Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cutworm Damage to Sugar Snap Pea Seedlings

As I work out of state during the week, I sometimes text Keith to get current status reports on our garden vegetables.

"Hey, how are the peas doing?"

"Um... Oh, did I tell you that we have peppers growing in the grow box now?"

"Oh No.  What's wrong with the peas?"

"We have lots of new baby peppers!  They look really good!"


"They don't look so good."

I must have bad pea karma, because I just can't seem to grow them in my Indiana garden.  Due to my first-year gardening inexperience, sugar snap peas were planted too late this spring (mid-May), and what few seedlings that tried to survive either got munched on by wild rabbits or got fried crispy brown by the hot weather.  On the other hand, the same peas that I planted in my mom's garden just thrived in the cool coastal California weather this summer and gave my mom pound after pound of fresh and sweet sugar snap peas.

As we slowly transitioned from summer to fall, I was determined to try my hand at pea-growing once again.  I direct sowed them in a shadier part of the herb garden in early August.  All the peas germinated within a week.  I even called them my butt peas.  Everything seemed to be going really well.

 My precious Butt Pea seedlings towards the end of August

Then a few weeks ago, I discovered that more than half of the seedlings had fallen over, like someone had taken a pair of scissors and went snip snip around the base of the seedlings.  There were also a few seedlings that were cut off at the bottom, but looked like they were still up because their tendrils were holding hands with other seedlings. These were literally floating in mid-air, like ghost peas!

Even though I haven't personally seen any cutworms yet, I knew from my pest research that they were the culprit here.  Those darn cutworms!  I tried to find them by digging around the fallen seedlings, but I couldn't find any.  I protected the remaining seedlings by pulling cardboard cylinders - empty paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls cut about 2-3 inches tall - over them.  I have no pictures from this day, because I was too mad to play photographer.

I really hoped that the remaining pea seedlings would survive, but a few more of them just dried up brown from the bottom without any apparent physical damage to the stems. Not sure what caused that.

 Some remaining pea seedlings died this slow browning death

We still have a few pea seedlings that survived this ordeal and are trying to set flowers, but the pea patch is much more sparse than I had planned and I just don't have a lot of hope left for the remaining few pea vines.  The level-headed side of me thinks, oh well, I'll just have to try again next year.

But what I really want to say is: WAHHHH, I WANT MY PEAS THIS YEAR!


Nartaya said...

Ditto, I can't grow peas either... but I keep trying. What can I say, I'm a sucker.

meemsnyc said...

I am growing snow peas in my garden this fall, and I am realizing that they are such a fragile plant. I did see one of my plants flowering, so I still have hope.

meemsnyc said...

Sorry about the cutworms. They sound awful.

Ribbit said...

I'm so sorry. How awful. You can always try again. Have you thought about doing them in a container off of the ground?

Ribbit said...

I'm so sorry. How awful. You can always try again. Have you thought about doing them in a container off of the ground?

Kelly said...

My fall peas had the same outcome, I did 3 or 4 sowings and they all germinated only to be mowed down. We need a pea support group. ;) Next spring germinate some early on inside for transplant, AND direct sow some outside. Between the two you should end up with some peas down the line no matter what the weather does.

xoxoxo said...

Aw---how sad! I didnt even know I could have snap peas again for fall! I had good luck with Sluggo and sluggo plus(organic slug "food" or "death" in other words) It takes care of some other pests as well.
Also I heard you could wrap the base in foil... but if they are underground that wont help anything but pea fashion!

vrtlarica said...

I am sorry about your peas. I had some cutworm problems also, but it was 5 or 6 seedlings that got cut and I have plenty more left.
I also tried to look for the cutworms in the soil, but they weren't there.
I think that you just need to sow enough seeds, so both worms and people would have something to eat.
I also tried to protect the rest of the seedlings, but I am not sure that it would work, as cutworms can always go under the rolls.

vrtlarica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thyme2garden said...

Nartaya - I like to think that we're just persistent! :-)

* * * * *
meemsnyc - I hope your snow peas give you some fall peas! I guess cutworms are no more awful than any one of a hundred things that can go wrong in the garden, but they do seem rather rude, considering they eat so little and leave so much vegetables lying around to waste.

* * * * *
Ribbit - I will definitely try again. I'm not sure about containers, though. Don't these worms come from some sort of flying insects?

* * * * *
Kelly - yes, a pea support group would be awesome! :-) I didn't think to germinate any pea seeds inside for tranplant, since they are pretty big, but I might just do what you suggested next year to increase my odds.

* * * * *
xoxoxo - yes, you could definitely grow snap peas as a fall crop! Thanks for the Sluggo suggestion. I actually just bought some for slug control, but I didn't realize it could work for other pests, too. Pea fashion? Ha. :-)

* * * * *
vrtlarica - I like your generous way of thing of feeding "both worms and people." It definitely sounds better than feeding just the worms!

Amy Manning said...

I always thought that was the way they look when its too hot and they want to die back. Seems my plants do that every year. You should try BT, if it is cutworms that you have.

thyme2garden said...

Amy - you may be right about that with the stems drying up brown from the bottom. But the ones that were downright mowed down (I don't have any pictures of them), I'm pretty certain were the victims of cutworms. I'm definitely going to invest in some BT next growing season!

Julianna said...

I love the cardboard tube idea. What about neem oil - most pests don't like it, and it's generally harmless on plants???

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