If you are growing your own greens, such as Kale, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, Or Chard, I am going to level with you- at some point you are going to find a worm in your pot. No matter how many times you wash them and how thoroughly you pick over the greens at some point you will miss one. Don’t worry, the meal is not ruined, just fish the little guy out and dump him in the compost bin. I just want you to know what you are getting into when you start growing your own organic greens.
Probably 95% of the time, the worms on your greens will be cabbage loopers.
Description: The caterpillar (larva) grows to be about 2 inches long, is light green and has three pairs of “true” legs behind the head plus pairs of fleshy “false legs” (prolegs) on the 3rd, 4th and last or 6th segments behind the segment with the last pair of true legs (the abdominal segments). This arrangement of legs causes the caterpillar to crawl with a “looping” motion, similar to that of inchworms. Some specimens are marked with light stripes along the body. Adult moths are mottled grayish-brown with a 1 1/2 inch wingspan. Each forewing is marked near its center with a pair of characteristic silver markings: a spot and a mark resembling a “V” or and “8” with an open end.
This article from Texas A&M goes on to say that the worms are “medically harmless” meaning that you can boil them in your pot and be fine. You could even eat one and be fine. I must say that unless I find myself in the Outback of Australia with Tom Selleck having just been saved from death by the Aborigines, I am not eating worms on purpose. But, it is nice to know that no one will die if it happens while eating organic Kale from my garden.
You can control the worms organically with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). This is a bacteria that makes the worms sick and either kills them or causes them to stop eating- which will result in death. This bacteria only effects worms, so the lady bugs and other “good guys” in the garden are safe and will not be harmed. But, of course, this should not be used in a butterfly garden as it will kill all worms, caterpillars included. Bt will also kill tomato horn worms and other pests like these. Chickens will also control the worms but the downside to this program is that the chickens will eat more Kale then the worms.
Also, you need to know that just because your Kale or other greens may have been chewed on by worms, it is not ruined. Just pick the munched on leaf and chop it up as usual. Once cooked, you will never know the difference.
You should be growing greens, by the way. They are nutrient dense, easy to grow and like cool weather. This means that in Texas, we can grow the from August/September until May or June. I have greens such as Chard, Kale, and Spinach in my garden almost year round. So, put them on your “must have” list for the seed order. You will be glad you did!
Don’t worry about a few holes. If you garden organically, you will have some.