Growing your own vegetables is both a blessing and a curse. Of course, you get to reap the benefits of sowing, growing and eating your own healthy produce. Unfortunately, however, plenty of pests and insects would also like the benefit of eating your healthy produce! One common pest among brassicas is the cabbage moth. Almost indistinguishable from other moths, the cabbage moth will eat the heart of crops and lay its cabbage worm eggs on their leaves. Fear that your vegetable patch is suffering from a cabbage moth outbreak? Here are our tips for protecting brassicas from cabbage moths for good!
What Is A Cabbage Moth?
It is a widely recognised pest that can cause severe crop damage on both domestic and commercial agricultural land. Although their name suggests that they favour cabbages, unfortunately, the cabbage moth will eat any fruit, vegetable and crop in the brassica family. In addition, they feed in the heart of these crops in the night, leading to stunted growth and soiled vegetables from their droppings.
What Does A Cabbage Moth Look Like?
It can be hard to distinguish from other common moth species. It has a wingspan of approximately 40mm and is of dark colouring with varying shades of brown. However, a cabbage moth caterpillar is easier to spot, with yellowish-green or brownish-green bodies and no clear hair on their bodies.
How To Get Rid of Cabbage Moths
Once you know for sure that you are dealing with cabbage moths in your garden, you’ll need to know how to get rid of them. Fortunately, that’s just what we have for you here! Here are our recommended deterrents so you can take back control of your garden.
Unlike cabbage worms, the cabbage moth is larger and thus easier to spot. So, some gardeners make good use of their tennis rackets and swat them down. Likewise, as soon as they appear in spring, they will pick up a tennis racket and swat them out of the air before they even make it to the brassicas. However, if you decide to rid your garden of cabbage moths this way, ensure you are not aiming for other harmless moths, butterflies and bugs.
Make Use Of Ducks and Chickens
If you keep poultry in your garden, you can put them to excellent use against cabbage moths. Once your crops have grown big enough, you can let a few mature birds roam loose in your vegetable garden for a while. Ducks and chickens are both partial to cabbage moths, so an hour or so near your affected plants should be more than enough to rid them of the pests.
Attract The Right Birds
On the other hand, if you don’t keep poultry birds, there is another feathered alternative. Songbirds! Attracting songbirds to your garden regularly can help rid your brassicas of pesky cabbage moths. However, they must visit your garden regularly for them to notice the moths in the first place. So, take steps to attract birds into your garden. First, leave out a bird feeder filled with the favourite foods of the songbird – sunflower seeds and cracked corn are a particular favourite. Then, for a longer-term solution, plant plenty of bird-friendly plants and shrubs of varying heights for them to perch on and hide in.
Use Companion Plants
Companion planting is a Godsend in many situations, particularly pest control. Fortunately, several good companion plants can help protect your brassicas from cabbage moths and other vegetables from their own pests. Some of the best companion plants to include in your vegetable garden are:
You can see more suitable companion plants here. However, you should never plant brassicas with tomatoes, peppers, mustard, beans or strawberries. These plants will compete with the brassicas for nutrients, which could lead to them not growing to their full potential.
Choose A Clever Planting Scheme
You could try choosing a more imaginative planting scheme if you don’t want to broach companion planting. Rather than planting your brassicas in a monoculture bed, and immediately creating an attractant for cabbage moths, try planting them separately. Try interplanting single brassicas throughout your garden. Having a brassica planted here or there among different flowers and vegetables will make them harder for any visiting cabbage moth to find.
Set Up Moth Decoys
Moth decoys aren’t a proven solution, but many gardeners swear by them every spring. The idea is that you hang decoy cabbage moths around your brassicas. Since the cabbage moth is a highly territorial insect, the theory says that any visiting cabbage moth will leave your garden alone.
To make a moth decoy, you should:
- First, you can use a white cabbage moth decoy template to trace the basic outline onto white plastic or thick paper.
- Then, use a black marker to add the black dots precisely as a real cabbage moth has. This is possibly the most vital step, as these seem to be the most crucial aspect of fooling real cabbage moths.
- Next, attach your decoys to skewers. If your moths are made from solid plastic, you should be fine to skewer them through. However, if they’re not made from as strong material, you can use wire or string to tie them on securely
- Finally, place your decoys through your vegetable garden, with plenty around your brassicas. Although you should keep them all at roughly plant level, try and dot your cabbage moths at different heights and facing in different directions for a natural appearance.
Plant ‘Trap’ Crops
Usually, cabbage moths may favour a particular brassica plant. Although you may find this doubly annoying, it can actually give you a saving grace. Suppose you’ve noticed that moths have been favouring a particular brassica, plant several of the offending plants separate from your vegetable patch. Ideally, the visiting cabbage moths will flock to the new plants.
Once they are covered in pests, some gardeners choose to burn the trap crops. Of course, you don’t have to do this, but it may be the best step to protect the rest of your vegetables. However, if you do choose to burn your trap crops, ensure you do so safely and with control.
Start Crop Rotation
Crop rotation is where a gardener or farmer grows different crops in succession to avoid draining the soil. With a crop rotation plan, you can help lessen disease and reduce pests in your garden, including cabbage moths. Plus, crop rotation helps ensure that plants get the proper nutrients to stay healthy enough to fight off pests. So, consider starting crop rotation in your vegetable garden to help deter cabbage moths. Read our tips on crop rotation to help you get started.
Try Organic Pesticides
Pesticides should always be a last resort. Although we only endorse the use of organic pesticides, or natural substances that can do the job without harming the environment, several harsh chemical solutions are harmful. So, only choose organic pesticides.
These pesticides will harm pests in such a way that they will not come back to your plants. However, the use of pesticides affects all animals visiting your vegetable garden, including the good ones. So, consider what beneficial insects you may be harming before using pesticides.
How To Prevent Cabbage Moths
Of course, the best way to get rid of cabbage moths is to prevent them from coming in. If you have freed your garden from them or want to do whatever you can to stop them from finding their way in, there is a prevention technique that we would recommend. And that is row cover.
Growing under cover means covering your vegetables as soon as you plant them. However, doing so will mean that the moths can’t get to your plants at all. This way, they won’t be able to lay eggs on or near your plants and certainly won’t be able to have a snack on them themselves.
Deterring Cabbage Moths For Good
Whether you’re working with a polytunnel garden or an outdoor vegetable patch, cabbage moths can quickly become a nuisance, especially if you’re protecting brassicas. Follow our suggestions for how to deter them, and your vegetable patch will soon be cabbage moth free!
What are your moth deterrent tips? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK