The Q&A Archives: Seedlings Snipped at Ground Level

Question: Our snap peas are about 6 inches tall. Today I found several cut off at ground level, like a little lumberjack came through. What happened?

Answer: It sounds like it could be cutworms at work. Where you see damage, dig around the plant base with your finger. Cutworms are often found in the top inch or two of soil. They are about 1/2 to 1 inch long, greyish-white, often slightly curled in a "c" shape. You can make protective collars to place around the plants. Just take an empty paper towel or toilet paper roll and cut the cardboard into 3-inch-long sections. Place it on the soil around the stem of your plants, burying the cardboard about one inch into the soil. Or wrap each stem with several layers of newspapers, again, extending the protection down an inch into the soil. This might be a little too labor intensive, especially if you have a lot of peas planted. BtK (Bacillus Thurengiensis var. kurstaki) is an organic control option that kills caterpillars such as cutworms. Be sure to ask for the granular form, and apply carefully as directed on the product label.

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