Pests and Diseases: Cabbage Worms

Have you noticed the onslaught of white butterflies flitting aroung your garden? It seems that they’re everywhere this spring but they’re particularly noticeable around the veggie garden. There’s a good reason…they’re after our cabbage. The butterfly is the adult version of the cabbage worm.

cabbage worms
Photo courtesy of Utah State


But it’s not just cabbage that they’re after…they enjoy all members of the Brassica family which includes cauliflower, broccoli, collards, kales and other salad crops. The larval form is the one that really does the damage. It’s green in color and is easy to miss when quickly glancing at your plants. If you see holes in the leaves of your plants, flip over a few leaves and see if this guy is hanging around:

cabbage worms
Photo courtesy of University of Maryland



If you only have a few plants to monitor, hand picking and squishing is the easiest method; it also has the least amount of negative impact on the environment…unless of course you’re a cabbage worm. If you can’t bring yourself to squish them, carry a small bucket or mason jar full of soapy water and just drop them in when you see them. If you have chickens, offer the cabbage worms to your flock as a tasty, high protein snack.

Floating row covers are especially effective at deterring the moth from laying its eggs in the first place. If you grow rows of brassicas, applying floating row covers before you see the moths will reduce your population of cabbage worms to virtually zero. If you’re not familiar with them, floating row covers are comprised of lightweight woven fabric that still allows the sunlight through. They are a great physical barrier to keep the butterflies away from your cabbage.

If the number of cabbage worms is too great for you to hand pick, you can spray Bt to control them. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a bacteria that only affects caterpillars so you don’t need to be concerned with assaulting your beneficials like ladybugs and lacewings. Just be aware that Bt is not effective on the adults or the eggs…it only works on the caterpillar stage of the cabbage worm life cycle.

Have you seen the white butterflies flitting around your garden this year? Have you noticed any cabbage worms? If so, what methods do you use to control them? Leave me a comment below or send me an e-mail. (I’m going to stop putting my e-mail address in the posts…the spam is eating me alive!) If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!




Friday Free For All: Is It Too Late to Plant Your Vegetable Garden?

I’ve received quite a few questions in the last week asking is it too late to plant your vegetable garden? I understand why people are concerned…the weather has been spring-like for the past seven to eight weeks here in central Virginia and fellow gardeners have been planting their crops for weeks. Lest you feel alone if you’re just getting around to planting your veggie garden…we just planted ours last weekend and still have a few more plants to get into the ground. Life gets busy and time slips away from you and before you know it, its second week of May.

There are a few plants that you may have missed the boat on if they’re not in the ground. Let’s take a look at those before we move on to what you should be planting now and whether they should be started from seeds or transplants:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Potatoes
  4. Cabbage – I have a little disclaimer to make here; I know several people that plant their cabbage plants with other warm season veggies and they seem to do fine. Experiment and try some now if you want to…what do you have to lose?
  5. Fava Beans
  6. Peas


So what can you still plant in your veggie garden? Virtually everything!

  1. Tomatoes – only from transplants
  2. Peppers – only from transplants
  3. Cucumbers – seed or transplants
  4. Squash – seed or transplants
  5. Zucchini – seed or transplants
  6. Melons – seed or transplants
  7. Sweet potatoes – sets
  8. Basil – seed or transplants
  9. Carrots – seed
  10. Pole or bush beans – seed
  11. Lima beans (aka butterbeans) – seed
  12. Lettuce – seed or transplants
  13. Cilantro – seeds or transplants


Now with cilantro, you need to watch it closely so that it doesn’t go to seed. If it does, it turns into coriander instead of cilantro. I wish that someone would develop a cilantro that wouldn’t bolt so early. I can’t ever seem to have cilantro and tomatoes that are ready at the same time. You can always dehydrate the cilantro and use it in salsa later but it would really be nice to have fresh cilantro available when the tomatoes start rolling in.

I want to give you a reminder that I know you already know. Don’t be discouraged by the size of your plants when you put them in the ground. It’s so easy to look at your 6″ tall plants and then see your neighbors that are 2′ tall and be discouraged. But don’t be. Our veggies are so small right now that I’m embarrassed to post pictures of them. I’m embarrassed but I’m not discouraged. Look at these two pictures of the broccoli that we planted on March 22.

is it too late to plant your vegetable garden


Here they are on May 6:

is it too late to plant your vegetable garden


Aren’t plants amazing? Now get out there this weekend and get your veggies in the ground! Let me know what you’ve been up to in your vegetable garden. Send me your pictures…I’d love to share them with other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers. Send them to If you’re a little less boastful, then just leave me a comment below. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!



Did You Know? Planting Cool Season Vegetables


Did You Know? that it’s almost time to plant cool season vegetables? March 17 (Happy St. Patrick’s Day) is a general guideline for planting cool season vegetables in the garden. With the winter we’re having, you could have planted cool season vegetables a week or two ago and been safe. But I like to use guidelines instead of hard and fast dates. I’ve learned in the past that holding Mother Nature to a specific date is a bad idea…you and your plants stand a chance of getting burned.

So what can go in the ground in March? Here’s a list of cool season veggies and whether they are best sown directly in the garden or planted as transplants:

  1. planting cool season vegetablesBeets – seed
  2. Broccoli – transplants
  3. Cabbage – transplants
  4. Carrots – seed
  5. Cauliflower – transplants
  6. Fava beans – seed
  7. Kale and collards – seed
  8. Lettuce – transplants
  9. Onions – transplants or sets
  10. Parsley – transplants
  11. Peas – seed
  12. Swiss chard – transplants


I have to put in a disclaimer here so that you won’t blame me if your veggies turn to mush in a cold snap: watch the weather forecast and if you see that temperatures are going to drop into the mid-20s or lower, make plans to protect your veggies. So what are your plans for getting your cool season vegetables in the ground? Have you started yours as transplants or will you be sowing them directly? Let me know what you have in mind for your cool season garden this year. Instead of imbibing a green tinted adult beverage this St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps you’ll be digging in the garden. Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at Happy gardening!

March 12, 2012Permalink 4 Comments