4) Insects and diseases of plants


In this tip:

  • Z)# Strawberries
  • A)# Onions
  • B)# Leek
  • C)# Potatoes
  • D)# Cauliflower
  • E)# Tomatoes
  • F)# Witloof (Chicory)
  • G)# Carrots

In this post you’ll find a description of some plant diseases and insects that I saw in my garden.  I added some photos.  Info from internet and my own experience.

There is much info about the “leaf miner fly”, a real trouble maker.


Z)# Strawberries

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Birds love ripe sweet strawberries too. Tip 23 describes a tunnel of iron wire mesh over the strawberry plants.


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In (ripe) strawberries there can be “pits”.

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The pits can be made by small slugs. There can be a slug on the strawberry by day.

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At 1 day (1 time picking), there can be more strawberries with pits.



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You can use bamboo fences “to lift the fruits above the soil”. The slugs can not reach the strawberries anymore (slugs do not slide over thin bamboo sticks or bamboo skewers).

Make these fences as follows:

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Needed: 2 thin short bamboo sticks (length 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inch), 1 bamboo skewer.

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Bend both ends of the skewer. Thanks to the bamboo fibers, the skewer gets curved ends (and it does not break).

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  • Put the bamboo sticks in the garden soil, next to the bunch of strawberries.
  • Put the skewer under the bunch,
  • lift the skewer and bunch,
  • put both curved ends of the skewer in the bamboo sticks.

The strawberries don’t touch the soil anymore.



A)# Onions

In early summer (June) some onion plants can be “ill”. See photos below.

A1) Onion fly

Leaves of the onion plants are yellow – brown and lie on the garden soil.

In the onions there are maggots of the onion fly. Onion plants will die.


A2) Leaf-miner fly (on onion plants)

Leaves of the onion plants are curling. The leaves remain green.

In the onion you see “eating grooves” and maggots and/or brown “pupae”.

The onions will grow to big ones with deviating shape.


A3) Help against onion flies and/or leaf miner flies.

  • Buy many onion sets (more then calculated, for reserve).
  • Plant few onion sets in early spring (March and April). In this period there are many leaf miner flies and/or onion flies;
    • In early spring many leaf miner flies hatch from pupae and lay eggs on the plants. Info on these sites;    here    and   there   .
    • But……when you put a layer of hay on the soil between and around the onion plants, ther is less attack by these flies. See chapter  A5).
  • Plant most onion sets in mid spring (end of April, early May). From that time on, there are no leaf miner flies in the air. Putting hay around the plants works well always; the soil does not dry out fast and the onions grow faster.
  • Harvest the onions in late summer (July to August), not later. Leaves are yellow and/or topple and the onions do not grow thicker anymore.


A4) Does it help?

The front row onion plants were planted in early spring (early April). Many onion plants have been attacked by onion flies or leaf miner flies (toppled or yellow leaves).

These onion sets were planted at mid spring (May 15). All onion plants look healthy. Late summer, they have grown into normal sized onions.

Conclusion: planting onion sets at mid spring (May) gives little attack by insects and a good harvest in late summer (July, August).


A5) A layer of hay around and between the onion plants:

When you plant onion sets in early spring (March, April), you better put a layer of dry hay or mowed short grass between and around the little onion plants. The soil does not dry out so fast, so the onion plants grow faster and there is less attack by (onion or leaf miner) flies. I think that the flies do not smell onions due to the smell of dry or wet hay.

Proposal: Always put dry hay on the soil between and around the onion plants. You can do that right after planting or when the onion plants are a few inches high.


A6) Test: planting date and hay around.

A6a) Experiment

To find out when onion flies or leaf miner flies lay their eggs on onion plants, I did the following experiment:

  • Plant one onion set in a small furrow at March 20. Each subsequent day, put another onion set in the furrow.
  • At May 1, the 43rd onion set was planted, the row was full then.
  • From the beginning of April on, a thin layer of dry hay has been put around and between the visible onion plants.


  • Repeat this test with 3 rows one year later. At 2 rows, lay dry hay between and around onion plants. At the other row lay dried grass or dry straw.


A6b) Results and conclusions:

  • At all onions there is no (or little) attack by the leaf miner fly or onion fly.
  • A few plants show curled leaves, the harvested onions look normal.
  • Harvest: 38 onions out of 43 sets (and 115 onions out of 129 sets). Many big onions.
  • Under the layer of hay or straw, the soil does not dry out fast and the onion plants grow better.
  • Hay on the soil works well against the flies, also in spring (March and April).
  • Hay around onions give more and bigger onions than dried grass or straw.
  • The onion sets planted after April 25 showed no attack by flies, no curled leaves and no vermin.

More and detailed info at chapter E)# of tip 5) Planting onions in a small furrow.


A7) Brown/gray points on onion leaves

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It can happen that onion plants have brown gray points on onion leaves from early July on (early summer).

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You can harvest many onions now. Onions look well, but are smaller than normal.


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You better keep all onion plants in the garden soil. The onion plants grow into big healthy onions.

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The same onions three weeks later; the foliage has been dried. Now it is time to harvest…….

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…… and here are some of the harvested onions. Just good onions.



B)# Leek

B1) Curled leaves

In early summer (June) some leek plants can have curled leaves. Similar to the curled leaves of the onions caused by the leaf miner fly.

There are no maggots or pupae. A leaf miner fly has eaten a groove in the leaf. As indicated between the 2 red arrows.


 Help against curled leaves:

  • Sow much more leek seeds. You get much more plant leeks and you can throw away plant leeks when needed.
  • Grow leeks in the garden soil in (under) a tunnel greenhouse with perspex end plates;
    • Put pavement tiles or bricks leaning against the end plates (to make leaf miner fly tight).
    • Open the tunnel at windy weather only to water, to weed or to replant.

balkonbak doek

    • When too warm, put a piece of white bed sheet at the sunny side of the tunnel. Temperature in the tunnel will not get too high then.


B2) Purple spots on leaves

In autumn, leaves of leek plants can look like this.

This disease is called purple blotch. The leaves have purple spots. The leaves have “dead ends”. After removing the colored leaves, the plants are okay. Leek harvest is smaller. Info on the internet, see     this site

This disease occurs after a cold and wet weather period. Maybe after planting leeks too deep or too much manure added. First time seen in my garden in 2012. In the next years seen a few times.


Help against purple spots:

  • Internet: Shallow planting. Adding less manure. Putting garden earth around the plants not until the plants are big.
  • My experience: Put leek plants in round holes in the soil (diameter 6 centimeters, 2.4 inch) and keep the holes “open” for a long time. There are little or no purple spots.


B3) Brown pupae (leaf miner fly)

In autumn/winter there can be brown pupae in leeks. The outer leaves have cracks with light brown edges.

Below an extensive description about this attack (and what helps).

Typical for this disease (see photos above):

  • In white parts there are cracks with brown edges.
  • Eating tracks are visible on leaves (and white parts).
  • Brown pupae (length 5 millimeters, 1/5 inch) hide in leaves.
  • Often there are also white or light brown maggots. See below.

  • A white maggot of the leaf miner fly. This maggot is still eating leek material and not yet ready to transform into a brown colored pupa. The wooden cocktail pick shows the size of the maggot.

These pupae and maggots are children of the leaf miner flies also called “allium leaf miner flies”. More info on    this site   .


Leaf miner fly attack happens 2 times a year;

  1. In early spring, miner flies lay eggs on leeks ( eggs -> white maggots -> brown pupae). There are few leeks in the garden then. So there is little attack, for example only few plant leeks have curled leaves. The pupae “rest” in leeks until autumn; then new miner flies hatch from these pupae.
  2. In early autumn, miner flies lay eggs on leeks ( eggs -> white maggots -> brown pupae). There are many big leeks in the garden then. So there is a major attack; many leeks with many brown pupae. The pupae “rest” in leeks until early spring; then new miner flies hatch from these pupae.

Remark: Brown pupae can also “rest” in leek waste, in a compost container or in the garden soil.


Help against leaf miner flies:

To reduce the misery from miner fly attack you can do as follows:

  1. Grow big plant leeks, indoors and/or in a “fly tight” tunnel greenhouse with flat end plates. Big plant leeks grow into thick leeks. When you have removed the (outer) leaves with pupae at a thick leek, there is still “much” leek left.
  2. Put fine-meshed miner fly gauze over the (winter) leeks. The miner fly can’t reach the leek plants to put their eggs on. So no miner fly pupae in the leeks.


  1.  Grow big plant leeks.

To grow big plant leeks you can use the procedure that is described in                             tip 18) Growing early leek   . Below a short description:

  • Sow and germinate leek seeds indoors at a warm spot on moist toilet paper.
  • Let the germinated seeds grow into mini leeks at a warm, light spot.

Replant the mini leeks in shove trays or in the garden soil under a (tunnel) greenhouse:

  • In shove trays:
    • Replant mini leeks in shove trays filled with compost (or potting soil).
    • Let these mini leeks  grow bigger indoors at a warm, light place.
    • Scoop the block of compost with small leeks out of the shove tray and lay the block onto (into) garden soil.
    • Put a tunnel greenhouse with flat end plates over the leeks.
    • Let the small leeks grow bigger there.
    • Remove the tunnel greenhouse.
    • Let the leeks grow bigger.
    • Put the big plant leeks in the garden soil.


  • In the garden soil:
    • Replant mini leeks in the garden soil.
    • Put a small tunnel greenhouse (or transparent cover) and a “normal” tunnel greenhouse over the mini plants.
    • Each tunnel greenhouse has flat end plates (is warmer).
    • Let the mini leeks grow bigger.
    • Remove the small tunnel greenhouse (or cover) when the leeks are too big.
    • Let the small leeks grow bigger under the tunnel greenhouse.
    • Remove the tunnel greenhouse.
    • Let the leeks grow bigger.
    • Put the big plant leeks in the garden soil.


   2. Put fine-meshed miner fly gauze over (miner fly cage)

You can put fine-meshed gauze over the leeks. So leaf miner flies can’t reach the leek plants. Photos and descriptions of my design “miner fly cage” below.

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  • Put plant leeks in a square or rectangular group in the garden soil.
  • You can put a square or rectangular miner fly cage over the leeks.


  • Put a miner fly cage over the leeks. For example my square one.

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  • My design has a wooden frame of 2 meters (6.6 ft) square.

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  • Needed: 8 rough (not planed) wooden laths, length 210 centimeters, diameter 22 x 48 millimeters (1 x 2 inch). Price about €19.00 for 8 laths.
  • ( 1 loose lath is used to move the frame of to open up the cage).

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  • And 4 short “square laths”, diameter 32 millimeters (1  1/4 inch), length about 12 centimeters (5 inch).
  • Wood screws length 45 millimeters, diameter 4 millimeters (1.8 inch long, 1/6 inch diameter).
  • A round nylon cord, thickness 4 millimeters (1/6 inch) for firmness and the gauze is on the cord.

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  • The 4 parts of the frame can easily be transported to the garden. Parts are (from left to right on the photo above):
    • 2 x a long lath with 2 short slanting laths fastened.
    • 2 x a long lath with 2 short slanting laths, 2 legs and 2 square laths fastened.
  • In the garden, the frame is rebuild again.


Below info about the construction of the frame:

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  • The frame; 4 legs, 4 long horizontal laths and 8 slanting laths.

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  • A corner of the frame; one leg and 2 short laths (1 dark-colored and 1 light colored). Each short lath is slanting between the leg and a long horizontal lath.
  • The leg is about 70 centimeters (2 ft 4 inch) long. The length of a slanting lath is about 75 centimeters (2 ft 6 inch) long.

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  • This slanting lath and a short square lath is fixed to the leg with 3 wood screws.
  • The left photo shows the inner side of the frame, the right photo the outer side.

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  • This slanting lath is fixed to the short square lath with 1 wood screw.

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  • On top, each long lath has been fastened to a leg with 1 screw:
    • this screw is through the long lath and through the leg (direction: yellow line, screw point: yellow circle).
    • the screw is through the long lath and between the leg and the other long lath (direction: red line, screw head: red/white arrow).
  • On top there is a screw eye in the leg for a nylon cord.


Remark: The second wood screw connection (red line, red/white arrow) is the weakest one. After a while or after to often screwing in, this wood screw can become more loose. Possible actions to solve this problem:

  • Use and turn in a thicker “red” wood screw.

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  • Or use and turn in a sleeve nut and a flat head machine screw (instead of the red wood screw). These screws are used when connecting door handle roses.
  • Or use and turn in 2 “yellow” wood screws one above the other (instead of one yellow wood screw).


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The nylon cord:

  • Has been tied to the screw eye at front left.
  • Goes to right rear, to left rear and to front right.
  • Has been tied to the screw eye at front right.

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In the left rear and right rear corner, the nylon cord has been “turned” a few times. This makes it harder for the cord to slide through the eye and the frame stays better in shape.

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Close-up photo of a ruler on a piece of the miner fly gauze:

  • The fine meshed gauze has square holes (see red circle);
    • the distance between 2 yellow lines is 1 millimeter (ruler),
    • the distance between the left yellow line and the blue line is 0.8 millimeters (estimated). This is equal to the size of a square hole in the gauze.

Our allotment garden association ordered 1 roll of miner fly gauze (4 meters wide, 100 meters long, holes of 0.8 millimeters) for € 600.00. Allotment gardeners pay €6.00 per meter length. My 4 x 4 meters gauze costed €24.00.


Putting in the garden:

  • Rebuild the wooden frame at the desired place in the garden.
  • Put the nylon cord through the screw eyes and fix it.

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  • Make the wooden frame square:
    • You can use a long (bamboo) bean stake (this stake is 2.70 meter).
    • Check the distance between 2 opposite corners.
    • Check the distance between the other 2 opposite corners.
    • When these distances differ much, loosen the nylon cord, deform the frame to square and fasten the nylon cord again.


  • Put fine-meshed miner fly gauze on/over the frame.


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  • Stretch the miner fly gauze over the frame;
    • In each corner fasten the gauze with a white clamp over a screw in the wooden leg (red/yellow arrow). The clamp is fixed at the inner side of the gauze.
    • In each corner, roll up the  the “protruding triangle point of the gauze”. Fix it with two (black) clamps (green/white arrow).


  • At the bottom, fold the miner fly gauze outwards and lay bricks or garden earth on to make the cage fly proof.


Clamping the gauze at plastic tube

You have to open the miner fly cage for planting, weeding or harvesting. When there are bricks on the gauze (at the bottom), it is hard to open the cage.

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You can fix the miner fly gauze (at the bottom) using PVC electrical conduit tubing and clamps. This makes opening the cage very easy. Below photos and descriptions.

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  • 4 electrical conduit tubes, 5/8 inch, length 2 meters
  • 4 conduit bends, 5/8 inch
  • 4 special clamps, 5/8 inch
  • 4 wood screws, 4 flat iron rings,

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  • 20 nail clips, 5/8 inch


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A conduit bend fits well in this special clamp

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You can use clips to fix the miner fly gauze to the conduit tube (the nail is removed first).



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  • Lay the frame upside down.

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  • Drill a small hole in the leg.
  • Fix the special clamp to the leg using an iron ring and a wood screw.
  • Execute this at all (4) legs.

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  • Fix the 4 conduit bends in the 4 legs.

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  • Shorten each electrical conduit tube;
    • Hold a tube between 2 conduit bends.
    • Determine the desired length of the tube.
    • Use a hack saw to shorten the tube .
    • Put the shorted tube in the conduit bends.
  • Repeat these steps at all conduit tubes.
    • After shortening, you can end up with 2 equally long “long” tubes and 2  equally long “slightly shorter” tubes. That is useful when building up or taking apart the “square of conduit tubes and conduit bends”.
  • Click the “square of tubes and bends” in the special clamps.


You can take apart the wooden frame and the “square of tubes and bends”, transport the parts to your garden and rebuild it there;

Rebuilding the frame with conduit tubes;

  • (Transport the parts to the garden).
  • Rebuild the wooden frame in the garden (as described above).
  • Rebuild the “square of tubes and bends”.
  • Lift the frame and click the “square of tubes and bends” in the special clamps.
  • Make the wooden frame with “square of tubes and bends” square (as described above).
  • Put the miner fly gauze over the frame (as described above).
  • Stretch and fasten the miner fly gauze at the frame (as described above).
  • Fix the gauze to the conduit tube;
    • Lift the cage at 1 side,
    • fold the gauze inwards under the conduit tube,
    • fix the gauze to the tube using clips,
    • lower the cage again.
  • Repeat this at all 4 sides.

Now the cage is ready for use.


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At each side, you can lay a brick on the gauze (on the tube) to make the cage miner fly proof.


Use (watering):

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  • Water the plants under the miner fly gauze using a watering can with sprinkler head. The water jet passes the gauze easily. This goes super.


Use (opening):

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  • Use a long lath.
  • Put a piece of miner fly gauze over 1 end of the lath. Fix it using thumbtacks.

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  • To open the miner fly cage (before weeding, planting or harvesting);
    • (remove the bricks that lay on the tube, on the gauze, on the soil),
    • lift one side of the cage,
    • put a long wooden lath under the top lath at the opened side (against shutting up, against closing).


Use (moving):

  • To move the frame (without gauze);
    • get into the cage,
    • put a long lath under 2 opposite upper laths,
    • lift the long lath (lift the frame) and “walk to the desired spot in your garden”.
    • keep the frame in balance during this move.
    • lower the long lath (lower the frame) at the desired spot.

(photos to be added)


Use (against blowing away):


The cage does not weigh a lot. It can easily be blown away at windy weather (happened once in my garden). You can do this to prevent this:

  • Get flat bricks or pavement tiles.
  • Fold pieces of fabric (for example bed sheet) to the size of the bricks .
  • Lay the folded fabric on the cage (above the legs).
  • Lay the flat bricks or pavement tiles on the folded fabric.
  • (due to the pieces of fabric the miner fly gauze is not damaged).


Period for the miner fly cage:

Over cabbage plants and carrots:

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You can put the cage over cabbage plants in early spring (mid March). And sow (winter) carrots under it in April (mid spring). Plants are protected against flies, butterflies and other vermin.


Over (winter) leeks:

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And put the cage over (winter) leeks around September 1 (late summer). Remove the cage around December 1 (late autumn). Leaf miner flies are active during this period.


My winter leek harvest in the cage:

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These leeks were growing in the miner fly cage.

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The same leeks after removal of 1 or 2 muddy outer leaves. There is no attack of leaf miner fly.


Other protection against Leaf Miner Flies:

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A colleague gardener has lightweight garden fleece on (over) the leek plants during autumn and winter. Bricks at the edge make the tunnel Miner Fly tight.  The garden fleece protects against winter cold and snow too.


Trimming leek leaves and putting hay on top

Before I built my leaf miner fly cage, I trimmed leeks and put hay on the plants. This helps a little against miner leaf fly attack. Below some info and photos.

Trim the leaves around September 1 (late summer) and then every week until November 1 (mid autumn). Photos and description below.

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  • Test: leeks with uncut leaves or trimmed leaves with or without dry hay on.


Harvest (mid/late fall)

Three groups of leeks,     Nothing,      Trimmed     or      Trimmed and hay on.

  • “Nothing” are leeks that have grown “normally”; no trimming and no hay on.
  • “Trimmed” are leeks that have been trimmed weekly.
  • “Trimmed and hay on” leeks have been trimmed weekly and had hay on the trimmed leaves.

The leeks have been washed in cold water (to remove the clinging garden earth). The outer (damaged) leaves have been stripped.

The leeks have been cut in slices and rinsed. And the number of pupae and maggots have been counted.

“Nothing”: in each leek many maggots or pupae of the miner fly.


“Trimmed”: in each leek a few maggots or pupae.


“Trimmed and hay on”: In these 6 leeks zero maggots and zero pupae.


Experience and learning:

  • The “trim and hay on” method is rather laborious.
  • This procedure helps a little against attack by leaf miner fly.
  • My experience (more years); this method does not work well at thin leeks and in a rainy autumn.


When you “don’t treat” the leeks, there can be many maggots and pupae in each leek during a “warm” autumn. Below the photos;

Leaves of a thick leek. The white eating lines of the Miner maggots are not clear visible in the green parts.

In this leek there were 18 maggots and 5 pupae.

In   tip 15)     is described how to prepare such a leek for a meal.


After winter storage

Leeks group “Nothing” can hibernate in the garden under a tunnel greenhouse.

Leeks from the winter storage (under tunnel); there were no pupae in the leeks, that’s weird.



C)# Potatoes

At some potatoes there are brown spots (warts).

After peeling the potatoes look normal. This can be caused by mixing (too much) agricultural lime through the garden earth. Potatoes grow well in slightly acidic soil.


Help:  Do not add agricultural lime in the garden soil.



D)# Cauliflower

Strange “heart” of the plant.

  • Inner leaves look “turned”.
  • The leaves are attacked.
  • This is caused by larvae of the the cabbage gall midge.
  • Info on the internet is    here    . This midge lays eggs on cabbage plants that grow at sheltered, windless places in the garden.



Plant the cabbages on windy places in the garden.

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  • Or put a wooden frame with fine-meshed miner fly gauze over the cabbage plants.

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  • Or put lightweight garden fleece on (over) the cabbage plants so the cabbage gall midge can’t reach the plants. (on this photo the fleece is over leeks).



E)# Tomatoes

E1) Brown spot at lower side of tomato

Green or ripe tomatoes can have a brown spot at the lower side (opposite the crown). This is called blossom end rot and is caused by water shortage. The tomato plant is not ill, so keep the plant in the soil. You can throw the tomato in a compost container or cut away the brown material.



tomaat water geven

Add water to each plant; each dry day one beaker of water.


E2) Crack in tomato

When much rain water falls on the tomato plants and/or when you water the tomatoes too much, you can get tomatoes with cracks (“smiling tomatoes”).

Tomatoes on the plants can get cracks even before they are ripe.



Add water to each plant; each dry day one beaker.


E3) Dark spots on fruits, stems and leaves

It is possible that you get brown colored tomatoes and brown leaves at the plants. This plant disease is called Phytophtora.

Cause: Much cold rain water on the plants and fruits during late summer.



Pick all tomatoes that grow in the open air in a backyard garden before the end of September (end of summer).

Or put tomato plants in a backyard garden under a roof.

Or put tomato plants in an allotment garden under a wide roof with open sides and dew drop foil under the roof. Close the sides partly during heavy rain. See also tip 7) Roof over sweet peppers or tomatoes     and  tip   8) Growing tomatoes    .

Or plant a species that is resistant against this disease, see tip   8) Growing tomatoes    .


Below some photos:

Tomatoes under a roof in my backyard garden. More than 150 tomatoes hanging on 11 plants. A few plants under the roof have brown spots on leaves or fruits.

With no roof there are many rot tomatoes or with brown spots during a rainy summer..


Tomatoes in my allotment garden. Under the roof there is plastic foil to catch dew drops. And there is side foil. At dry weather the side foil is folded down.

During heavy rain the side foil is fixed to the roof. With side foil fixed, the roof is still airy thanks to openings above and below the side foil.


E4) Wrinkled tomatoes

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In a warm, dry summer, ripe tomatoes hanging on the plants can be wrinkled. I think this is due to dry garden earth around the roots of the plant.

Help: To prevent this, you better water the tomato plants regularly (for example each 2 days).



F)# Witloof (Chicory)

These witloof heads don’t look healthy. There are brown, sticky, short outer leaves. On the heads you see spots.

These spots are aphids.  Easily to remove with a washing up brush under running water.



This witloof has grown on chicory roots with non removed outer leaves. Maybe the compost in the flower pot was very moist during witloof forcing too.

The left photo shows the chicory roots before forcing, the right photo after breaking off the heads.



Always cut or break away the outer leaves of chicory roots before forcing witloof heads.



G)# Carrots

Winter carrots can have deep cracks.



During growth the soil has been too dry for a long time and too moist for a long time. Info on these sites:   here      and   here 



  • Regularly water the garden soil around the carrots.
  • Lay short leaf straw around the plants on the soil; the garden soil does not dry out fast. Attention: do not lay hay on; hay gives many grass plants.


Preparing for a meal:

You don’t have to throw these carrots on the compost heap.

Use a kitchen knife to cut the cracked carrot in good pieces. Prepare the pieces of winter carrot in the kitchen..


7 thoughts on “4) Insects and diseases of plants”

    1. Hi Steve,
      That’s too bad.
      You can still plant your own leeks when they have a pencil thickness.
      Cut more foliage than normal before planting and plant them in big round holes in the soil. Find out if some or many (of your) leeks will grow into big normal ones.

      Or you can buy new leeks now (in a plant store or at a grower) and plant them in the garden soil.
      For next year, you know what to do to grow your own non curling plant leeks.

      Good luck, Sjef

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