Bugs Ate My Garden

A letter from one of our readers:

“I just read the article on growing your own food. I have tried this but have had great difficulty with insect damage. I have tried some of the “natural” insecticides but they don’t seem to work very well. Two of the major problems I have are cutworms that snip off seedlings before they can get started, and a plague of small white snails which invade later in summer and devastate everything. I cannot use chemical pesticides due to my wife’s chemical sensitivities (nor would I want to pollute my garden with them). Any suggestions?”

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12 Comments

  1. I don’t know about the cutworms but crushed up egg shells should thwart the snails. Spread on the soil esp. around the base of the plants. You can’t over do it! Be sure the shells are clean and dry before attempting.

  2. Snails can be killed with saucers of beer – they go for a drink, and drown or drink themselves to death. The ‘chemical’ version of this treatment is an acetaldehyde pellet – reasonably benign if used in small, strategic amounts.

    Cutworms can be controlled with B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacterial pesticide. This will kill other caterpillars that come into contact with it, so limit spraying to affected crops if you go that route.

    JRB

  3. Here’s a trick I’ve been using to thwart cutworms (I read about it many, many years ago and it actually does work): after you’ve planted your seedlings, stick a toothpick down alongside the seedling’s stem (right up close parallel to the stem). This will prevent the cutworm from wrapping completely around the seedling’s stem to chew it off.

    I usually put two toothpicks in (one on either side of the seedling’s stem) and haven’t lost a seedling yet.

    I know it sounds weird but this does actually work.

  4. I had cutworms this year in my garden as well. I spread corn meal around my plants. Cutworms, as well as other insects, cannot digest corn meal and will die. This stopped the cutworms immediately! Another option is to put a cardboard tube around your plant. Just be sure to insert the tube (paper cup, toilet paper tube, etc) an inch or so into the ground.

  5. A seeming cure-all for bugs that I have always used is to set out trays of beer. The buys/worms/etc. are drawn to the beer, fall in, and die. I’m not sure why they die, but they do. It has worked very well for me for several years.

  6. As Crystal said…Companion planting, however, while Fennel will attract beneficial insects, if planted too close to tomatoes it will stunt their growth in fact it will stunt the growth or kill most other plants and make them more susceptible to insects. French Marigolds and Borage planted in close proximity to tomatoes will boost their growth making them healthier and less susceptible.

  7. I use a diluted solution of Dr. Bronner’s Eucalyptus soap for all pests. I found an empty spray bottle and rinsed it out a few times. I give the plants a spray after a heavy rain and they are good for a week or so. I might give a daily spray for an infestation. It’s worked great for me. Sometimes I forget and notice a little grasshopper damage later.

  8. We live in a volcanic area, so lots of rich top soil, but deeper a lot of pumice. So is a natural resource here. Make a moat of pumice around your garden – no more slugs or snails as they do not want to cross it.

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