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Dealing with Cutworms

Cutworms feed mainly at night by attacking and feeding on the stems of plants. During the day they burrow and hide just below the soil surface near their source of food.

They are especially fond of tender seedlings or transplants and virtually cut them off at ground level with no chance to re grow. They will also chew on more established plants, taking out large areas of tissue that will often make the plant collapse. When young, cutworms will often climb stems and do their dirty work a little higher up.

Cutworms are not finicky when it comes to feeding. They will attack most any plants but are especially fond of vegetables including asparagus spears, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and a variety of others. This makes them a serious pest for farmers as well as home gardeners.

There are several species of cutworm. All have the same repulsive slimy look and do the same damage. Some are black, others black, green or pinkish gray with stripes or other markings. They have smooth bodies and can grow to lengths up to two inches. A quick way of identification is that they curl up tightly when touched.

The most effective way to control cutworms is by distributing a chlordane based bait about two weeks before planting seeds or seedlings.

If you find you have cutworms in your garden, here are some ways to deal with them. You can sprinkle a little sevin dust on the ground between plants.

Another method and to protect individual plants is to fashion collars out of either aluminum foil or cardboard. Toilet paper tubes make convenient and almost instant collars. Cut tubes into 2 inch sections and push about half way into the ground around plants.

For larger collars, use one or two quart empty cardboard milk or juice cartons. Flatten and cut sections the height you want.

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