Dig for Victory Monthly Guides

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Dealing with Wireworms


DIG FOR VICTORY LEAFLET No. 16 (Page 1 of 4)

At any time, the loss of crops through pest attack is a great disappointment to the vegetable grower. In war time, when every ounce of home-grown food is needed, such loss is a serious waste. This waste is largely avoidable, and in this leaflet, methods are outlined for dealing with the more common pests.

No elaborate apparatus is required for spraying or dusting. The simplest types will suffice if used with care and intelligence. The plants treated must be thoroughly wetted or dusted. Careless work is merely waste of insecticide.

Notes on four of the most important materials for pest control, namely, Derris, Pyrethrum, Nicotine and Metaldehyde are given at the end of this leaflet.

Dealing With Wireworms

Wireworms are most frequent where grass or waste land has been cultivated. Some gardeners believe that the risk of wireworm attack is reduced by removing the turf and stacking it separately for a year or two instead of burying it.

This is only true if the turf is removed at a time when the wireworms are working in the top two or three inches. But wireworms move up and down in the soil in accordance with weather conditions, and there is grave risk that many will be left in the lower parts of the soil when the turf is removed.

These are likely to be specially harmful, since in the absence of buried grass they are forced to concentrate their attentions on the crop.

It is generally better to bury the turf. This not only adds fertility to the soil, but will probably attract some of the pests away from the crop during the first year.
When wireworms are present, there is no quick way of getting rid of them, but the following measures will help to deal with them:

Trapping is a surprisingly effective control for wireworms. They were a major problem in the wartime years as so much new land was brought into home cultivation by the dig for victory campaign.

Lawns and grassland harbour quite high levels of wireworms but they’re not a problem with fast growing grass. Once that lawn is converted to crops, the wireworms look for new feeding ground.

Often potatoes are cited as the best crop for new ground because of the cultivation they require but the potato is about the most vulnerable crop to wireworm you can grow.

What to do

(1) Spit damaged potatoes or carrots on short sticks and bury about 4 in. deep, with the stick projecting from the soil. Pull up these potato or carrot traps every three or four days and destroy any wireworms on them. Persistent trapping can practically rid a garden of the pest.

(2) Grow crops less subject to attack, such as broad beans, peas, kale and leeks. French beans and Runners are also useful. Brassica crops (cabbages, Brussels sprouts, etc.) may escape the worst of the attack when planted out in early summer, while potatoes on wireworm-infested land should either be early varieties or main crops lifted early (about mid-August). The longer the tubers are left in the ground, the more damaged they will be.