Damaged Cabbage Stems....Sow/Pill Bugs

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by emulkahi1, Jun 7, 2006.

  1. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Apr 21, 2006
    Location:
    Central MT
    I never knew these buggers could do so much damage!

    For the past couple of weeks, I have been mysteriously losing cabbage and hot pepper plants. I'd come out in the morning, and there would be a few seedlings...lying over with their stems whittled away so that all that connected them to their roots was a thin thread of dead stem. Like something ate away all of the outside part of it, and left only the inner most layer--if that makes sense.

    Couldn't figure out who was the culprit. I suspected cutworms at first, but the stems weren't cut clean through...rather they looked as if a mini-beaver had given them a taste. Got up early this morning in an attempt to see what was working on them. And I caught the criminals red-handed....ROLY POLIES!!!!!!!!!

    There are BAZILLIONS of them!!! And they've damaged ALL of my cabbage plants! Once I realized what was going on, I started looking closer at what I'd thought were still healthy plants (their leaves looked alright). ALL of their stems have been whittled down! Some just not so much yet that they've keeled over. They are also working on some of my runner beans, and the hot peppers. Strangely enough, they are leaving the green bell pepper plants alone, and the broccoli.

    I've read that Diatomaceous Earth is something one can use to repel them. But I do not have any and I will probably have to go to Billings (100 mile roundtrip) to get it. Is there anything I can do in the meantime that will keep them away from the poor cabbages that I have left :help: ? There are way too many (of all different sizes) to make a dent in the population by hand-picking...

    Also, do you think it would be too late to plant some more cabbage seeds for a late season crop? I am thinking it would be (too late that is). Here in central MT, our first frost is usually around mid-Sept, though I know cabbage usually do alright until it REALLY starts to freeze up (which usually isn't until the end of Oct or so). I am so mad :flame:. Cabbage is one of my favorite things and these mean things didn't even leave me ONE :Bawling: --argh.

    Erin

    p.s. I wonder if seedlings can survive w/ the outer part of their stems eaten away? I guess time will tell....There are still a few that look alright, despite the damage...
     
  2. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

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    What a challenge. I've been Googling for half an hour now. Generally, pillbugs and sowbugs only eat decomposing matter and like moisture. The mulch in a garden is pillbug heaven. I did find this though:
    Source

    Start eating grapefruit! :hobbyhors
    And maybe move mulch away from the young plants and let the garden get a bit drier by evening. :shrug:

    You have been battling some odd foes this year. I feel for you.
     

  3. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Central MT
    Wow Turtlehead! Thanks for that great info! Maybe that is why the broccoli plants have been left alone...They were a bit bigger than the cabbage seedlings when set out. Also, the larger runner bean plants are unaffected, while the smaller ones are just loaded. That bit about the moisture being a contributing factor makes sense too...We had a real soaker of a rain storm a few days ago, and everything has taken a while to dry out. I bet that's helped the lil devils do their work. I will try all of the above before night falls....hopefully I'll get SOME cabbage this year--lol.

    And yes, there have been a fair # of insect problems in my garden this year. It stresses me out--lol. I get all excited about getting everything in the ground, and then no sooner do I do that, than the various seedlings start coming under fire. Oh well....It is all a learning experience, right? I saw your post about the deer over on the TMEN forums...thankfully I have (knock on wood) been free of those LARGE critters thus far. Hope it stays that way :baby04:.

    Thanks again for your reply turtle!

    Erin
     
  4. Pony

    Pony Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Wow! This is a new one on me, because I've never had pill bugs/roly poly bugs do any damage.

    But this year I, too, have had a LOT of them. Always considered them pretty inocuous -- not any more!

    I think I'll go pick up the sale bananas and grapefruit at the grocer this week!

    THANKS!

    Pony!
     
  5. BeckyW

    BeckyW Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Colorado
    We used to be plagued by pill bugs in southern California. And they will destroy a young garden.
    Here's what I did for a family garden (obviously this doesn't work for commercial size plantings):
    I made little sleeves out of newspaper strips for each seedling that I knew those little bugs loved - cabbage, pole beans and melons. They rarely bothered the winter garden (zone 10) nor the fall garden but the spring planting was war - me vs. them!

    I planted my seedlings (I transplanted most everything from my own starts so I could get 5 plantings a year like the commercial fields nearby) so that about 1-inch of the bottom of the sleeve was in the soil and it came up to the bottom of the true leaves in height. The sleeve was 2-3 layers thick. And it worked. None of my protected plants ever had even one bite taken out of them. I know that's pretty labor intensive for you but it should help you out until you get to Billings. (If you have young children, they love this kind of task!)

    BW
     
  6. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Central MT
    Becky--

    Thank you for the directions on the collars!! Hubby and I did make a trip down to Billings to get the DE (we came up w/ a list of other things we could get down there to justify the trip :rolleyes:). Put it on 2 nights ago, and so far the pillbugs are leaving the seedlings alone :)! Before, the soil around their roots looked like it was moving, there were so many of them.

    However, I am discovering that the drawback to this stuff is that it washes away. And it keeps raining! So, the collars sound like a more weather-proof solution. I only have 11 cabbage plants, and 6 or so (had 11, before the invasion) hot pepper plants. No small children here, so I'll be own making them :p, but since I only need a few more than a dozen, that shouldn't be too bad.

    Thanks again for the advice!

    Erin