Pest question


I am new at veggie gardening and we have had some major leaf chewing going on with our tomatoes, zuccini, sunflower…any ideas? I see no bugs on the leaves.

We live in Thornhill


Hello and thank you for asking us about your hungry critter(s) .

When leaves are chewed or even torn looking ,as in your case , we think about snails, slugs or even deer.
You can make a reliable guess about what is going on if you visit your garden often ,especially just before sunset or early morning when insects that hide from the heat of the day , reveal themselves. Have you gone out at night with a flashlight? Look under leaves . You might catch your culprit in the act .

The ragged irregularly chewed sections at the leaf margins , suggest earwigs that are dark reddish brown and about ¾ inch long with a nasty looking pair of forceps -like pincers at the rear end . (They can bite) . They feed at night and retreat into dark quiet places ( which is why you don’t see them ) . You could test this theory by setting out rolls of cardboard ( think paper towel or toilet paper rolls) near damaged plants , in the evening . Next morning , just as they are settling in for the day , you upend the cardboard roll , shake it over a waiting bucket of either water and soapy dish detergent or water and some cooking oil . These mixtures clog their breathing pores and suffocate them . Very hot water will kill them instantly . Plastic flowerpots filled with shredded newspaper or tissue paper and placed upside down on short sticks in flowerbeds also capture them .

Earwigs are actually beneficial as they keep aphids under control, but they do their fair share of eating leaves . I have learned to tolerate them .

The holes within the leaf seem to have smooth, not ragged edges which suggests the work of slugs who don’t usually dine at the edges of leaves . Like earwigs, they feed at night and in rainy weather so are hard to spot but sometimes leave a slime trail behind . You could try leaving out a saucer filled with stale beer ( sink it into the ground a bit so that the rim is at ground level ). Slugs will crawl in but will be unable to get out . In the morning , dispose of them .Repeat. Or place a few boards or rolled up newspaper in the garden . Early the next morning , lift the board and destroy the slugs in your pail of soapy water ( as above ) or toss out the newspaper if it has slugs. Repeat. Pellet bait is available commercially but can also attract and sicken small animals .Also, right now , you don’t know you have slugs so perhaps this last alternative is premature .

The jagged edges might also indicate deer who, lacking upper incisors, tear bits of foliage free , leaving jagged edges .They also feed at night . Are your leaves fairly high off the ground?

Once you know your culprit , it will be easier to figure out whether the chewed leaves can be lived with ( after all , insects are crucial for a healthy ecosystem ..where would be we if birds had no insects to eat?) or whether you need a management plan which would always include keeping your garden free of debris, allowing lots of air circulation ,hand-picking insects and helping plants withstand insect attacks by keeping them well nourished and consistently watered .

Please feel free to contact us again if these suggestions are not fruitful or you need help with a management plan once you have identified your culprit . Thanks for thinking of us and good luck .