In the Garden: Outwitting garden pests

Published: Aug. 9, 2019 at 6:15 PM EDT
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There is a new garden pest in town and it's targeting your leeks and onions! Garden expert Charlie Nardozzi showed our Sharon Meyer how to outwit the dastardly critter.

Sharon: Charlie, most of these leeks and onions look great, but is this going to be a problem?

Charlie: It is a problem. You know you think of leeks, onions and garlic as being these carefree crops, but not so much. Nature abhors a vacuum and so there is this new pest out there called the leek moth. It came from Europe, went to Canada in the 1990s, then came down to Plattsburgh in the 2000s. Now it's all over Vermont, and it's in New Hampshire and Maine and all over everywhere. So if you are growing garlic, onions or leeks you are going to see this pest.

This how it works. It's a night-flying moth. In May and June, it lays its eggs and then the egg hatches into a little caterpillar, that starts tunneling around. You can see the window paning which is a tell take sign on the onion and the leek leaves. That tells you that the leek moth is in there. It's not so much the first generation that's the problem. It's the later generation that's happening around now, July and August, that starts tunneling down into the onion or down into the middle of the leek that really causes a lot of damage.

Sharon: That will wreck the whole thing won't it?

Charlie: Yes, that will wreck the whole plant and then by the fall you just have a mess, it's all diseased and rotten. Blech!

So, no one really likes this happening. This is a research plot where they're trying to figure out what to do about it, but one of the best things for home gardeners is to just cover them. You can put a floating row cover, or a micromesh cover, over the whole plants and grow them to maturity underneath that cover.

Sharon: So the moths can't get in and get the whole cycle started.

Charlie: Exactly, and there's no cross-pollination that's needed on these crops.

If you do have some that are exposed like this, you can spray an organic spray like Spinosad, but you have to be careful with that pesticide because it's toxic to honey bees when it's wet. So you want to spray it in the evening so it will dry and kill them, and, of course, you want to rotate the crops and clean up the garden well in the fall.

But just by covering them that's a simple solution. And garlic isn't so much of a problem, it's more just the onions and the leeks.

Sharon: Alright, row cover!