Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Insects Are Eating My Seeds!

A winter harvest depends on timely planting of August and September seeds and seedlings. If we want food throughout the winter, the last plantings are now.

So what is in? Seedlings of broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage. Arugula is up, another bed coming. Sunday I sprinkled two mesclun mixes of cold tolerant lettuces that I’ll cover with plastic in December. An expensive one, $7 an ounce, from Johnny’s Selected Seed and a $3 an ounce from Wyatt Quarles, a regional brand. A contest. Then some chicory and spinach. Black-seeded Simpson will come, but space is left for a succession of lettuce. The next two plantings will be under plastic. That is, I’ll make a simple hoop structure of curved PC pipe overlaid with clear plastic and pinned to the ground. Inside the temperatures will be warm enough to carry the green leaves safely through the winter. Last year I planted in mid November when we returned from Italy and the seeds germinated and lettuce flourished. So I will plant again in October and then in November too.

I don’t want it to be hot inside the plastic. Then the lettuce will grow too quickly and bolt. Cool is the goal and green is the color of my true hoop bed.

But now it’s warm enough that seed and first-appearance-of-green eating insects come: slugs, crickets, rolly-pollies, centipedes, even ants. What I had planted two weeks ago is all gone, eaten. I watched ants carry lettuce seeds away. I saw crickets sit and munch.

What to do. First, replant with a little more soil on top. Second, cover with burlap and secure the edges. Third, last thing of the evening and first of the early morning, lift the burlap, check it out and squash any bugs. The last turned out to be most effective. Each “lifting” exposed them; I’d squash 20 bugs and disturb their revelry. Last night and this morning there were fewer. And most seeds germinated. Today I’ll take off the burlap and lay top, Remay, a thin cloth that protects the new greens from rabbits or chickens, if I had them. In a week the lettuce will be an inch high and on its way.

The best plan is a new 4-6’ bed of mesclun August, September, October and November. Smaller beds of arugula, mizuna, Simpson and spinach. Of course, kale, collards, turnips, chard, beets, onions and the brassicas are growing elsewhere. Garlic and fava in October. Most of the garden will be green and growing throughout the southern winter.


Laurie said...

I forgot about fava beans! I think that I'll order some seed.


Sarah said...

I like your blog site. I had the same problem with bugs eating all of my seeds and first-green seedlings in my Fall garden last year (which was my first garden) and this year the same thing has happened. The only things to survive the bugs are carrots. I've given up on the broccoli, broccoli raab, and cabbages, and decided to try starting some seeds indoors; but your burlap idea sounds like a good one to try. And I may have to go that route this time anyway since it's not recommended to start the snap peas and radishes inside.

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