The Q&A Archives: Sowbugs In Mulch

Question: I constantly hear the virtues of mulch. Unfortunately for me, I have had one serious problem. Whichever type of mulch I use, bark chips, sawdust, wood shaving, straw, I have the same problem...sowbugs/pillbugs. They are everywhere and they eat the stems and leaves of my vegetable plants. I would like to use a mulch, if nothing else to conserve water. I am concerned about using DE only because I would rather not put my earthworms at risk. Any suggestions?

Answer: Pillbugs, or sowbugs, are one of those beneficial soil dwelling critters that consumes decaying organic debris. They help break down dead plant matter, so killing them isn't recommended. Sometimes their populations, especially in cool, damp soils, gets overwhelming and they begin to attack living plant material. You can trap them by placing damp folded newspapers on the soil in the evening. The bugs will crawl between the folds to hide. In the morning pick up the newspapers and put them in the compost pile, where the bugs will help break down plant debris. After a few days of transporting the bugs out of your garden, you won't have such a problem with them, and they'll be in the compost where they can do the most good.

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