Worms in your garden can do significant damage to your cabbage (Brassica oleracea). They can eat holes in the outer leaves and injure the crops to the point where their growth is stunted. It’s the larvae of the imported cabbage worm (Pieris rapae), the cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) and the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) that are most likely feeding on your cabbage. There are various things you can do to stop these pests in their tracks and to protect your crops.
Put on gardening gloves and look underneath and between the leaves that make up your cabbage plants to find any worms. You might find the damage they’ve done to the leaves or you might notice their greenish brown excrement on the leaves, indicating that they’re hiding nearby. The worms themselves will be 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches long and fuzzy and green or smooth and greenish-gray.
Handpick the worms off the cabbage plants at least once a week and place them in a jar filled with soapy water to kill them. Alternatively, cut them in half with scissors or squish them between your gloved fingers. If you manage to detect the white or yellow eggs, crush them with your fingers.
Plant wildflowers and blooming herbs near your cabbage to attract natural enemies of the worms, such as parasitic wasps and flies that are attracted to pollen and nectar, and beetles and spiders that might take up residence between the plants. Install perches in your garden to attract birds and hang bottomless birdhouses that make good nesting sites for wasps.
Spray Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) on your cabbages as soon as you notice white butterflies with dark spots or brown or gray moths flying around your plants. These fluttering pests lay eggs underneath the cabbage leaves. After hatching, the worms will eat the sprayed foliage and die. Spray the cabbage every seven to 10 days and after heavy rainfall.
Things You Will Need
- Gardening gloves
- Dish soap
- Wildflowers and blooming herbs
- Bird perches
- Bottomless birdhouses
- Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
- Grow your cabbage under lightweight, floating row covers, because these still allow water, air and sunlight to penetrate, but prevent butterflies and moths from laying eggs on the leaves.
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