Holes in Cabbage Plant Leaves? [What needs to do]

Gardening is both therapeutic and rewarding. But there are pesky bugs that can wreak havoc on your vegetables. It can be disheartening to walk out to your garden to harvest your beautifully grown cabbage for salad or soup and realize it looks like green Swiss cheese.

Holes in cabbage plant leaves indicate they may suffer from dreaded cabbage worms. Aside from cabbage worms, beetles, snails, and slugs also dine on cabbage leaves, creating leaf holes. Diatomaceous earth and neem oil are often used in the garden to control these pests.

Gardening can be enough work, and throwing insects in the mix can prove even more challenging. This article will explore the insects causing holes in cabbage leaves and the methods to try to eliminate the problem.

Cabbage Seeds (Copenhagen Market) | Cabbage Seeds for Planting Outdoor Gardens | Heirloom & Non-GMO | Planting Instructions Included

Bugs That Cause Holes in Cabbage Leaves

Many insects can cause problems when growing cabbage. Leaves with holes are still edible, but it’s understandable to prefer the whole leaf.

Some of the insects and bugs that enjoy fine dining on your cabbage plants include the following:

The Dreaded Cabbage Worms

  • Cabbage worms are caterpillars that turn into what is called cabbage white butterflies. These butterflies flutter around your cabbage plants and lay eggs on the underside of the leaves.
  • The eggs then hatch into many baby caterpillars that are light green, and they feed off of your cabbage leaves until they make their cocoon for transformation.
  • A vicious cycle can become a massive problem with your cabbage crops. Wisconsin Horticulture names this pest the biggest pest to cole farmers in the Wisconsin area.

The Atrocious Appetite of Aphids

  • These little guys won’t just wreak havoc on your cabbage plants. They can destroy an entire garden of crops. Battling these tiny creatures can have you pulling out your hair and wanting to throw in the towel.
  • Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied bugs in different colors but commonly seen in light green or yellowish. They are vampires to plants by sucking all the nutrients from the plant liquid. They will cover the underside of the leaves and stems of your entire plant if left untreated.

The Cabbage Flea Beetle

  • Perhaps you haven’t heard of these little guys, but you should familiarize yourself with the cabbage flea beetle.
  • These tiny black beetles can work quickly, damaging your leaves by scraping away the delicious nutrients and leaving behind small, unsightly holes. This pest is spread across America, from Alaska to New York.
  • They lay their eggs on the outer underside of leaves, and the eggs hatch at ideal temperatures in a matter of days.

Copenhagen Market Early Cabbage Seeds, 300 Heirloom Seeds Per Packet, (Isla's Garden Seeds), Non GMO Seeds, Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea

Slimy Snails and Slugs

  • These squishy, slimy creatures can both benefit and destroy gardens. They help your garden by feeding off the dead garden detritus, and their feces creates a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for your plants to absorb. However, inviting these bugs into your garden is not always a good idea.
  • Slugs and snails feed on crops like cabbage, lettuce, and cucumbers. They are quite destructive land mollusks. The holes in your cabbage leaves could very well be from these slimy nuisance bugs.

Earwigs and Their Destruction

  • Earwigs have a healthy appetite, not just for the vegetables in your garden. They also devour the plants in your beautifully landscaped yard. Once you know what they look like, you’ll never forget them because they are one of the creepiest-looking bugs you’ll find in your garden.
  • Earwigs have long soft bodies with big pinchers that resemble crab claws at their tail. As I said, creepy. But the benefit to these bugs being around your garden is they enjoy dining on other soft-bodied bugs such as aphids that destroy your crops and plants.

Also read: Cabbage Leaves Turning Brown? [Causes & Cares]

Ways To Deter Bugs Causing Holes in Cabbage Leaves

  • Typically, the first thought for controlling any pest problem in your garden is to run out and buy an insecticide to eliminate all the problematic bugs.
  • However, there are other options from a natural approach that won’t harm your soil, crop, or you when you feast on your yield. These methods have been around and used by farmers and gardeners for ages, so they shouldn’t be overlooked.

Some of the methods used in the garden are the following:


When using liquid to treat your cabbage or other plants should be done during the early morning or evening to prevent burning the leaves. Any soap used in these methods should be non-toxic and not contain chemicals such as chlorine or boron. You should heavily dilute your soap with water to make it safe and prevent build-up in the soil.

Using Diatomaceous Earth in Your Garden

  • Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a natural powder that is versatile with many uses around your home and homestead. It’s a powder form of silica, clay materials, iron oxide, and fossilized diatoms.
  • Diatoms are hard-shelled microalgae that create an abrasive material when ground down.
  • This formula creates an abrasive material that cuts the exoskeleton of insects and dries them out until they die.
  • Diatomaceous earth is sold in many hardware and farm supply stores across the United States and should be labeled food grade. It’s non-toxic and safe to use in your edible and ornamental gardens.
  • Give your crops a good dusting by sprinkling the powdered substance on the leaves, stems, and soil at the base of your plants.
  • Water will dissolve diatomaceous earth, so it will have to be reapplied after rainfall, so the frequency will differ depending on where you live.
  • Those that live in drier climates like Arizona may not have to reapply as often as gardeners in a wetter state like Louisiana.

Check out: Should I Cut Off Brown Hydrangea Blooms?

Copenhagen Market Early Cabbage Seeds, 300 Heirloom Seeds Per Packet, (Isla's Garden Seeds), Non GMO Seeds, Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea

Using Neem Oil for Pest Control

  • Along with DE, neem oil is a highly efficient aid in pest control for your garden. Using cold-pressed and unfiltered neem oil can kill and deter these pests from eating holes in your cabbage leaves and other crops.

The following are ways to use neem oil on your plants:

  1. Use neem oil and warm water in a spray bottle to mist down the leaves, stems, tops, and undersides.
  2. Use a cloth and a bowl with a mixture of neem oil, a few drops of dish soap, and warm water to wipe down all areas of your plants.
  3. Use a Q-Tip to dab neem oil and warm water in troubled areas.
  • Neem oil works to smother the insects and makes it harder for them to grow and lay eggs. It also has a natural chemical compound that slowly kills its internal functions, so they eventually die off.
  • Neem oil is entirely safe for you and your plants while making your plants unsafe and unattractive for those pesky buggers.

Just Plain Soapy Water

  • Some gardeners keep it simple by using warm soapy water to mist over the plant’s parts.
  • By adding only a few drops of non-toxic soap to warm water in a spray bottle, you can use suds to suffocate and rid the bugs from your cabbage and other edible plants.
  • Soap works its magic, breaking down the outer waxy layer of insects, drying them out, and killing them.

Also, have a look: Hydrangea Turning Brown? [Reasons & Cares]

Copenhagen Market Early Cabbage Seeds, 300 Heirloom Seeds Per Packet, (Isla's Garden Seeds), Non GMO Seeds, Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea

Using Fresh Herbs To Ward Away Pests

Herbs are excellent for holistic healing and natural pest control. By planting certain herbs near the cabbage and other plants, you can rest assured no outbreak of insects will be fine dining in your garden.

The following herbs are some of the great choices to plant in your garden to repel pests from destroying your cabbage and other crops:

  • Garlic
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Mint, peppermint, and spearmint
  • Rosemary.

These herbs have scents that are offensive to some of the many destructive insects attempting to reside in your garden.

Cottonseed and Soybean Oil in Your Garden

  • Cottonseed oil is highly effective in ridding a pest problem in your garden. However, soybean oil (standard vegetable oil for cooking) is easier to obtain, and you possibly already have some in your pantry.
  • By diluting these oils with warm water, you can use the solution to spray on your plants in areas bugs are feasting.
  • The oils will smother those problematic insects because insects breathe through their bodies.

Check: Philodendron Selloum Soil Mix

Resorting to Commercial Insecticides

  • Insecticides have come a long way, ridding many of the harsh chemicals previously used. However, these solutions are still not healthy for you to consume. So, if you use a chemical insecticide for your holey cabbage, ensure you thoroughly clean your crop before consuming it.
  • Insecticides function to coat the plants and be absorbed by them. Once absorbed, the solution runs through the vascular system of your plants. Those pesky insects feeding off your cabbage and other crops will be poisoned once they begin eating any part of the plant.
  • If the insects are visible on the plant when you spray, the chemicals will attack the nervous system or exoskeleton of the bugs, and they will soon die.
Holes in Cabbage Plant Leaves
Holes in Cabbage Plant Leaves

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Final Thoughts

Insects and other bugs can destroy beautifully growing crops in days. Many bugs can eat holes in your cabbage leaves, the most common being the cabbage worm and aphids. However, don’t become discouraged because there are easy ways to take back control of your garden and save your crop.

You can treat your garden with natural remedies, herbs, and diatomaceous earth. These are inexpensive ways to get a handle on your pest problem. When going natural isn’t working, you can try commercial insecticides, but be sure to clean your vegetables before eating them thoroughly.