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May 23, 2010 11:18 AM

Any way to discourage insects from eating my arugula? is there anything I can plant nearby to dissuade them?

I've planted arugula in my garden for the last 5 years, and in the past, no insects or furry animals have been interested in eating it. This year, some insects have been eating it. Out of my two rows of arugula, the leaves were so flea-bitten that none of it looked fit for human consumption, since less than one square inch on most leaves was left unbitten. I ended up cutting it down, and composted what looked like roughly a bushel of arugula!

It looks like a similar insect is eating my turnip tops, but for some reason, my lil gem romaine lettuce are being left alone.

Hopefully these insects will move on, but it case they don't, does anyone have a earthfriendly way to encourage to leave my arugula and other greens alone?

Thanks for any comments or advice you might have!

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  1. I had earwigs in my lettuce last year and the chard was being eaten by, get this. Wasps! I did not figure it out till I was sitting in the garden with a beer being puzzled about what was chomping my chard. I got slugo plus for the earwigs, and a floating row cover for the chard. I took out the chard this year as I found Kale grows like a weed and nothing bothers it. Check some the row covers on the link. I ended up getting a roll of fabric for $15 and used stakes with a pot on top to support it over the plants.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jay D.

      You're lucky nothing bothers your kale where you live. My kale was demolished by slugs a few years ago. I guess I've been lucky with my chard!

      Thanks for the link to row covers. I've used netting to keep birds out of my strawberries, but hadn't thought of doing this for my greens.

    2. Flea beetles go after most cruciferous vegetables but generally don't like lettuce. Turnips tend to tolerate the chewing, which causes small holes in the leaves, as long as the plants get a little size before the flea beetles attack. Then the issue is mostly cosmetic for the greens. Some small holes should not bother a home gardener who wants to avoid pesticides.

      It is too late for most of the prevention tactics. Flea beetles overwinter in shallow soil and plant residue. Step one in a cold climate is fall spading to bury the residue and adults trying to overwinter. Floating row covers will keep flea beetles out provided they are not hatching under the row cover. The problem with row covers for most cruciferous vegetables is that row covers tend to raise the temperature underneath them while the crucifers do not like heat. Row covers can be quite helpful in early spring in keeping the overwintered adults from laying eggs on your plant roots. The larvae feed on roots.

      Flea beetles are nuisances on eggplant, which does like heat. There row covers can be used to protect the plants and gain a heat bonus in northern climates.

      Some of the botanical insecticides such as pyrethrum will kill adult flea beetles. Unfortunately, they tend to kill a wide range of insects including beneficial ones. Organic growers can use these botanicals but generally try to avoid them whenever possible. Pyrethrum, made from the petals of the pyrethrum daisy, knocks down insects pretty fast but breaks down quickly. Gardens Alive sells Pyola, which is pyrethrum in canola oil, and is a bit more persistent.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Eldon Kreider

        Thank you so much for your detailed response. I didn't realize I could try to prevent the beetles in the fall. I'll try my best to spade the garden in the fall.

        I do agree the issue is mostly cosmetic. I usually tear out any bitten parts of leaves, but these leaves seemed to have no parts that are hole-free. I haven't been eating leaves which have bites taken out of them, but I guess some home gardeners would feel comfortable eating the greens I've been composting.

        Thanks also for the Gardens Alive link. Pyola sounds promising.