At first I didn’t realise there was anything wrong. I mean – look at this – looks fine, yeah? Okay, so it wasn’t going to win any prizes but it looked at least supper-worthy.
Looks can deceive, however. I started noticing strange, wiggly-looking leaves but still I wasn’t too worried.
Then it came to teatime this weekend, and a potential Event. Salmon and the first leeks of the season with some gorgeous new potatoes (my Christmas spuds came early, so shoot me…)
I went to pull and..erk! They came away in my hand, disintegrating as I tugged.
I had to use a fork to get out what I can only describe as shreds. Inside said shreds lurked teeny-tiny little brown dots. They had no distinguishing features but even I knew they were wrong-‘uns.
When I got home, the shred-pest wasn’t even featured in my 1997 Dorling Kindersley Pests and Diseases, a surprise since I’d always found it comprehensive. There was no way this bug was anything remotely resembling the Leek Moth, which Pippa Greenwood seemed to think the only pest that attacks this otherwise trouble-free crop and it definitely wasn’t rust.
Oh, misery, there’s a new kid on the block. No wonder it didn’t appear in Pests and Diseases – we didn’t have it back then. The Allium Leaf Miner only reached these shores in 2002. The maggots burrow into leeks and, well, basically, chomp it from the inside out. Worse, it has TWO active growing seasons, so it can devastate your garlic, onions and chives as well as your leeks.
There’s no cure and no pesticide, if you’re into such things. All you can do is know when the moth is active (March-April and October-November; the worst damage is caused in the second season) and cover with fleece or fine mesh during that time. You can, I understand, tell if you’ve been ‘had’ by a row of white dots left by the unexciting-looking grey moth. Clearly I wasn’t wearing my glasses…
I immediately returned to the plot, dug up all the infected leeks and disposed of them, along with any soil clinging to them. I’ll not be planting any alliums in those beds for a good couple of years, but frankly now this horrific pest’s arrived in town (my leeks last year and garlic this year were fine so it’s a new infestation) I’m edgy about planting them at all.
What’s the opposite of an Event? ‘Non-event’s’ too kind. Perhaps the Anti-Event?
Apologies, BTW, for the terrible images. For some reason my phone is holding my pics to ransom.