How to Keep Caterpillars Away from Vegetable Gardens

Written by axl j. amistaadt
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How to Keep Caterpillars Away from Vegetable Gardens
Stop caterpillars from eating your vegetable garden without using toxins. (cabbage image by Marius Lazin from

Keeping caterpillars away from your vegetable garden doesn't have to involve poisonous chemicals. You can employ effective pest-management techniques to prevent infestations without the use of toxins that are harmful to your family and to the environment. Prevent caterpillar infestations before they begin to avoid dealing with the nasty little beasties and the damage they inflict.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sunflower, carrot, celery, parsley, anise, dill or caraway seeds or seedlings
  • Blooming annuals plants
  • Flowering perennial plants
  • Wood chips, grass clippings, compost, hay, leaves or sawdust mulch
  • Scissors
  • Paper cups, food cans or milk cartons
  • Insecticidal soap
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 quart hot water
  • Row covers

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  1. 1

    Start your vegetable garden as early as possible. Water and fertilise properly throughout the season. The faster and healthier these plants grow, the more resistant they will be to insect predation. Choose pest-resistant varieties whenever they're available. Weed your vegetable garden conscientiously to deprive destructive insects and caterpillars of hiding places.

  2. 2

    Intersperse companion plants attractive to beneficial insects throughout your vegetable garden. These predators feed on caterpillars or the moths and butterflies that produce them. Many common plants offer favoured shelter sites and hiding places for them. Hover flies and parasitic wasps love tall sunflowers. Plant members of the Umbelliferae family, including carrots, celery, parsley, anise, dill, and caraway to attract hover flies, tachinid flies and parasitic wasps.

  3. 3

    Border your vegetable garden with attractive blooming annual plants that produce pollen and nectar as readily available food sources for beneficial predators. These natural products draw the attention of ground beetles, hover flies, flower bugs, big-eyed bugs, tachinid flies and parasitic wasps. Add flowering perennials to the immediate vicinity and adjacent areas to provide year-long havens for both adult and nymph assassin bugs.

  4. 4

    Mulch your vegetable plants with 1 to 2 inches of wood chips, grass clippings, compost, hay, leaves or sawdust when they're about 4 to 6 inches tall. Mulch provides hiding places for predatory beetles, as well as soil and root benefits for your plants.

  5. 5

    Use scissors to cut the bottoms from paper cups, food cans or milk cartons to create collars for seedlings. Trim them to about 4 inches in height. Encircle a plant with a collar and press it into the soil about 1 inch deep. These will prevent damage to tender young stems from caterpillars. They'll also offer protection from digging and burrowing pests.

  6. 6

    Spray your vegetable garden regularly with insecticidal soap. This material repels many insects, preventing them from laying caterpillar-producing eggs on your plants. Following the packaging instructions carefully.

  7. 7

    Add 1 tablespoon of molasses to a quart of hot water. Spray the solution on the vegetable plants once weekly to repel moths and butterflies.

  8. 8

    Spread row covers over young vegetable plants to prevent moths and butterflies from laying their eggs on them.

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