Tuesday, May 25, 2010


For years I've used little hosta stems to prevent cutworms in my garden. One old hosta flower stem on each side of the plant. This year the cutworms have taken a couple of plants down anyway. I've had cutworm collars fail on me too in really bad years. I've even had cutworms climb the plants to cut off branches when they couldn't get to the stems when they were protected. Supposedly they don't climb. My cutworms didn't get the memo.

I'm thinking maybe put a few more hosta stems around. This time farther out from the stem so they can't even curl around it. Do you think that will stop them? I hope so. I've also lost a pepper plant to something else. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe slugs? The plant was eaten from the top down. The stem is still there, but all the leaves are gone. Shredded might be a better term.

At least I can catch the cutworms. As soon as I see any damage, I dig around where they cut and find the nasty worm. Usually about an inch or two under the soil. I dread years like these. Cutworms can be so vicious. I've even had one chew through a tomato stem three inches under the soil (below where I protect it). And years ago one chewed through a tomato stem that was about 3/16" thick already, past a cutworm collar.

I wonder what makes a bad cutworm year. I know we had a mild winter. Maybe that is it? Or maybe it is just a randomly bad year. Luckily not too many years are like this.


  1. Oh no, they sound like evil little things, almost like the olympic gymnasts of garden pests. Hope they stop bugging you soon.

  2. Yikes, that sounds awful. I hope your new garden has few cutworms, if any. What is their lifecycle like, do you know?

    We have grubs, bad. Every year I say I am going to put down Milky Spore but I never do. MIght it work on cutworms too??

  3. I dealt with cut worms alot in my central Washington garden, but have had little trouble with them here. They are a particularly frustrating pest because they destroy a plant but actually only eat a small portion of it - the waste of it all! I did a quick google out of curiousity about the actual lifecycle and found this very good overview and thought I would pass it along. It appears that cultivating the soil frequently is a good way to disturb their lifecycle and reduce the numbers in the garden.


  4. I suffered through them last fall but luckily they have not made an appearance so far this year. The moths are starting to congregate around the yard at night now so I'm sure they will return. I'll be keeping an eye out for holes in the ground.

    One solution I've read about is to sprinkle a mixture of bran, molasses and BTK (dipel dust) around the base of the plant. I'm also gonna try to put a thick layer of straw around some of my plants to maybe try and present the moths from laying their eggs in the ground.

    Frustrating, isn't it!

    P.S. When are you moving into your new digs? Will the new owners get most of your summer veggies?

  5. Would something like a dog food or soup can with the bottom cut out work? Something tall enough to push it into the ground a good ways? Maybe something like metal flashing? Or plastic milk jugs with the bottoms out? I dunno- I'm sorry! I haven't had trouble with cutworms (knock on wood).

  6. My grandmother used to cut waxed milk cartons in sections, and push them down into the soil.

  7. I used your twig method on my borage last year, after losing a couple of them to cutworms, and it worked well. I put them on four sides, though. I usually use toilet paper rolls, cut in thirds and slit open, and completely wrap the stems of many of my plants. This year I'm finding lots of cut worm pupa in my neighbor's garden that abuts mine, and it looks to have been imported in the load of composted manure she had spread there a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure they will be infesting my garden....they've always loved my flowers and veggies :-(

  8. prue, they are evil things. Luckily they are only a spring problem.

    Kelly, nematodes work on them. I used them one year, but the cost to get it every year is expensive. I don't think milky spore works on them. It would be nice if it does.

    kitsapFG, they are like my chipmunks and strawberries. They just take a bite then go on to the next. They are very wasteful. Thanks for the url. Now I know why I have some that climb. I obviously have two kinds. The climbing ones aren't as prolific luckily since they can defeat the collars and the sticks.

    Thomas, I've never seen them here in the fall. I've only had trouble in late spring - May and early June to be exact. With that solution I would think that that might kill them but the plant would get cut down anyway. I just dig around the base and get the satisfaction of killing the nasty pest myself. Though if I sprayed it all over the top of the bed even if they cut down the weeds they would die. And yes very frustrating. Luckily I have two extra Cherokee Purple tomatoes (the one they cut down). So I just replanted. I still have an extra if need be. We are moving into the new digs June 2nd. Though I go over every day to water the seeds I planted. The house is not sold yet, so if it sells they will get the harvest. This is the one harvest that I'm really hoping to lose.

    maggie, I've had them climb over cutworm collars like that, but since kitsapFG gave me that link, it turns out that the climbing ones are a different species. These are not the climbing ones. Hopefully I won't lose more. Who knows though. For now I just replanted.In a few weeks the cutworms won't be an issue.

    Karen Anne, I've used collars in the past, but I've found them too laborious to put in. Usually my cutworms aren't bad enough to take them down with the stick. This is just a really bad year. I added more sticks. I hope that is enough.

  9. Granny, oh no. Sounds like a horror movie to me. The invasion of the cutworms. I hope you have some really good collars or a lot of sticks. I added stick on the other two sides. That ought to stop my nasty cutworms. In the past two have always worked for me. Now I've got to do four.

  10. Oh my, I know how frustrating it is to lose plants to munching critters. Cutworms are one of the few munching critters that I haven't had to deal with yet. My latest battle was with rats that were eating my new strawberry plants. I trapped 7 of them in 2 nights. I wonder if it was a 4 legged critter that got your pepper plant.

  11. I don't seem to have had much cutworm damage, so I don't know what I would do if I were in your situation.

    If your pepper was shredded, could that have been a rodent, squirrel or rat depending on time day it happened?

  12. They sound a terrible thing. I suppose it could well be due to a mild winter, as I expect really cold snaps kill lots of them off.

  13. We hates them! We hates the little nasty bugs! one of my tomato plants got cut high on the stem --almost a foot up and about 1/4 inch thick! I have dug and killed 7 cutworms this year which is way more than showed last year (0 if I remember right) Maybe it was the rain. We've had LOTS so far.

  14. I've been cutting the center sections out of plastic water, juice, drink bottles and using them for collars. Yogurt containers work well too. Simply slide it over the seedling and twist it back and forth so it sinks into the soil around the seedling. The key seems to be digging out enough soil and replacing with clean soil mix to ensure that you aren't caging in the cutworm with your plant. This loose soil is also easy to to bury the collar in. So far this year, no collared plant has succumbed to a cut worm. I do, however, have many other pests that I have not yet solved the riddle of.

  15. I don't think I have experienced cutworms yet. I have had root maggots in my broccoli before but they usually only get one plant. It seems gardeners are out number by things that want our food!

  16. michelle, I think I'll take cutworms over the rats. I'm moving into the city however. I hope we don't get rats.

    Angela, it is possible it could have been a rodent. The rodents usually go for the lettuce and beans over the solanum crops though. Usually that bed is safe from rodents.

    Jan, Well maybe I'll be wishing for a very cold winter next year.

    EG, but easily replanted luckily.

    David, last year I only saw a couple of cutworms in the whole garden.

    John, Yup that works.

    Dan, I've had root maggots too even under the row cover. Luckily when they are under the row cover they tend not to be too bad.

  17. I like to think of you wiggling your finger in the soil until you find them, then exacting your revenge: It must feel good.

    Go, Daphne!

  18. Daphne, thanks for this tip. I am using it now on some melon transplants ...