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Have cutworms gotten to my sunflowers? (And general questions about growing)

 
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I'm rather new to gardening, and am trying my hand at growing some American Giant sunflowers. I've noticed a LOT of holes appearing in my leaves. Some are not completely eaten through which I've been told is also a sign of leaf miners. I have also noticed some of my plants are leaning pretty severely which I would think is a sign they've been cut down by cutworms. If this is the case is there a way to salvage them, or at the very least check them to be sure without disturbing them too much? I have some BT which I plan to apply this afternoon, which I've heard treats both cutworms and leaf miners, is this true? Also my sprouts seem rather tall and I would like to move onto thinning, but would I set myself back too far if I waited another week or so? I'd like to treat as many plants with the BT to increase the amount ingested by the pest, and I plan to leave the leaves treated for about two days, is this wise? I know that you ideally dont want to water after applying, but I'm somewhat concerned because I'm growing them outside in Dallas, and I dont want the heat to damage them too much. Sorry for all the questions (as well as if some are a bit stupid), but I would really appreciate any help or information!
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Cutworms get their name because they do this:



source

Here is a thread on cutworm control:

https://permies.com/t/136860/Permaculture-controls-cutworms

and here:

https://permies.com/t/139830/saga-cutworms-cornmeal

To me the plant looks trampled, like stepped on though it could be that I am not seeing the damage.

 
William Barnes
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Nobody has walked on the plants to my knowledge, buy my best guess could be that during watering they are being hit too hard (I use a misting head on my hose so I hope this isint the case). As for the leaf damage would you think it is more reminiscent of leaf miners? I've seen very few leaves with the squiggly like damage, but would it be possible that the holes are still their doing? I'm worried that like you said the damage may be below the surface so the leaning is the only visible sign, and I'd love to be able to check, but I dont want to disturb the plants. If they ARE just trampled for whatever reason, is there any means to save them (if they need saving at all)? I plan on applying some BT this afternoon so I suppose we'll see if that does anything, but I'm really curious as to what could be eating my leaves and potentially leaning my plants. Thanks for the information thus far though! That thread has a lot of interesting suggestions.
 
Anne Miller
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The leaves in the first picture look like something took a bite of a couple of leaves. What ever critter it was maybe caused them to lean over.

I only have experience with black oil seed sunflower.

Yours maybe will straighten up with time.

 
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I would say they look fine. There are some plants with "bites" out of them in the one picture- in my garden that would be leafcutter ants, but I've also seen birds make the same kind of damage. Your plants are pretty leggy, I would maybe see about supporting them (tomato cage? or rig up a teepee type thing with 3 stakes) to make sure nobody steps on them, and let them grow. As for the other holes, they're small, the plants seem to be doing fine.

They look like they are just getting their footing (or else something did trample them). In either case I would give them another week or so to get more solidly established before thinning. It`s not going to hurt them. And don't worry about the heat, they will do fine. Give them a bit of time. A mist head shouldn`t knock them over. I might consider putting some mulch around the plants on the ground and maybe watering on the ground and not misting the plant, though-- that will help the moisture stay in the ground.
 
William Barnes
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I suppose I'll just apply the BT and see how things go. I plan to thin them around friday or saturday so I suppose worst case scenario I can replace the leaning plants with others that are still standing straight. I'll definitely try and keep an eye out for critters as well
 
Tereza Okava
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Just curious, you did start them in the ground, right?
(it can't hurt to start a few more in a small pot for replacements, just in case. I just put in a bunch of sunflower starts in my garden and already have a second batch going, there are never enough!)
 
William Barnes
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Tereza Okava wrote:I would say they look fine. There are some plants with "bites" out of them in the one picture- in my garden that would be leafcutter ants, but I've also seen birds make the same kind of damage. Your plants are pretty leggy, I would maybe see about supporting them (tomato cage? or rig up a teepee type thing with 3 stakes) to make sure nobody steps on them, and let them grow. As for the other holes, they're small, the plants seem to be doing fine.

They look like they are just getting their footing (or else something did trample them). In either case I would give them another week or so to get more solidly established before thinning. It`s not going to hurt them. And don't worry about the heat, they will do fine. Give them a bit of time. A mist head shouldn`t knock them over. I might consider putting some mulch around the plants on the ground and maybe watering on the ground and not misting the plant, though-- that will help the moisture stay in the ground.



Thats a relief! I was really worried that they were being torn apart by pest in front of my very eyes. I'll absolutely look into getting some supports for them, I was thinking they would thicken up a bit, but I agree they do seem leggy. I appreciate the input and advice!

Tereza Okava wrote:Just curious, you did start them in the ground, right?
(it can't hurt to start a few more in a small pot for replacements, just in case. I just put in a bunch of sunflower starts in my garden and already have a second batch going, there are never enough!)



I did start them in the ground, with 33 holes and 3 seeds in each hole which was a great decision because I have a lot of healthy "spares" that I can move around to other holes when I thin them out. As for transplanting some to a pot will they do fine in a decent sized one? I know American Giants love space so I dont know how many I could put in a single pot, but I do like the idea of having one where I can pull a plant or two if needed. I have enough right now to where putting two or three in a big pot would be pretty easy when I thin them. I agree with there never being enough though! This is my first endevor and I'm in love with these guys so far....Maybe to the point where I'm getting a bit attatched haha
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