Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Strawberries + Garlic — a plan to deter Japanese beetles

I had a helluva time last year with Japanese beetles. They liked my bush beans and cinnamon basil, and they really liked the strawberries.

My poor, poor strawberries. They were attacked by the beetles and got fungus spot. I spent several minutes every morning picking the bugs off and drowning them in soapy water. Some days I'd have a quarter cup of bugs! It was really gross work. I did not like it and I don't want to repeat it.

To avoid that unpleasantness this year, I'm using companion planting to deter the critters. In my online research 2 plants were consistently recommended for discouraging Japanese beetles — rue and garlic. If you don't know what rue is, well, it's a weedy looking, very large and smelly (that's what deters the beetles) plant from the Mediterranean. (And it'll give some people a rash like poison ivy.) Since I don't have a nice big garden where I can put such a plant in the corner (away from my skin) I'm going to go with garlic.

I grew garlic last year (and it was one of my favorite crops), but it was a few feet away from the strawberries. This year I planted garlic bulbs among my new strawberry plants. So now I have 2 crops in 1 pot — it's efficient and the garlic will protect the strawberries.

I'll also inter-plant garlic with the beans...whenever I get around to them. I was going to go to the store and get seeds last night, but I'm trying to ride my bike everywhere (and not drive at all). But it stormed, so I decided to stay dry and put it off for another day.


  1. I noticed before how you have two rail boxes on both sides of your railing and thought it was one of those premade two-sided planters. But now I see that it's really two separate boxes connected together by rope. Do you have a post on how you made those? I'd love to have that setup over the metal hanging things I have now!

  2. Hi, Brooke, I totally understand, I did not want to deal with (or pay for) those metal things. I sort of explained here —

    I agonized for weeks over trying to find a good solution, but it was really simple.
    1. Drill holes in the side of the planter.
    Make them about 1" to 1.5" below the lip. Evenly space them along the side. I did 5, but that might have been overkill as they're super sturdy.
    2. Drill matching holes in another planter.
    3. Cut a length of nylon rope, thread it through, and tie using the knot the manufacturer recommended for that rope. A granny knot would probably be ok.
    4. Hang over the railing.
    5. Fill with soil.

    I'm not kidding about those last steps. First hang it up, THEN fill it up. I didn't, and they were super heavy. I was able to do it myself, but it was not easy.

    Good luck!

  3. Your garden is so incredible! I can't believe it's all on your porch! I am working on re-making over the front yard of our house and have run into a few problems also. Thanks for sharing the advice!

  4. Hi Melissa — Thank you! I hope you solve your problems as quickly and easily as I've been fortunate enough to solve mine.

  5. Hi Erin your post about the garlic and strawberries couldn't have come at a better time.I am planting my strawberries tomorrow and I read your post about the garlic from an older post and I so wanted to do it.So's meant to be in my last pot they go tomorrow.Congrats on the birds they are beautiful!!Tanya

  6. not sure where my comment went????
    but i was asking if you could post an update on how the straawberries with the garlic were doing