Salad Days: Of Pesky Pests and Dread Diseases

When I began the 52 Week Salad Challenge earlier in the year, it was safe in the knowledge we were starting at the most difficult time for growing salad leaves and that things would get much easier as the year progressed.

Then came the drought that was March and early sowings failed to thrive. That was followed by the record deluge of April, May and June, which is still making itself felt from time to time. So it's a super bad year for slugs and snails, who've feasted and gorged themselves on my lettuces until I had nothing left but tiny stumps. Later sowings are now thriving - after a number of torchlight searches and removals of offending critters -  thank goodness.

After a slow start owing to the unseasonally cool weather we've had for most of the year, other pests and diseases are now beginning to make themselves felt. Flea beetles are adding their characteristic tiny holes to my rocket; cabbage white butterflies are laying eggs on my mustards and as for vine weevil, I've found some adults cheekily crawling around the old Belfast sinks I'm using in my shiny new salad area.

So what's to be done? I'm ignoring the flea beetle as they don't spoil the taste of the rocket leaves. One of the beauties of growing in pots is they can be lifted to eye level and butterfly eggs easily found and removed. The adult vine weevils have been squished with a satisfying crunch and as you can see I've invested in some nematodes so their offspring don't gain a hold in my pots.

Luckily I haven't suffered the ravages of pigeonsrabbits or aphids and as I'm growing mainly outdoors I haven't seen much in the way of glasshouse whitefly or red spider mite. I was worried my earlier indoor growings would suffer from sciarid fly (aka fungus gnats), but happily they didn't appear.

Ant nests are decimating some of my pots, though they haven't discovered the ones containing my salad leaves. This is probably because these pots aren't left alone for long, unlike their flower filled cousins.

Disease wise, I haven't seen much in the way of mildew yet, although it's ravaging through my Sedums. I think this is because I'm picking my salads like Charles Dowding showed me back in February. This allows for greater air flow around the leaves and I'm also picking when fairly young - probably before mildew can grab hold of the leaves.

I've had a bit of tip burn on my lollo bionda lettuces, but I picked the leaves off before I realised what I had and could photograph it ready to show you. Naturally the new leaves are in glowing health, so we'll have to wait and see if it develops again . It's thought to be due to a Calcium deficiency, though I've seen a recent research paper which seems to dispute this.

How are your salads faring? What pesky pests or dread diseases are you seeing this year? NB the links in this post will take you through to advice pages for each pest and disease mentioned, in case you need to find out more.

Update: we had a very interesting #saladchat on Twitter yesterday about differences in slug damage on red and green lettuce, thanks to a Comment left by Annemieke recently. This is worth a post in its own right, so watch this space...

It's also that time of the month for you to add your Salad Days posts to Mr Linky below. New contributors are always welcome :)


  1. Oops, I'm all behind on this, due to stupid flu. I offer packing more flavour into salads.

    As for pests, mine are mostly slug shaped. The large Spanish slugs, which seem to be too much for the frogs. I want ducks to remedy the problem, but the Big Guy isn't keen.

  2. ediblethings - more flavour is always welcome. I now have the perfect recipe for our tea tonight, thanks to your post :)

  3. What a year! I am moving salad leaf production back to base next year so I can go out on torchlit patrols. Enjoyed your recent informative lettuce post VP and a fact sheet would be great. I usually try different varieties each year so no real favourites, but reds are definitely not so high up on the menu list for molluscs :)

  4. Aside from slugs, snails and the cabbage whites I am fortunate in not having that many salad leave pests, and it being winter here the cabbage whites are few and far between so really I have very little to complain about.

  5. I've just spent half an hour picking cabbage whites off the kale - where did they suddenly all come from and how did they get that big? I'm posting a picture of my hideous catch over at Weeding the Web (I'd do it here if I thought I could).

  6. Anna - thanks for adding your observations. I'll start on the fact sheet when I get back from holiday :)

    Liz - sounds good! *heads of to Oz immediately*

    Helen - welcome! One day there were none, the next day there were loads. I wonder if there was a temperature signal which meant lots of pupae hatched at around the same time?

  7. Slugs are my main problem. Cabbage whites too on the cabbages. I've been chasing them out of the brassica netting today!

  8. I thought you were trying to encourage people to grow more salad leaves?! That list of pests and diseases is nothing short of alarming, so I'm glad I sowed my salad bed before I read it ;-)

  9. Hi Janet - I thought I'd get it over and done with in one go ;)

  10. Margaret - it's raining again, so the cabbage whites are having a rest today ;)

  11. Sowed some corn salad today - would it be too late? Having last sown those at least twenty years ago, I get plenty of volunteers all over the garden every winter, but you never know .....

  12. AW - I think you should be OK, if your nights have suddenly got much coller as ours have just done, I'd keep some fleece handy...


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