Thursday, April 24, 2008


Ack! I have cabbage loopers! It's not a full-scale invasion yet, but I've had to pull them off several cabbage and broccoli plants. Some of them have been pretty well chewed, but I think I've caught them early enough. I don't know if I'll have to go ahead and use a pepper spray this weekend - the big test is on Monday, after all, and I have bigger fish to fry - or if hand-picking will do it. I wiped out several small colonies of the tiny yellow eggs, too. They look like small yellow mites or oblong dots on the undersides of the leaves. Rolling your fingers under the leaves usually smooshes them up pretty well. I'm really not a fan of killing anything. I'll save up a bunch of cabbage worms or snails (my premier nemesis right now) and walk them over to a portion of the yard where not much is happening. The yard is big enough that this is probably like me dropping them off in Montana in snail terms. Or at least I hope so. Otherwise I might have to start killing them for real.

I know both diatomaceous earth and hot pepper spray should accomplish this. Diatomaceous earth is a fine white powder made of ground up diatoms, which according to this site are skeletal plant particles. It's technically qualified as an organic or natural material. The plant diatoms are mined and ground up super fine and the microscopic particles act like sharp razor blades on soft-bodied insects, although it's harmless to mammals and humans (some references even cite its use as a flea repellent for dogs and cats!). You have to be careful when distributing it, though, as breathing too much can be irritating. Wear a mask or tie a bandana around your mouth and nose if you're going to be putting down quite a bit (the bandana is good for giving the neighbors a jump, too). While diatomaceous earth isn't harmful to earthworms due to the earthworms digestive processes, it is harmful to fleas, aphids, snails, etc. This means the good bugs and the bad bugs, so I'm trying to use it in moderation. Organic gardens rely on a vibrant culture of good bugs (biodiversity, ahem!).

The pepper spray is allegedly effective, as well, although I've had mixed results with it. I'm not sure if that's because I didn't spray it frequently enough (really bad aphid infestation on my tomatoes a few years ago) or if it wasn't strong enough or if I had pepper-resistant aphids! It's all about practice, I guess. Each year you learn something and each year it's just a little bit different. This year...I conquer the cabbage worm!

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