Cabbage moth/butterfly, green caterpillars and organic pest control

22 April 2018
One of the biggest benefits of growing your own food is knowing what has gone into growing it. Particularly for me it's knowing that nothing questionable has been sprayed on it either while it was growing or before it ends up on my plate.

Of course growing your own tasty fruit and veg does not go unnoticed by the local bugs and wildlife. They too enjoy organically grown fresh produce it seems.

This time of year, particularly with the warmer than usual weather, enemy number one in my garden is the cabbage moth/butterfly. They flit about laying their eggs on most green leaves they can find but are particularly enamoured with the brassica crops. I don't even attempt trying to grow brassicas over summer as these guys are too much of a pain in the warm weather.

Exhibit A: caterpillar munched broccoli leaf

If you are interested in growing things without sprays or powders or the like what can you do? Here is my three step approach.


1. Exclusion

The easiest way to thwart the cabbage moth's efforts is to stop them getting on your plants and laying their eggs. Individual covers work well, like the milk carton cloches I talked about the other week. Or you can cover a whole bed with some net material that is too small for the moth to squeeze through. I generally pick up lovely net or lace curtains at the op shop for this purpose.

Garden enemy number one.

2. Distraction

Did you know that cabbage moths are territorial? Turns out they don't like to lay their eggs where others are already busy. Now, you can buy fancy little butterflies on sticks to dot around your patch or if you were particularly motivated (or needed to busy the kids for an afternoon) you could make your own. If you are lazy relaxed about your garden aesthetic you can simply toss some white bread bag tags around your seedlings.

I see you little green fellow - your minutes are numbered.

3. Destruction

This involves checking over your plants every 1-2 days and squishing the little wriggly green culprits. If you are squeamish you can collect them and give them to someone else to squish! If you have chickens they will thank you for this tasty treat. I tend to use this in combination with the other methods or sometimes as a stand alone if I have failed to follow my own advice and implement the above strategies.

The bigger your seedlings get the more they will be able to withstand an attack. Also, once the weather cools down these little guys will disappear. But until then it's easy to keep on top of them with a few simple (organic) steps.

Are you battling the little white butterfly at the moment?
Any other strategies to share?

13 comments

  1. Laura, after years of battling these pests I have given up on growing brassicas and buy them from the farmers market. I hope you get a good crop.

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    1. I imagine it'd be like trying to grow them down here in summer - totally not worth the effort. Good to have a farmers market where you can buy the things that you can't grow.

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  2. What a great idea, white bread tags! I will try that one. It has been warm hasn't it? I can't wait for Winter!

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    1. Yes, part of me is looking forward to winter but the other part is a little scared of the re-acclimatisation ahead!

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  3. I have a problem with lubber grasshoppers. All kale leaves have holes now. :( So far it seems that they prefer to eat kale and some spinach, so they leave other plants alone.
    I sprayed water mixed with cayenne powder on kale but couldn't see if it helped because rain washed it soon after.

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    1. I think it'd be worth trying some type of exclusion if you find the spray doesn't help. At least they are leaving some of your other plants alone!

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  4. i gave up growing my own herbs and veg some years ago. i just couldn't fight the bush turkeys, bugs and possums anymore :=) good on you for your efforts. i know how fab it is to have them in your garden and on your plate. cheers sherry

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    1. How frustrating Sherry. Sometimes you've just got to call it a day though I suppose to save your sanity!

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  5. Sometimes I have an issue with grasshoppers munching on my plants. They generally eat the hollyhock leaves, which is no big deal. I catch them and feed them to the chickens. I find it helps to plant a variety of crops together, too. The beneficial insects are wonderful. Also, the birds do an excellent job of eating the bugs.

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    1. This is a great point about intermingling plants rather than having the exclusive vegie patch and its neat rows of vegies by type (although it does look pretty impressive!). Another reason that I think mixing edibles completely into the garden is such a nice idea as you've done in your front yard.

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  6. I am so glad you've given me something to do with the bread tags. The white moths are visiting way too often.

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    Replies
    1. I know you love a good re-purpose so I'm happy to help!

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  7. I have broccoli seedlings in the garden at the moment, Laura. Also kale started too. I don't typically get too many cabbage moths so generally just keep an eye out for the caterpillars. Meg:)

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Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's so great to hear from people who stop by and to know I'm not just talking to myself!

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