My Lettuce Plants Are Wilting and Dying! Urgent! Help!


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A few weeks ago I planted some small lettuce plants (romaine, butter crunch, and green leaf) in my garden. They were growing really well and doing great, except for 2 that randomly wilted and died earlier on. Then suddenly, I came outside one morning and the bottom leaves were wilted. So I gave them some water. The next day, the leaves were even more wilted. Then the third day I came outside to discover they were even MORE wilted, and even more surprisingly...two of the plants were laying on their sides! It was like a scene from a horror movie. I wanted to cry out for help...but I couldn't because it's lettuce and I'm an adult. When I got closer to inspect the damage, the two plants were cleanly severed at the base where the stem meets the roots. The area where they had severed was dry and brown, and it doesn’t look like anything had chewed them off, but more like the base of the lettuce plant just dried out (or rotted?) and the plants evently and neatly severed themselves from their roots, giving up on life... The rest of the unsevered plants were in nearly the same state as those two... I barely touched them, and they also severed. After that I saved as much lettuce as I could (some of the inner leaves weren't wilted yet), and uprooted the plants. The root systems were also incredibly tiny. The more wilted and close to being severed the plant was...the smaller the root system would be. Any idea what could have caused this? If I can figure it out, I'm hoping I can save the green leaf lettuce which is only slightly wilted so far... Help!

Thanks everyone!
 

Becky

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Welcome to the forum, and sorry to hear about your lettuce problems. The US is a big place; which hardiness zone are you in?
 
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Sounds like insects, caterpillars or more likely bad watering habits. How often do you water and how much? Pictures would help to diagnose whats happening as without pictures we are just guessing.
 
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Sounds like insects, caterpillars or more likely bad watering habits. How often do you water and how much? Pictures would help to diagnose whats happening as without pictures we are just guessing.
I’ll add some pictures. There’s no signs of caterpillars...never a bite mark on any of the leaves. I don’t know if maybe something could have infected their roots? And I water them just whenever they get dry. (I am fairly new at vegetable gardening... I’ve been flower gardening for years, but I’m not quite as used to vegetables.)

Here are some pictures. Keep in mind, the plants were pulled yesterday and I took these pictures today so they look a lot worse than when I pulled them:
 

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I’ll add some pictures. There’s no signs of caterpillars...never a bite mark on any of the leaves. I don’t know if maybe something could have infected their roots? And I water them just whenever they get dry. (I am fairly new at vegetable gardening... I’ve been flower gardening for years, but I’m not quite as used to vegetables.)

Here are some pictures. Keep in mind, the plants were pulled yesterday and I took these pictures today so they look a lot worse than when I pulled them:
Looks a lot like cut worms at work especially on the last picture. The only other critters that do this are pill bugs (sow bugs) and rats and mice but rats and mice will eat the entire plant. And pill bugs normally eat holes in the leaves. Cut worms come out at night and live under the soil a short distance from the plant but not directly underneath it. They will girdle a plant right above the soil or in many cases chew completely through the stem but do not eat any other portion of the plant. Spray vigorously with a spinosad based insecticide .around and on the base of the plant and plant more seeds.
 
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Looks a lot like cut worms at work especially on the last picture. The only other critters that do this are pill bugs (sow bugs) and rats and mice but rats and mice will eat the entire plant. And pill bugs normally eat holes in the leaves. Cut worms come out at night and live under the soil a short distance from the plant but not directly underneath it. They will girdle a plant right above the soil or in many cases chew completely through the stem but do not eat any other portion of the plant. Spray vigorously with a spinosad based insecticide .around and on the base of the plant and plant more seeds.
Thank you!! I will treat for cut worms and then plant some more lettuce tomorrow. :)
 

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