Whether you garden for necessity, pleasure or profit, being able to control pests and other undesirable critters from ruining your crop are essential. If you are trying to raise organically grown vegetables, pesticides are out of the question.
Being able to naturally dissuade pests from taking up residence in your garden and ruining the fruits of your labor is a critical step in organic gardening and farming.
Growing vegetables that your family can enjoy is a very rewarding venture. If you choose to go organic, cultivating your salad favorites will save you time and money because organically grown foods are typically more expensive in a grocery store.
Being able to grow a successful crop of leafy lettuce, bright red tomatoes, cucumbers and the like will not only save you big bucks, but it will also give you confidence in the knowledge of where your food came from. Commercially grown organic foods must meet specific standards; however, you may be skeptical that the Food and Drug Administration catches all the missteps. Raising your own garden in your way will help keep your family well fed in a healthy non-chemical coated manner.
Frustrating Parts About Growing Foods
One of the most difficult and frustrating parts about growing any food is the infestation that can occur. Some bugs are more destructive than others, and it is the ultra-destructive bugs that seem to love to feast on your leafy greens. Lettuce, kale, and cabbage all attract some diligent and destructive insects that are hard to evict once they get settled in.
The cabbage worm is one such offender. How do you know if this bug is attacking your greens? What are some of the steps you can take to protect your crop from this nasty chomper? Below are some tips and tricks to not only spotting the worms among the leaves but also ridding yourself of them naturally and effectively.
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What Is a Cabbage Worm?
In order to be able to fight it off, it’s essential to know precisely how to identify cabbage worms. It may be difficult to spot this creature on a big green leaf of lettuce, so it’s important to spend plenty of time observing your garden. As with any pest who is invading your patch, the first step to being able to come up with a solution to combat it is to first identify the ravenous critter.
The cabbage worm is a velvety green looking worm. It has faint yellow stripes that run down the length of its body along its back and sides, and its body is filled with tiny hairs. Once a foreign invader, it has since settled into a sweet and prolific existence in the United States.
Cabbage worms go through a metamorphosis and become Diamondback moths or cabbage moths, small flying pests that are brown with diamond-like shapes on their wings. It is not unusual to have worm larvae, along with juvenile worms, adult worms and Diamondback moths in your garden all at one time, especially if you live in warmer climates.
Stopping the life cycle of a worm is difficult, but it can be done with the proper kind of treatment.
A Video on What Is A Cabbage Worm?
What Kind of Damage Can the Cabbage Worm Inflict?
If you look closely, you may find small holes in the leaves of your cabbage or lettuce. These holes may or may not be caused by the cabbage worm specifically. Damage of this nature is superficial, and while it is annoying at times, it doesn’t destroy entire plants. It is more of a nuisance, but it can be worked around.
Over time, however, if left unchecked, the nuisance becomes far more damaging. Worms begin burrowing down into the heads of lettuce and other plants it infects. While burrowing, it drops harmful feces in its wake. The burrowing and eating cycle eventually winds up destroying the plant; therefore, while the holes may be a nuisance to deal with, they may be a sign of a much bigger and more destructive problem.
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What Plants Are Commonly Affected by the Cabbage Worm?
There is a classification of plants affected by cabbage worm called the Brassica oleracea or wild mustard species. The plants in this species include:
- Collard Greens
- Brussel sprouts
Since many of these plants are relatively easy to cultivate, even for a novice gardener, it stands to reason the infection rate of the cabbage worm is high. Simply put, the more food available, the more the worms hang around. What, then, is a gardener to do? What are some safe and non-chemical ways to maintain control and integrity over your crops?
Four Tips and Tricks for Freeing Your Garden From Cabbage Worms
When trying to control any kind of pest in your garden, identifying the species is one of the critical factors in keeping it at bay. In the case of a worm, being able to keep one kind away means you have a great shot of keeping them all away.
Except for earthworms, these slithering pests are not something you want hanging around in your garden. Below are some tips and tricks for ridding yourself and your food source of these pests.
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1. Welcome Predators
Don’t let this statement fool you; this is not a suggestion to open your garden to anything and everything that destroys cabbage worms. It is, however, a suggestion to welcome the natural enemies that will either scare the worms away or eat them. A lovely bonus in employing this technique is that these predatory critters typically do not damage your garden in any way.
Early in the growing season, it’s best to try and provide a welcoming environment for the following bugs:
- Predatory beetles such as ladybugs
- Parasitic wasps
- Green lacewing
Birds are also excellent at keeping any worm under control. A single bird can swoop in and take out up to 10 in one feeding. One of the most effective predators to release in your garden is the Trichogramma wasp. You can purchase the larva and strategically place them around your garden. When they hatch, the baby wasps will destroy any type of worm larva in your garden, about 200 different species. The wasps themselves are totally harmless to your plants.
It’s a plant found in the daisy family and looks a lot like a yellow mum. Tansy is frequently used in teas and oils by herbalists. Cabbage worms do not like the smell of tansy in any form, so you can purchase an oil or tea variation if you want to give your leafy veggies a good spraying down now and then. (Note: Humans should not consume tansy tea due to the chemicals it contains).
A more effective and longer-lasting technique would be to plant tansy in your garden. It will serve as a barrier to repel the worms from ever taking up residence nearby. A bonus is that tansy typically thrives in gardens that also grow cabbage, lettuce and other wild mustard plants. If you know someone who is an herbalist and dabbles in essential oils, that person may be interested in harvesting and using the tansy when the season is over.
3. Lures and Traps
As stated above, an essential weapon in the fight against any pest in your garden is identification. Putting a pheromone trap or bait in your garden early in the season may be a critical companion in fending off an attack. That’s because it will safely and effectively trap only the bad bugs and it allows you to not only identify the culprits but also to monitor their population swells. Monitoring their infestation cycles will enable you to determine what is and is not working. It can also reveal other sneakier pests that you may need to target differently.
4. Floating Covers
One of the most important things to avoid is one worm laying a thousand eggs. The eggs are very hard to see not only because of their size but also because of their location: They are almost exclusively deposited on the underside of leaves where they remain hidden.
Purchasing covers that don’t allow worms and other bugs to penetrate but do allow sun and other nutrients to come through are one way to help give your garden an excellent protective barrier. These covers are also helpful in assisting seedlings to establish, as they create a greenhouse effect allowing heat and moisture to stay in, while at the same time keeping dangerous gases and destructive predators out.
Cultivating a successful garden can be one of the most fulfilling accomplishments. It means you can grow food on your terms, in your way, and with your own hands to feed your family. Knowing how to control pests such as the cabbage worm can help make your gardening endeavors successful.
The more often you do something, the better you become at the task. Being able to hold destructive bugs at bay is one way to help you grow delicious organic and home-raised food for years to come. Happy gardening!