5-17 Progress Report Plus Fertilizer Friday @ TootsieTime

Well, Garden Traveler Friends: It’s that time of the week again at the Tootsie Time‘s Fabulous Blog where gardeners from all over the world post images of their garden’s weekly progress.

As for my garden?  Well, cut worms have visited my newly planted tomatoes and peppers no fewer than four times in the last week!

Cutworm. Gag.

Cutworm. Gag.

Sometimes cutworms leave a calling card before killing your plants outright… they nip off leaves before finally delivering the terminal cut at the stem-line.

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Aaarrgh! My tomato seedling has received The Terminal Cut at the jaws of a beastly little cutworm! FYI: cutworms try to frame the bunnies in your yard for this sort of damage. Do NOT make the error of believing the little liars.

No such luck this year.  Four plants found lying on their sides in shriveled ignominy!

So it’s time to make cutworm collars for my  nightshade starts.  Usually, gardening books tell you to use old tuna fish or cat food cans as collars to protect plants from cutworms.  I tend not to have problems with cutworms, so I don’t collect cat food cans (I don’t have a cat right now, anyway) or tuna cans.  I also have a total of 27 tomato and pepper plants to protect this year and a family of four has no earthly use for 27 cans of cat food or tuna fish.    Instead, I spent the morning improvising collars out of what I can find lying around the house: as it happens, the recycle bin has some very nice plastic  bottles, milk jugs, and soda cans.  With scissors and a stapler, I do believe I can sort the cutworms out without the use of organic chemical intervention…

1) Here’s an old soda bottle.  A pair of kitchen sheers easily cuts through the plastic to remove the top and bottom

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2) Cut the durned thing into strips, each anywhere between 3 and 4″ high, and as long as is necessary to wrap around the base of your particular plant.  Mine are tiny, so the strips are quite short:

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3) Staple each strip into a ring.  Be sure the ring is large enough to fit over your plant without damaging the stems when you install them.

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4) Fit each collar over the plant, being sure to bury 1/2 of the ring into the ground at the soil line, like this:

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This type of organic pest control solution is one I refer to as “mechanical.”  Although I could treat this plants with Bt, a biocide that destroys larva, a broad spectrum biocide like insecticidal soap with pyrethrin, or diatomaceous earth, I choose this  option in order to avoid the possibility of encouraging a proliferation of cutworms that are resistant to those specific interventions.  God forbid a thick-skinned, Bt resistant, pyrethrin-immune strain of cutworm emerge in my backyard garden. I could spray until Kingdom Come, killing nothing except beneficial insects I would rather keep in my garden.  The Oh Well, Collateral Damage perspective is inconsistent with my sense of being an organic ecosystem-er…

Meanwhile, the green peas are developing nicely but have not yet flowered.  The gooseberries have set tiny fruits… still too small to photograph.  In this quiet moment, I am thinking about gearing up to deal with the upcoming pest-season and am working very hard to organize my thoughts on organic pest control in a coherent fashion for a series of blogs on the topic.  Stay tuned!

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One thought on “5-17 Progress Report Plus Fertilizer Friday @ TootsieTime

  1. I had cutworms chop down my okra plants once. Curly little jerks! I grow all my veggies in containers and the cutworms aren’t on to me yet. However, I need to make collars anyway. There are other beasties out there that might not mind a nibble.

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