Help! My veggies are being eaten by an unknown creature... My apartment is on the 3rd floor so I've taken to container gardening. Recently I've started to cover my plants at night as whatever is attempting to eat them is enjoying them as a midnight snack! Covering the plants appears to be working however if I forget or am out if town, I'm forced to start back at square one. Right now I have carrots, radishes and arugula outside. The plants are safe during the day but once it gets dark, all bets are off! I brought my 4 yr old jalapeņo plant inside as the little critter ate all of the leaves off it as well. Any suggestions or ideas are welcome! I churned the soil around before I planted my fall veggies and didn't see anything. I would imagine that whatever us doing the damage us coming onto my balcony at night since the cover's working... I'm stumped! Any help is appreciated!
I did some Digging on this and I did find some tips that may help if indeed these are slugs or crawling pests at night.
1. Create a wooden bed around the plants and place copper tape border (at least 1 in thick @ Lowe's)
2. Sprinkle slugo brand slug bait
3. break up egg shells and place it around the base of your plant. (this will cause lacerations on slugs, snails and Caterpillars, they will just stay away)
4. place a 2x8x8 board next to the place that you are having issues, then go out there the next day and flip it over there should be slugs and snails on it as they hide in shaded places during the day. (any type of hard shaded object would work.
By far the copper tape and slug bait combo are the most affective. when you create a bed around it with the tape you will stop the little critters from climbing in (due to a small electrical shock they receive when touching it.) but you also have trapped them in the box as well, you don't see them in the box but they are burrowed under the ground during day light hours. Sprinkle the slugo around inside the box this will kill the trapped slugs and snails. The Seattle area is infested with slugs, and these are methods I have used with success in my produce garden that actually saved my garden this year.
I found this on another forum, and I can attest at least to the eggshell method as I have used that before. The copper tape sounds like a good idea if you have an enclosed garden. I believe the tape sells for less than 10$ at home depot.
Many pests will hide in the soil, or under the pots, or in protected areas. Since covering seems to have stopped the damage I would assume it is a pest that does not stay as close as 'in the soil' but has to climb or fly to the plant. Perhaps it is hiding nearby, on the balcony in a hidden corner or under something.
The first thing I would do is to thoroughly clean up EVERYTHING on your balcony. Put everything you want to keep in neatly stacked plastic storage bins so it is clean and easy for you to see into the corners. Do not leave any hiding places. Make sure all your plants are growing up off the floor of the balcony. Stake, cage, tie... whatever is needed. Where they touch the floor is providing a ladder for crawling bugs to climb up and into the plant.
Then, as suggested above, try trapping methods.
The board may work, but also try this:
Roll a newspaper (several sheets, does not have to be a whole paper) so there are spaces between the sheets. 1/8" to 1/4" is fine, Put these down in the evening, and check them mid day. If there is a pest that is trying to hide on your balcony you have removed all the other hiding places, and this paper is about the only place. Throw away the whole roll of paper + pests each day, and put out more.
If you have no pets and do not mind using pesticides there are baits that the pests would eat. Some act against a wide range of bugs that crawl in the soil. But ID of the pest is the best place to start.
If you think it is a flying pest then there is not much you can do except cover the plants. No matter how many of the pests you kill, more can keep flying in from all over.
A saucer with some cheap beer will tell you if it's slugs. You'll see the corpses. I find that as effective as the Iron Phosphate bait, but not as effective as the toxic chemical bait.
If chicken wire keeps them out, it's not slugs, insects or catepillars. But what can climb 3 stories that's bigger than 1" mesh?
Do you have ivy that would let squirrels climb?
Fly paper might catch some flying bug that only comes out at night to tell you what it is.
Or, buy som e 1/8th black nylon mesh from a fabric store. This is cheap and will keep insects out if you tuck it tight around plants. If the plants are large, you might have to sew, glue or staple seams.
If rain doesn't wash it off, hot pepper sprays might repel some insects.