What in the world is eating my broccoli?

wildhawkerApril 27, 2008

Hello, and thank you to all of the members here. I have found this site to be an outstanding resource, and I hope that, over time, we can also contribute some useful information as you all have so graciously provided to us.

In February, my fiancee and I moved to a townhome in Dublin, CA (in the East Bay area of CA). Both of us love to garden, and being that we had been in apartments for years, wanted to take advantage of our humble back yard. Unfortunately, it receives only a few hours of sun a day (3-4 hours direct from 8A to noon, indirect thereafter), so we resigned ourself to growing cole crops and others which could live in that environment. I built 3 8'x2' free-standing raised beds (10" soil, planting grade is 3' from the ground) so she wouldn't have to bend over to work (she had juv. arthritis, didn't want it to come back!), which I also thought would prevent some pest issues... boy, was I wrong.

Our initial planting was one bed of beets, carrots and spinach. The second bed was broccoli (Packman) transplants and various lettuces. So far, a few of the lettuces have died (I have since sprayed an organic fungicide, and seems to be having much more success). We kept the third bed open for other crops. Shortly, the spinach sprouts were all but eaten, and the beets were next. Oddly, the carrots have never been touched (even though they were right in between the spinach and the beets). The second bed was by coming along nicely, when something started to bite off whole broccoli leaves; I didn't think it was an insect/slug/snail issue, as we have yet to see tracks or any of them around the garden. Something kept coming along and eating a few leaves a week, until this last weekend... they completely decimated all foliage on all the broccoli plants! I mean to the stem! I am at a complete loss as to what it could have been. We are building wire mesh covers 30" high to cover them from now on (and to place clear visqueen over for a greenhouse effect if needed), but I'd like to learn what it was that sniped our garden. Based on the following pictures, could any of you shed some light on this mystery? Thanks so much, and we look forward to being GardenWeb members!

Brandon

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wildhawker

My solution...

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 12:55AM
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wildhawker

I smell a rat! My trusty Victor took care of one, I have a feeling there's more where that came from...

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 6:28AM
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tom_n_6bzone(Western Maryland 6b)

wow, nice rabbit cages! My only concern would be that if you have limited light, you've reduced it even more with those cages. Good Luck though!
~tom

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 6:54AM
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kristimama

Did the cages stop the nibbling?

And I wanted to say your boxes look very sturdy. What did you use for the bottoms?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 11:43AM
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wildhawker

Thanks for the compliment. The bottoms are 2x6 Douglas Fir slats; I used steel hardware cloth and filter fabric to allow drainage but retain soil/sediment.

I'm going to try and run reflective sheeting along two or three walls to increase and improve the lighting. I'll keep you apprised.

The cages, I'm sure, will stop the problem... but the Victor rat traps helped too! :)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 8:39PM
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kristimama

Oh, one more thing I'll have to worry about. LOL

I'm in a semi-rural area with tons of critters, deer, racoons, skunks, blue jays, etc. in our yard, so I was planning on building chicken wire cages around the boxes.

But you used a much tighter mesh... do you think a rat its nasty little rat head and body through chicken wire? LOL

-Kristi

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:15PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

wildhawker,
I too have killed lettuce seedlings by over watering them. Yea, killed them with kindness, I know.

My first guess on the plants would have been woodchuck. I know they like broccoli but those looked like spinach? I'm sure woodchucks eat spinach too. Do you have deer?

Gumby_CT

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:53PM
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wildhawker

No, rats couldn't have gotten through, but I grew up dealing with field mice, and they could have- I wanted a "aphids-only" membership to the "Garden Country Club". I'm sure chicken wire would do fine (that's what I had intended to use prior to wondering about mice). Also, this will keep out sparrows and the like, which can get in and eat our veggies-to-be.

We do have deer, and also lots of Turkeys, but our patio is 15 feet under surrounding grade (you can somewhat make out the retaining wall in the background), so I knew it either a) flew in (small birds) or b) crawled in.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 11:22PM
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msyoohoo

Wildhawker - just wondering how you made out with your set-up?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2008 at 11:42PM
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moabgail(CO Z3)

I was going to ask if you had deer in the area but you already mentioned it a couple of entries ago.

When I looked at how neatly all of the leaves of your broccoli were nipped off the first thing I thought of was deer.

We live way out in the sticks, so to speak, and have a lot of deer. This evening I saw 6 does out nipping off the tops of my wildflowers. This spring a doe and her yearling fawn managed to break through a weak spot in the 8' fence we have a around the garden. All of my broccoli and brussels sprouts were nipped off as cleanly as yours appear to have been.

I'm betting your local deer are the culprits. The cages you built should take care of the problem nicely.

Good luck with your next crop of broccoli. Actually, if you haven't pulled the damaged plants yet they may recover. Mine did and I'm harvesting wonderful plate sized heads of broccoli now.

Gail

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 1:40AM
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shellysand(9)

I dont have any deer in my area and my brocolli looks about the same. I am starting to lean towards possible mice or rats. I guess I'll get some of the chicken wire also.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 5:57PM
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fez2sweet_yahoo_com

hi, i think some of ur neighbors came and took them all it looks like they cut them with knife, it doesnt look like some animal ate it,,,

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 7:03PM
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singhtaurus_yahoo_com

I have the same problem, little indoor garden, no deer except my dear kids, thinking rats too! They eat my juiciest tomatoes, maybe they are going vegetarian. Hate to say it but I sprinkled some bait around.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 12:04AM
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forkfairy

They are green worms. They can be found on the leaves (blending in) munching away. Mine don't look quite this bad, but they are getting there. I'm thinking of digging them up. Does anyone have any advice about digging them up? Or will they be able to come back if I keep up w/the worms?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 10:33AM
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SoCal10

Please don't use chicken wire to keep out little pests like mice and rats. They only need to be able to squeeze their heads through, and that is easily done when using chicken wire. Go for something with smaller gaps, like the steel mesh shown above. You don't want it being more than 1/2" if you can. Like someone pointed out, it will block out some sunlight but there are creative ways to fix that issue with reflectors, lamps, etc.

Oh yea...don't forget to add plenty of height to your cages! The last thing you want is smothering your dear plants after you went through all that touble to protect them! ...speaking from experience unfortunately...

Here is a link that might be useful: Http://www.gardenweb.com

This post was edited by SoCal10 on Sat, Jan 4, 14 at 18:59

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 6:58PM
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kkfromnj

I realize this thread is ancient but I had to chime in. I use broccoli almost exclusively to catch groundhogs. Caught a monster yesterday.

This post was edited by kkfromnj on Thu, Sep 25, 14 at 15:45

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 1:22PM
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RyanC95(7B)

My brassica plants were doing fine all summer then a heavy storm flooded my area, which also flooded the home of a ground hog that lived in my front lawn. The groundhog apparently left looking for shelter and stumbled upon my garden and dug a way under my fence. I saw it one day eating my kale plants and it signed off on it's death wish. The next day the same time 11am I saw it again eating my pole beans and I took action and harvested my ghost peppers and made a spray with it and sprayed all my plants, and that was the end of it.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:33PM
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