Tag Archives: seedlings

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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This Season’s Tomato & Pepper Seedlings

The Tomato and Pepper seedlings are coming along very well.
I started the tomatoes and peppers in small seed starting plug trays – with between 72 and 128 cells in each flat. This works very well.

I put at least 2 seeds in each hole, sometimes more if I think the pepper seeds won’t germinate well. I had almost full pepper germination! I have a hard time just pinching off the extra seedling, so I end up pulling the plug out, separating the roots and replanting them in recycled plastic plant holders. I put the one of the seedlings back into the plug tray using the original seed starting mix and I use garden soil/potting mix to plant the extra seedlings.

These Rutgers are the extra tomatoes that I replanted instead of just pinching them off. They are all doing well – this picture is a week old. Tomato and pepper seedlings seem to transplant very well with no stunting.

transplanted tomato seedlings

Tomato seedlings in the original plug trays.  You can see Arizona Cypress seedlings in small pots.

tomato seedlings

These are 2 pepper plug trays.  Hot peppers are in one tray and sweet peppers in another.  These are not quite big enough for me to want to transplant them yet.   I am very pleased with the pepper germination.

transplanted tomato seedlings

I learned to seed tomatoes and peppers in separate trays because tomatoes germinate quicker and I can put them out in the cool greenhouse earlier.  I have to keep the peppers in the warm house longer as they fully germinate and this would cause any tomato seedlings to not get sufficient sun and get leggy.  Peppers also take longer for all different varieties to fully germinate and so I have to put them out in the sun during the day, then bring them back into the warm house for the night, then back outside the next day.  They only go out to the cooler greenhouse after all varieties have finally germinated.

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A Buckeye Update – They All Made It!

Upon closer examination of the 4 pots with buckeyes planted in them, I realized that they all did infact sprout.  The other 4 just hadn’t surfaced yet, but their roots were growing out of the pots.  I’m very pleased.  The buckeye/firecracker plant is a real gem.

Circled in red are the 2 buckeyes that sprouted first.  (Notice a sprouting pine in the pot on the right)

sprouting buckeyes

I had gathered 6 buckeyes, all from the same 3′ plant down the driveway.  It is said that the germination rate of these plants is about 50%, but it looks like I achieved 100%!!  These other 4 pots have not yet sprouted so I looked at the bottom of them and noticed these large roots growing out of the holes.  To get some of them out, I had to cut the bottom of the pots.  Oh joy, now I have 6 buckeyes to go plant in the woods, not too far from the house.  Now that I know what I am dealing with, I will be on the lookout for the buckeye seeds by next September.  I now know what to look for as far as the seed pods on the plants.
roots growing out of the bottom of the pots

Today is about 3 weeks since I have cut out and re-potted these seedlings and most have them are now popping thru the soil surface!!!  I’m really thrilled as this such an interesting plant although it has no food value.  The plant does well in full sun, but the ones in our woods are in mostly shade, as shall these be once I get them planted out in the next few weeks.

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Buckeyes Have Sprouted

Two of the six buckeye seeds that I planted last fall have sprouted.  This is the nicest one, the other one has small red leaves still twisted and compacted, not yet opened.  I hope I didn’t damage the other buckeye when I had to cut it out of it’s plastic seedling pot when the root grew thru a hole.

buckeye seedlings

These buckeyes have enormous roots – many times thicker than the plant stem.  That is probably to be expected as the buckeye seed is so large.  Note to self:  next year when I look for more buckeyes to plant, closely monitor the root development so they don’t grow out of the bottom of the pot, actually just go ahead and use my deepest seedling pots.

Not the best picture, but here it is.

buckeye roots

As soon as danger of any real frost is over, in a month or 2, I need to get these seedlings planted in their final location.  Such a neat plant.

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Brassica Seedlings

Time to get the broccoli and cabbages started and in the ground.  This is usually a difficult thing for me because it is usually so hot until about the end of September and then it can cool down quickly and I just have a hard time trying to get cole crops started when it is so hot.  This is just something that I have to work on, having the discipline to start seedlings when the charts say to.

Today I started planting the largest of my cabbage seedlings.  A few days ago I started planting broccoli in a bed that will be covered with plastic on hoops this winter.  I have found that cabbage is more likely to survive our mildly cold winters, but that broccoli is best sheltered during freezes.  I will also plant cabbage in it once the beans and basil are harvested.  I like to rotate crops, but this can be difficult when I have to scatter crops here and there in my limited raised beds – as one crop finishes the next can go in.  Oh, if I only had plenty of room to plant stuff together in an organized manner!

broccoli and cabbage seedlings

After a few weeks the tiny seedlings above grew into the larger seedlings below.  These are red and green cabbage seedlings.
cabbage seedlings

Broccoli is on the left and cabbage on the right, below.  Once the seedlings get this big, it is easy to tell them apart.

I fertilize my seedlings with either mild miracle grow or fish fertilizer – one or the other, constantly until I put them in the ground.
broccoli and cabbage seedlings

More seedlings.  I started several batches of cole seedlings during the course of several weeks.  The seedlings in the back right are vinca flowers.  Vinca is very hard to start during the cool spring – when flowers need to be started for spring planting.  During the hot summer, however, they sprout all over the place as the vinca flowers turn to seed pods that mature and pop all over.  I dug a few up from the base of the larger vincas.  It would be cool if I could keep these tiny seedlings alive during the winter – that would give me a giant head start on the spring flowers – unless they stunt during the low light and cool winter.
seedlings including vinca

I actually start my seedlings in small propagation trays and then transplant them into these larger pots before they finally go into the ground.  I really don’t know if all that work is necessary on my small scale garden.

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2 Types of Pine Tree Seedlings

I dig up pine tree seedlings that sprout in unfortunate places where they won’t survive long.  I have seen 2 basic types of seedlings.  I don’t know how to tell what variety of pines these seedlings are.  I have a few of the type in the round pot.  It grows slower and has shorter needles.  The tree in the square pot is the predominant type of tree seedling that I find.  It has longer needles and grows much faster.
2 types of pine tree seedlings

They both seem happy once they adjusted to their new surroundings.  I may have to pot them up a time or 2 before they are ready to go into the ground in the woods – about 18 inches tall.

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Lavender Seedlings

I love to start plants from both seeds and cuttings.  While I have a large lavender plant to take cuttings from when I try to root them, I also have started many lavender seeds.  (Most of them died because at the time I couldn’t keep the seedlings moist).  This nifty, roomy 6 place tray is from the recycle shelf at a big box store – I have gotten quite a few nice trays and pots from the recycle center – recycled them right into my green house!!.  Note that this potting container is sitting in a tray to hold water so that the plants don’t dry out.
lavender seedlings

These are shelves on a little junior green house shelf, waiting for my real green house to get moved over here.  Note 2 of my brand new seedling trays sitting in a no-hole bottom tray to hold water and keep the seeding trays moist.  On the second shelf, to the left of my lavender is a recycled tray with a few coleus in it.  I am so pleased that a few coleus survived.  They are easier to propagate from cuttings, but I also like to start seeds.  Unfortunately, most of this batch of coleus dried out.  So, with new propagation/seeding trays, I am starting another batch of coleus.
lavender seedlings starting

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Cactus On The Porch – Waiting For The Greenhouse

My baby cactus patiently waiting on the porch for the arrival of the greenhouse.
cactus on porch waiting for greenhouse

Many of the little cactus were started from seed.  It ain’t easy, but some of the seeds do survive and grow.  Most of the tiny cactus are started from cuttings and pieces of larger cactus.  These guys can’t take all day full sun.  Where they are now, they get late afternoon soon.  They seem to be OK with that.

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Tomatoes in Pots

I am growing some tomatoes in pots – they look to be about 5 gallon pots.  I simply don’t have enough raised bed space for all of the tomatoes that I start from seed.  These guys didn’t make it into the garden proper.  We have a secondary raised bed where we are growing about 4 dozen tomatoes.  This is the main eating and canning bed – where we grow the crop to can.
tomatoes in pots

These are Twilley Seed Co seeds.  The large tomatoes (8 oz) are Grandoise.  I don’t recall off the top of my head what the cherry toms are, but they are a hybrid variety that fruits like a cluster of grapes.

Since the summers are so hot here, I can not grow jumbo heirloom varieties.  I have tried – it just doesn’t work.  No fruit sets when the daytime temps rise above about 90 degrees – which is just about all summer!  I grow varieties whose fruits are about 8 oz.  This size sets fine and is large enough to easily process for canning.

For this volume of potting soil, I have been making my own.  I have been mixing my home made compost, some perilite (I buy it by the 3 cu ft bag), some peat moss and some cheap compost stuff from the big box store because I need the sand in it.  The ratio changes – I just eyeball each batch.  Seems to work well.

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Cutworms? Something Is Loose In The Garden

These are new beds so for some reason I didn’t expect to have a problem with cutworms.  Well, not so.  In at least 2 of my raised beds, I have numerous peppers that have been cut off at the ground.  I have also found a few cucumber seedlings and Chinese Long Red beans that have also been cut off.

cutworm damage on a pepper

The picture shows the cinched stem there at the ground level.  That healthy green stem ends with a constriction and grayish tissue.  I have sprinkled diatomaceous earth around the pepper stems where there are damaged peppers.  Well see if it does any good.  I sprinkled the DE earlier today and it is raining hard tonight.  Fortunately, only a few of my peppers have been damaged – maybe 5%.   A couple of the peppers seem to still be alive, but laying down because their stem has been damaged.  I’ll let them grow as they lay and see if they ever produce.
closeup of cutworm damage

I have started all of these peppers from seeds that I save each year and I don’t like them to be damaged.  I do keep a thick leaf mulch on the soil, but I don’t think that affects the cutworm.  It is going to live in the soil anyway.  The mulch may even make it more difficult to find a plant stem?

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