I am horrified to confess that I have been inadvertently killing monarch larvae!

This season we started using a product called beetleJus to help control the Japanese beetles. Certified by the National Organic Program For Organic Gardening, and the first bacillus thuringiensis to be effective against mature beetles, we had fairly good results.

Just as I was getting ready to order more of this product, I looked more closely at the Hazards Statement and discovered that “This product must not be applied within 300 feet of any habitats of threatened or endangered Lepidoptera (i.e., moths or butterflies) or Coleptera (i.e., beetles).”

Apparently the mist from the spray can travel far enough to affect other plants favored by monarchs. I’ve been growing a huge plot of milkweed, and yet damaging the larvae. The lesson: Read the label, even the fine print.

Our daughter has some very nice landscaping and there are many hosta plants, some shrubs and a hydrangea bush. To me, they look like they can all use a good dose of a fertilizer. Here on our farm, I use 10-10-10, but I wonder if hosta would prefer something else. And does the hydrangea need something special?

Starting with the hydrangea, the conventional wisdom says to avoid fertilizing it every year. In fact, it blooms better when “a little starved.” Too much nitrogen will give you a robust plant with few flowers. Of course if you are trying to get a color change from pink to blue, there are special needs with those plants (see here: www.endlesssummerblooms.com/design-and-grow/planting-and-care). Otherwise, for most hydrangeas, you can lightly fertilize with a 10-10-10 or use one with a higher middle number. But go lightly. Alternatively you could spread a composted manure around the plant (it’s 0.5-0.5-0.5) for light fertilizing.

As for the hostas, a 10-10-10 should do just fine. There is a website dedicated to hostas here: www.americanhostasociety.org/Education/hosta_gardening_calendar.htm and they recommend the 10-10-10. They also suggest supplementing that regular product with one designed to make your hostas the biggest on the block and fertilizing more than once a year. It’s worth a read. Good luck with the landscaping!

My roses have been looking rather poorly of late. It’s hard to describe. Is there a good online source that might help me decide what is wrong?

Indeed, the American Rose Society has a splendid and detailed (26 pages!) booklet complete with color photos that discusses the nature of disease and specific problems It’s available to download for free from www.rose.org/diseases. Unfortunately, I don’t see a print copy available for purchase but, if you desire a print version, perhaps you could print a copy from the library’s computers. Good luck.

Putting Food By: If you are overwhelmed by the quantity of homegrown produce you are getting from your garden, take heart. Saving that food for later is pretty easy. There are numerous books and pamphlets available online or at the bookstore and if you plan to can your produce, you definitely want to use methods and recipes tested and approved for safety by the laboratory. See the information from Ball Canning Company at www.freshpreserving.com.

If you are freezing produce, it’s super simple. When cooking the veggies, just make extra and then freeze those. Or saute up a big batch of zucchini chunks, let them cool, package and freeze. Peppers can be cooked and frozen or simply chopped and frozen. You can even saute cabbage and freeze it for soups. Save it all — your homegrown food is the best-tasting there is.

Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivating country@gmail.com.