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Thinning & Cutworms

June 2, 2013

Credit: Celeste Longacre
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Thinning crops is one of the most important aspects of gardening. Each and every plant needs to have plenty of room to grow.

I thin rather slowly as there is always the possibility that there will be some loss due to insects.

The cutworm is one of the worst—this particular bug lives under the soil (where you can’t see them) and comes out at night. It then takes one bite right where the plants go into the soil thereby killing the entire plant.

You can tell that a cutworm has been at work if you see something like this:


When I do see this kind of damage, I bring out my countermeasures. First, I apply diatomaceous earth and place it all around the injured plant. Cutworms generally work their way down the row so I know that this little bugger is waiting just under one of the still-standing plants for the next night’s meal.


Be careful using this particular tool, though. This stuff can hurt any insects so you don’t want to put it all over the place as it can do damage to bees and other beneficial insects. I then spread a large amount of dried and crushed eggshells on top. This generally takes care of the problem.


So, the thinning should go from this:


To this:


Or from this:


To this:


And from this:


To this:


Next time, I think we’ll be able to add the thinnings to our meal . . .

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Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family's vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens.

Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer's Almanac as their astrologer.

Her new book about living lightly on the Earth is now available! Purchase "Celeste's Garden Delights."

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What happens to my tomato

By D. Broadway

What happens to my tomato plants? They get brown spots near the bottom of the plant, then the leaves drop off. Then it will go up the plants with the spots.


Hi D. Broadway, It looks to

By Celeste Longacre

Hi D. Broadway,
It looks to me like your plants get the blight. This disease lives in the soil and re-infects the plants from year to year. I have heard that the reason is lack of potassium. Apparently, once the plants begin to set fruit, they need extra potassium. I give mine a foliar spray very early in the morning every five days. If they don't get extra potassium at this time, the plants will take it out of their own leaves, making them susceptible to disease.

Hi Celeste, I have a problem

By Annie Register

Hi Celeste,
I have a problem with my Hollyhock's, for the last two years some kind of bug has been on them, eating them up..It looks like a yellow fungus or such on the leaves, then they basically dry up.I thought it was cutworms, but I guess not? Any advice? I really love my Hollyhocks and they are beautiful til the 'attack'!..thank you!

Hi Annie, Plants seem to have

By Celeste Longacre

Hi Annie,
Plants seem to have affinities to certain people and not to others. I can't grow hollyhocks to save my life! I have tried time after time & something bad always happens to them... So, I'm not sure what your problem is. However, it is definitely not cutworms...

what about a "bug"that just

By j.ledford

what about a "bug"that just cuts the bloom and leaves it on the ground?

No bug! Lack of pollination

By Taz6122

No bug! Lack of pollination causes blooms to drop on most plants.

Hi j.ledford, I don't have

By Celeste Longacre

Hi j.ledford,
I don't have any experience with this particular bug. Go to a local nursery and ask the folks there.

I use the tube from paper

By Grace D

I use the tube from paper towels or toilet tissue cardboard tubes. Just cut them into 2" to 2 1/2" pieces, place the plant through the tube and press it into the soil. Works great.

Hi Grace D, What a great

By Celeste Longacre

Hi Grace D,
What a great idea!

I use paper cups, just cut

By carl b

I use paper cups, just cut bottom out and slip over the transplant, press into ground about half inch and it degrades during the growing season.

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