Allotment Update – Leek Moth!

I have been bumbling along as a new allotment holder for the last 11 months thinking that allotment life wasn’t as bad as some make out. Yes I have endless weeding to do and I am thoroughly tired of digging up creeping thistles but the crops have done OK.  But this innocence was not to last – my leek crop has been decimated by Leek Moth, the whole lot.

The only consolation to this is that everyone on the sites leeks appear to have been affected including the  seasoned vegetable growers so at least it’s not due to my ignorance.  I find it surprising since the site is new and was previously arable land and there are no other leeks for quite a way.  How on earth do the Leek  Moth detect a crop from such a distance?  It was a relief to be told what was wrong with my plants but not when I discovered there is little you can do to prevent it or fight it.  All the advice is that Leek Moth is prevalent in the south of the country, well I can tell anyone writing a veg growing book that it is prevalent in the Midlands too.  It  seems the only way of preventing damage is to protect your crop when you plant them out with fleece.

The new compost bin
The new compost bin

I have to be honest and say I’m not that keen on netting and fleece all over the site although I am sure given time and pests I will give in to fleece.  I will never use netting again having found a dead grass snake wrapped up in some earlier in the summer.  I am trying to grow vegetables without using chemicals as well and so far,  if you ignore the Leek Moth, I haven’t done too badly.  My cabbages were looking excellent but I noticed this weekend that they had been attacked by caterpillars and sure enough I picked off 20 or more and nearly the same again a couple of days ago.  However the hearts of the cabbages are so far unaffected so I will plod on.

I don’t find it too disheartening as I am seeing the whole experience of growing vegetables as a learning curve or should I say hill.  I have such low expectations of what I will be able to produce that whenever something is successful I am quite euphoric.  Salads and spring onions are now doing well after a poor start but I  suspect that was due to the high temperatures in April and May and not enough watering.  The courgettes have been prolific but not enough to cause a glut which is surprising given I have 3 plants so maybe they haven’t been as prolific as if I had prepared the soil properly.  The butternut squash have produced fruits but they are quite  small and I’m not convinced they will be worth harvesting, unlike the Uchi Kuri squash which are looking wonderful.

Cabbages looking alright, if you don't look too closely
Cabbages looking alright, if you don't look too closely

I am now planning ahead and have planted out overwintering onion sets and early garlic this week.  I have some more garlic and shallots to go in when a bed is free. I have completed my vegetable seed order and have spent ages planning my crop rotations but I’m not sure if I will be able to stick to it. I am trying to keep all the space working as much as possible so there is a lot of catch cropping going on albeit in a random fashion.  This week has seen some Chinese Cabbage seedlings going in where some of the diseased leeks have been removed.

I plan to try leeks again next year but an earlier variety since I have read Leek Moth is more prevalent in late summer.  I also might interplant it with carrots as apparently the carrots deter the Leek Moth and the smell of the leeks deter the Carrot Fly.  Although I wonder if that is the case why doesn’t everyone plant their leeks and carrots this way as a matter of course. Time will tell

Author: Helen Johnstone

I live in Malvern, Worcestershire and am a very keen gardener. I started the Patient Gardener Blog in January 2008 as a way of recording what was happening in my garden and connecting with other like-minded people. I started a second blog PatientGardener 365 January 2013 in order to try and post a photo a day to capture what is growing in my garden or places I have visited

10 thoughts on “Allotment Update – Leek Moth!”

  1. Don’t dispair Helen, you’ve achieved so much on your allotment! It is disheartening when a crop is devastated by a pest and you’re brilliant that your response is to look for a variety that should not be so vunerable rather than reaching for chemicals as many farmers do. I find that visual checking of brassicas and removal of eggs or the caterpillars when they are small is easier than netting, we have lots of wasps and they eat the eggs and very small caterpillars which makes me like them much more than I used to. you might be a bit early planing onions and garlic. When I was in the UK I went by the old wives tale that you planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest. Onions I plante in February. Good luck with your second seasons planting. It’s great that you’ve enjoyed vegetable growing after your initial hesitation. Christina

  2. Hi Christina – the onions are overwintering onions which you plant around now and then harvest earlier than main crop onions. I will plant some more onions at the normal time. There are quite a few wasps around the cabbages and now you have told me that they are eating the eggs I will be more tolerant of them!

  3. How disappointing! I hadn’t heard of leek moth – ours stood through the winter last year, must check that the current crop are still in good shape. Good to know that there wasn’t anything you could have done to avoid it, although frustrating too as there’s nothing to stop it happening again.
    Your cabbages do look good though – ours have still been nibbled in their cages, suspect that the cats sitting on the top and pulling the mesh out from the frame had something to do with that. We had small but tasty butternut squash last year, and I read that the summers aren’t long enough in the UK to do much more, so stuck to other types this year.

  4. Well that’s a bummer – poor leeks. Impressive cabbages though, and if the hearts are OK then who cares about the odd hole in the outside leaves… I find the learning curve occasionally almost mountainous, but like you am currently planning for maximum ground usage over the winter. I’m still dithering over my seed order though…

  5. While doing some studies on exsitu wildlife preservation at Bekes Bergen, Holland, I noticed how city dwellers used their allotments. A bit like a real garden with gate, wandering path, flowers, veg patch and an almost live-in-able shed. Home from home so to speak, but away from the streets, cars, shops… I thought what a great idea for those without growing space at home.
    p.s. why am I blocked in twitter, but no worries “tiz not the end of the world”.

  6. leek moth is a real problem – I gave up growing them here (Gloucestershire) this year as the losses were too high despite all my efforts. I tried cutting or picking out all the pupae, removing damaged leaves and then netting them with fine carrot fly net, and they did grow back but there seemed to be a second wave of attack and with the damage, the frost just rots them once the winter gets colder. I wonder how anyone grows organic leeks south of the midlands!

  7. I find that every year on my allotment I gain more knowledge and thus more confidence. If you have room you could sow some broad beans this month. Last October I sowed broad beans in a large pot at home and planted them on the allotment on November 1st. They were really healthy and cropped brilliantly in June. The ones I sowed in the ground in April this year were prone to black fly and rather spindly. So it’s a constant learning curve but an enjoyable journey.

  8. According to the RHS there’s no chemical solution either, so stick to organic methods! The leek moth appears to have arrived in York this year, too – or at least I hadn’t had any attack for ten years here till now.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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