Garden Pest Invasion

June 04, 2010 | 7:06 am

I love sharing my garden produce with friends and neighbors. Yesterday, I invited my friend Deana over for lunch. It was her birthday and I wanted to help her celebrate.On the menu: ham sandwiches, a lettuce salad, sweet corn (frozen from last year), angel food cake, and fresh strawberries.  The girls harvested the leaf lettuce just before Deana arrived. As I was talking to Deana, I realized the lettuce was infested with cabbage loopers. I announced the presence of worms and the girls ran to the sink, yelling, “cool, can I hold it?”

Cabbage loopers are greenish worms that arch their back when they move and not very appetizing for us lettuce lovers.  Of course, most of the lettuce had been shredded by the loopers and not suitable for a salad. I salvaged a few leaves to put on our ham sandwiches.

We sat down to eat and chat, when all of a sudden Deana yells, “Ewwwww!” How embarrassing, I had missed a little looper and he was standing up on Deana’s sandwich! Needless to say, I made her another sandwich without any lettuce!  I did manage to make her birthday memorable, but not how I had intended.

Like many Americans, we spent Memorial Day with family. In doing so, I unintentionally neglected the garden. The insect must have known and invaded! Wow, my lettuce is shredded and the broccoli is very holey!

Gardens are alive and that includes the insects that invade. They chew, nibble and poop. Once in your garden they are usually easy to find. Look for their excrement (usually green or brown pellets) and leaf damage. Lift up the leaves and look underneath.

Once you have found what’s invaded your garden, try to identify it. When you have proper identification it’s easier to determine the proper control. According to the Vegetable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for the home vegetable gardener Web site, there are four different ways to control insects.

  1. Plant genetic resistance to pests and disease;
  2. Biological control (the use of one organism to control another);
  3. Environmental and cultural (favorable for the plant, unfavorable for the pest);
  4. Chemical.

I love this Web site! It’s easy to navigate and it gives me different options for pest control in my garden. I found the picture of the cabbage looper and then searched the veggie IPM control database.

I think it’s too late to save our broccoli and leaf lettuce. There has been too much damage. They are cold season veggies and are about done producing anyway. Tomorrow we will pull them from the garden and add them to the compost pile.

Insects will invade all summer long, so we will keep our eyes on the garden and hopefully, identify the insects next time, before it’s too late.