Lauterbach: Check your veggies because the worms may still be out

Special to The Idaho StatesmanNovember 21, 2013 

A cabbage worm


    “Gardening in the Treasure Valley”— a new book by Margaret Lauterbach being published by the Idaho Statesman — is expected to be out be soon. Keep an eye on Margaret’s column for details about the book’s availability. The book covers everything from composting to working with clay soil and has advice for everyone from the beginner to the expert.

On Veterans Day, I smashed a cabbage worm working on my collards. He’s evidently not the only one eating large holes in those magnificent leaves, but he was the only one I could see.

I’ve never previously seen them active this late in autumn.

Check your collards, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, Piracicaba, cauliflower or rabe for green velvety worms, about an inch long.

One reader saw birds working in his cabbage patch, but his photo showed damage had been caused by worms. Birds may have been eating the worms.


An e-mail from Johnny’s Selected Seeds advising buying seeds “while 2013 prices remain in effect,” a red flag that their prices may be rising.

Why? Inflation? Wages aren’t up, gas prices are dropping a little.

Why would seed prices rise?

Since that note I have received two seed catalogs. Pinetree Seeds ( was first, and prices were about the same as always. The only surprise was that they’re carrying a lot more plants, flower seeds and garden products than they have in the past. Pinetree seed prices are always modest, partly because their packets contain fewer seeds than many other companies.

The other catalog I received early was from HPS (Horticultural Products and Services), and their seed prices are shocking. A sample page of pepper seed prices, for example, only two out of eight varieties featured packets for less than $5. The others ranged from $8.50 to $14.95 per packet of seeds.

Rare varieties? No.

That company’s other seeds for vegetables and flowers are priced similarly high.

In the absence of inflation and special aspects to seeds, I think just greed is driving prices.

HPS, R.H. Shumway, Seymour’s Select Seeds, Totally Tomatoes, Vermont Bean Seed Co., and RH Seed Co. all belong to the J.W. Jung Seed Co.

I have only occasionally ordered from any of those sources.

Rose Marie Nichols McGee, owner of Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Ore., said there will be modest increases on some of their seeds, but they’re holding prices down as far as possible because they want to encourage people to garden.

Our recent recession took a heavy toll on the seed and plant vendors, putting many out of business. Some wholesale growers had to plow under what they’d grown because there was no market for their plants.

Fewer wholesalers and fewer plants per wholesaler mean reduced supply. If the demand is high, prices will rise. There is enough of a national residual inventory that Edwards Greenhouse people don’t expect that rise this coming spring. But the following spring may see a significant rise, according to Garnette Edwards of Edwards Greenhouse.


It’s almost Thanksgiving, and we’re still closing down the vegetable garden. Even though it’s so late in the fall, it is a harvest festival, and serving or eating something at Thanksgiving that you’ve grown yourself makes it more special.

Squash are easily served at Thanksgiving, and sometimes house-ripened tomatoes are available. Even serving something spiced with your own home-grown fennel or coriander seeds make this holiday meal special.


Those dry dropped leaves littering your lawn were produced by nutrients from your soil. You can return those nutrients to your soil by composting the leaves or at least letting them mold, before using them as mulch on your garden beds.

If you just let them lie, they can mat together, barring sunlight and water from your lawn or perennial plants and destroying them, so gather and shred leaves, and then pile them to decay in a remote part of your yard.

Send garden questions to or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.

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