Thursday, April 8, 2010

Protect your seedlings- Tip #4

Last year, about two weeks after I planted my seeds, I went outside one day to thin (pluck up the excess seedlings - baby plants- and create straight rows).  Everything was great.  I remember in particular my squash seedlings.  I left maybe ten plants at this point and they were doing fine.  The next day I went outside and about half of them were missing!  What happened!?! All that was left of them was a little stub! 

What happened was, I had an infestation of cutworms.  Cutworms are the larvae (catepillars - babies) of night flying moths.  The moths won't do any damage to your plants; but the babies can be lethal.  The moths can lay hundreds of eggs at a time!  I was blessed not to have a total infestation; just a slight problem.

So what do you do?

1.  Till you garden area in the fall to help prevent winter overlay of larvae.
2.  Till again just before you plant to expose and kill larvae or cutworms.
3.  Reduce egg laying sites (weeds and plant residue).
4.  Put a border around each seedling - most cutworms prefer plants about an inch to an inch in a half in height.   Be sure to push the border into the ground about a half and inch or so to prevent the worm from being able to access your plant.
     Border ideas:
          1.  Styrophome cups. (dixie cup or something like that)
          2.  Old coffee canisters
          3.  Cardboard collars
          4.  Pretty much anything that will prevent the worm from being able to climb up your plant.

These little buggers are most active in the late afternoon, so if you want to see them in action; that's when you should go and check your garden; otherwise you will just have to wait until morning to view the damage.

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