Sunday, September 7, 2008


Someone has been killing the sprouts from seeds that were sown directly into the garden. Rows of carrots, beets, onions - it was maddening. Not one tiny bit of green would even surface. This went on for a good 4-6 weeks. Anxiety ensued. Did I lose my green thumb? Is our garden soil poisonous? Is an old enemy from Junior High School trying to sabbotage my efforts? After much observation and detective work, the culprit was identified: the seemingly innocuous sow bug.

It seems that we were not letting our compost break down enough before adding it to the garden. Normally, sow bugs eat the rotting, dying vegetation in the compost bin. Once the compost is truly finished, they move on. Apparently, we were adding the compost to our raised beds a little too early, with an inordinate population of the little guys. For lack of enough dying matter to feed them, they turned to our seeds. I start a lot of our seeds in the kitchen window, but certain plants, like carrots, like to be sown directly into the garden, leaving them especially vulnerable. Since our garden is organic, I expect to lose a certain percentage of yield to pests, but this was too much.

I did some research, and came up with a plan that has, thus far, been extremely effective. I added Diatomaceous earth to the top of the soil, and even mixed some in, just under the surface. This chalk-like powder consists of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It works by absorbing lipids from the waxy outer layer or insects' exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. I am also putting rolled up newspaper along the edges of the raised beds. When the newspaper becomes damp, the sow bugs use it as a shelter. It can simply be picked up and thrown away.

The Diatomaceous earth will also destroy beneficial insects, so it should be used with that in mind. In humans, it can cause irritation if breathed in, so it must be added to the soil with care.

DRAMA!!!! With any luck, this will balance the scales, and this next round of seeds will not be murdered in their sleep!



Unknown said...

Nasty little buggers! Hope you get them under control!

Price said...

Really glad to see this going to see if this might solve my ant problem. They're after blood meal, I think. Always great to read your blog!

Civis said...

Very interesting stuff. Compost is about the only thing I do right and I just learned something new about it.

I also started a little vermicompost with some top soil in an upside down metal awning. I was thinking about doing vermicompost in composted grass clippings to make supersonic compost--maybe there is a threshhold to all this.

Anyway glad for the information. I've been making compost for years--I get completely nutty with it picking up about 7-10 utility trailers worth of bagged yard waste from the neighborhood each year--but know very little about how to use it once it is made.

Christi at told me about your blog. I look forward to dropping by time to time--no pun intended.

F Ron Miller said...

Farhking bastidges!

AJK said...

sow bugs are a menace! Carrots are soooo hard to grow!!! I've tried over and over with hardly any success. Nice finger potatoes, btw!