds.

I set about to correct the deficiency by putting in some new beds all along the rock wall that defines the front yard area. I put in some daylillies, asiatic lillies, etc. Here and there on the property, I'd find some naturalized plants which I'd carefully dig up and move into the landscaping I was creating.

At some point, I noticed a pretty little yellow flower growing in the yard. OH! I thought, wouldn't this look good as filler between the perennials?

So I dug three plants up, put them in the nice clean loam of my new beds & carefully nurtured them until they seemed to recover from being transplanted & started to grow.

All was "well" for a few years: the pretty little things grew to a height of 1-2 feet and rewarded my efforts with lovely yellow flowers that the bees just seemed to LOOOOOVE!

Then I started noticing volunteers popping up where I didn't want them. No problem, thought I, I'll just pull them up.

Yea, right.

When I started pulling, I discovered that the plants are fed by a rather thick root that is somewhat brittle, and oozed a milky sap. It also seemed to have dozens of new sprouts all along it's length, just waiting to pop out of the soil.

I started to get worried.

So, I went online and did some research. Much to my chagrin, what I had carefully nurtured and coddled was called "Leafy Spurge", which is considered a plague in some parts of the US.

ACK!!!

But there seemed to be *something* that could be done; someone figured out that flea beetles just loooooove leafy spurge! In some states, there are concerted efforts at collecting flea beetles and then introducing them en-masse to an afflicted area. Supposedly, once the flea beetles have had their way with the spurge and erradicated them, their populations similarly decrease with no harm done.

( thinking Um...OK...)

But introducing flea beetles into my yard wasn't an option for me, so I went on a "Purge the Spurge" campaign. Every time I saw a new plant I'd pull it out.

That was about 5 years ago. Finally, this year, it seems that my efforts are paying off in that I've only pulled about 2-3 dozen plants. That may still seem like a lot, but believe me, I've pulled out HUNDREDS at one go. The stuff is the embodiment of garden EVIL Evil or Very Mad . It's pernicious and tenacious...but so am I Twisted Evil .

Sounds like things are going well, right?

Well, not really. You see, this year I'm also noticing an increase in flea beetle activity in other parts of the garden. Among my strawberries, to be precise. I'm wondering if the spurge wasn't actually serving as a trap crop for the dang beetles and now that the spurge numbers are significantly reduced, I'm seing the unforseen impact of my "Purge the Spurge" campaign.

SO...here's what I'm thinking of doing: I spotted a few new spurge plants popping up so I'm thinking that instead of pulling them, I'm going to transplant them into a big pot, which will sit atop a granite slab so no roots can get away from me. Then the beetles, spurge and I can coexist peaceably.

Crazy? Brilliant? I don't know. I'm open to suggestions.
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Re: On Leafy Spurge and Flea Beetles

Post  camprn on 6/10/2013, 12:24 pm

Well firstly, a great story.

Secondly, you are not pernicious!

Thirdly, the loss of the spurge may just be coincidental to the high number of flea beetles, (they are pernicious!)!

Fourthly, sounds like a good plan, spurge in pots; Mind the seed heads!

Have you done any other research on battling flea beetles with trap crop?

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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On Leafy Spurge and Flea Beetles

Post  Frenchbean on 6/10/2013, 12:26 pm

Mollyhespra OMG it sounds like a nightmare affraid . I have flea beetles over here in England ; thought I had it bad but reading your story Its doesn't seem so bad any more.You done what you can by pulling up the spurge. Hopefully your little plan will work Very Happy I hope so. Please keep us posted. Good luck

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Re: On Leafy Spurge and Flea Beetles

Post  mollyhespra on 6/12/2013, 10:01 am

@camprn wrote:Well firstly,  a great story.
LOL!  Thanks!

Secondly, you are not pernicious!
Well, I am to the Spurge, which is what I meant!  (Twisted Evil Mbuahahahaha!!!)

Thirdly, the loss of the spurge may just be coincidental to the high number of flea beetles, (they are pernicious!)!
That's a really good point, Camp.  Especially since hitherto most of my gardening involved ornamentals with a few toms, cukes & radishes thrown in here and there.  I've never been one to use pesticides, I'd rather have holes in my plants than poison in my soil.  So whatever I couldn't hand-pick, I'd just tolerate.  BUT because I'm trying to actually grow us enough food to can this year, I'm muuuuuch more aware of bug activity.  So it could be what you said or just that I'm more aware of it this year.

Fourthly, sounds like a good plan, spurge in pots; Mind the seed heads!
YES!  That's exactly what I was thinking!

Have you done any other research on battling flea beetles with trap crop?
Actually, I haven't, except that I remember reading somewhere about radishes being used for that purpose since the root is what we're after & not the leaves.

@Frenchbean wrote:Mollyhespra OMG it sounds like a nightmare affraid . I have flea beetles over here in England ; thought I had it bad but reading your story Its doesn't seem so bad any more.You done what you can by pulling up the spurge. Hopefully your little plan will work Very Happy I hope so. Please keep us posted. Good luck
Thanks!  Actually, I went to an organic nursery I have nearby and the guy there recommended applying beneficial nematodes, not only against the flea beetles but any number of pests, so that's the first step I took a couple of days ago.  We'll see how it works! Smile
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