kaleandspinach
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Problem With Kale--Disease? Insects? Poor care?

Hi-- complete gardening newbie here. We acquired a little garden plot last week and decided to try our hand at some vegetables. Got some kale from our local garden center (one variety was White Russian; not sure what the other was) and planted them (again about 1 week ago). They looked healthy initially, but are now deteriorating rapidly. Three photos posted above; in the first, some of leaves are showing some early white spots; other are more white, and those areas essentially feel dry, crumbly, and dead. The second is a different plant in a more advanced state, with some leaves with holes. The third is a plant that looks healthier, but have these beetle-like insects on them.

We have planted other vegetables (spinach, chard), they do not show any of these signs.

Hoping someone can provide a diagnosis; are these doomed and should we give up on them; what can we do differently next time; are the insects related or otherwise harmful?

Thanks for any pointers.
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applestar
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Re: Problem With Kale--Disease? Insects? Poor care?

I was going to say the first two photos looked like Harlequin Bug damage... then there they were!

These are stinkbugs and suck plant juice. They love kale, broccoli, etc. mustard family plants and are the worst during the hot months. They arrive in my area after heatwave or hurricane remnant system passes through. They lay black and white barrel like eggs in clusters, which mass hatch -- I call them "hatching events" -- and tiny juvies suck the plants dry as they grow.

I just try to keep on the look out for the distinctive eggs and remove them and juvies as well as adults. Littlest ones squish easily, I throw on the ground and stomp on the adults... or drop them in container of soapy water if feeling less violent, not wanting to get their stink on my hands.

Clip off the seriously damaged leaves. Then as new leaves grow, any that you wouldn't want to eat anyway. If you can get the plants to survive their onslaught during the warmer weather, they will slow down as temps cool down, and the kale, etc will bounce back. They will be much better after first fall frost. It's the cabbage white butterflies that will persist as things get cooler -- they will be in egg dumping frenzy and lay dozens of eggs per plant instead of spacing them out more.

imafan26
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Re: Problem With Kale--Disease? Insects? Poor care?

Kale can be grown year round but they are better in the cooler time of year. Actually, I think those are goners. Weak plant scream come get me! I would pull them out, it probably was not the right plant in the right place anyway.

Is this a community garden plot?

Community gardens have a lot of pests because plants are so close and there is so much food around for bugs. it does not look like the soil was prepped well, you have a lot of seedlings popping up and it looks very composty and wet.

I would do some tilling to expose eggs and bugs and also to take care of the weeds. Look at what the people around you are planting. See what grows best and plant that.

gumbo2176
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Re: Problem With Kale--Disease? Insects? Poor care?

Instead of buying this type plant already started, next time invest in a small packet of seed for likely less than $2 and you can get hundreds of kale plants. Naturally, only plant as much as you will need, but going with seeds for this type plant is the way to go in my opinion.

Not knowing where you're from and what your current weather conditions are really doesn't help with dispensing advice. Like already mentioned, I too find kale is a much healthier plant if grown when the weather is cool to cold when less bugs are around to harm it and the cooler weather helps with improving the flavor.

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applestar
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Re: Problem With Kale--Disease? Insects? Poor care?

I was reading over your first post
@kaleandspinach, and noticed you said you bought-and-planted about a week ago.

-- the whitened/dried-up portions of the leaves could have been sunburned if they had been in sheltered part of the garden center. Newly purchased plants almost always need to be acclimated to (or protected from -- with shade) full, direct sunlight before planting because plants in small pots would dry out too quickly and are kept in somewhat shaded or limited sun exposure location.

As imafan mentioned, weakened and damaged leaves attract pests and diseases, so best to clip them off, but if your night's are down in the low 70"s to 60's fall weather already, then they should be able to bounce back -- growing new leaves -- with good care. Don't let the soil dry out until the roots are established.


For future reference, with just one or two plants, I sometimes put lawn chairs and lounge chairs over them, secured to stakes, etc. as necessary in case of strong winds so they don't fall or get blown over. Beach umbrellas work, too. :wink:

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jal_ut
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Re: Problem With Kale--Disease? Insects? Poor care?

Kale, as with the other plants in the cabbage family are insect magnets. If you are going to grow them you definitely need to do something to dispel the insects. I find a little diatomaceous earth sprinkled on the plants works wonders.

kaleandspinach
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Re: Problem With Kale--Disease? Insects? Poor care?

Thank you everyone for your helpful replies.
So, Harlequin Bugs it is. Also, yes, it is a community garden plot. On closer inspection, the plot next to us has a bunch of good looking cabbage, but also evidence of these bugs on them, perhaps they migrated over to our little weaklings?

I will try the tips above, if nothing else to learn, but am also prepared to start anew with an unused bed. I have read some of the guides on this site about how to prepare the soil, which plants to grow together, etc., so hopefully can start with a better foundation.

I live in the DC area. It was cooling down, but this past week, temps went back up, high upper 80s, low mid 70s, so maybe that did not help. Starting soon should dip down into the mid 70s day/50s night. Would that be considered "cooler" with respect to optimal temp for kale? If I wanted to start from seed, when would be a good time to start, season or temperature-wise?

Thanks again!

gumbo2176
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Re: Problem With Kale--Disease? Insects? Poor care?

You can start from seed now. It will be a week or more before they crop up and I usually let them get to be about 3-4 inches tall before thinning them. What I do is use a small garden hand shovel and dig up a cluster of them and transplant them giving each one about 6 inches all around space. You'll be surprised how many of them survive the transplanting process if you are not too heavy handed in doing so. I can harvest kale well into the spring, but we hardly ever get below freezing temperatures for more than a couple nights in a row in my area of the deep south.



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