Gardening to 'grow your own food' from square foot to half an acre !!
10 posts • Page 1 of 1
I have started to grow a few veg in some containers, having never done anything like this before. My cabbages and Brocccoli leaves are covered in caterpillars is there any thing i can do to get rid of them as they are eating all the leaves?
Many thanks. Amber.
welcome to the world of growing your own and all the wildlife that comes with it! I'm afraid cabbages and caterpillars go hand in hand. And broccoli are a particular delicacy. It may seem odd but the cabbage and broccoli are closely related and probably developed from a wild cabbage plant / seakale. These are native to the British Isles and so are the butterflies.
It's a yucky job, but the best thing to do is don some gloves, have a bucket of water and hand pick all the caterpillars off the plants and drown them or if you are up for it, squish them (don't toss them away thinking the birds will eat them because they won't - perhaps they taste nasty - and worst of all, the little blighters are very good at walking, quickly and straight back to the plants. When all the leaves of one plant are eaten, they normally climb down and walk to the next one even if it is some ways off)
You'll need to also inspect the leaves on both affected and non-affected plants (don't forget to look at the underside as well) for small clusters of yellow eggs - these are the eggs laid by the Cabbage White butterfly - and crush them with your fingers. Every single one of them - miss one, you'll be back to square one I'm afraid.
I personally wouldn't recommend using pesticide especially as these are leafy vegetables which you would be eating. There are some products available for spraying vegetables if you really can't bear the thought of touching the caterpillars. Home made products like soapy water will not work on the caterpillars.
To prevent butterflies from laying eggs on your cabbages and broccoli (and cauliflower and Brussel sprouts) is to cover them with a fine net. The mesh should be as small as you can get (not that cheap stuff from Wilkos that says Butterfly and Bird net) because the butterflies can squeeze through tiny gaps. And more importantly, the plants shouldn't be in contact with the net because the butterfly can lay her eggs through the mesh.
Alternatively but not guaranteed, the Cabbage White butterfly tastes the scent of cabbages in the air and that's how she finds the plants to lay her eggs. You can try to disguise the scent by confusing her with other smells - I once grew some broccoli plants between 2 big lavender bushes (surplus to requirement so was not planned) which were not netted, yet the netted ones were munched to stalks)
Yes, squish them.* And no use going on holiday or taking a few days off from the squishing. Get them as eggs. Then get the little caterpillars you've missed. And the big ones you missed last week. They are very good at hiding under the leaves (wonder why they are green?). I've never had any success with summer cauliflower, though the winter & early spring sort seem to recover enough to head up.
Then you need to wash all the 'frass' (poo) off before you cook
*gloves are for wimps
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I havent seen one caterplllar this year, just 2 million slugs and snails
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Hi, You can make caterpillar killing spray with fresh peppers. Wear gloves and eye protection and finely chop enough habanero peppers to fill 1/2 cup. Crush 6 garlic cloves. Puree the peppers and garlic with 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon liquid soap in the blender. Pour the mixture into a quart glass jar and cap it tightly. Set it in direct sun for two days. Strain the pepper solution through a coffee filter into a spray bottle. Spray caterpillars generously.
welcome Rockalbert I hope you will join in and tell us more about yourself
To answer your question, I don't think there's such thing as a caterpillar repellent - either cover with fine mesh or disguise the scent of the crop to prevent the butterflies from laying eggs in the first place:
there are other home brew concoctions to try but amount to the same thing - disguising the scent by making up a spray with a strong smell - maybe lavender, tea from rotted rhubarb or nettle leaves or a garlic spray. There's no guarantee these will work so makes sense to make a physical barrier such as using a fine mesh net cage.
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