Ask a Question forum: Eastern North Carolina & Pests

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Name: Mrs. Baumgarten
Eastern North Carolina (Zone 7b)
Dec 23, 2017 1:20 PM CST
Hi All!
I am fortunate to live in an area with a long growing season (seriously, I lived in Wyoming for a year a half so I KNOW how fortunate I am) - but I've always struggled in battling pests. In my short time in Colorado it was as easy as put vegetable plant in ground, water occasionally, watch out for snake, pull bounty upon bounty of harvest. Wyoming, well, hey a girl can try. But I had a 15 month old and a newborn! Precious time for gardening.

Living in Eastern NC for the bulk of my gardening years, however, has left me stumped. I'm talking 5-6 gardening seasons, and all I have ever grown to harvest has been a few tomatoes, one watermelon, two cantaloupes, and some kale. I know, I know. Hold your applause!

This past season was my greatest defeat. It was beautiful. Raised beds, like always. Keeping up on pest control (so I thought) and even dodged a timber rattler and a few black snakes (oh the cusswords that left my Jesus-lovin' mouth....) Lo and behold though, despite my best efforts. Here come the tomato worms, in droves. Here come the snails. Here come the red spiders. And the life was just sucked right out of it. I swore off gardening until my husband retired from the Marine Corps and I get my farmette/homestead ... in 9 years.

But the seed catalog arrived yesterday. And it laid on my table. Mocking me. Calling to me. "No! I can't! I'm a plant murderer! Don't you remember last year? And the time before that? And the time before that?" "KELSEA BUY PLANTS FROM ME...." So now I'm over here day dreaming about carrots and heirloom tomatoes.

So... to my Eastern NC (or like zoned area) gardeners. Those of us plagued by onslaught of bugs and creatures and humidity primed for total annihilation of hours of hard gardening work: Help a gal out. What are your secrets? How do I save my garden before it even begins? OWhat are your best pest control methods? Favorite ways to grow? Educate me!
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Dec 23, 2017 1:37 PM CST
I live in a zone with an even longer growing season for both plants and pests. I don't have a lot of time to devote to pampering anything so I just plant enough of each item to be able to share it with the free-loaders. I usually end up with enough tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans squash and melons in the summer, and I do even better with a winter garden of broccoli, greens, cauliflower, kholrabi, and snap peas. I also grow a lot of weeds, but if pulled early, they make good mulch. Good luck. Plants are forgiving of our short comings.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Dec 23, 2017 2:37 PM CST
Tomato Hornworms you just have to pick off. Slugs and snails: water thoroughly then go out after dark and pick them up. Aphids: Neem oil on seedlings BEFORE the aphids discover them. Squash bugs! I HATE them - nothing seems to kill them!

keep your garden litter and weed free (bugs winter over in debris). And space your plants far apart so there is less traveling between plants.

I agree, gardening in old winter places is a lot easier.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Dec 27, 2017 3:49 PM CST
Enjoyed reading about your critters...

Here's a rattlesnake that visits my garden from time to time....

Thumb of 2017-12-27/stone/fc04d2

So pretty!

As far as the bugs?

I'm not especially bothered by the tomato caterpillars, seems like the songbirds find most of them... and... the few that the birds miss?

Thumb of 2017-12-27/stone/25451c

I did pick a few off the pepper plants last summer, moved them over to some alternative host plants... black nightshade and datura inoxia.... Gotta admit that having night-time pollinators is desirable... And these dudes are cool!

Slugs and snails?
offer them beer.

Humidity? fungus?
Got me there...
Into each life, a little rain...

I had early blight on my slicing tomatoes last summer, but the cherry tomatoes did fine... and watermelons do fine at my house...

would help if you told us what your soil type is, and how close to the veggies your shade is...
I have some large trees in the veggie patch and in spite of seeming full sun, they render huge areas incapable of doing much... grew cosmos and zinnia fine...

Like Porkpal, I find that simply planting more... helps.

But... yeah, it's extremely difficult to garden here.... Maybe you could find some property up in the western part of the state... very easy gardening up in those mountains....

Ok, went back and re-read your post....
Why are you using raised beds?
Do you have clay?
How deeply is the soil worked?

Down here, we really can't garden the way they show us on television, with timbers and store bought bags of soil mix on top of the unworked compacted urban lawn...

I've built raised beds in the clay, but I did some serious digging in the native soil.


If you are in the sand?
forget raised beds.
Name: Mrs. Baumgarten
Eastern North Carolina (Zone 7b)
Jan 4, 2018 9:55 AM CST
Thanks for the great responses!

To answer a few questions:

I have to do raised beds due to soil quality (super sandy, we're right along the Neuse River) AND we are living on our military base. Housing/base has some pretty strict rules about digging. You can't dig more than 4" deep into the ground as it is now against our base orders. You can have someone come out and tell you where you can dig deeper, but based on my location the only spots I'm able are in heavily shaded areas. (My backyard is basically wooded area.)

My tomato worms were AWFUL last year. I kept pulling and well ... they kept coming. One day we pulled 15! I don't know how common that number is. But it felt excessive. 😂
Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
Jan 4, 2018 10:15 AM CST
I would put out some bird feeders near those tomaters, just to see if that could be a bit of help with little effort.

I put tomatoes near the house, so constantly watching for bugs is convenient.

On the off chance you have not already googled this, here is a link for hornworm patrols.

Are there any gardeners near you. I would watch for what they grow and pick their brains on how they combat bugs. I would be watching for a neighbor who is out in the garden a lot, and bake them some cookies!

You sound like a gardener to me, so I am sure you adjust and have a lovely garden.
[Last edited by lauriebasler - Jan 4, 2018 10:01 PM (+)]
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Name: Jude
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Zone 6a)
Cat Lover Tomato Heads Plant and/or Seed Trader Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Bee Lover
Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Butterflies Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Jan 4, 2018 11:30 AM CST

Found this information on Tomato Disease Help Website:

BT is an organic insecticide that uses the natural pathogenic bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis (thus the BT) to kill insects before they're big enough to eat your plants. The insect consumes it and the BT cells germinate inside the insect or caterpillar causing death within a few days.

The pest first stops feeding, then drops to the ground and decays without causing any harm to the environment, people or any non-target species. The best time to apply BT is after eggs have hatched and the caterpillars are very small. Larger caterpillars like the dreaded tomato hornworm must be sprayed with the product for it to work.

If you see these full-grown bugs, it is best to hand pick them off of your plants. Because it is an environmentally sensitive control, BT might be just the thing you are looking for to keep pests away from your tomatoes.

BT Recommended Products
Depending upon your needs, the following products are some of the best in the field to help keep your tomato plants healthy.

Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer with B.T.
This product is effectively kills a number of tomato pests including loopers, tomato fruitworms, hornworms, web worms and more. Apply when the tiny worms are first noticed on cloudy days or in the late afternoon. Repeat applications every 7-10 days and make sure that you follow the instructions on the product label. Safer Caterpillar Killer is available as a dust or in liquid form to use as a spray. Safer brand is a leader in the production of natural and organic garden products.

Southern Ag Dipel Dust
This product is widely used by commercial growers but is available to the home gardener. It has a low toxicity to humans and animals and contains the trademark BT, which is toxic to certain pests. Southern Ag Dipel Dust controls cabbage loopers, imported cabbage worms and hornworms.

Home gardeners should dust plants thoroughly because the worms must eat the product for it to be an effective control. Dipel Dust is safe to use right up to the day of harvest.

Fertilome Dipel Dust
This product contains BT and is another biological insecticide. One bite of treated foliage and the worms stop feeding and eventually die. Many of the worms that attack tomato plants are susceptible to this insecticide including hornworms, bagworms, armyworms, gypsy moths, cankerworms, loopers, tomato fruitworms, sod webworms, cutworms and others.

Simply dust the plant making sure to cover all surfaces of the leaves and stems.
Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
Jan 4, 2018 10:05 PM CST
Thank you for some great info, Jude!

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