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Apr 24, 2009 03:11 PM

Basil Bugs? Gardening Question.

Hey there.

I'm attempting a garden on my deck, and my basil plants are getting eaten up! It gets so bad entire leaves end up little bitten slivers. I can't see what's doing it; no caterpillars, slugs, etc, and I really don't want to use pesticide or- basically- anything not organic. Is there anything I can do to save them (other than just bringing them inside)?


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  1. It sounds like slugs to me. Slugs feed at night. It could also be deer.

    The best solution would be some kind of cover like a floating row cover. This is spun polyester that allows light and rain in but not bugs. Ask at a good garden center.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Tom from Raleigh

      Two years ago I had rabbits eating my basil, they striped the plants of all the leaves, you can find organic deer and rabbit away sprays at good garden centers. I wanted to catch and cook the little bugger figuring it was preseasoned

      1. re: chazzer

        Thanks for answering you guys, but I'm pretty sure it's not deer or rabbits; i'm on the second floor. ^-^
        I will look into the cover, thanks so much!

        1. re: DreamCyn

          Earwigs are another possible culprit. They often hide underneath pots. If you do use a floating row cover make sure there are no little critters trapped underneath it.

    2. Cut a long piece of the basil and take it to the garden center for advice. Put it into a plastic ziplock bag so that you don't spread whatever it is. Some insects are so tiny that you can't see them. It could also be something that eats them perhaps at night and then moves on after laying eggs.
      A row cover will do you no good at all if the plants are already infested with something. The cover will simply tuck them in snuggly or keep the new bugs inside if eggs have been laid.

      There are many good organic sprays on the market now that you can use which any good garden center should stock. The big companies like Ortho and Scott's are all making them now because consumers are demanding organics.

      You will probably need to cut the damaged foliage back and allow the plants to sprout new growth.
      After you spray the plants and kill whatever is eating them, they will bush out and grow healthy new branches and leaves.

      1. I'm focusing of the phrase "little bitten slivers" to think that it must be caterpillars doing the job because they are the only chewers that will leave the midrib intact at times. To see if it is slimers, snails or slugs, dampen a newspaper section, roll it up loosely and leave it near your plants overnight. If slugs and snails are around, they will camp out in the newspaper after a night of dining.

        1. I think basil must be catnip for bugs. I have no idea who the culprit(s) are, but I can never grow it from seed in the garden. It gets to be 2 or 3 inches high, then one morning it's all defoliated. My solution is to buy mature plants at Trader Joe's, about 12-16 inches high, and transplant. The big plants are either not as tasty, or they can survive the bug attacks better. In my experience the damage always happens at night, so if it's practical, you could just move the basil indoors at night and let it soak up the sun outside during the day until it's big enough to take care of itself. Or you could try putting a plastic bucket or something over the basil at night.

          On the other hand, maybe there are some ninja-bunnies out there, climbing up the walls in the dark of night to dine on your basil.

          1. It could be aphids or jap. beetle... or... or... the list is long. Check underneath a leaf. If there is this honeydew gacky lacy stuff it is aphids. You may even see them clinging to the stem. Crush them with you hand or spray them with a firm water spray and then with dilutes Joy in a water bottle. Or you could try neem oil. It is natural, but STINKS! It could be white flies or nematodes. Scrape off the top layer of the soil and put some fresh down. Ease up on the water.

            Basically, I start with the most benign thing like examine and pluck or shake then spray it with water, then the Joy then the Neem (order wise). No use plastering insecticide on the basil though.