Peas and Big Fat Cutworms

I was shocked, I tell you, shocked! at how many big fat cutworms I shook from the sod I was trimming from edges of my garden beds today. I think I will just let the peas I started indoors grow for a little longer before sending them out to face such monsters (plus, it is still pretty cool at night to be planting vegetables, anyway).

And while I am on peas: If you saw tiny notches in the edges of leaves on peas or broadbeans last year, that is pea leaf weevil, which is becoming more widespread. While the tiny adult weevils chew notches in the leaves, it is the weevil larvae, which feed on the nitrogen nodules in the roots that cause the worst damage because infested plants can’t make their own nitrogen. These weevils have one generation a year and only lay their eggs in the spring. There is no [legal or safe] way to kill them in the soil, but using two strategies you can avoid damage. First, start early plantings of peas (March-mid-May) in vermiculite indoors to avoid the main egg-laying period of pea leaf weevils. Peas planted after mid-May, after the egg laying period is over, usually escape damage. My second strategy is to enrich the soil for early peas with nitrogen sources, such as fish compost, blood meal, alfalfa meal, as for a heavy feeding crop. The pea plants use this nitrogen and grow beautifully. Peas planted after mid-May (I sow peas until the end of June) can make their own nitrogen and don’t need a nitrogen boost from fertilizers.

A note on these emails: I don’t repeat everything that might be relevant for a particular month every year. To see other information that might be useful check my archive of past messages.

March 26, 2020 12:59 PM

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