Cabbage Worms Ate My Collard Greens. What’s Eating Your Garden?

Posted on Jul 25 2011 - 2:27am by Mike Lieberman

When I was checking out my balcony garden, I noticed that one container looked pretty empty. After taking a closer look, I thought to myself…when did I plant aloe?

Turns out it wasn’t aloe, but it was a container that used to be collard greens? Cabbage worms went to town on them and completely devoured them. By the time I noticed, it wasn’t even salvageable so I let them have their way.

I’ve had pest problems before with the aphid infestation and have also wrestled with cabbage worms.

What pests are eating your garden? How to do you combat them without using toxic pesticides?

48 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Katherine Kelley July 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm -

    Aphids are my problem this summer, but every year a new one plays the starring role.  I am spraying daily with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap and water.  It helps but I really do have to spray every day.  I use neem oil occasionally.  I stay away from things that  contain pyrethrins.  I just don’t like the idea of possibly killing off my bees.  I pulled two horn worms off my tomatillos yesterday so I may have them coming up next. 

  2. Cysmith July 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm -

    I have trouble with slugs. This year I’ve been using diatomaceous earth and it’s working great! I works for cabbage worm as well…but I find picking them off is also fun for my one little red hen.

  3. Dan Polley July 25, 2011 at 1:32 pm -

    We had trouble with Japanese beetles on our basil container plant this year. We set up a trap for them away from our containers, but we’ve noticed it’s brought more in, although they aren’t attacking our plants.

  4. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm -

    Glad the Dr. Bronners is helping. It’s always something….ain’t it?

  5. Wendopolis July 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm -

    japanese beetles and cucumber beetles (spotted and striped, lucky me) are the main problems. Japanese beetles are easy to get rid of, compared to the cuke guys. I brush the JB’s into a jar of water mixed with oil and dish soap (cause I don’t like the way their legs feel) and try to do the same with the cucumber beetles, but they are too fast. So I’m just letting those guys have their way with the cukes since there aren’t any to speak of anyway. As far as cabbage worms, had some on my lone broccoli plant and plucked them off. Managed to salvage the broccoli, yay.

  6. Bodyn Soil July 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm -

    Hand picking is my favorite line of defense against most pests in my garden. I like to do most of the hand picking in the morning when the bugs are slowed down by the cooler weather. The other bug that really irritates me is the squash bug, for those I turn the leaves over and gently remove the eggs if I can or I rip off the section of leaf they are laid on. Or, if you want to use something then try the garlic, oil, dish soap, hot chili pepper mixed with water concoction.

  7. Elizabeth Fisher July 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm -

    Not too much of a bug/beetle problem here.  Have to watch out for slugs but those are easy to get rid of.  Occasionally get squash vine borer, but those are easy to spot…vine goes limp.  Find the spot, dig the bug out and patch up the vine.  Birds naturally want the berries,  go after the tomatoes at times.  Always keep fallen fruit picked up or will have problem with those yellow jackets.  Our worst problem is blossom end rot…managed to avoid last summer.  But some blight swept across town last summer almost at the end of the season and the tomato plants just went.  We picked all the fruit green and red so still had a great crop.  

  8. Veronica Flores July 25, 2011 at 3:38 pm -

    I did a lot of companion planting this year and haven’t noticed the infestation to be too bad. I did have some cucumber beetles for a while, but they’ve disappeared since I planted a few radishes (from the farmer’s market, not from seed) around the bases of the cukes. Supposedly vine borers also hate radishes. We will see…

  9. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm -

    You can also use a small tub of beer for the slugs too.

  10. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm -

    Hahhaa. The trade off.

  11. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm -

    LOL. Just gotta let some of them go.

  12. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm -

    Thanks for the concoction idea.

  13. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm -

    Good tip on the fallen fruit. Thanks.

  14. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm -

    Thanks for all the companion planting ideas. Def gonna start workin those in.

  15. Ivette July 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm -

    I hope that wasn’t your entire crop ! I always plant a trap crop of  a mild brassica and I also grow giant red mustard ornamentally – usually both of those will take most of the brunt of the damage. I handpick the cabbage loopers from my collards and kale – I check them every other day for the caterpillars by giving each leaf a quick grope. How many do you have? During the spring I had about 20 plants and it took me about 30 mins to grope, grab, and squash. The next line of defense is a strong jet of water to blast the aphids off the plants. I don’t even like using soaps is I can help it – I do it all the pioneer way! If I can’t eat it myself, it won’t go on my garden.

  16. Anonymous July 25, 2011 at 8:59 pm -

    ill try both. slugs been working me over but i’ve had no time to deal with it. pretty sure i have diatomaceous earth at home and definitely have beer =)

  17. Mamasimpson July 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm -

    Ants! They are eating my cucumber and pepper flowers. Are they after the nectar? Could it be the drought? (no rain here for over a month and 100+ every day) My father in-law told me to spray the leaves with soapy water. I have done that in the morning and evening for two days now and it seems to be working…….I hope.

  18. Kristen July 25, 2011 at 11:30 pm -

    I had a problem with pests but am not sure what kind, most likely a flying type as my balcony is on the second floor of my apartment building.  I also know it’s not slugs, in South TX its far too hot for slugs (we even have a hard time finding earth worms… they don’t sell them at the stores either).  Either way I came home from school and noticed a good chunk of my broccoli, mint, spinach, and chives eaten.  In a rush, I desperately ran to the grocery store and bought an organicy soap that I sprayed over my plants.  Later that evening, I did some more research on preventing bugs, and saw a post on a site about coffee grounds, so I thought I’d try it.  

    Every AM I make my morning coffee, and then instead of throwing the used grounds into the trash, I sprinkle them onto the top soil of my plants.  I rotate plants, so that each plant gets about the same amount of grounds per week, and I only use about 1/8 cup of grounds (I’m only making coffee for me!!!) per day which sometimes gets split between two plants.  (I use clay pots, ranging from 10inch in diameter to 4 inch – the 4 inches get split, the 10 gets the full 1/8th cup) I also apply the grounds prior to watering, hoping that some of the nitrogen will make its way into the soil when I water.  Since I’ve started this routine about 2 months ago, my plants appear to be thriving nicely, and best of all I have yet to see any bugs!!  

  19. Elizabeth Fisher July 25, 2011 at 11:43 pm -

    I heard you can do that with squash too,  Throw in their favorite and let them have that one.  I can’t remember what that is though, and  I don’t remember where I read that.

  20. Mike Lieberman July 26, 2011 at 12:25 am -

    I might’ve had another that got ravaged as well. I did a shitty job of keeping my eye on them and planing. Though I like your idea that I shall steal. 

  21. Mike Lieberman July 26, 2011 at 12:27 am -

    That’s good. Coffee grounds are also a good ant deterrent. For some reason they won’t cross over them. 

  22. Mike Lieberman July 26, 2011 at 12:28 am -

    Nice. Good stuff! Who needs nasty chemicals?

  23. Juanita Wright July 26, 2011 at 3:02 am -

    At first I was losing cucumbers to rabbits.  A little fence around the earth box fixed that.  Now it’s the deer eating my squash and pumpkin blooms.  We’re trying human hair around the area now.  Have used it before on other plants.  Think it will work here, too.  Other than that, so far, we’re doing okay with pests.  Perhaps the raised bed is helping.

  24. Laura July 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm -

    I’m a newbie to all of this, so maybe if i had known the tell tale signs of these problems I could have caught it earlier to salvage. Aphids destroyed my lettuce and spinach. And I just pulled up my squash, cucumbers, and green beans because nothing is getting pollinated. I guess here in KS something wiped out part of the bee population. I tried handpollinating but it mightve been too late. Plus I don’t think this 105/110 degree heat helps much. So now I’m just crossing my fingers that something magical happens to my bell peppers and tomatoes.

  25. Laura July 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm -

    And oh ya, my tomatoes have blossom end rot and aren’t producing much…I’ve had a doozie of a time “/

  26. Mike Lieberman July 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm -

    Lemme know how the hair works out.

  27. Mike Lieberman July 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm -

    It’s all about learning. Makes you appreciate it when you actually can harvest some 😉

  28. Megan July 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm -

    I began my garden in april and I am sad to say that due to a plague of pests, I have not produced any fruit or veggies. Recently I have discovered tomato hornworms attacking and eating my betterboy’s leaves.. when I checked them out online I was shocked to discover that they can grow to be the size of a grown man’s index finger… and even thicker! ick!!
    The next pest are tiny little nat like flies that lay their eggs in the soil and produce what is called Root Maggots. They are annoying pests that cause harm to the roots of your growing plants thus making them wilt in full sunlight.. therefore reducing the nutrients that they so desperately need!… I am trying my best to get rid of them but due to my apartment complex spraying pesticide, it has killed all the helpful preditor bugs that would have naturally killed them! I’ve tried all the organic type pesticides (even home made) but nothing has worked! its stunted the growth of my plants and has left me mourning for the lack of any harvest! Online it says to just toss them out and start from scratch… but everything is done from seed, and the flies will just come back!! I have no clue as to what to do next. Im hoping for a miracle!

  29. Mike Lieberman July 27, 2011 at 5:42 pm -

    Ugh. Sorry to hear. Sounds like it might be at the point of no return for your plants 🙁

  30. Stephanie July 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm -

    We have hints of squash vine borers, but I think the squash plants are old and tough enough to hold up to aminor attack this year.

  31. Mike Lieberman July 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm -


  32. WendyinCA July 31, 2011 at 4:29 am -

    Cabbage worms totally wiped out my cabbage last fall.  I started picking them off, but I swear they just kept multiplying.  I read somewhere that you can companion plant thyme, and supposedly it repels cabbage worms.  Only 1 cabbage head survived (it was planted in a hanging basket), but it was so awesome that I think I’m going to try again…just can’t figure out how the thyme’s going to survive the cold weather.  Any other good ideas out there?

  33. Chris July 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm -

    I had the same problem with my Kale, these little green guys chewed through it….and fast! Man, they are a menace. I cleared them off one at a time and they just came back a day later. How do you get rid of these worms and where do they come from? Thankfully this is the only bug problem Ive had this year, I learned from my Aphids last year and did some companion planting and it seemed to work for that. Now about these little green buggers…..oh well, its all about learning right!? 

  34. Megan August 1, 2011 at 3:46 am -

    have to say it has been touch and go… but their numbers are going down, the tomato hornworms have been decimated by the way of the miyagi. (lol) but I am happy to announce the birth of a cucumber! 😛

    My cucumber vines have been thriving, dealing with a lot of flowers falling off even though I self fertilize them with a cuetip and with the help of blossom set spray… possibly too many of the same sex. But I have been hopeful, and with the possibility of more tomato and pepper blossoms, I pray that I will be rewarded of the experience to parenting fruit!… no veggie police for me… I refuse to give up and kill my plants!!!!

  35. Megan August 3, 2011 at 7:32 am -

    you can try ladybugs or Mikes soap water method… but if you get blossom set spray it will help with the end rot!

  36. Vanessa August 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm -

    This is my first year with a garden so I told myself I would be happy if I grew just one tomato. I am happy to say that I my little garden is doing so well that I have starting giving produce away to friends and donating it. I have had to deal with pest, mostly beetles, but I found that the best repellant for my garden is spicy water. I either boil water with hot peppers in them or I mix water with cayenne pepper. I spray that on the leaves every once and while, especially after rain, and it keeps pest away without deterring bees.

  37. Mike Lieberman August 11, 2011 at 4:05 am -

    Good stuff! Thanks for the tip. Will have to try that.

  38. Queen August 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm -

    I dont know what is killing my watermelon but they are some small brown skinny worms about 1 inch long. Killing off my entire watermelon garden

  39. Mike Lieberman August 15, 2011 at 12:00 am -

    Ugh. That sucks!

  40. Peggy September 17, 2011 at 10:00 am -

    Marigolds. Marigolds. My grandparents planted them by everything, and they work! My tomatoes were dessimated last year to hornworms, and I haven’t seen ANY this year. You can also stick some of the flowers in a blender and spray the juice on leaves. Also, I noticed cabbage worms eating the crap out of my nasturtiums until I planted chives nearby. Apparently they hate chives. Companion planting works.

  41. Mike Lieberman September 27, 2011 at 4:05 pm -

    I just planted some marigolds and chives too!

  42. Guest October 31, 2011 at 9:38 pm -

    Rabbits eat low hanging fruit and foliage

    Birds eat berries

    Horned Tomato Worms eat the tomato and pepper plants

    Aphids attack fennel, apple trees … ants farm the aphids.

    Whiteflies everywhere

    Citrus leaf miners mine the leaves, but they are otherwise harmless

  43. Mike Lieberman November 1, 2011 at 8:46 am -

    Thanks for the info.

  44. Melanie April 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm -

    Those green little suckers are getting my kale. Fighting back with hand picking each evening.

  45. Mike Lieberman April 23, 2012 at 6:29 am -

    Get em!

  46. Joanna July 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm -

    Hi, Mike, I just found your blog and been reading many posts about plant pests eating up the garden.

    Here’s help, but only if you’re prepared to pick your own fresh organic eggs and compost rich, organic manure in your yard. Yes, a couple of chickens or ducks will eat every bit of creepy crawlie bothering your plants: caterpillars, worms, root maggots, beetles, ticks, aphids, snails, slugs, etc.
    Find out first, though, whether your town ordinances ban garden livestock. If they do, gang up and canvass the powers-that-be to reverse said ordinances!

  47. Carmella Green September 22, 2015 at 7:37 am -

    My husband John has been having a big problem with his collard-greens. They been covered with black & yellow worms. Every morning he has been getting pissed at those worms eating his groceries, So somebody tell us what else is there o do for these worms. We have had a wonderful garden here in the Carolinas, He has used Tiger Blend worm whoppers, it this does not work, so please help his groceries this is the second garden this year, and the first collards did not have them.

  48. Carmella Green September 22, 2015 at 7:51 am -

    We had used, Bottom Rot spray on the Tomatoes, and bell pepper plants, and it got rid of all of that. Pull the old tomatoes, bell pepper off of plant & the next ones
    u see will be just fine. Good Luck

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