September 6th 2013

How to win a war against an army… The fall armyworm is what we are up against. We are feeding an extremely hungry army, larger than I've seen in the past and they are not picky about what they put in their mouths.



These pests made their way into the Savannah Morning News last Wednesday, wreaking havoc on folks’ Bermuda grass. Fall armyworms are a pest of Bermuda grass, zoysia, millets, corn, hay, and fall vegetables. Here at Sugar Creek, we have a lovely patch of Bermuda grass just for them, but they have opted for green onions, kohlrabi (top picture), cucumber plants, leaf lettuce mix, swiss chard (bottom picture), and pretty much every other plant we have put out this fall. They have a distinguishing inverted Y on their foreheads.

Our method for dealing with them;

Step 1: Encourage beneficial insects.

Front lateral view of a spined soldier bug, Podisus maculiventris (Say).
One of their predators are the spined soldier bug which is associated with alfalfa, apples, asparagus, beans, celery, cotton, crucifers, cucurbits, eggplant, potatoes, onions, soybeans, sweet corn and tomatoes. I've seen some of the beneficials' work in the newly planted zucchini. A few worms had been dealt with before I got to them with our following step..

Step 2: Search, Find, Squish.
We can tell what size worm we're looking for based on the size of the damage, they range from pinhead size to 2 inches long and as thick as my pinkie finger.

Step 3: Diatamacous Earth (look back to post on May 9) so they get cut up.

Step 4: Bacillus thuringiensis,
This naturally occurring bacteria forms a crystal protein toxic to many species of insects, not people, nor Jeff's dog (who has put away a whole bag of Dipel with no visible repercussions). Here's a visual of how Bt works from UC San Diego:


Step 5: Search, Find and Squish
Sound familiar? The Bt is great for protecting our bigger plants - like the kale, collards, and chois, but this wet weather has brought armyworm out early, deterring some of the beneficial insects -- the young plants can't hold their own as easily. One bite, and they are done for.

Step 6: Plant, a lot.
There may be a few holes in the larger/older leaves of your upcoming greens, know that those plants have been through a lot. The more stressed the plants, the more anti oxidants in the vegetables -- in the end, your bodies have an army to thank.

Flat Rice Noodles with Beef and Sweet Potato Greens from

About 1/2 a pound of sirloin steak, cut into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces
1 t freshly grated ginger
2 T soy sauce, divided
2 T oyster sauce, divided1 t garlic powder
16 oz package of fresh flat rice noodles
1 bunch sweet potato greens, stems removed and cut into 1/2″ strips
Pinch of sugar

To start, marinate the steak, ginger, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T oyster sauce, and garlic powder together in a dish. You can start this ahead of time, or just marinate it while you prepare the greens and noodles.

You can find fresh flat rice noodles at the Asian grocery store. Ours carries them in the produce section. They’re sold in brick type form, 16 or 32 oz, usually uncut but there are some pre-cut noodles available. To prepare them, microwave them in the unopened package for 30 seconds to a minute or until it starts to feel soft and pliable but not completely mushy and cooked. Open the package, remove the brick, and slice the noodles into half inch strips. Then you’ll have to unravel the strips – they contain several layers of noodle. If you just sort of hold them up and shake them, they’ll start to unravel. If they don’t, or if they’re still really hard, microwave them a little longer. Set the unraveled noodles aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet until it is searing hot. Add the meat along with any marinade that remains. Cook, stirring very frequently, until the meat is not quite done, still a little pink. Add the noodles, greens, remaining soy sauce, oyster sauce, and pinch of sugar. Continue stirring until the noodles soften, the greens wilt, and the meat cooks completely. If your noodles are a little dry, add more soy and oyster sauce.

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