About three weeks ago, we picked the last of our dragon’s heart carrots and I found another little pest. Apparently we were just a tad late in picking them as some of the tops of the carrots had poked out of the ground, inviting in the carrot root fly to my garden.
These little flies are quite nasty pests to get and practically impossible to get rid of. Once you find them, it is entirely too late to save your crops. In my case, we managed to get the carrot root fly maggots, that carefully and quickly eat little trough shaped tunnels from the inside, out of each carrot stalk.
Our maggots are super tiny, white ones although they can also be yellow. Maybe that has something to do with the color of the carrot? Anyways, if they manage to find the carrots early in the season, the veg will be completely stunted. Later, the roots are inedible and the veg goes to waste if the attack is severe enough – and in our case, it was severe.
To make things worse, after they feed on the carrots, they pupate in the soil and emerge as adult carrot root flies after a few weeks or they can emerge the next spring! Which means even if you think you’ve nipped this problem in the bud during the current growing season, you might have the problem again the next year! Talk about a pest, eh?
Just an interesting tid bit, here in England, parsnips are often attacked in the South of England but rarely elsewhere in the country. Sometimes, the carrot root flies (and/or maggots) will attack parsley and celery as well. The same symptoms appear on the plants, resulting in stunted plants and small, rusty tunneling mines around the stalks and roots.
“Control is quite difficult.The adult flies rarely fly above 60 centimetres; a barrier fence of polythene 60 to 75 centimetres high will keep most of them out and few roots will be affected. The barrier must have no gaps, especially at ground level. Make sure to tuck the polythene into the soil. Erect this as soon as the carrots germinate.”
Since we are at the end of our growing season, I’m interested in getting rid of these carrots, the affected ones and turning over the soil they were in and hopefully removing any pupates (I’m certain they are impossible to find or see) because I have planted three rows of late cropping carrots right beside them and don’t want to see them affected. Although I’m certain they have a hope since their tops aren’t exposed to the surface, but the maggots can eat the roots anyways and there is no real good way to tell. The new crop of carrots is not ready to be thinned yet, so I’m sure I will see if they are affected when it comes time to thin them out.
If I do see them, I have considered homemade, organic sprays and such that can be applied to the plants such as the ones found here. But it has been suggested that growing onions or garlic next to carrots can confuse the flies – although this seems to have mixed results. Spreading spent coffee grounds along the row and over the root tops has given reliable results but each time it rains, the grounds must be spread back over your crops. This may not be a problem if you have a reliable coffee drinker in the house like we do! We haven’t tried this, but will keep it in mind for next year if we encounter this problem in our new garden.
You may think that you can trick the flies and delay sowing them until May, but this won’t work according to entomologists because there is a large overlap in the emergence of new generations of the flies. I haven’t figured out how to treat the soil and remove or kill any of the pupates from season to season which would be good to know so that if your garden is visited or plighted (depending on your opinion of course), by these little flies or maggots, you can get rid of them.
One sure way to keep them away is to immediately throw away any carrots that you have thinned out, since in less than 12 hours, having discarded carrots tops and roots lying around your garden will bring these little buggers about. We were very careful to throw them away immediately when we were gardening throughout the summer. This is also true for radishes and beets – although they will attract caterpillars (Bacillus thuringiensis) which come out at night and will very quickly eat the foilage of leafy plants and destroy a crop. This happened to our brussel sprouts – and since it seemed to keep them at bay, we sacrificed our five brussel sprout plants to avoid having to make a spray or experiment with other ways of keeping the BT caterpillars away. But eventually when Mei, Auntie Errin and I planted a second crop of beets and radishes in late August to get at least one last crop out this year before it gets too cold, some of the radishes that were planted fairly close to the brussel sprout plants were eaten away before we noticed. Our local gardening shop carries a spray called “Bug Off” and we sprayed the foilage down with that and overnight, the caterpillars disappeared! According to many internet sites, sprinkling flour (your basic household baking flour) over the leaves of the affected plants right after you have watered them will cause a paste to form when the caterpillars come out at night and crawl over the leaves which literally make a trap for them and kill them, is an inexpensive and organic way to remove these pests.
Each time we plant something new, there has been something to learn and new “problem” to tackle, which has really kept us engaged in the gardening process and ultimately we spend much more time as a family, having discussions and celebrating our victories together and growing. Both the garden and the family. It is certainly a wonderful tradition to keep up, and because we have to move fairly often, having a garden is something that we can take with us everywhere we go. Not to mention, learning what crops do well in some places rather than others and gardening in different countries is certainly an experience that can’t be replaced!
Over the next few weeks, I will be posting about the end of our garden as our squash, radishes, beets, tomatoes and tomatillos die out – also to find out how our corn is doing but also getting ready for next year’s garden as we have time to make plans and really research things like companion planting – and hopefully we will find out where we are moving to! Happy gardening everyone!