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Breezy
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Plants keep getting eaten!

Hi. I am new here and very new at gardening and tend to have the opposite of a green thumb. But I'm trying again this year on the small deck in my apartment. My deck is west facing, get's plenty of sun but we are very close to a river. I haven't noticed a huge amount of bugs, but I am sure they are there. I currently have a tomato plant, a mix of lettuces, jalapeno peppers, some herbs and flowers. I have had them planted for about 2 weeks now in containers and most of them seem to be doing just fine. But then I noticed my tomato plant dying and I noticed little holes all over my flowers and plants and what look like giant bite marks out of the leaves. Then I noticed my indoor live plants had webs and holes all over the leaves and it wasn't doing too well either. My mom is an expert, so I called her. She told me to spray all my plants with soap water, tops and bottoms of the leaves and pull off the dead parts of my indoor plant. So I cleaned up some of my plants, sprayed them with soap water, replanted a new tomato plant and planted a new mint plant. I planted that mint plant last night and woke up to it looking like this:
Mint
Mint
Probably half of it is gone. Plus, I grow a basil plant on my kitchen window and I brought it outside for a while to get some more sun (it had been sprayed with soap water), brought it back in last night (it still looked fine) and then woke up to it this morning with the tops eaten off.
Basil
Basil
Grr! :x I'm getting so frustrated that my plants are getting eaten up so quickly! Any ideas of what they are or how to get rid of them? I live in northern Utah by the Jordan River. Any help is greatly appreciated!

Thanks!
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applestar
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

I think the damage is major enough for this to be animal of some kind. Is your "deck" on the ground? Any stairs?

Was the basil outside or inside when it was eaten?

You don't think its a human thief do you?

You may need to cage your plants until you can find out what is causing all this. Depending on the number and size of your plants, there are several options depending on how handy you are at building things.

One idea I have been having while looking at craigslist ads is to get the large birdcages dog/pet cages (ferret, rabbit) that are offered for free or very low $ and put container plants inside.... 8)
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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Breezy
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

That's what I thought about my mint plant. I suspect a bird or something. My deck is not on the ground, it's second level. But there are a lot of birds around. But my basil plant was eaten while it was indoors over night. And my indoor house plant was being eaten too. So that confuses me. But whatever is eating my plants hasn't touched my jalapeno plant yet (too spicy? haha) and it doesn't look like it's ever eaten my lettuce. Mostly my tomato, flowers and herbs. I thought about putting something around the mint plant. Grr so frustrating!
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applestar
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

Birds around here don't snip off herbs like that, and you don't have flying rabbits.... I could see a cat going after the mint because it is related to catnip and some cats respond to mint in the same way.

My cats have sampled basil without realiy liking it, but they would definitely eat the lettuce to nubs. They love my stavia plant and it had a very hard time overwintering in the house - I thought they killed it by eating all the new shoots, but happily it has produced healthy new shoots once placed outside.

I wonder if you have caterpillars -- Armyworm or climbing cutworm -- hiding in the soil? These really don't look like slug damage which would be another likely possibility. They all come out of hiding to feed at night. You may need to examine them in the dark with a flashlight.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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Breezy
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

Couldn't be cats. No way for them to get to the balcony. Something that comes out at night and hides in the dirt sounds likely because I usually notice it in the morning the next day and I never see any bugs. But I JUST purchased this bagged potting mix (costco) like 2 or 3 weeks ago. And the soil has stayed up on my balcony in pots or in a bag. How would they get there? I'll try and check at night. The spooky thing is it happened at night with my basil inside my house. So it's got to be something in the soil... small. But could something so small eat THAT much of my mint? Blah. I was doing so good before discovering these bugs! Is there anything to put on the plants that will repel bugs but not harm my plants?
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sweetiepie
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

Could it be a mouse?

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Breezy
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

Not mice. I talked to a master gardener and they suggested it could be snails or grasshoppers. I thought it was more likely to be grasshoppers because we are on a second floor balcony so it would have to be something that could fly or something. But THEN just barely this morning I caught a bird sitting on my tomato container with a leaf in its mouth! As soon as I saw it, it flew away. Does that make sense? I thought birds only ate the actual produce, not the leaves. and more and more leaves are missing from my tomato and jalapeno plants (it's eating that now too). Help!
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GardeningCook
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

It could definitely be birds, in which case your best plan of prevention will be to cover your plants with either netting or lightweight floating row covers.
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Breezy
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

Here is what my plants look like now. They are just snipped off at the leaves. No bite marks or anything just gone.
IMG_4414.JPG
IMG_4413.JPG
IMG_4412.JPG
IMG_4409.JPG
IMG_4408.JPG
"You may not see the fruits of today's work, but you have seeded a lifetime of knowledge."

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Breezy
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

would putting up a bird feeder help the problem or make it worse? My mom thought if I have something else for them to eat, then maybe they will leave the other things alone. Or maybe it will just attract more birds. The dumb thing is my sis-in-law who lives just a couple buildings down has a deck facing the same way as mine, towards the same river, she has almost the same plants and she has bird feeders all over and nothing eats her plants.
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imafan26
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

Birds would do that kind of damage. They would eat the Jalapenos if they were smaller peppers. Birds will cap all of my tabasco plants, so I actually prefer to plant peppers that are large or dangling since the birds have a harder time getting to them.

Damage to indoor plants, that's a tough one, something has to be getting in the house or be living in the soil. Caterpillars are also possibilities but you should be able to see them under the leaves.

Bird feeders would probably attract more birds and they would leave poop all over the place. Bird netting or a cage for the plants might be an option.
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Breezy
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Re: Plants keep getting eaten!

I think I figured out that my indoor pest problem is spider mites. There were little black holes in the leaves and small webs. So, I have solved that problem. It seems that birds must be the culprits outside. I will try netting and let you know how that works! Those sneaky birds....
"You may not see the fruits of today's work, but you have seeded a lifetime of knowledge."

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