Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gooseberry Sawfly

This morning I removed all three of my gooseberry bushes. The poor things were barely larger than when we planted them two years ago. In spite of the raised beds and organic fertilizer, these bushes (or sticks, really) were simply not making it.

The problem is tiny in size, but massive in scope: the gooseberry sawfly. The larvae of sawfly are tiny green caterpillars, less than an inch long. Their color blends perfectly with the leaves, making it nearly impossible to see them. But in the space of 24 hours, these little buggers can strip the bush clean of its foliage. Then the larvae drop to the soil to spin cocoons and pupate. The life cycle happens two or three times per summer. Just as the bush begins to recover, the attack happens all over again.

Sawflies are primarily specific to gooseberries, so removing the plants and the first few inches of soil should alleviate the problem. There is a chance that some sawflies will also defoliate currant bushes, and this was a significant concern for us at Red Bucket Farm.

I've been spraying the bushes diligently with soapy water, unwilling to take more drastic chemical measures on food crops. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely that this will adequately control the problem. We decided to eliminate the gooseberry bushes to save the currants.

Now we have three small raised beds waiting for their next job. We may plant leafy greens for the remainder of this season. Long term, we're thinking of more disease resistant fruit bushes such as goumi, sea berry, honeyberries or nero aronia. Meanwhile, we hope our five currant bushes stay healthy.

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