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How to deter cabbage whitefly organically? New discoveries


Photo: Organic home grown cabbage

Photo: Organic home grown cabbage

Cabbage whitefly has been this Summer’s bane and it is causing problems this Autumn too. Cabbage whitefly are different from ordinary whitefly. When you brush against the plants, clouds of minute white winged specs fill the air. On the underside of the leaves you will notice tiny lesions which are sucking the sap out of the leaves.

The Sutherland kale resprouted well after hacking away the infected leaves – the whitefly didn’t like the nettle tea at all – but they are back with a vengeance. How can these tiny creatures cause so much damage?

In desperation I decided to look at companion planting to deter cabbage whitefly. Apparently rosemary, mint, hyssop and sage all deter cabbage whitefly. So Danny and I are beavering away taking cuttings of rosemary, mint and sage to scupper the little blighters next year. We love our brassicas so this is war. Fighting bugs with plants is fun.

Lying in bed this morning I was thinking about cabbages – as one does. We grew some enormous cabbages this year. Gorgeous, large picture book cabbages that even Mr McGregor would have been proud of. These cabbages escaped the daemon whitefly although they are in a border right beside the brassica and whitefly battle ground. Then I realised that this border was edged with shallots and garlic. A companion planting suggestion as garlic and brassicas are great friends.

So garlic and onions deter cabbage whitefly too. The border is 12’ x 10’. There is a 3’ path in between the whitefly free border and the next one. The main whitefly attack was right on the other side decreasing steadily in strength towards the central path.

I’m thinking of making a garlic tea to spray on some calabrese that are under attack in another area of the kitchen garden. Watch this space.

Incidentally, we harvested our best ever crop of garlic and shallots this year. Good meaty heads rather than the wan little heads that we’ve grown before. Considering that this border is on the shadier side of the kitchen garden, I’m delighted with the results. Companion planting has made an enormous difference to vegetable production this year.

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  1. My garden is half marigolds and half veggies, all alternated. One section has leeks, and there are tomatoes and peppers and kale and brussels sprouts interspersed, each plant surrounded by marigolds. And I have a bumper crop of whiteflies on all the brassicas. Last year is the first year I ever had the buggers, in 45 years of gardening. I think the world is changing

  2. Sue Wain

    I have had the same problem with white fly and just had to pull all my cabbages, cauliflowers and sprouts out and bin them as they were homing thousands of the little mites. Next year I am going to plant marigolds in between them as have been told that this will keep all the flys etc away. I have put them in all my hanging baskets and tubs with my other flowers and non of them have been eaten. Marigolds in between all my leafed veggies next year I think.

  3. Lying in bed this morning I was thinking about cabbages – as one does

    This made me giggle, quite a lot.

  4. I wondered what those tiny white flies were – now I know! They look like miniature butterflies, with their tiny little wings. I haven’t even had any brassicas in the patch this summer yet still I had them.

  5. Scott at Real Epicurean

    And I thought I had trouble with weevils in my flour!

  6. We had a fantastic crop of garlic this year too – apparently it’s linked to the weather, and garlic likes a really cold winter to get going properly. If it takes four weeks of snow on teh ground then I think I’m willing to have rubbish garlic next year . . .

  7. Heather Espley

    Great tips, Fiona. I’ve got some baby Hispi plants under double netting, but they are being attacked and I was wondering how long they will survive. I’ve just siphoned off a second batch of nettle tea (and cleared the neighbourhood in the process – such a pong!)so will try spraying them with that. What is your recipe for garlic tea? I’ve not heard of that before.

  8. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Okay, you got me. I’m sold. After a season of dismissing companion planting as so much gardening voodoo, I’m going on record: next year, alliums go in with the brassicas. After losing all my collards and kale — practically overnight — to god knows what six-legged menace, I figure, at the very least, that I’ve got nothing to lose.

    And I totally understand lying in bed thinking about cabbages.

  9. Well done you. The cabbage grown this year in my square foot garden was interplanted with onions and they were the best I have ever grown, very little butterfly action either. The broccoli, currently under enviromesh, will have onion sets planted around them as soon as they are available. I hadn’t thought of garlic spray for treatment but I might give it a go next year. This year’s broccoli hasn’t broccled, if you know what I mean. It has just grown branches and got taller so that may be coming out too.

  10. You are very fortunate. My broccoli, growing in the same patch as my onions was so badly infested I gave up and dug it up! Will try again next year, and try planting under a mesh.

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