Luddite’s Moonshot: Dealing With Leafy Green Pests

In my post soliciting “Luddite moonshots” Kyle replied, “How to grow any sort of brassica or leafy green without having to constantly poison these jerks. I opted for none of the above this year because it is so demoralizing.” Then he linked to the Wikipedia article for the banana slug.

While we have no banana slugs down here in the southern reaches of California we have plenty of other brassica and leafy green pests, principally the cabbage leaf worm. I’ve come to much the same conclusion as Kyle and grow only arugula and lettuce during our cool winter season. I leave the kale cultivation to the professionals. There’s nothing wrong with growing the crops that do best in your climate and passing on the rest. The nicest brassicas I’ve ever seen were on a farm in perpetually foggy and cool Bolinas, California.

That said, I had one season of flawless leafy greens through the combination of rich compost and row cover, specifically Agribon 15. The row cover thickness you use will depend on your climate. I opted for the lightest available as we often have freak heat waves in the winter here.

But I haven’t deployed any row cover in years. It’s a pain to use. You have to be diligent in making sure the whole bed gets covered and it’s hard to see the plants under the cover without having to pull it on and off. And row cover won’t prevent slugs. Here’s UC Davis’ advice for dealing with slugs and snails. LA’s abundant mouse and rat population keep our snails and slugs in check. We can send you some if you’d like.

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  1. oooops! In my little rant on board wargames here,

    I failed to explain why wargames are of particular interest. Essentially, games are by definition about fun and learning, wargames are specific in that it’s about conflict simulation.

    Sure the elements that make games fun are there—- competition, of course, then deception and cooperation, BUT also simulating a conflict.

    So dealing with leafy green pests signify a conflict worthy of a simulation (and I guess in this particular simulation mice & rats are the heroes).

    But I would also lump in manouevering thru city hall, attempting to get certain Luddite-friendly laws passed like bike laws, zoning, etc etc. a wider strategic game (as oppose to tactical in the backyard pests) can be had, no problem.

    The Prussian army, around the time of Napoleon, created to train its officers , from there board wargames lost its appeal (new modern weapons made for more dynamic or more stagnant wars unable to replicate in wargames), relegated to just games (Tactics and Ambush, Avalon Hill and SPI were popular game publishers)

    Fast forward to now, and board wargames are now again being played by military officers, specifically games designed by this CIA analyst,
    where Prussian Kriegsspiel focused on terrain,

    Mr. Ruhnke’s current games focus on the human terrain— very applicable to the Luddites’ Moonshot list, IMHO.

  2. Ixnay on the small mammal offer.

    I’m not sure why this is, but after years of fighting slugs and Japanese beetles, years of cutting slug-damaged bits off all the veggies, we now live in a place where we can have chickens, animals who will gladly eat all I can find. For three summers I have searched every warm evening, flashlight in teeth, around our slug magnets (aka hostas) only to find a very few here and there. Ditto for the Japanese beetles. Can’t find any. I’ve bought those much-maligned Japanese beetle traps in order to collect enough to keep the girls happy, but it’s been slim pickins. It seems almost mystical: I get chickens who eat pests only to discover that the pests have left town ahead of time. Now, if the chickens would just develop a taste for black flies . . .

  3. Row cover is more of a pain that gardening without, but we can’t grow greens of any kind without getting horrid leaf miner infestations. So, we cover the greens…. sigh. Thank heavens I live somewhere dry enough that there aren’t slugs to contend with, too. Or rats, for that matter.

  4. I’ve come to the same conclusion on brassicas. Just let others grow them. I hate dealing with the row covers and, more importantly, I don’t like the looks of them.

  5. Permaculture wisdom says you don’t have a slug problem but you do have a duck deficiency.
    Claire in Melbourne, Australia

  6. I’ve managed to semi-perennialize side-shooting broccolis, mostly Di Cicco but also some purple sprouting, here in Oakland.

    The moths do come around, but the birds mostly seem to eat the caterpillars, and since the caterpillars mostly eat the leaves rather than the shoots, which I’m taking, it works.

    The real problem I have is ants farming aphids on the brassicas and other plants. But that really is systematic warfare, focussed on resource denial. 🙁

  7. Slugs hate copper. Line your beds with copper. It’s what we used to do when we lived in Hawaii. Copper bands aren’t expensive and you can get a 50′ roll off Amazon for less than $50

  8. I have shared the eaves with paper wasps since moving to Leimert Park in 2009. I was astounded to see what effective pest predators they are. They play Pacman with cabbage moth eggs and caterpillars. I also started dozens of tomato, eggplant and pepper plants, and I have not seen a hornworm this season. (hope this post doesn’t jinx it)

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