On constant battles

About 90% of vegetable gardening is merely keeping your eyes open.  I’d say another 5% is actual “work” and 5% is harvesting and storing but really, all that “puttering around in the garden”?  It’s entirely necessary.  It’s field work!  It’s direct observation!  Even with a glass of wine in my hand, I am WORKING, people.

And it is through direct observation that I realize my darned greenhouse seedlings are never ever gonna grow past the stubby 2″ phase unless I do something to stop the munching damage caused by the sowbugs.  I can’t do anything about the sowbugs barring absolute war so…I employ a simpler strategy.  In this instance, entrapment.

The caramel-colored blob is this year’s barrier method.  And “OB” = “Orange Banana,” a delectable paste tomato.

Last year I mounted an office-supplies war with indifferent results (the greenhouse was open-ended thus wind-riven; these collars up and flew away if not simply apart).  This year, I applied the stuff normally applied to tree whips (sapling fruit trees) to prevent girdling by other, equally hungry insects.  [It’s called Tanglefoot; it’s a gooey waterproof paste of wax/oil; used to be made in Grand Rapids but like so many Michigan companies it’s up and gone away.]  Can’t say it won’t stop the bugs from decapitating the seedlings below the point of the goo, but it’s something.  Now, I stand back and watch.  And sip.  And watch some more.

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9 responses to “On constant battles

  1. I need to keep my eyes open more, I think. Last year I never got to the pests before it was too late. Any ideas on things to look out for when growing herbs?

  2. I thought you were going to say, a la Yogi Berra, that 90% of gardening is half mental….

    For me the main nemesis is slugs. They’ve even been nibbling my radishes, but they must find them a bit spicy, as they only nibble. Sow bug issues I hadn’t heard of.

    Keep up the good fight~ Brett

  3. My grandpa always said to wrap newspaper tight around the bottom of new tomato transplants (partially buried so it extends from ~1in underground to ~1in aboveground) to stop bugs from decapitating them. We never had a problem with tomato decapitation and always used the trick… but we also had really sandy soil which I think has fewer tomato cutting bugs. I hope the sticky stuff works!

  4. During the winter, I save cans. If everything you eat is home canned then that’s not an option. But if it is, just cut the bottoms out of the cans after they have been emptied, and settle the can down into the soil around your plant after it’s been planted.

    An alternative is to stick a wooden toothpick into the soil, up and down, right up against the main stem of your plant. This will prevent cutworms from being able to wrap themselves around the stem of the plant.

    One year I had sowbugs so bad that I wrapped the stems of my pumpkin plants with strips of panty hose.

    There is also a product you can get called Slug-Go that works on sowbugs as well. But its effectiveness diminishes when it gets wet so there ya go….

    In the constant battle between humans and bugs, the bugs almost always win out. They will inherit the earth.

  5. I was just watering the peppers and cukes which are under a plastic quasi-greenhouse rap and wondering what the heck is eating my peppers if I 1) have plastic wrap up against the flying stuff and 2) have the edges of the box lined in copper mesh against the slugs. Sowbugs hadn’t occurred to me, although there are plenty of them in the compost. Hey wait a minute! I mulched with compost not too long ago!

    I bet if I take the cover off the starlings will take care of them. Except, the starlings haven’t shown up today. Where’s a nuisance bird when you need one?!

  6. My parents’ collars are much like lisa’s….. The wrap aluminum foil around the seedlings. Just take a 1 – 1 1/2 inch square of aluminum foil and wrap it loosely around the seedling, and pinch it a little bit. They plant it so that the majority of the collar is underground. And we’re in Minnesota so the weather is a little rougher but very similar.

  7. My “a-ha” moment. I’ve been wondering what has been decapitating all my seedlings. I even had put lightweight fabric over my stuff(I thought birds) and STILL things were being be-headed. This explains it all! Thanks!

  8. I cut both ends off of tomato paste cans and use those as collars- last year they helped me get some beans up since something was biting them all down right at soil level. Then it rained for two months straight and the slugs ran amok.

  9. MC, lucky for you there’s not much to worry about with growing herbs. The only problem I seem to have with my perennial ones is their insistence on multiplying!! Basil sometimes gets preyed upon by slugs and rosemary can get mildewy but goodness every other herb just wants to grow for us.

    Brett, slugs can be murder to plants too. I have heard that diatomaceous earth is good to sprinkle around as it rips their flesh fairly well, and that copper strips perform a good barrier around the lips of raised beds (as long as the slugs aren’t already IN the beds of course).

    Lisa, thanks for sharing your grandpa’s tip. Newspaper we certainly have. I like the idea as it will definitely compost itself. And yeah, each kind of soil certainly has its issues; I am so used to clay but I grew up with sand. I think it’s great that plants just wanna grow EVERYWHERE don’t you?

    Ilene, such tips, great! I haven’t had many cutworm issues but I can imagine how horrible it would be to walk out and see just stumps where your plants used to be. The pantyhose trick sounds like it would work with squash vine borers too so I might have to try that this year. But I think the bugs have already inherited the earth and we just have this high and mighty idea that we’re at the top of the food chain. Hah! When we’re gone, who eats US?

    Paula, goodness, I wish I had the whole symbiotic animal thing figured out too. As it is, the crazy sowbugs living la vida greenhouse and nothing loves them. Sigh. One thing is they really only come out at night or when it’s shady, so there’s no way to take a census of them except fro seeing the damage they do. Boy I would think slugs would be tough where you are, especially the great big ones.

    Crystina, thanks so much. Yet another trick for the books. I grew some crazy big tomatoes in Minnesota way back when; they loved that heat!

    Susan, it could be sowbugs but cutworms like Ilene mentioned are also a culprit. Check under things (dirt clods, sticks, leaves) during the day or look for them with a flashlight at night to see if that’s what’s bugging you!

    Peter. What’s this thing you mention, canned tomato paste? Hmm. Actually, rain’s just a lot of bad news for a lot of things, quite a bummer all around. Legumes especially get all sorts of fungi and molds and the like, but wow they’re wonderful to grow…I think I grow 20 or more types, but then I am a bit mad for all kinds of beans.

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