Row Cover as an Insect Barrier

It ain’t pretty but it works.

As one would expect, cabbage leaf worms love cabbage and nearly every other member of the brassica species.  Which  is why I’ve become a real fan of row cover material as an insect barrier.

The perp in question.

It rarely freezes here so I use the thinnest row cover possible, specifically a product called Agribon-15. If you live in a cooler climate and want to use row cover for frost protection you would use a thicker product such as Agribon-30. Johnny’s Select Seeds carries Agribon row cover in lengths as short as 50 feet–plenty for an urban or suburban garden. I’ve used both PVC pipe and chain link fence tension wire as support. I secure the row cover down with pieces of rebar and bricks to keep out skunks.

What cabbage worms become.

It’s not a plug and play solution, however. If it gets hot I have to remember to pull the row cover off. And the added humidity can cause outbreaks of aphids. But overall, it works great. I’ve found that I just need to use it when tender seedlings are getting established. Once they have a fighting chance against the cabbage worms I can pull it off.

Leave a comment


  1. Since I live in a full four seasons area, I always wondered if one could grow crops any time of the year in a warm place… such as yours.

    Can you ?

    New reader ;o)

    • Where are you exactly? Here in Los Angeles we have a cool season and a warm season. Many seeds only sprout within certain temperature ranges. So even though our climate is mild you still have to time plantings correctly. Radishes are about the only thing you can plant at anytime.

    • Thanks for your answer.

      I’m in the “Belle Province” of Quebec, Canada, where we can enjoy, among many other sweet things, temperature peaks of minus 95 degrees during winter and over 95 degrees in summer. Spring and fall last for about 11 to 13 weeks each, during which we can, of course, prepare and plant seeds or harvest and get ready for winter.

    • I should mention that length of day is also important to many vegetables. Another reason timing is important. Someone in your part of Quebec has probably put out a guide to when to plant. If not ask a local gardener or farmer. I like to say that all gardening is local. And good luck!

  2. I have childhood memories of those green caterpillars in the broccoli my dad grew. Yuck.

    We live in a cold climate, but we harvest our cabbage and related crops before a killing frost. During the summer, we cover them with the inexpensive netting sold at fabric stores. It’s barely visible, but the holes are sufficiently small that the moths can’t get in. I buy it when it’s on sale or I’ve got a %-off coupon, so I rarely pay more than 50 cents a yard and if I’m careful, I can use it for two seasons before it’s too fragile.

  3. One cabbage worm deterrent I accidentally discovered is cilantro. Grow cilantro in between your brassicas. It seems to confuse the cabbage white butterflies and we get far fewer worms. It helps if you start the cilantro earlier than the brassicas so that the cilantro already has a head start before the brassicas sprout.

    Alternatively you can sprout great bunches of the cilantro and transplant it into place as you plant the brassicas. The cilantro has a taproot so you have to be careful in moving it, but it is pretty tolerant. Cilantro also seems to like to grow in bunches, several plants nestled together, which makes an easier task for the gardener doing the transplanting since the tiny plants are kind of fiddly.

    • Joanne,
      I love hearing what to plant together, companion plants. Since I think I can rememver facts or where I heard a good idea, I have let lots of information slip through my fingers. So, I have a book where I write down any good idea on any subject. for cabbage worms.”

      Thanks for that picture. I would have just thought it was a pretty butterfly and let it ruin my garden.

    • I’m excited to hear about the cilantro too. I will have to try that in the spring. My cabbages just get ravaged by cabbage worms every year. Thank you!

  4. I’ve been using remay, a similar product, sold by the yard at our local nursery. In spring I use it to protect just sown seeds in our vegetable beds. I sow the seeds and then either lay the fabric right on the soil, or support it in a few places with 3-5″ tall plant marker sticks. Remove it or support it above the seedlings when they start to emerge. I secure it against the wind with metal anchors (the kind for drip irrigation). For hoops I’ve been using pieces of 12×12 metal grid (sold in building yards for reinforcing concrete slabs). The grid comes in rolls, so it’s already arched, and I can reach into the 12×12 squares easily. I tie the remay onto it and it makes a lovely little greenhouse over lettuce, beets and carrots in the cold months. Leave lots of room for air to circulate. I really love this stuff – its so versatile and helps the garden transition between extremes, which we have here in northern california.

  5. Pingback: Bird Netting as a Cabbage Leaf Caterpillar Barrier | Root Simple

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