Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

In the Garden: Netting helps keep pests away from cabbage family crops

It’s easy to keep insects away from cabbage family crops by covering the plants with bridal veil netting, or tulle, as shown, or a floating row cover. (Susan Mulvihill / The Spokesman-Review)
It’s easy to keep insects away from cabbage family crops by covering the plants with bridal veil netting, or tulle, as shown, or a floating row cover. (Susan Mulvihill / The Spokesman-Review)

Cabbage family crops are some of the tastiest veggies a gardener can grow. Often referred to as brassicas or cole crops, examples include arugula, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, radish, rutabaga and turnip.

All of these are considered cool-season crops, which means they should be planted in the spring once the soil is dry and crumbly. But there are a few exceptions on the timing of the plantings. The seeds of all of the crops listed above – except for broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower – can be direct-sown in the garden around April 15.

Start broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower from seed indoors around April 1. Wait until mid-May before transplanting those seedlings into the garden.

The most frustrating thing about growing members of the cabbage plant family is that they tend to be bug magnets. It’s common for aphids, cabbage worms and slugs to chow down on the vegetables you were planning to enjoy during future meals. Don’t let those critters keep you from growing them, however, because there are simple ways of dealing with them organically.

My favorite tool is floating row cover. This lightweight fabric lets in sunlight and moisture. When placed over these crops, it acts as a physical barrier to keep insects away. In this case, it prevents aphids and cabbage butterflies – the adult form of cabbage worms – from gaining access to the plants. Floating row cover is available at large garden centers and online.

An alternative to floating row cover is tulle, which is bridal veil netting. There are two things I like about it: The more open mesh allows for better air circulation – which cabbage family crops benefit from – and it’s easier to see through. That way, you can more easily check on the plants without having to uncover them. Fabric stores sell tulle by the yard, or you can buy it in bulk online.

For each of these covers, I place them over hoops that span my raised beds and weight down the covers so they won’t blow off on a breezy day. The covers go on as soon as I’ve planted my seeds or seedlings and remain in place all season since cabbage family crops don’t need to be pollinated.

Slugs can be an annoying problem for many types of plants. They are nocturnal and happily eat the plants’ leaves while no one is watching.

Organic slug baits, such as Sluggo, can be sprinkled onto the soil surface around your seedlings. Another option is to make a beer trap. Push an empty cat food or tuna can into the soil until the can’s lip is even with the soil surface. Fill the can about halfway with beer. Attracted by the smell of the yeast, slugs fall in and drown.

Another organic method involves the use of Corry’s Slug & Snail Copper Tape, which is easy to find at garden centers. The reason this product works is because the skin of slugs and snails reacts electrically to copper, so it creates a barrier that slugs won’t cross.

Make 4-inch-diameter hoops with the paper-backed tape, and encircle the base of each of your seedlings with a hoop. To make sturdier hoops, cut 1 1/2-inch lengths of 3-inch-diameter plastic drain pipe. Remove the paper backing from the copper tape and attach it to the outer perimeter of those plastic rings.

There is something so satisfying about enjoying homegrown cabbage family vegetables that the insects didn’t get to first.

Learn more about growing cabbage family crops in this week’s “Everyone Can Grow a Garden” video at

Contact Susan Mulvihill at

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.