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Whats attacking my broccoli??

Hello! First time gardener here. Since we bought our house, we can actually do what we want with the yard. :D At any rate I'm trying a garden for the first time, and it turns out I really love it. Started these Broccoli from seed and transplanted to an amended bed of garden soil and cow manure compost from Home Depot. The natural soil here is very heavy and clay like. I removed a good 12-18 inches of that and mixed in the new soil before transplanting.
Everything was going great until i noticed first one then two broccoli drooping severely during the midday. Watering seemed to make it worse.
Thought too much Sun at first, then I yanked 2 of my 10 plants up and found I'm not sure what. One of them came out like nothing, had almost no root ball. I saw a ton of little black-red ants swarming the base of the plants. So I thought maybe they were stripping the roots.
Researching online is suggesting some kind of root maggots. Or the ants are eating the roots and stems like that. HELP!! i still have 8 plants that are doing ok to various degrees, I'd like to treat this problem before I lose my entire first crop. :(

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Re: Whats attacking my broccoli??

The ants are a symptom, not a cause. The ants eat dead, decaying tissue.

Root maggots seem like a good guess, but it seems like pulling the plant out, you should have seen some:


Other possibility would be root rot. Your soil mix with manure (how much?) mixed in with clay soil sounds like it could be very moisture holding. Have you had a lot of rain? Or possibly been over watering?
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Re: Whats attacking my broccoli??

I dug around the base of a few of the other plants that are showing signs, and I found no maggots, but I did find a single hard brown pupae in the soil. Much like any maggot that begins to encase. There are literally thousands of the ants in this section of the garden, I wonder if they're actually carrying some of the maggots away for food...

And It has rained NON-STOP with little sunshine here for the last month, so yes a lot of moisture. When I snapped the roots on that one in the picture they were hard, solid, and had no mush to be seen, so I don't think its rot.

I'm considering treating the bed with Triazicide, but that would hurt the beneficial things like bees and the like as well so I'm debating it.

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Re: Whats attacking my broccoli??

Dusting of hardwood ash is very often recommended for all types of root maggots. I'm working up to hauling out the patio fire pit and cleaning it out so I could make some.....
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Re: Whats attacking my broccoli??

If this hadn't just happened to me I would believe the common thought that ants do not eat plant roots outright. I just transplanted a couple cerinthe into a pot in my yard and noticed one was flopped over. I pulled it out and noticed there were ants chewing on what was left of the roots. The question remains, were the ants actually eating the roots or were they removing plant material that was in the way of their construction of a new colony after I repeatedly flooded the old one? At any rate one cerinthe is dead and the other is looking very sad. I used honey and borax mixed with a little water which I poured in the holes then set a dish out for bait. I didn't see any ant activity later that day or this morning, even when watering the poor little seedling.

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