Monday, April 27, 2009

Squirrels and Cabbage Worms...Oh My!

I really don't know why I keep trying to grow brassicas of any kind in the spring here. For this area, it really is a fall crop, but hope springs eternal with me. And lets face it, I'm craving some tender Brussels sprouts, crunchy broccoli and rich purple cauliflower. Okay, I'll stop drooling and get to business.

Purple Cauliflower looks healthy but...

The holes are from a hailstorm last week but the chewed leaves are just that, chewed! The brazen and hungry cabbage moth caterpillars have been having a heyday over here. When very early spring starts here, I always here people oohing and aahing over the dainty white moths that go flitting here and yon. I groan. I flicked the ones I could find off but I'll be honest, they creep me out.

Sacrificial Brussel sprout plant with cabbage worms.

If you look at the second to the top leaf, you can see a nice big worm but believe me when I say there are several. This is a sacrificial plant, sort of like a scapegoat. I noticed last year that the moths laid their eggs mostly on the larger and more healthy plants, leaving those that lag in growth alone. So this year I tried an experiment by starting a sprout plant last fall outside, mulching in a protected area to winter over, and then planting it in a bed far away from where the other brassicas would go. It actually worked a bit. Almost all the worms were found here, in this plant. The purple cauliflower had some, but they grew very quickly, and only a few were found in any other plants. Its something to think on for sure.

Ravaged sweet corn bed.

My experimental bed that should hold sweet corn for the three sisters method looks like a minefield. Squirrels keep digging up the corn, even after it is well sprouted, eating the nub and then leaving the poor plant just lying there. I've started more inside to transplant once big enough to be nubless.

Close up of the damage.

Here you can see the holes from the squirrels' digging and a baby corn plant, now rootless, lying there just to taunt with all it's lost potential.

I did try netting, but they just squeeze through somehow. I've got to get psychological on those critters, but how can I consistently psych out a squirrel?


GAB said...

Capasian, hot pepper powder will keep the squirels out after they get the first nose full.

Not quite warm and fuzzy treatment of the vermin but you gotta do what you gotta do.

just prinkle over your plantings and redo after every rain until they are 6-8 inches tall. That or get a sling shot, or a motion sensor water sprayer , they often work.

hickchick said...

Hmmmm, you do have beagles...I don't suppose they could earn their keep- Yeah right! I personally like the sling shot idea though. Kris

fullfreezer said...

I've used cayenne pepper powder to keep squirrels out when I planted bulbs. We had an overload of cayenne peppers one year so I dried them and then ground them up seeds and all and used it in the garden. It worked well.
Of course, the slingshot idea could be fun. Or maybe a paintball gun. Then they would be colorful and easy to spot.

Crunchy Christian Mom said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about all the pests in your garden! We don't have squirrels because of all the cats around here, but I think something's been nibbling my green bean sprouts already.

Thank you for your sweet note. :)

ChicagoMike said...

I have heard from my father that the pepper spray will keep Satan's Tree Demons...I mean squirrels out of plants as well.

Christy said...

I loss my brocolli every year to those cabbage moths! This year I'm going to try a floating row cover.

Aimee said...

I didn't plant broccoli for years, after I had an aphid infestation that left me gagging. The entire plant was wooly, and no matter how thoroughly I washed them off I just couldn't bring myself to eat them. This was the first year I tired again, and then the goats ate all my seedlings. Oh well.

Sue said...

I find picking off caterpillars gross.....
I have discovered that HUSBANDS will do it, if lured to by a plate of cookies warm out of the oven!
Best of luck in your war with the squirrels.

FarmHouse Style said...

What a clever idea to use a decoy plant! I may have to borrow that idea.
As far as the squirrels, I could loan you my squirrel hunting cat, Tigger... not a one dares to touch the ground around here. Tigger is facinated by the chase and will stalk them all day if given the chance.


ChicagoMike said...

Rhonda -

Where do you live and what do you charge?

Don't cats qualify as "organic pest control"?

ATW said...

Christy- Its a shame your owl is nocturnal. You may actually need a BB gun or a slingshot. Squirrel actually taste great;)