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How To Protect Your Garden From Cabbage Worms And Moths – Naturally!

Anyone who has ever grown cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower knows the damage cabbage worms and cabbage moths can do! One day your plants are healthy and vibrant, and then suddenly it looks like they have become riddled with holes like a fine block of Swiss cheese.

Before you know it, plants are wilting away, and the vegetables left on the plants look anything but appetizing. It can certainly be a bit depressing to watch it all unfold, but all is not lost!

In fact, cabbage worms and moths can can be controlled and nearly eliminated. With a little effort, there are a few simple ways to help defend your garden against these unwanted creatures.

And better yet, none of them involve spraying harmful insecticides on the very produce you hope to eat some day.

cabbage worms
The Swiss-hole like damage of the cabbage worm

Cabbage Worms, Cabbage Moths and Cabbage Loopers

The first thing you need to do is to determine exactly what is attacking your plants. Cabbage worms, cabbage moths, or cabbage loopers. 

Cabbage worms are the result of the larvae from the cabbage moth. If you see white butterfly like creatures floating around your garden with black spots – you have cabbage moths. And the cabbage moth will lay larvae on the undersides of your and cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.

That larvae then turns into the cabbage worm, a greenish worm with barely visible yellow stripes. They start out by eating holes in the foliage of your vegetable plants.

cabbage worms
You can identify a cabbage moth by it’s white body and black specks.

From there, and as they become larger, they can bore directly into the vegetables, completely ruining a crop.

Cabbage loopers on the other hand are more of a caterpillar. Unlike cabbage worm, they do not have a middle set of legs, so they move up and down on plants like inch worms to move about. They can cause a lot of damage quickly, and will attack all garden plants.

How To Control Cabbage Worms, Moths and Loopers

There are several ways to protect your crop naturally. The first key, as with controlling all garden pests and issues, is to walk through your garden on a daily basis to notice and head off attacks before they have become a major problem. With that said, here are some great natural remedies to controlling these destructive pests:

Herbs and Flowers

Planting repelling herbs in your cabbage and cauliflower rows can be a big help in keeping cabbage pests at bay. Thyme is well-known as a natural repellent to cabbage worms.

cabbage worms
Row covers work incredibly well at eliminating pests

In addition, Dill and the Mint family of herbs are known repellents as well. Be careful with mint, it can be extremely invasive, so it’s best to have it in pots placed throughout your cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower rows. 

How do the flowers come into play? Planting a few blooming annuals like marigolds and nasturtiums in rows or throughout your garden helps to repel many harmful insects, like aphids and mosquitos. But more importantly, it brings in beneficial paper wasps and insects looking for nectar. Those wasps love to lay attacking parasitic eggs on the backs of worms – killing them naturally. It is truly amazing how Mother Nature can work!  See : 4 Plants That Repel Pests

Row Covers

Utilizing row covers is probably the most effective way to control damage from the outset. Row covers eliminate the ability for the moths to ever lay eggs on your plants. This keeps larvae and subsequent moths at bay. Although they are a small investment, they can be re-used from year to year.

You can usually get a 50′ x 6′ or 10′ wide row cover for around $20 to $30. They also double when needed for frost protection. Place row covers on young plants the first few weeks after planting, before the moths begin showing up in the early summer months.  Product Link : Row Covers

Hand Picking

Yes, the good old-fashioned hand method of walking rows daily and removing worms / loopers really does work! And if you see those dreaded white moths floating around, take them out as well – that is of course if you can catch them! It only takes a few minutes, but walking rows and removing the pests that are present can keep a small problem from quickly becoming an epidemic.

Chicken Power 

Chickens love cabbage worms, and can help to decimate a population quickly. If you are fortunate enough to have your own flock, let them into the garden in the early spring and in late fall to help keep pest populations under control. It’s a shame you can’t let them in during the actual growing season, but they also love the taste of those fresh greens! 

One of the best kept secrets around for total pest control is to let chickens forage in a garden before and after planting. It is amazing how well they work in eliminating bugs and critters as they scratch about the garden soil. It’s in that soil that many of the bugs try to find a permanent home to overwinter until next season. 

Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary. If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.  This article may contain affiliate links.