Battlefield: Cutworm

Ugh. These bastards:

Earlier this spring we had problems with cutworms in our tomatillos. Now we have discovered that they are in the tomatoes and leeks as well. We lost a couple of our tomato transplants, so I got busy making more collars. We quickly ran out of the toilet paper and paper towel rolls we held onto after the tomatillo issues, so I grabbed the only cardboard-y thing we had lying around the house: Manila file folders.

And you know what? They're perfect for this job. Here's what you do:

Cut the folder in half down the center (on the existing fold). Then cut your paper-sized piece of folder in thirds the short way. This is a piece of cake to eyeball if you use folders with tabs that are 1/3 the length of the folder (as you can see above).

Next, roll it up and staple it together. Three times is just right.

Make a bunch. It goes pretty fast, even if your kids won't help you out (ahem).

Apply to your vulnerable plants. The ones above are protecting bell peppers and eggplant, and we also placed them around all 46 tomatoes. I used my finger to trace a circle in the dirt around the plant, then twisted the collar into the dirt around the plants. This takes a little finesse for plants that are leafed out so you don't break them, but that's not too difficult with these nice, big collars. The other great thing about them is that edges are nice and sharp, unlike the much softer toilet paper rolls. They are easy to get in place and to get a good barrier both above and below the soil.

Cutworms are also an issue in our leeks:

We have over 100 leeks (well, maybe not any more, but we used to), and I just can't see making that many collars. On the bright side, leeks that get partially eaten (like the damaged ones above) seem to be growing back, so this might not end up being a total disaster. Still, I feel like we should try to do something, right?

The idea here is that making a micro-fence of toothpicks will keep the cutworms from being able to wrap around the stems of the plant and therefore keeps them from feeding on it. We'll see. I did a bunch, and then set the kids on this task. We still have a lot left to protect, but I'm going to hold off. I'm a little skeptical of how effective this might be, though, so I'm going to keep my eye on the ones we did to see if they sustain any more damage or if the protection seems to work. 

But man, this sucks. There's nothing worse than waking up in the morning and seeing your formerly beautiful plant lying dead on the ground. 

In other news, something is nibbling on our broccoli and peas as well. I'm not sure what, but it's not been ravenous enough to kill anything. More like a few polite bites.

So far.


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