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Common household remedies request

I've just planted some daikon radishes, and they've already come up and are growing fast in their new bed of compost. However:

Be ready for attacks by flea beetles, cabbage root maggots and any other insect pests that tend to trouble your radishes. Floating row cover, which is a lightweight, permeable, spun-polypropylene blanket that you put over your plants, can help protect your daikon radishes from these pests.

Has anybody ever used floating row cover?

Can I really just place place floating row cover on top of the crops? It seems like they could be damaged, especially when young! Should I wait until the "baby leaves" are gone, and "greens" start to emerge from the radish tops, or should I put the row cover on immediately? They're ready to thin, so now would be the time.

NOTE To any of Yves's readers who came here from the econoblogging world, do consider whether a focus on growing one's own food might be a leading indicator....

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Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

I use it all the time.

Johnny's has the very best price any where. Get the 6-foot wide.

It is SUPER-lightweight. Allows rain to pass through.

Be SURE to check the light transmission rating on whichever you buy. you want to make sure it allows at least 87% of sunlight.

Yes, you can just lay it over. It is more effective to make "greenhouse" hoops out of some irrigation piping, and clamping the FRC onto the ribs/hoops.

I put it over all of my Brassicas to keep the cabbage loopers out. I use it over my Bell Peppers to keep them from scalding.

BTW-- French Marigolds will help keep the Flea Beetles away. Bugs on radishes-- other than Flea Beetles when the plants are small-- are usually the least of a gardener's worries.


Submitted by lambert on

I've got some habeneros up here, and they're happy, but small. Any tips? I'm thinking of doing something like a fake green house, just leaning some old windows together in an A shape, and then putting translucent plastic (the kind I staple round the house in the winter) over that. Thoughts?

And Johnny's Seeds is great. In fact, that's where I got the daikon seeds from.

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

Heat and humidity. I usually grow mine near my Tomatoes for this reason. Tomatoes create a humid micro-climate that helps the peppers. The FRC aids in trapping the humidity.

I have some Pepper plants that are pretty small this year, but are producing hugely.

Just make mini-greenhouses with some water piping and the FRC for the summer. The glass and plastic will be too much, not allow water to get to the plants, and will become a huge pain in the ass for you, as you have to undo all of that to get to the Peppers to water and harvest.


Submitted by lambert on

I've got some of that water piping, that red and blue stuff that plumbers use. I can just sink the ends of each pipe into the ground, and then tie the covering on it. That sounds like hardly any work at all. Thanks!

kohlrabi's picture
Submitted by kohlrabi on

Lambert, you planted the radish seeds at the wrong time. Spring radishes are planted in March-April (PA), and fall radishes in late July-early August (per Nancy Bubel, who lived in central PA when she wrote The Seed-Starters Handbook.

Daikon will probably bolt, rather than produce edible roots when planted in early summer. Any roots produced would be extremely hot, especially if not watered lots. Row cover will exacerbate this tendency to bolt by increasing the heat trapped under the cover, even the Agribon-15 insect barrier. It amy be too late for the row cover, unless you heavily spray with pyrethrum (Pyganic at Johnny’s) just before covering, and even then, since the spray must contact the insects to kill them, any critters hiding under a leaf or humus when you spray may survive to chew your seedlings.

This is a bad year for flea beetles and a mustard/cabbage/broccoli-loving weevil which I can’t identify because it’s only the size, or slightly larger than a flea beetle, not 1/2” as the cabbage weevil is described in my garden pest reference books. It’s grey-brown, for those interested. These creeps devoured the blossoms and growing pods on the collards and mustard I was growing for seed, and also chowed down on my broccoli, but eschewed the cabbage.

My experience with row covers for insect protection is that they must be installed at time of planting (which makes weeding a bit of a bother), in order to keep out the pests. You must do a perfect job of battening the cover down, against wind, and make sure there are no gaps through which the pests can enter, such as at corners. Even so, in the case of carrots here in the land where Queen Anne’s Lace is naturalized, it’s near impossible to keep the root maggot flies out. Often as not the row cover tears from wind, or small holes start to form, in the thin spots of the spun fabric. Then the pests get trapped happily inside the cover. Hoops can be made from pvc and secured by placing over pieces of rebar or flower stakes sticking ~6" out of the ground. Remember that any objects (hoops, staples, rebar, stones, bricks) used to manage or batten down the row cover will cause abrasion when wind blows. All of this has a high carbon footprint, by the way.

I stopped growing radishes because of the root maggots, and the fact that the weeds overtook the radishes under row covers. The only time I spray a pyrethrum spray (which kills all insects) is after my asparagus has finished blooming, to knock back the asparagus beetles, which are a perennial problem, since asparagus cannot be rotated.

Surround (Johnny’s sells it) worked to deter the flea beetles from devouring our broccoli seedlings before the crowns developed. Once they started forming I stopped with the Surround, not wanting to munch on it, though crowns can be soaked in a sink of ice water, and hope the granules fall off, and sink, like soaking lettuce, rather than rinsing. This worked with green beans, which I sprayed against bean beetles a couple years back. Surround is gritty-feeling to the insects, which apparently sends them off to find something else to munch on. It worked like a dream three or four years ago when we had the most humongulous infestation of Japanese beetles imaginable. Our chickens couldn’t keep up with them and our corn, beans, basil, asparagus and raspberries were drenched with beetles, like jimmies on a sundae. Surround worked a miracle. I put row cover over the basil, and that worked well too. It doesn’t need to be hermetically sealed against Japanese beetles because they alight from above, not by crawling on the ground. Merely rustling the plants to roust the beetles served to clear ‘em out when installing the row cover. I didnt spray the raspberries either. Instead, several times a day I hand-picked the beetles into a container of water, knocking or shaking them off the berry leaves, then set the containers down for the chickens.

Did you know that domestic chickens and Japanese beetles, both being from Asia, are compatible, in that the chickens have the right enzymes to digest the beetles for maximum sustenance? One of the reasons birds are declining is because our landscapes have been taken over by exotic invaders. The numbers of indigenous species of insects that these foreign pants can support is reduced, and their populations not enough to enable our song birds to consistently and successfully rear a brood. Our birds don't have the right enzymes to fully digest exotic insects, such as Japanese beetles. To save the song birds we need to grow more native trees and shrubs.

Submitted by lambert on

The daikon I planted are from Johnny's, Miyashige (50 days), and the directions say July and early August for a fall harvest -- I'm way north of PA, up here in Zone 5b. On the other hand, it's been an early spring here. Either way, I don't think I'm that far off on the date.

As for the insects... It sounds like you're having a terrible time.

Here's what I think I'm going to do, since the daikon are just seedlings. No chemicals!

1. Thin them.

2. Sheet mulch them (no weeds)

3. Soaker hose along the row

4. The cover over everything.

Hopefully, that will keep them healthy and strong enough to fight off all the infestations...

kohlrabi's picture
Submitted by kohlrabi on

When is your real first frost date? The most recent USDA zone map was issued in 1990 and is out of date. You can see it here. The 2004 updated version is here. Our first frost date is officially 10/1, but it's now 10/15-10/29, on the ground. How's your summer weather? Is it hot and humid? Or more like New England? If the latter, well, ok, then! You'll let us know how all of your crops result?

Submitted by lambert on

I'm in Zone 5. The 2005 has me in Zone 5a, actually, but I'm near a large body of water, and I think that warms us up a bit.

I will certainly keep you posted.

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

They've pretty much destroyed my tomatoes, to the point that they're all nearly dead from predation and curly-top virus. I would like to start over with them since I have a very long growing season, but I'm concerned that the new ones would just get attacked the same way. Row covers are suggested but I doubt their effectiveness. Ideas?

kohlrabi's picture
Submitted by kohlrabi on

We have a leafhopper problem on potatoes, but never (yet) on our tomatoes. The only effect they've had on the potatoes was to cause them to die young, reducing their production, so we plant half again as much to make up the difference. This year we planted the potatoes late due to weather, so I'm trying Surround on the potatoes, hoping to deter the critters. I won't know if this works until later this season. I haven't seen any hoppers yet.

Insecticidal soap laced with isopropyl alcohol (1T/1Qt) sprayed every 2-3 days for 2 weeks is what is recommended for leafhoppers in one of my gardening books. [A Rodale book from when they actually published books with hands-on info on how to actually grow food, instead of wannabe coffee table books.] It's a contact pray, so you have to spray the hoppers. Don't forget undersides of leaves. But this is for potatoes. My books don't speak to leafhoppers on tomatoes, and I don't know if the soap spray will penetrate tomato skin. You could try garlic oil spray, if you don't mind garlicky tomatoes.

We lost 20 of our favorite Brandywine and other main crop tomatoes to an unexpected freeze, and are left with only the 3-oz varieties we were growing for the chickens. Amazingly these survived the freeze because they had such thick stems that they weren't frozen through and they managed to send up new shoots from the ground. We also have two volunteer paste tomatoes from last year that appeared in the midst of this spring's kohlrabi. They're just now blooming.

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

What was going on.

Thanks to my camera and fancy macro lens I was able to get pictures of the leafhoppers (they are very tiny and move fast) and identify them.

I started spraying 1 tsp/liter of concentrated detergent (dawn dishwashing liquid) without the IPA, and that saved my green beans. The problem is they spread various viruses, like curly-top which kills or cripples tomatoes, and they all have it to one degree or another.

Anyway I can start over but I'm afraid the new plants will just get eaten up too.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

Row covers work a treat on all the brassicas! You'll be pleased at how well they work.

Also, tinker with your timing on planting... the egg set and larval stages of those frigging flies are predictable, and you can beat them (and decrease their future life cycles) by planting to avoid them. And be careful of the manure you get, home composted stuff can harbor root maggots.