The Q&A Archives: organic garden

Question: I'm a first time veggie gardener and doing very well so far. I'm using organic principles as best I know them at this time. I have corn coming in now and am told that I may get corn borrers. What will I be able to use that will be effective and still stay organic.

Thank you,

Answer: I'm glad your organic gardening is going well. Organic gardeners often discover that not spraying allows the beneficial insects to control the pests when the system has a chance to come into balance, so I applaud your efforts. The "corn earworm" is the larva (caterpillar) of a moth. It burrows into the ear and feeds on the kernals at the tips of the corn, damaging them. Sometimes you can see dark excrement or the worm may still be present. In "Vegetable Gardening for Dummies" by Charlie Nardozzi and the editors of NGA, it says "You can place a few drops of mineral oil on the silks of each ear just as the silks wilt and start to turn from white or yellow to brown (don't do it too early or you'll interfere with pollination, but don't wait until the silks are all brown and shriveled either; you have about a week in which to work)--that should prevent worms from entering ears." The book also suggests just cutting off the tip of the ear before you cook it! This is an excellent book for vegetable gardening and contains a chapter on dealing with pests from the integrated pest management standpoint, i.e., using the least invasive methods, tolerating cosmetic damage, and looking at the system as a whole. The book is often available in libraries. For more specific instructions, "Pests of the Garden and Small Farm" by Mary Louise Flint recommends: "add 20 drops of mineral oil with a dropper to the corn silk just inside each ear 3 to 7 days after silks first appear." Good luck!

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