In the spring, just as your seeds and young seedlings are getting established, some gardeners find their new plants have been chewed through at or near the soil surface.

The most common cause is from cutworms, the larvae or caterpillar of a few night-flying moth species. They like to feed on the young, small and tender tissue of plants such as beans, cabbage, lettuce, pea, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes.

The easiest way to minimize their damage is to create a collar around the base of the plant, using aluminum foil, cardboard, or even plastic. To do this, create a barrier using your material of choice completely around the stem of your plant, making sure it extends a few inches both above and below the soil line.

You can use aluminum foil, but using old toilet paper rolls or old plastic cups also are quick and easy alternatives.

Additionally, you can till the garden before planting, exposing any overwintering larvae as well as keeping your garden weed free and well mulched to minimize egg-laying sites for future cutworms.

Cover Image by Raleigh City Farm, used under its Creative Commons license.

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