by Amy Gordon
(last updated January 26, 2018)
Gardening is difficult enough without pests constantly trying to destroy your plants. Unfortunately, pests exist, and have the uncanny ability to find the plants they want, even if they are in your garden. While other types of pests are addressed in other articles, this article focuses on the cutworm.
Cutworms are a common and extremely annoying garden pest. Cutworms are the larvae of many types of moths, and they usually look like yellow, brown, or green caterpillars. When full size, they are between one and a half and two inches long. What makes cutworms such pesky pests is that they do more damage to plants than they even eat of the plants. When cutworms eat, they chew through the stem of the plant, effectively cutting the leafy top part of the plant off from the roots. This cutting process is where they get their name. Not all species of cutworms do this much damage, but some even do more, since they will eat any part of the plant, including the roots.
The usual method of stopping cutworms from destroying your plants is to place a bottomless tin can or plastic cup around young plants. This will prevent the cutworm from getting to the plant. Alternatives to this are to cut a slit in either a disc of cardboard or a disc of felt to put the stem of the plant through. These alternatives will usually work successfully, and it disturbs the plant less.
While the previous suggestions work most of the time, occasionally a cutworm will still get through. The best method to stop all cutworm damage is to wrap the stem of the seedling with aluminum foil before planting it. Unfortunately, not only is this method more tedious, it is also more likely to damage the plant either through the wrapping process or by stopping the plant from growing effectively. If you decide to use this method, plant the seedling with two inches of foil below the soil surface and two inches of foil above the surface. Be sure the foil is wrapped tightly enough to keep the cutworms out, but loosely enough so that the stem has room to grow.
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