Spinach and leaf miners

leaf minersWe interrupt the travelogues with some interesting fall garden information. (at least, I think it’s interesting even though it’s about those annoying insects, leaf miners)

Today, my husband and I harvested the last of our root crops — potatoes, carrots and parsnips — and I picked a bunch of spinach and lettuce from my fall garden bed.

I wrote a few weeks ago about planting a raised bed with a few cold-tolerant veggies so we could extend the harvest. In it, I’m growing lettuce, spinach, carrots and bunching onions. It’s more of an experiment than anything because I usually wrap up the veggie garden by late September and that’s that. But I’ve always wanted to grow a few more greens to enjoy in the fall.

Initially, I had covered the bed with bird netting to keep the birds in our garden from nibbling on the newly-sprouted seeds. Once the temperatures started dropping — around the first of October — I replaced the netting with some floating row cover. This stuff provides the plants with a few extra degrees of frost protection and also acts as a barrier to insects. However, I figured insects wouldn’t really be a problem this late in the season. It turns out I was slightly wrong in that regard!

leaf minersOne insect that really loves spinach and Swiss chard is the leaf miner. The adult is a fly that lays eggs on the plant leaves. The larvae that hatch like to tunnel in between the layers of the leaf cells. If you’ve ever seen leaves on these crops that look like they have a little clear “window” in them, that’s damage from leaf miners. You might also see little squiggly lines.

Anyway, back to the harvest… as I was picking the spinach leaves, I came across a handful of them that had the above type of damage. Leaf miners! Now I know that they’re still somewhat active although I don’t think they will be for much longer.

Fortunately, the damage was minimal so I only had to throw out about 8 leaves. However, I wanted to show you what leaf miner damage looks like (see above), just in case you’re not familiar with it. Click on the photo to get a better view of the damage.

Also, I should clarify that if I’d kept the fall bed covered with a floating row cover from day one, this wouldn’t have happened. But instead, I just had bird netting on the bed which the leaf miner adults could easily go through. Oh well, live and learn!

One last thing: the spinach variety that I’m growing is called ‘Bordeaux‘ and is put out by Botanical Interests. I bought the seeds from Blue Moon Nursery a couple of months ago. I think the leaves are really attractive!