If you garden, and especially if you have an organic garden, do not be disappointed when you encounter pest problems.
Or at least try not to be. Those bugs, gophers, rabbits, etc. all love your garden too, because it is chemical free. And they suck, sometimes literally :). You will encounter pest problems, there is really no way around it. I am currently dealing with gophers (at the church community garden) and the latest at home is my fight against the Spinach Leafminer. To tell the truth I have also seen some signs of damage at the church garden. It’s just something we have to deal with here. A lot. I have had to fight these buggers every year.
Spanish Leafminers are little flys that lay their eggs on the underside of produce leaves. They damage mostly cool weather crops like spinach, beets, and swiss chard. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the leaf and ruin it. The spinach leafminer can be easily identified by looking at the back of your spinach, beet or swiss chard leaves for small clusters of tiny white eggs. They look like this:
I took this picture this morning. There are about 3-6 eggs in each cluster. They are white and very small as you can see. They are like tiny, longish white ovals. Very uniform all lined up in a row. If the leaf is otherwise undamaged, you can scrape these off and still gather the produce. If, however, you have not caught the problem in time your spinach/beets/swiss chard will look like this:
This picture, also taken this morning, shows extensive damage from the little buggers. I would probably throw this leaf straight into the trash can, though I have heard that you can tear off the affected part and the rest of the leaf is okay. Who knows though. I would rather not eat the little suckers.
The Two Solutions that Seem to Work
Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do about these other than: 1. Keep your veggies covered under floating row covers like these available on Amazon so the little flies can’t land on them or 2. Pick off the affected leaves as soon as you see eggs and/or damage and dispose of them. If you can pick off the leaves with the eggs before they hatch, great for you. I found this method to be too time consuming.
When I start seeing too many and I don’t want to bother with them anymore, it’s usually about time to dig up the spinach and plant warm weather crops anyway. Which, of course, come with their own set of problems…but that’s another post. I am trying something this year with my beets. They have been hit rather hard with this pest. I have been informed that if you don’t plan to eat the beet greens you can just leave them alone as the leaf miners don’t damage the beet itself. The leaves will look ugly, but you don’t have to pull up all of your beets that way. We shall see. It’s about time for me to go rip up the rest of the spinach and plant an heirloom tomato in it’s place. Mmmmmm.
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