Q&A: Holy cabbage! A gardening expert offers insight to keep your growing veggies safe from critters

The Morning Edition – K-W7:11What’s eating your garden? Perry Grobe offers insight into bugs and critters taking a bite out plants

Many gardeners may have noticed holes in the leaves of their herbs or bite marks on their veggies. Perry Grobe of Grobe Nursery and Garden Centre in Breslau answers questions about what could be chewing on the plants and what to do about it.

Are some of the veggies growing in your garden riddled with holes like Swiss cheese? 

If so, you’re not alone. Some on TikTok have been posting about their produce, complaining of the same, so The Morning Edition’s Joseph Pavia (who was sitting in for Craig Norris this week), spoke to Perry Grobe of Grobe’s Nursery and Garden Centre about how to grow unholy crops. 

Joe Pavia: What are some of the most common bugs that we can find eating our plants this time of year, Perry?

Perry Grobe: The thing is, anything that we like, other things like too. So the potential is almost with every plant that you’re going to find something, but the biggest, most common ones right now tend to be things like earwigs. You have Japanese beetles, you have flea beetles and you have bigger problems like rabbits or rodents and things like that that are eating. Those tend to be the biggest problems.

Earwigs because of the rain?

Yep, there’s been a ton and they’re maligned because they do cause some damage, but they also are garbage collectors in the garden. 

With all the holes that are in the crunchy stuff that we like to eat, is it still safe to eat them even though a lot of them have holes in them?

Yeah, it’s no different than you find fruit that’s been damaged in the bin at the supermarket. Doesn’t prevent you from eating the plants. It just makes it a lot less appetizing in terms, you know, you have to mince things, or you have to chop them out or clean them out. No one really prefers to do that, but better to make sure that there’s no crunchy bits themselves, the insects themselves aren’t there. The plant material itself is fine.

A pepper plant in Guelph is riddled with holes. Expert Perry Grobe says it’s a good bet slugs are eating this plant. (Ieva Lucs/CBC)

What are some safe ways that we can prevent these critters from feasting on our crops?

Normally I would say barriers first … there’s a thing called a floating row cover which is used quite a bit in the organic trade. It’s a physical spun cloth that prevents small insects from actually laying eggs or actually getting to the plant material, so that would be one way to do it. For rabbits and rodents, probably best is fencing or some kind of barrier to prevent them from getting at it. At our garden at home that tends to be the way we do it. And lastly there are still things like diatomaceous earth, which is a very common ground-up fossil material that crawling insects like an earwig or any other hard shelled insect like that, it’s almost like having them travel over broken glass. It causes quite a bit of damage to them as they crawl over it. It’s incredibly safe for us. We can touch it, it looks like a powder, it’s been around for a long, long time and certainly that’s the first avenue approach with some of those crawling insects to get rid of them. 

So vegetables — whether pests are eating it, whether it’s too wet — question is, it’s made growing your own vegetables difficult. Is it worth it?

Each individual person has to make that call, but I would tell you that anyone who has ever harvested their own cucumbers, their own tomatoes, their own beans in the summertime will attest to, wow that was definitely worth it. Like it just makes so much difference.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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