Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I Love Worms...but not THESE guys!

Imported cabbage worms are the bane of my spring and fall garden existence. Not actually worms, they are the larvae of the cabbage moth. They are called cabbage worms because, well, they love cabbage! But not just cabbage, all brassicas - collards, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, and more. If you don't stop them, they can destroy your entire brassica crop. What can you do?

First, you can look for these beautiful, horrible moths, as they flit and float around your brassicas, stopping occasionally to lay eggs on your precious leaves. If you see these moths, you can bet that you'll see little cabbage worms in the near future.

Can you see him? There, right in the middle of the leaf, on the vein. Cleverly camouflaged to blend in perfectly with brassicas, you have to look carefully. Often you'll see the damage they cause first - those telltale holes in the middle of the leaves. Look for the young ones in the very middle of the plant, feeding on the tender new leaves, and look for their excrement - tiny dark green pellets.

How to control them organically? The best, but perhaps most labor-intensive method is hand-picking. This involves a lot of bending over or stooping to get down where the worms live. If you have chickens, look at it as an investment in tomorrow's breakfast. Another method is to spray diatomaceous earth on the leaves, which is reported to help control the worms by drying out their bodies. I have tried DE before, but nothing seems to be as effective as picking them off yourself.

Anybody have other ideas for organically controlling cabbage worms? Let us know!




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