Monday, June 18, 2012

What's Eating My Moringa Seedlings?




Have you ever planted your Moringa seedlings, tiny ones, in a pot only to see them disappear.  Well here is one problem that you may not know to look for.  I brought these planters originally from California where we lived to Nevada.  When I planted the original trees, they were big and sturdy so no problems. They were also in a greenhouse.

Just recently, I took the dead trees out of the planters where they had frozen last winter. The soil has  live redworms, worm castings, and is really good soil. So I decided to replant in those same containers. Remember, I said that the original trees were big when they were transplanted into these 33 gallon trash cans.  Yes, I do mean 33 gal trash cans on wheels with huge saucers under them. I have 5 of these in the living room and three 20 gal containers as well. We have devoted our huge living room to Moringa trees and scented geraniums, and two Pau D'Arco trees. By the way red worms grow huge in the roots of the Moringa trees. Well I transplanted some little tiny seedlings into these large containers to see how it went. The next morning,  I went to show my husband what I had done, and two were missing all together, no sign of them. The others were fine.  I thought perhaps the cats had somehow gotten up there and helped out. This happened twice, and I couldn't figure it out.

What are Rolly Pollies or Pill bugs? You have seen them, just didn't know what they were.  They roll up into a ball when threatened.  They look harmless but..........

So this morning I took a spoon out and dug into the area where the sprout had been. Low and behold, a bunch of gray bugs called Rolly Pollies, came out.  I realized then, there was a hatching there of these gray bugs underneath the soil.  Rolly Pollies will eat the tender sprouts of veggie plants and Moringa as well. They leave the adult vines alone.  So I took an organic bug killer and sprayed the bug patch. I was careful to keep the spray off the rest of the seedlings.  As they tried to get away, I scooped them up and dumped them into a container of water.  I then put black pepper over the area where they had hatched.   I will leave it on for a couple of days then scoop out that dirt, replace it with new dirt, to get the eggs out.  I could not take the whole top layer out because of the other seedlings that were doing ok.  Moringa seedlings are very delicate and tender, so watch out for animals critters and these bugs.

In some areas it could be ants that eat your tree leaves.  Diatomaceous earth works well on them. DM Earth consists on fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It cuts the ants internal organs and skin and they die. They cannot become resistant because it is not a chemical. It does not work like spray, it kills them slowly over several days. It works best when kept dry. You reapply once a week over a two foot area over and around the ant entrance.  It will not harm any animal, but does kill earthworms and bees.  Don't use over the flower part of the plant but at the root. If you have red worms as I do in my containers, you cannot use it there.  It is highly effective and comes in 50 pound sacks. The DM earth powder is heavy and does not blow off the ground much.  Coat the ant entrance heavily.

One  Solution:


plastic drink cup or toilet paper rolls work.


Scrape the mulch out of your pots. Rolly Pollies eat and lay their eggs in the mulch. My containers had contained mulch because of the cold last winter.  Scrape out the top layer of dirt if possible, where a lot of the bug eggs are.

Make sure the area around the stem and seed ball are free from insects before you start. When you plant the seedlings into the soil, take a plastic drink cup and cut out the  bottom,  plant the seedling, then plant the cup over it, pushing the bottom of the cup down into the ground around the little seedling's roots. Protect them like you would squash plants or other tender veggie plants.

Another solution, if you don't have worms in your soil, is to dump the old soil, start with new potting soil. The rolly poly bugs are in the top part of the soil. 

There are many chemicals to kill the bugs but I don't like chemicals.  Even the organic bug sprays will burn tender new seedlings.  The new seedlings in the picture above are doing fine so far.  I used toilet rolls instead of plastic cups.   I water inside of the rolls as well. The water goes right down into the roots.

My trees are growing slower because they do not have their right climate. I keep yogurt containers filled with water next to the trees to add some humidity. I also spray them. If I could put them out in the sun, they would be three times this big.

Why don't I do that? 

We have 60 mile winds today. It is tearing everything up outside. The locals say the winds are much more severe than they have ever seen. Climate Change? We have had 40 miles winds off and on for days. The wind is destructive to everything, turning leaves black like they are burnt. Everything planted on this property must have a natural or created wind break.  The Moringa could not survive the wind here. We will get a greenhouse built this fall, and then that will make a huge difference. Until then, they must be kept in the house. I took the water out to take the picture and check for rolly pollies.   I will check this pot often for awhile.  There are still live red worms in this huge container.

In the windbreaks we have created, we do have tomatoes, peppers, and squash that are surviving the wind. Again, you must create windbreaks.  Some would say, why work this hard.  I like my own fresh veggies. I love my Moringa trees...they are a passion, even if I must keep them in the house.  I believe God brought us here so it must be to show me how to grow here despite the wind.

God Bless you All!

Kate Freer, The Herbladyisin

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2 comments:

  1. My daughter calls Rolly Pollies tickle bugs and I gotta say that they are an adorable bug... until they get into your garden! Great solution, thanks for sharing.
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  2. On my Moringa seedlings I found worms that greatly resembled the tree trunks in size and color. I'm wondering if the eggs came with the seeds?

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