Cutworms can be a real nuisance in the vegetable garden, and can decimate seedlings in no time flat. Once a cutworm starts working on your vegetable seedlings, there is no turning back, unless you catch him in the act. The most frustrating thing about cutworms is they do not subject damage over a period of time, but in just a matter of minutes or even seconds.
Cutworms prey on young seedlings for two reasons:
- Young seedling stems are very tender making it easier for the cutworm to chew.
- Cutworms wrap their bodies around the stems of young seedling when feeding. The smaller diameter stems make it easier for them to wrap around.
The best way of controlling cutworms is to eliminate them from your vegetable garden area and yard. This is much easier said than done, but here are some tips that will help keep them away from your prized vegetables.
Use Drinking Straws as a Stem Collar for Controlling Cutworms
Take a regular drinking straw and cut a slit down one side, long ways. Cut the straw into 2 inch pieces. Use the straw pieces to gently wrap around the stem of the seedling. Gently push the straw into the soil about 1/4-inch deep.
Create Newspaper Collars for Controlling Cutworms
Cut some newspaper into 2 – 3 inch wide strips. Loosely wrap the strips around the stems of young seedlings. The strips will decompose fairly quickly and give good protection against cutworms.
Toilet Paper Rolls for Controlling Cutworms
Cut a slit down one side of old toilet paper rolls, and place around seedlings when planting. The toilet paper rolls will decompose after a couple weeks. This method has mixed reviews – it seems to work well for some gardeners, while others have claimed it was ineffective.
Use Popsicle Sticks or Coffee Stirrers To Create Cutworm Obstacles
Stick a popsicle stick on each side of a seedling to prevent the cutworm from being able to wrap around the stem. Coffee stirrers and toothpicks can do the trick as well. The main objective is to keep the cutworm from being able to wrap around the stem, therefore he won’t be able to gnaw on your plant.
Create Cutworm Bait
Mix 1 cup of wheat bran, 1 cup of hardwood sawdust, 16 ounces of molasses, and water. Thoroughly stir the mixture then lightly pour around vulnerable seedlings right at dusk. Keep the mixture about 3 – 4 inches from the stem of the seedling.
The mixture will prevent cutworms from burrowing, leaving them vulnerable to the heat from the sun. Go out to the garden the next morning and you will find the cutworms exposed on the soil. Remove any dead, or trapped, cutworms from the vegetable garden. You may need to reapply after rains or heavy watering.
Introduce Beneficial Nematodes
You can introduce beneficial nematodes to the vegetable garden soil. The beneficial nematodes will seek out and infect cutworms, killing them fairly quickly. This is a somewhat hit and miss method, but can be very effective. Beneficial nematodes are also good for getting rid of grub worms as well.
Use Organic Dusts
You can also apply some organic pesticides such as Green Step Caterpillar Control, Escar-Go Supreme, or Dipel Dust. These pesticides are fairly safe to use, and very effective when applied properly. Try to avoid getting any of the powder on the plants themselves. They work best by applying in a 3 – 4 inch circle around the seedlings, and will need to be reapplied after rain or heavy watering. This method should be used as a last resort.
If you have any tips or tricks for stopping cutworms, please share them!