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I'm still learning how to grow broccoli and need some help. Recently i have had 4 broccoli plants which were perfectly healthy start to die because the stem can't support it anymore. The main issue is that the stem at the very bottom right around the surface of the soil is super thin and as thin as the roots while the top part is thick and the way the plant normally should be. Please see the Picture 1 for example of the thinness of the plant.

I have the following questions that i need help answering:

  1. Do i have a cutworm problem here in which the cutworms consume the outside of the stem and then stop once getting to the thinnest part? Looks odd that they would stop there cause other blogs have show they just cut the plant clean off. Please see picture 2 for example of potential cutworm has some green dots on it but didn't look like other pictures online thought it was a pill bug. Also please see the picture 3 for an example of a plant that is chewed on and not super thin at the base.

  2. I see pill bugs on the plant stems and want to know if they are causing the issue or if they are just eating the plant stem cause it is decaying? I have seen some people say they don't eat the plant and only dead plants and the other way around. Please see the Picture 4 for example of a pill bug on the stem.

  3. I was thinking that maybe i'm the problem. Am i potentially watering the plants incorrectly here and that is causing the stems to vanish at the base or to decay and cause pill bugs to eat it? If i were to get water on the stem of the plant at that part would it cause the issue i'm having or cause the plant to decay and then the pill bugs come and demolish?

  4. Most important question. Is there anything i can do to save these plants that have super thin stems at the bottom? I put some new soil around them and propped them up with some small sticks. Will they grow new roots from that part potentially or regrow the stem?

  5. Anything else i should do to try to save them. Things i'm doing right now to help prevent further damage if it is the bugs:

  • cornmeal around the stem
  • coffee grounds around the stem
  • plant collars with some toilet paper rolls.
  • checking at night for cutworms

Not related to the above but two other questions. 6. I have one plant with purple leaves. Is this a lack of boron? Also is it ok to buy borax from home depot and add it to the soil? It says it is for laundry detergent and i'm not sure this is ok to add to the soil. See picture 5

  1. Some of my broccoli plants are twisted at the bottom of the stem such that they go horizontal and then go straight up. Is this ok and just a normal reaction to their growing process? Or do i have a bigger issue such as club root? See picture 6.

Thank you so much for help.

The other thing to note is that on some of these stems they are so cleanly cut that the stem looks like some kind of knife cut it off vs a plant being eaten by a bug.

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Standard cut worm damage. Aluminum foil wrapped around the stem ( a collar) will protect the plants. Not easy to get the worms with insecticide as they live in the soil and occasionally come out to eat stems. BT should get them, except they may destroy a plant before the BT kills them. I would use BT anyway with collars.

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