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Sep 14, 2010 08:24 PM

what is eating my carrot, beet, and radish seedlings?

Argh! I just planted from beets, carrots, and radishes. A few days ago the seedlings of the beets and radishes started coming up and I was so excited. Yesterday I noticed that the beet seedlings were being munched on by something and the radish leaves were too. Today almost all the beet seedlings are leafless.

They are planted in the ground and I put a light layer of munch on top when I planted. I do not see snail or slug tracks. I do see ants but in a normal amount. I have dogs and I don't want to use anything that would endanger them.

Should I just plant more and go for the law of averages like fish laying millions of eggs with the hope that 1% reach adulthood?

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  1. It's possible that it's slugs. You might not see tracks but they do like to hide under stuff that protects them from the sun. Turn your mulch over and see if there's any hiding there. If there are, I recommend using Sluggo granules. It's OMRI certified and won't hurt your dogs.

    We often have a problem similar to yours with flea beetles. They attack newly emerged seedlings and small transplants with a vengance. Putting floating row cover over the newly seeded bed right after it's planted seems to help. We used cheesecloth this year when we were out of row cover and that worked well too, especially on the carrots, helped keep the ground surface moist. If you wait until the seedlings emerge to cover it, it's too late. You can leave the row cover on even after the plants come up until they're of a size to resist the bugs because it's very light, lets the sun and water through and won't impede growth. We leave it on our root crops until the leave are pretty big before we remove it.

    Over planting beets and radishes isn't a bad idea because as you thin them you can put the greens in your salads. Carrot tops on the other hand, are just plain bitter and nasty.

    5 Replies
    1. re: morwen

      Thanks for the information. I will get the sluggo stuff. What is they are flea beetles? I am in Sacramento. Should I just replant over the same rows again? or leave the area be and plant new area. Also I will get row covers.

      1. re: septocaine_queen

        Flea beetles aren't fleas but a small beetle that jumps like a flea. They are about the size of a pin head and black and can be difficult to see. They'll eat down seedlings and small transplants to nubs and on larger plants they'll eat pinholes in the leaves.
        If you have the space, I would try planting in a new spot and covering immediately with the cheesecloth or row cover since the beetles have already been attracted to your seedlings in the old spot. If there are any seedlings left in your original spot try spraying them regularly with insecticidal soap (won't hurt your dogs) or a "tea" brewed from garlic steeped in cold water. You still might get something out of them.

        1. re: morwen

          Will do. I use the Safer brand insecticidal soap. I have some broccoli rabe, arugula, and cauliflower that I started from seed in little containers but now I am afraid to plant in the ground for fear of the same thing happening to them, granted they are larger than the seedlings. How should I protect the little plants from whatever ate the seedlings?

          1. re: septocaine_queen

            Grow those on until they are good sized healthy transplants. Transplant into larger pots if you have to in order to grow them bigger. We found that larger transplants were able to withstand the attacks and recover better. When you do plant them out, immediately put the floating row cover over them as well for awhile, or start the insecticidal soap routine as soon as they recover from transplant shock.

            1. re: morwen

              I finally replanted today. I did the Sluggo Plus ( to not only get the slugs and snails but also the sowbugs i.e. rollie pollies and earwigs) over the whole planting area.

              The area where I replanted the carrots, radishes, beets I covered with a burlap sack. I also planted from seedlings the broccoli rabe, purple broccoli, dinosaur kale, cauliflower. I ran out of daylight before I could lay down mulch but will do tomorrow. I sprayed the seedlings with BT Worm Killer with the Bacillus thuringiensis to combat the plethora of little green caterpillars and leaf worms we have here. I talk to the guy at the local nursery and he think the the sowbugs could have eaten the seedlings because it happened over a period of a few days. Other than growing indoors I hope this works.

              I even planted some marigolds for their reported insect repellent properties.