If you’ve ever grown cabbage, you’ve probably had your own battles with cabbage worms. These small worms can do a lot of damage and need dealt with as soon as you spot them in your garden. Here are some natural, organic ways to control cabbage worms in your garden.
What are cabbage worms?
Cabbage worms are small, green larvae that have little yellow stripes. They look slightly similar to a cabbage looper, which isn’t the same thing. Cabbage worms crawl straight across since they have legs in the center of their bodies. Loopers, on the other hand, do not.
These little tiny beasts turn into those pretty white butterflies you often see fluttering around in the spring, summer and into the fall. Most people call them cabbage butterflies or cabbage whites.
These butterflies look pretty, yes, and we enjoy watching them fluttering around, but they will go into your garden and lay eggs, generally on the underside of leaves, that will turn into the monsters that eat your food.
How do I know if I have cabbage worms?
Cabbage worms are typically found on the underside of leaves of cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli and other members of the cabbage family.
They’re small and can hide in the heads and on the underside of leaves without really being noticed. Their tell-tale sign is when holes start appearing all over your plants.
These worms will eat entire crops if they aren’t controlled and remedied quickly. The butterflies lay large quantities of eggs quickly, and these little guys can eat… a lot. Talk about the very hungry caterpillar.
They will consume all of the foliage on a plant leaving only stems and large veins behind.
How to get rid of cabbage worms naturally
If you happen to see cabbage worms, their eggs, or their fecal matter (which is typically what you find first), it’s time to get them under control… now. Leaving them to their own devices is a sure fire way to have very little crop left.
Invite beneficial insects into your garden.
Garden pests of all kinds have enemies, and lots of them. So, invite all of their natural enemies into your garden. Lady beetles, parasitic wasps, yellow jackets, spiders, and the green lacewing are all enemies of cabbage worms.
Don’t scare off (or worse, kill) the natural predators by spraying chemicals. Try to make sure your garden is a friendly haven for these helpers. Sure, we may not want yellow jackets flying around, but there are plenty of other critters that can help you naturally keep these pests (and many others) under control without lifting a finger.
Spray cabbage crops with tansy oil.
You can spray your crops with tansy oil to 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.
Use floating row covers.
Floating row covers can be utilized to keep adults from laying eggs on your crops. This will only work if you don’t already have an issue.
If you already have worms on your cabbages, it won’t get rid of them. But it will stop the butterflies from being able to lay eggs on the crop.
Use ducks to eat the worms
Ducks, chickens, and even songbirds will eat the worms (and butterflies) when given the opportunity. So, invite them in.
Chickens may very well eat your cabbage, so I highly recommend ducks (which won’t as long as the plant is mature). But ducks enjoy cabbage worms and will definitely eat them if given enough opportunity.
I love the idea of symbiosis. Allowing the natural world to do what the natural world does. So, invite your ducks, or invite some song birds into your garden and let them do their thing.
Handpick the worms 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!
Use a natural spray to combat cabbage worms
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.
Are you looking for a group of like-minded people that love the heritage way of life??
Me too. Join our facebook group, where we learn about growing a garden, cooking a meal, and living life like our grandparents did. You’ll be glad you did. Join The Self Sufficient Life group here.