Monday, January 4, 2010

Home Vegetable Gardening: Controlling Armyworms

They could be the biggest one to two inch problem your garden may ever see in a single growing season. They are called armyworms and they reap havoc and do irreparable damage to a variety of vegetables grown in many home vegetable gardens.

Their favorite plants to target are beans, beets, cabbage, corn, cucumber, lettuce, peas, peppers, spinach and tomatoes to name a few. Although they are harmless to humans the aforementioned are not so lucky. Armyworms, chew and eat their way through their favorite foods until nothing remains, leaving you a worthless crop.

Armyworms are about an inch to two inches in length and are caterpillars that can be either greenish-blue to brown in color. They do most of their feeding at night, and in you live in a climate that is warmer, armyworms can be a persistent problem.

Before you panic and call the Orkin man (which I hope you would never spray chemicals on your plants), these pesky creatures are controllable. By attracting their natural predators and applying a safe organic spray, you can help eliminate the ones you have and control them before they ever get started.

Natural predators to the armyworm are nematodes and spined soldier bugs. Nematodes are usually available for purchase at a local home or garden center for a few bucks (if they aren’t naturally occurring in your area). Spined soldier bugs can be attracted to your garden through planting various other plants such as alfalfa, celery, soybeans or cotton. Alfalfa makes for a good cover crop to rejuvenate your soil with nitrogen. So planting alfalfa can serve dual purposes in your home vegetable garden in this case.

Attracting natural predators to your garden is a great long term solution, but what should you do if you need immediate help? Using a Btb (Bacillus thuringiensis) spray will help control armyworms as will simply handpicking them off. Try to only use the spray if there are so many that handpicking is not a viable option.

Armyworms can be a problem in your home vegetable garden, but only if you let them be. Use these tips to control and eliminate them so your crop doesn’t get too damaged.

About the Author
Mike is the owner of Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC where you can sign up for their Seeds of the Month Club and receive 4 packs of vegetable, fruit and herb seeds every month.

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