Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the June 13, 2010 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

During the organic garden's first days I was in a rush to set out my many potted plants so I didn't have time or resources to take the normal precautions. We lost a lot of plants then to cutworms. Cutworms cut a plant's stem off maybe half an inch above the ground, just as neatly as if done with a pair of scissors.

plastic collars for cutworm protection

Above you can see one way I put an end to that. Our guests leave behind many plastic bottles that once held purified water, so from those bottles I've been cutting "collars" to put around the seedlings. In the picture the blue thing is the collar. It forms a wall that keeps out cutworms roaming across the ground looking for juicy stems to cut.

Another cutworm-fighting technique sounds almost too simple to be true, but I tried it during my hermiting days in Mississippi and it really works. Just stick a toothpick next to a seedling's stem. To do its work, a cutworm must encircle a stem with its body. Apparently a toothpick rising flush with the stem's surface confuses the worm, or messes up its cutting technique. Whatever happens, toothpicks work.