Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I just planted my eggplants. Have you ever planted eggplants, only to find them riddled with small holes a week later, each leaf looking like lace? That is the work of the efficient flea beetle, which seems to be able to find an eggplant anywhere. Though sometimes a large, sturdy transplant can outgrow the damage, many plants suffer the rest of the season after an attack. One season, I tried hand picking (rather squashing) the little beetles, and I got pretty good at it, but I had to do it twice a day to make a dent! So now I cover the plants with floating row covers suspended on hoops and the edges weighted down with bricks. This keeps the beetles out, as long as it is pretty secure, and has the added benefit of adding some extra warmth to the heat loving plants. Row covers do need to be removed when the weather really heats up, but I have kept them in place until it hits about 82 degrees regularly. At that point, the flea beetles may be gone, and the plant is large enough to withstand some damage and still produce fruit. I have written about these row covers before. Their main disadvantages are price and longevity- I can seldom get them to last more than one season. I am still interested in trying to use old sheer curtains instead, but need to prowl the thrift stores to find some.