QUESTION: I have a few cabbage plants in my garden. I keep noticing holes in the outer leaves. How do I keep bugs from eating my cabbage plants? -Jim L
ANSWER: Cabbage plants are enticing to a vast array of bugs and pests that can harm the plant significantly if left untreated. Identifying the culprit is the first step in eliminating the pest and protecting your crops. For a more cost effective and overall safer method of protecting your harvest, try using a home remedy instead of commercial chemically-based insecticides. Aphids, worms, moths, and slugs are the most common pests that attack the cabbage plant.
Aphids and other mites suck the vital sap from cabbage leaves, leaving the plant weakened and damaged, as well as more susceptible to other infestations and diseases. To suffocate these tiny bugs, make a homemade spray by mixing 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 1/2 cups of water, and 2 teaspoons of dish soap, then spray on the cabbage plant.
Army worms and cutworms are both known cabbage eaters as well. If there are just a handful of worms present on your cabbage plants, you should be fine just picking them off and crushing them by hand. For a more in-depth infestation, make a repellent spray by mixing one tablespoon of dish soap with one cup of vegetable oil and one cup of water and spray down the entire plant, especially the underside of the leaves, where worms and other pests like to hide out. Another way to solve worm issues with your cabbage plants is to dust the plant with flour. As the worms eat the flour, it expands rapidly in their stomachs and kills them. There are also a lot of very effective commercial insecticidal soaps if you don’t want to make a DIY version.
The worms actually come from moths, who like to lay their larvae on cabbage plants. To preemptively tackle worm issues, simply repel the moths and you won’t have to deal with worms in the future. Moths can be repelled by growing garlic as a companion plant, laying out crushed white eggshells around the base of your cabbage plants, or covering your cabbage plants with garden sun cloth so that the moths can’t access them at all.
Slugs and snails can also be a problem with cabbage, and they often go unnoticed as they like to feed late at night and early in the morning. It’s extra important to catch slugs and snails in the act early too, as they can eat large portions of your cabbage plants in short periods of time. To prevent slugs and snails, you can either pour beer into several shallow saucers or bowls and place them around your cabbage plants to lure the pests in to drown, or surround your plants with a circle of salt, which will dissolve the slugs on contact when they attempt to crawl over it.