Well I found out what was destroying my plants. Earwigs!!! Nothing is more disgusting than earwigs. The most significant damage was to my strawberries. Between earwigs and ants, the strawberries in the ground were almost completely destroyed. I dug up nine plants. I was able to save two plants. I put them in pots along with four other strawberry plants. I planted alyssums in their place. The turnip leaves were destroyed but the turnips are still fine and recovering. We actually ate a turnip yesterday. It was very good.
So what did I do about the earwigs? First, I tried a homemade remedy called "fire water". Fire Water is made by first mincing garlic and letting it sit in water overnight. Then you strain out the garlic and added a little canola oil (or vegetable oil), a squirt of dish soap, and some diluted cayenne pepper (added to water and then strain through a coffee filter). Mixed well all together and put it in a spray bottle. I then sprayed all my vegetables with the Fire Water. It did a pretty decent job keeping aphids off the the plants, especially the tomato plants, but not the earwigs. As a matter of fact, I think the earwigs quite enjoyed the garlic.
My second plan of attack for the earwigs was drowning them in a soy sauce and vegetable oil mixture. Basically, you mix soy sauce with some vegetable oil and put it in a small plastic container or small tuna type can and set it out at night near your plants. The earwigs are attracted to the soy sauce and the oil drowns them. This did work to a degree. I did get rid of quite a few earwigs this way but not all. It seems by the third night I had significantly less earwigs in the containers. I think they were telling their friends. This solution also attracts and kills ants. Be very careful if you have pets, especially dogs, and use this method. They will drink up the mixture, earwigs and all. Ugh!! You'll want to put containers down after their last trip outside and pick them up before you let your dogs out in the morning. This mixture can also be messy if you drop it. I also heard that beer works well to get rid of earwigs in the same way also. Beer is not as messy as an oily mixture but I don't know how well it works. At the time I had no beer in the house.
My third plan of attack was to call an expert at the local nursery. He told me that the earwig problem was especially difficult this year because we had a very wet winter. I told him I wanted an organic solution so he recommended spinosad. I purchased a product called Captain Jack's Deadbug. You spray it on the plants. The earwigs eat the plants and eventually die. He said that it will take a while to get all the earwigs because the product is organic. It works slower than chemical insecticides. You spray it on your plants about once a week until you see no more damage. I just sprayed my third application today. I have noticed a significant decrease in damage, especially over the past week, but still see earwigs and some damage so I will continue spraying weekly until I see none. The only problem with this product is it is toxic to bees so if you spray it on pollen producing plants, you need to spray when bees are not active. Don't spray the three hours prior to when bees are the most active.
Image courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff at www.freedigitalphotos.net/