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  • Judi Rhyner

Protecting Cabbage, Kale and Broccoli in your Garden

Updated: Jul 1, 2018

Learn to identify and protect your brasicas in your garden

Pieris rapae, or Artogeia rapae, commonly known as the cabbage worm or cabbage moth, can devastate your garden. Here are several ways to keep your brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Kale) safe from these destructive pests.

Finding your cabbage and broccoli leaves eaten? Sounds like you've may have cabbage worms

Identifying the Cabbage Worm

Cabbage worms are velvety green larvae. They have a few faint yellow stripes which are hard to see. Cabbage worms grow up to become cabbage white butterflies. These butterflies are white with some black markings. Cabbage white butterflies lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. Those eggs hatch and become the cabbage worm.

These little guys can munch lots of plants practically overnight. They are really well camouflaged and are quite hard to notice on leaves or stems unless you're looking for them (I speak from experience). Although I have found that picking them off when you do find them works well, you will suffer some damage if you wait long enough to actually see the little guys.

I found that half my red cabbage plants were destroyed before I realized I was providing an all-you-can-eat-buffet for these little critters! When I went out looking for organic (non-chemical) remedies for the "mighty-munchers", I found the following suggestions from The Old Farmers Almanac .


  • Row Covers: Cover your plants with row covers to deter the adult butterflies from laying eggs on the cabbages.

  • Companion Planting: Planting other plants that draw in the pest or confuse them is a great way to avoid pests. Cabbage worms are repelled by the herb thyme, so it's a good idea to plant thyme near your brasicas. Cabbage worms are attracted to mustard plants, so planting mustard near your brasicas can lure the butterflies there and then you can remove that plant.

  • Neem Oil: I found the following explanation from the National Pesticide Information Center about Neem Oil. It is a naturally occurring pesticide found in seeds from the neem tree. It is yellow to brown, has a bitter taste, and a garlic/sulfur smell. It has been used for hundreds of years to control pests and diseases. Neem oil is practically non-toxic to birds, mammals, bees and plants. Apparently it only effects caterpillars. I have not applied it yet, but I'm attaching a picture of the bottle I found.

I am currently implementing all of these remedies in my garden. I removed the eaten plants from my garden, and picked off any worms I found. I covered them with a row cover for 2 weeks to keep any more eggs from being laid. I check daily for any more worms. I am a big fan of companion planting, and have had good results in other areas of my garden (carrots and onions and tomatoes and basil) so I am moving some of my thyme, that is in another area of my garden, near the cabbage patch. Stay Tuned!! I'll let you know how things work out. As of now, the cabbage and broccoli that are left look good!!


Neem Oil

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