Like many other gardeners I know, I love kale. The last 2 years in a row, I've had a lot of trouble with what seemed to be root maggots, eating the roots and main stalks of my kale and broccoli to the point of their death. Kale is one of my favorite garden vegetables, so I haven't been able to give up on it, but it's been super frustrating.
Last spring, when I found maggot infestations in the roots of my first planting of cucumbers, I decided to investigate a little bit further (this would not be a typical plant for root maggots). I started to notice that where ever I found little white larvae, I would also find tiny white organisms with legs (millipede babies), and small millipedes (closer example here). Are there two problems, or are they all related? Still slightly unsure on this but I am thinking two.
|Millipedes feeding on a decaying artichoke flower. If you look closely you can see babies as well.|
|Lacinato kale, interplanted with arugula|
I tried to feel out the situation to see if a solution would come to me. I thought of all the usual things I knew of... insecticidal soap, neem oil, wood ash, coffee grounds... but none of them really felt quite right, and then coffee came to mind. Brewed coffee. The feeling was to brew some coffee and pour a bit at the base of each plant - enough to saturate the immediate root supply. I haven't heard of doing this, but it just had that feeling of effectiveness, you know? Do you ever try that? To just feel for a solution? Sometimes I have come up with amazing solutions this way. I don't know if this one will work, but I'll be watching closely.
Later, I looked online to see if I could find any literature on using coffee as a pesticide, and actually found a few mentions of using brewed coffee as a spray on plants to deter slugs. Apparently the caffeine is toxic to them. I have to say, it was satisfying to find some backing to my less than scientific vision.
|I used the grounds too.|
While life will surely go on if I lose all my kale, I like to try to tackle these challenges and not give up. I've become a more patient and more enduring person in my day to day life by sticking it out with these kinds of perplexing challenges in the garden.