A couple years ago we planted our cabbages and were all excited to harvest them later on in the season. What we ended up with, though, was a headache and very little actual cabbage. It was practically useless. Despite our best efforts, cabbage worms got to our crop and destroyed it.
These tiny little beasts that turn into those neat little white butterflies you see fluttering around in the spring, summer and fall ate our food. They destroyed it! A couple of rabbits got into our garden and didn’t do near the amount of damage these little monsters did. I don’t care how pretty they look fluttering around and I’m all for keeping our natural pollinators plentiful and healthy, but these things, they need to GO.
It was a sad day, we really like cabbage, broccoli and several other cole crops that the cabbage worms just love to destroy. While I can’t be out there picking them off one by one every day, I also don’t want to be spraying chemicals all over our food like a madwoman. Not only is this potentially dangerous to us when we consume it, it kills (or at the very least deters) all those wonderful beneficial insects from coming to my garden. It can also cause resistance, usually when used improperly, but hey, I don’t want to be a part of that nonsense. I just want the cabbage worms off my food.
Part of the reason we started this homesteading thing was because we wanted to know where our food came from, what it was sprayed with and how it was treated. In order to avoid a lot of the modern, unsustainable farming practices of spraying questionable stuff all over the food we consume, we opt a more natural method. We are pretty natural and laid back, organic gardenerst. Thankfully, there are several natural ways to control these destructive pests.
6 Ways to Naturally Control Cabbage Worms
- The bad guys have enemies and lots of them. So, invite all those natural enemies into your garden! Lady beetles, parasitic wasps, yellow jackets, spiders and the green lacewing are all enemies of the worms. Don’t scare them all off (or worse kill them) by spraying chemicals. Make sure your garden is a friendly haven for these helpers. You’d be amazed at the difference a few natural enemies will do not only for cabbage worms, but all kinds of garden pests!
2. Spray your cabbage with tansy oil. This will deter them from laying eggs on your cabbage. While not 100%, it will help tremendously to break the cycle. Alternatively, you could plant tansy nearby for a great example of companion planting, just be careful, they spread very easily.
3. Use floating row covers to keep adults from laying eggs on your crops. This will only work if you don’t already have an issue.
4. Get some ducks. You can try chickens, but they’ll probably eat your cabbage. Ducks, on the other hand, will just eat the bugs (and dig around in the dirt with their bills). I love our ducks for pest control and can’t wait to get a couple of geese!
5. Handpick them off. Fun, I know. We are all looking forward to that one, huh? But, you know the kids can help. My middle daughter doesn’t mind picking off the creepy crawlies at all. My oldest? You have to talk her into it. She has suddenly decided to be scared of anything insect or arachnid. Hopefully she outgrows it soon. But man… can she bait a hook! Doesn’t make a lot of sense!
6. Make a spray. Mix together 1/4 Cup vinegar to 3/4 Cups water, and 1 teaspoon of soap. The soap will help it stick to the leaves. Spray on tops and bottoms of leaves. No, the vinegar will not kill your crop, as long as you do not saturate your crops and as long as they’re not still young seedlings.
There are other ways to repel cabbage worms, but these are the best ways we’ve found to keep them at bay. If you put row covers on as soon as you plant, you will likely never gain a problem from them. If row covers aren’t possible, or just aren’t your thing, just make sure you have some of the natural enemies to eat them up and pick the rest off by hand.
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