Leafy vegetables, called potherbs, are common in gardens and are a mainstream of U.S. agriculture. While they usually do not last long after reaching maturity, the leaves on vegetable plants are a common feeding ground. When leaves appear to be munched on, or the plant is removed altogether, gardeners and farmers alike must determine the predator and decide whether barriers and/or pesticides are necessary to protect the plants. There are three main groups of vegetable plant leaf eaters.
Vegetable plant leaves are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. They promote good health for the heart and digestive tract. Not only are they good for you, but many plants are popular eaten raw or cooked by homemakers or professional chefs. Some of the more common leafy vegetable plants that grace the dinner table include lettuce, spinach, celery and cabbage. Edible plate garnishes include kale and watercress.
Herbivores and omnivores are animals that munch on vegetable plant leaves. Rabbits, for example, are well-known for their propensity to eat both lettuce and carrots, leaves and all. Deer are considered to be garden pests, because they leap over fences to graze on the wide leaves of tomato plants, lettuce, spinach and soybeans. Although short in stature, reptiles like turtles are fond of leafy vegetables as well. They will munch on nearly anything green that is close to the ground, including lettuce, watermelon and tomato plant leaves.
Insects are the most difficult vegetable plant leaf eaters to combat. There are many varieties, and most of them are too small to keep out through use of barriers and fences. While netting works to prevent infestation for some plants, pesticides are usually more effective. Chewing worms are frequent garden visitors. Granulate cutworms, cabbage loopers and beet armyworms, for example, enjoy munching on most vegetable leaves, including cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and celery. Aphids suck on the leaves of pumpkins, peas and sweet corn. Other leaf eaters include mites, spiders and grasshoppers.