What’s Bugging You?
If you’re planting in your garden, you may have come across a few things with legs, lots of legs! Or maybe you’ve seen some of the damage they can do. Here’s what is popping up in our plots this week, and what to do about them:
Pill bugs – These beneficial isopods help break down the organic matter in your garden, making nutrients more available to your edible plants. They love moist areas, eat dead and decaying plants, and generally leave your growing edibles alone. Leave them be if you can, but if it seems like your garden plot is overrun, you can remove nesting spaces (typically areas that are dark and moist, such as piles of dead plants), so they’ll travel somewhere else.
Japanese beetles– You’ll find these buried in the soil. Although the larvae won’t bother your edible plants or the roots, the flying adult beetles will emerge around late June or July, and they have been known to do quite a lot of damage with their voracious appetites! If you find one of these in your plot, it’s best and easiest to remove them now, as trapping the flying adults is a lot more difficult. Pick up the larva, and either drown it in soapy water, put into a sealed plastic bag and throw away, or as I do – feed to your chickens!
Flea beetles – If you’ve seen tiny round holes in leaves of plants in the Brassica family (kale, arugula, bok choy, cabbage, mustard greens, turnips, broccoli), it’s likely that flea beetles are doing the damage. They are tiny and emerge in the early morning hours to hop around and eat! The most effective preventative control is to keep a floating row cover on your plants, though this can be impractical for a small plot with many different plants growing in it. You can also buy something that we have found very effective, beneficial parasitic nematodes, which you can apply once the damage is already done. One brand is NemaSeek by Arbico Organics. The parasitic nematodes attack flea beetle larvae in the soil, so you’ll need 2-3 applications to hit various stages of their life cycle to eliminate them. Most packages of nematodes are approved for organic gardening and cover a wide area – they are microscopic, after all! If neighbors in your garden are experiencing the same issue, it’s a great idea to split the cost with them. Your plants will eventually recover if the flea beetles are stopped, but if not – they will continue to eat them throughout the season.