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Seattle Fling 2011

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Cabbage, Cauliflower, Other Crucifers and Cutworms

Damage caused by cutworms

Damage caused by cutworms

Cabbage, caulifower and other crucifers seem to attract cutworms. There are thousands of varieties of cutworms that can overwinter in the garden for two years before metamorphizing into a moth. They are tiny, hard to see and often live just below the surface of the soil where they are invisible until you walk out in the morning to see that your cabbage seedlings are either wilting (because they are not yet thoroughly cut through) or lying  in a wilted pile with their cut stems clearly exposed.

There are a number of ways to prevent cutworm damage. The first way I ever heard of was to put a collar as a barrier around each seedling of cardboard, tinfoil or other material  that went into as well as above the soil. Wood ashes spread around each plant is another kind of barrier, as are cornmeal, coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, or diatomaceous earth. All of these, one way or another will kill the cutworms. I was fascinated to learn that cutworms love cornmeal, but can’t digest it, and kill themselves by gorging.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac  and Mother Earth News have more complete information about cutworms and the variety of ways they can be controlled including by importing tachinid flies or trichogramma wasps. Don’t forget to treasure such natural predators as toads, moles and birds.

3 comments to Cabbage, Cauliflower, Other Crucifers and Cutworms

  • It’s such a shame when you lose a bunch of healthy plants in the blink of an eye. Thankfully, there seem to be lots of available preventative measures to deal with these critters.

  • I’ve also had success thwarting cutworms by putting 3 toothpicks close to each stem, evenly spaced, when I transplanted seedlings into the garden.

  • Pat

    Margaret – There certainly are preventions and we hope they are effective.
    Cynthia – Toothpicks are a great idea. I’ve heard that a piece of copper wire around the stem is also very effective. I’m wondering whether using copper in particulare give the little critters something of a shock.

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