In the Garden column: Battling a new ‘beetlemania’

I recently read a book, The Happiness Project, which follows the authors’ year of exploration into happiness. One of the ideas that intrigued me was the author’s suggestion to think about what you loved to play at when you were 10- years-old, and to bring that play back into your life.

That was easy for me. At age 10, living in the West Kootenays, I would gather up neighbourhood children, and we would go into the forest just down the street (we were free range kids in those days). I brought along garden tools, grass seed and little plant seedlings that I had dug out of my mother’s garden.

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In the middle of the forest, we created a beautiful little garden, including a miniature lawn. To my surprise, it grew lush and colourful and lasted the entire summer. I loved how quickly we created something so beautiful and so peaceful. We visited that little spot all through the summer.

In reading The Happiness Project, I realized I have done what the author suggests in the form of Paulik Park, where I spend hours each week as a volunteer gardener. The Richmond Gardening Club, which my husband and I joined four years ago, adopted the park in 2008 and now we have the pleasure of playing like 10-year-olds all over again.

But it’s not just the gardening that aids my “happiness project,” it’s also the chance to be among others who have the same passion. All the guidance, the expertise and wisdom I have gained from fellow members, has kept me grounded in my project.

At a recent club meeting, for example, we had a passionate discussion about the damage the European chafer beetle is doing to lawns and boulevards in Richmond. 

Walking through my own neighbourhood, I see the ravaged lawns everywhere.

Most of us in the club know about the beetles and the damage the larvae leave behind, but the question was, what can we do right now to clean up the mess? 

The beetles lay 20 to 30 eggs in July in lawns that are typically unhealthy. Right now the tasty white grubs are making their way to the surface, so birds, skunks, raccoons and other critters are tearing up patches of turf in search of them.

At our meeting, it was suggested that although there is not much we can do to get rid of the grub before their season ends in April, we can keep out the critters by laying down, and securing, some plastic netting over the damaged turf. In April, we were told to remove the netting, rake up the damaged soil, spread new topsoil and reseed. 

To reduce the chance of the beetles getting into your lawn in the future, let your grass grow longer, apply compost or organic slow-release fertilizer and leave your grass clippings on your lawn rather than raking them up.

Also, water your lawn thoroughly (while still abiding by water restrictions) to ensure deeper roots, which better resist insects.

And so my “happiness project” continues as I lead my friends into the forest to keep creating beautiful gardens for all to enjoy!

You’re welcome to join us, if not in person then through this column, which I will be writing on a regular basis.

Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club. The Richmond Garden Club has been supporting urban gardening in the City of Richmond since 1957.

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