Tag Archives: carrots

Army-worms Devastated My Winter Garden

Army worms have been brutal this fall.  I never saw it coming.  The summer garden came and went and I then planted my fall garden.  The first planting grew nice and the seedlings grew to an inch or two, then overnight – yes, overnight, the seedlings were gone.  It took a few days of research and observation to realize it is army worms eating and destroying my garden.

When I realized it was army worms, I knew to watch for them early in the morning and later in the evening because they usually feed at night.  Yes, I was able to see some of them, in different sizes of development.  They usually feed at night and then hide in the plant litter – the oak leaves you can see.  They are supposed to prefer grass, but for some reason our Bermuda grass was left alone and they were in my vegetable garden and some flower vines.

Army worms do most of their damage in the fall.

I have been re-planting my winter garden since September. The army worms have been brutal this fall. They have decimated my Swiss Chard, Kale, Spinach, Lettuce, Carrots and Beets.

These one-leafed chard seedlings are what I saw one morning.  The next morning, only the stems were left.
Chard partially eaten by army worms

This is another of my winter beds.  These kale seedlings grew a few inches tall before the bed was hit with the worms.  The worms eat all of the leaves, leaving the stems, which of course die.  The larger plant in the top right corner is a volunteer curcubit from the compost pile.
more army worm damage on fall crop

By my finger is the chewed off stem of a chard seedling.  The ground area in this picture was covered with chard seedlings, now it is barren ground.  Early in the morning or early in the evening I would occasionally see a few army worms on the ground or even on a seedling.
army worms eating chard seedlings again and again

The two yellow circles mark cut off chard plants.  These worms eat the leaves off of my tiny sprouts.  The plants are so small that even though I spray the plants with Bt, the leaves are so small that the worms appear to eat the plants before the Bt kills them.  After my fourth or fifth re-planting, I used a kitchen screen strainer to sprinkle diatomaceous earth all over the planted area.  This substance lasted for almost a week.  It even survived a few waterings.  Eventually the worms ate all of the sprouts that grew from that planting.

Two of these horrid creatures curled up and resting on an eaten sweet potato leaf.  These two are a little over an inch long.
army worms on sweet potato leaf

More, extensive worm damage on my sweet potatoes.  These were the first widely seen worm destruction – on the sweet potatoes.  Repeated spraying of neem oil and Bt didn’t seem to slow them down.  After my fourth or fifth planting, I used a kitchen screen strainer and shook diatomaceous earth over my plantingarmy worms damage on leaves

This okra leaf, along with most other leaves in my garden, are full of worm holds.  This is during the early phase of the worm damage.
worm holes on okra leaves

I thought I was going to get one final moonflower to bloom, after the initial assault of worms.  No, it was not to be.  The worms dug right in and ate the bloom.  I was hoping for one more pod of moonflower seeds.
worms eat moonflower bud

This moonflower has been destroyed by the worms.  They seem to prefer the flower sprouts.  You can see their droppings all over the leaves.
army worms in moonflower damage

These ugly army worms are in a cypress vine.  The largest are over an inch long and the smallest are less than a half inch long and as thin as a pencil lead.  They are all over.  This cypress vine has dozens of worms all through it, all sizes.

armyworms in cypress vines

These little black, round balls are caterpillar poop.  This area is under a large, 60 foot tall turkey oak tree.  The tree must be full of caterpillars because there is a constant, quiet ‘raining’ of these bug droppings.  The sound is audible as they droop thru the leaves and fall onto the ground.
catepillar poop all over the ground under giant oak tree

This worm decimates pine tree needles.  Clumps of these worms strip the green needles off, but fortunately, many of my damaged seedlings look like they are re-growing their needles on their barren stems.  These worms are redheaded pine sawfly caterpillars (Neodiprion lecontei).

this worm decimates pine tree needles

It has been a terrible fall for my garden.  I don’t know why so many army worms hung around in my garden.  Perhaps it was the mild past winter.  Cooler temperatures and a higher rainfall are favorable to them.  Army worms are named for their m.o., their method of operation.  The larvae occur and travel in large, army-like groups.  When they eat all of the food in an area, they march en mass and at night, to their next feeding area.  They consume about 80% of all of the food they eat in the last two to three days of their 30 day life cycle as a caterpillar.  Army worms are the larvae of a night flying moth. They hibernate or winter in south Texas then fly north in the spring and summer months, millions of them, looking for fields to lay their eggs.

Army worms go thru three stages of life.  In the pupa stage, the full grown army worm tunnels into the soil and transforms into the pupae, an inactive, non-feeding stage.  In seven to ten days, the moth emerges from the pupa.  The full grown army worm moth has a wingspan of about one and a half inches.  The moths are active at night and a single female can deposit 200 eggs.  Development from egg to moth takes about a week during the summer and a bit longer during the cool fall weather.  Development ends with the cool weather in November.  This means that they should be winding down, but they have eaten about 6 plantings of my fall garden!  I should have greens about a foot high, but I am still struggling to get mere seedlings to survive.  So very disappointed.

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Time to Pick Most of the First Round of Carrots

It is time to harvest the first wave of carrots.  These were planted around February or March (carrots are supposed to be a 60 day crop, but mine seem to take 90 days for most of the planting to grow large):

Carrot harvest

Picked some more a few days ago:

carrot harvest

Interestingly, the size of the green top does not necessarily tell you the size of the carrot. Some large green tops have small carrots and some smaller green tops have larger carrots. A couple of the carrots were bolting, so I just picked them all. I have a later planting scattered on the remainder of that bed and half of the next bed. I expect they will be ready within a month. I am already planting tomatoes and pepper seedlings among the carrots.

I’m sorry, but I really don’t recall the variety of carrots that these are. I do remember that it was a large seed pack from a big box store and I just scattered them all over, not bothering to thin them. The soil in that raised bed is very fine and they grew nice and long.

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Potatoes Growing Right Along

I’m growing potatoes this year, just a small bag of seed potatoes. I planted 2 in a large pot, in about 8″ of soil. They have grown over a foot, and I have added at least 8″ of leaves/mulch/potting soil. I am intending to cover the stems up to the top edge of the pot and hoping for a pot full of potatoes. We’ll see how this works. I am expecting potatoes to grow in the soil at the bottom, and as I understand it, the covered stems should produce potatoes along them also.

Potatoes growing in a large pot

The other 8 seed potatoes were planted in this row, about 8″ under the soil in the ditch. They sprouted up about a week ago. I need to cover the ditch with the dirt on either side, adding lots of leaves in the mix.  I hope to be able to cover the plants up to that wood wall on their right.

Row of potatoes

To the right of this row are carrots that are close to harvesting.  On the left, to the left of the wood laying on the ground that I am going to use as a bed border, bush beans are going to be planted, with pole beans along the raised cattle panel that is further left.

I am trying to use any small area that is plantable and use what ever scraps of materials that I can find to tend my small garden.

Last year we planted some potatoes in this general area, but they caught some virus that turned the leaves yellow and killed the plants.

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Carrot Sprouts

These little sprouts were planted over a month and a half ago. Carrots seem to take quite a while to get established. They have really taken off the past few weeks. Carrots are supposed to be a 60 day crop – obviously that is under ideal conditions. I don’t have ideal conditions where I live – it is usually too hot to grow these cool weather favorites unless I try to grow them during our coldest days of December thru February when we alternate between barely freezing and almost 70 degree days. Very erratic temps.

carrot sprouts

I am planning to reseed the bare spots and seed the other half of the raised bed. All carrots should be harvested before the really hot, miserable weather gets here – that would be about April.

If you look closely, you might be able to recognize little cos lettuce sprouts all over and in the walk way. I let many heads of lettuce go to seed this past spring and the seeds are everywhere. The onions are last year’s that were left after the harvest. If onions aren’t harvested before the hot weather sets in, they lose their greens and hide out in the dirt until the cooler weather of the fall gets here.

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Carrot Harvest Time

Originally published June 2011

It’s time to harvest the last of the carrots.  It is getting too warm, so up they come, ready or not.

Carrot harvest time

This bunch is from the green house. Our last 2 winters were colder than normal and killed all of the carrots that usually grow outside. These are mostly Little Finger and a French round carrot. Around February, I planted a longer carrot outside in my back garden. I can’t recall the proper name, but they grew to about 6 inches. I shouldn’t be afraid to plant long carrots in my soil – it is heavily composted and at least 12 inches of soft soil. To grow longer carrots, you need at least 12 to 18 inches of soft soil.

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