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Options To Row Cover For Brassicas — The Grow Network Community
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Options To Row Cover For Brassicas

greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Vegetables

This is my fifth year gardening.

Every year up to now I've always used row covers to cover my brassica beds because I get tons of cabbage worms/flies in my area on all the plants, not just the cabbage. So brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and all those other guys have to be protected.

But due to the height of broccoli and brussels sprouts, row covers for them are a pain in the butt.

So this year I made one big brassica bed with all varieties and put in the row cover again. But I also made one mixed bed (from many plant families) and have been trying the "home remedies" method to see if it would actually work. To date, I can say IT IS WORKING!

I have had spinach, onions, leeks, dill, 12 tomato plants (3 different varieties) several kinds of flowers for pollinators and then red and green cabbage plus kale and broccoli all mixed up throughout that bed. And yes, it is working. I see cabbage flies still flying in the area but they aren't bothering my brassicas which aren't covered.

So, my method is sprinkle regular table salt (the cheap stuff) in the center of each plant (where the head forms) and then sprinkle all of the plant with a dusting of flour (use the cheap stuff) mixed with cayenne powder. Just remember, rain washes this away so you have to re-apply AFTER THE PLANT DRIES. Do not add salt to a wet plant, it can burn it.

So I can't state for certain this is good but it does seem to be working so far if anyone else wishes to try it. My recipe for the flour dust is 1 cup of flour mixed with 2 tablespoons of cayenne powder.

If you do try it, let us know how it worked for you and what state/country you are trying it in please.


  • Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 760 admin

    Interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,555 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interesting thought. Here the cabbage moths are desperate and lay their eggs on everything, including landscape plants.

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭

    @shllnzl , I am not sure on this yet since I started this before the cabbage moths started flitting around but I would say it probably would not be 100% effective after you already see the eggs.

    But once those eggs hatch, it will help then since the flour their stomachs can not digest so it will kill them. The cayenne is just the deterrent.

    And if you wish, give it a try on other plants since the flour/cayenne won't hurt them either. Just remember, don't harvest after you dust unless you wash very, very well. The salt I would do test runs though. I'd think a few of the gentler plants would have a hard time tolerating the salt.

  • JodieDownUnderJodieDownUnder Moderator Mid North Coast AustraliaPosts: 897 admin

    @greyfurball I think you're on a winner with this. Mother nature designed plants to get on and grow with each other and mingle. It's us humans that like a more ordered existence, rows of one crop, one bed of this, one of that! Interplanting with different varieties that grow in the same season in the same bed makes tonnes of sense. I've got strawberries, leeks and lettuce in one bed, onions, rocket and peas in another and so on. I use to be the one row, one bed girl but I've had an attitude adjustment !

  • toreytorey Moderator Posts: 3,073 admin

    @greyfurball What a great idea to mix the cayenne with flour! Going to give it a try. As soon as it stops raining. :)

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 803 ✭✭✭✭

    @greyfurball that is awesome to mix the cayenne and flour but I bet you have to be upwind when you apply it lol. It's often windy where I am so I would really have to be careful but I think I'll give it a go as well. Regarding the salt, is it enough to be concerned about build up in the soil over time? I just love all the experiments everyone does because we all try different things so it saves us YEARS of trying to get a particular issue right 😁

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭


    yes I had thought of that too but since the cabbage worm/looper/fly season is relatively short, I will not continue this after I do not see the white butterfly anymore. So since it is only being done for a short time I can only hope (and test later) that the salt won't become an issue.

    Also, after I pull every crop, before I replant, I always add a few inches of fresh planting soil/compost etc. so the old soil is always getting regenerated with fresh soil anyway.

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭

    Update to everyone...@seeker.nancy , @torey , @jodienancarrow , @shllnzl and @Merin Porter

    For an update, it is funny how it is working. The mixed bed of all kinds of plants is still gorgeous. Cabbage are getting big and filling out nicely, tomatoes are growing better than anywhere else I have them in my garden, the spices inter-mixed in the bed are being harvested consistently, the onions have all been pulled already since they were ready etc. etc. This whole bed has looked beautiful and is producing wonderful.

    The second bed they are in is all brassicas. So kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts were all inter-mixed in this bed. Again everything is doing well but the plants aren't quite as nice looking as the mixed bed (above). It's obvious the cabbage did like the mixture from other types of plant families.

    Both of those beds have been maintained with just the salt and flour/cayenne mixture.

    The third bed I have is doing absolutely horrible. It is in a different part of the garden. I have a garden box made in three layers like stair steps. Each step has 6 boxes where I filled each box with soil and then placed one cabbage plant per box. The entire big outer box is all sitting directly on the soil line at the bottom. Around the entire box then I planted a strawberry bed on three sides.

    Now this one, the top row (6 plants) has performed/grown very slowly and very poorly. The transplants were added to their box about 5 inches tall. These plants are still no bigger than 8" and have filled out very little.

    The second row (another 6 plants, one in each box) have done better than the top but nothing even close to what I am used to seeing in performance.

    The third row (the row which sits directly on the soil line) has grown and filled out very well. I actually have to continuously trim them down by removing lower leaves because these plants have grown so big and widened so much they cover up at least 50% of the berry patch right below them.

    As for insect/disease control... there might as well be one big sign there because these plants (all 18 of them) are being chewed up alive. Same flour/cayenne mixture and salt control methods being used and none of it is working to help these plants.

    I just read something yesterday which I have never known before but it said cabbages DO NOT like to be grown near strawberries. So maybe the problem with these plants are the closeness of the berries. Or maybe it is something else. But I am pretty sure I can rule out there is more bugs at that location than any of the others in my garden.

    So the moral here never plant berries near cabbage plants. 2nd cabbage do like to be intermixed with other plant families and 3rd is the flour/cayenne mix and the salt in the center only do seem to work since two of my beds are doing well with it. The third bed, those plants are so stressed that the bugs are on holiday in that bed.

    But the funny thing, the berries surrounding the cabbage bed look great.

    I'll have to try something different there next year since the strawberry bed is permanent.

  • JodieDownUnderJodieDownUnder Moderator Mid North Coast AustraliaPosts: 897 admin

    @greyfurball thanks for the update, glad you had some joy. I'm going to give that flour/cayenne a go. What's the ratio you use?

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭

    @jodienancarrow my recipe is 1 cup of flour (I used white flour because I want to get rid of it. I don't use it in my kitchen) but I know you can use others if you wish to try it. Then stir in 2 tablespoons of cayenne powder. Do not apply to a wet plant because it all just gums up and then it's pretty worthless.

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