New heirloom seedlings munched by something....

bananastandMay 21, 2012

I thought tomato seedlings were relatively safe from browsing-- since they have hairs on the stem I always assumed they were not quite as delicious as other plants. So last week when all of my swiss chard was mowed to the ground by ravenous squirrels, I was not surprised. This morning when I found one of my three heirloom seedlings (I think it was Roman Candle) munched, you can imagine my shock. The swiss chard was in a different bed near the back of the yard. This bed is near the front of the yard, and also has brussels sprouts, parsley, basil, and peppers. But the varmint chose tomato. Just ONE tomato seedling. But it's almost completely defoliated.

Stupid squirrels. Have people had much luck with the granular "liquid fence" stuff? Got a couple of containers at the nursery yesterday and will be putting it down ASAP.

Stupid squirrels.

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Are you sure it's squirrels? I notice something was eating mine, too and my first thought was cut worms. I put paper collars around the base of the plants and see no further damage.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 9:56AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Completely defoliate sounds like another culprit to me, tobbaco hornworm. Are there large (bb-sized) green poops around the plant? Despite their size, the catpillars can be hard to spot.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 10:24AM
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If you do see a hornworm and s/he has eggs sacs on the back, don't destroy that one (just move it elsewhere). Those eggs are of a parasitic wasp that kills other hornworms.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 10:38AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Well, this may seem farfetched, but is it possibly deer? I have had them eat the tops off young tomato plants. They especially like brandywines. Yesterday I put out all my carefully prepared mixed flowering baskets plus pots with dahlia's and roses covered with buds. This morning the rose buds and some of the dahlias were sheered off. I've been using Deer Off on the tomatoes, which seems to work. I failed to spray the flowers.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 10:41AM
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It could be deer... not sure. We have them around, but it's the squirrels I see in the beds most often. That, and the finches. They love it when I direct seed things. "YUM," they think.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 2:18PM
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I use Sewin Dust in early stage of planting of peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes to rid the worms attack, once plants get to about 12" tall and are ready to flower, I stop swein dust and switch to Theuraside BT and that give me 60 days of worrk free protection.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 4:22PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

My experience with squirrels is that they don't eat greens. They dig them up to plant nuts under them. And with tomatoes, they "sample" tomatoes by taking a bite or two, but they don't eat leaves. Tomato worms defoliate, but they usually leave skeletons of the leave "ribs."

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 10:21PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

monet_g said "Those eggs are of a parasitic wasp..."

Umm, not eggs at all. Instead, pupal cases of the parasitic wasp. And yes, a good thing. biological control in action!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 12:07AM
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Well, I examined the plants just now with a flashlight and I see no signs of droppings. The one tomato became completely defoliated today during the DAY while I was at work, so I am guessing it is not hornworms.

Either way, I put down something called "Repels All" granules and also dusted the remaining two seedlings with Safer Garden Dust (contains Dipel). So whatever is eating them, I hope they STOP! Plant #2 had started to get some munching but still has a few leaves, so I hope that one hangs on.

What's weird is that nothing else has been browsed... save for the swiss chard in the back garden bed. Here's why that's weird. So many other yummy things to eat.

Back bed has:
spinach, lettuce, kale, radishes, and snap peas. But only the chard eaten.

Front bed has:
Brussels sprouts, parsley, basil, peppers, and marigolds. But only the tomatoes munched.

Do you think my decimated, defoliated roman candle tomato plant has any chance of rebounding? I read a couple posts that said I could put a milk jug over it and it might resprout some new leaves. True? Or am I out $4?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 12:26AM
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I have mice that do that to my tomatoes. Interestingly, the denuded stems will sprout leaves and grow again.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 12:41AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

While it certainly may be something else, hornworms are active day and night. Becoming defoliated during the day does not rule them out. Also not finding one doesn't entirely rule them out, birds love them, and I swear the darn things must go from egg to cocoon in a day. But your dipel should work if it is them.

Anyway, it is worth waiting to see if your seedling will come back. It may have enough vigor, it may not. I recently lost a young cherry tomato plant to a vole sampling it. I did wait a week before I declared it truly dead, just in case.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 8:23PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I just realized you are in zone 4. I am in zone 6b and planted my tomatoes May 14, which was two weeks earlier than usual for me. If you are only out $4 if you buy a new plant, I think it's worth doing. Your defoliated plant could come back, but it's been set back and could take several weeks to get back on track. A new healthy plant would overtake it quickly. I would only try to save it if it was a rare kind that you can't replace.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 10:59PM
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I have been thinking the same thing, Ohiofem.... the farmer's market is open again on Saturday, and honestly I got the Roman Candle only because they did not have any of the paste tomatoes I wanted in stock last week. Maybe it's a sign.... I did cover the poor bare stem with a milk jug. If it's sprouting and growing by Saturday, I'll call it another sign. If not, I'm going to head back on Saturday to try and pick up an Opalka or a San Marzano.

Sunnibel, good to know about the hornworms... and there are PLENTY of birds around, so I'd be happy to know they're getting munched. I hope the dipel isn't too harmful to birds.

Excited more than anything to finally have my new raised bed in the ground and to have tomatoes growing!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 9:43PM
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My experienced guess would be on deer or rabbit munching. The Repels All should be a good choice to thwart a mammal critter. The plant will be slow and stunted, but should grow and produce. I had any number of critter problems including curious birds until I put a Wall 'O Water over each seedling. Not necessarily to extend the season but to protect against gusting winds and curious critters. -Randy

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 9:57PM
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