Country Lore: Stomping Out the Cabbage Maggot

A reader describes his method of protecting cole crops from cabbage maggots by compacting the soil.

| February/March 2009

cabbage maggot - adult cabbage

Most of your cole plants will grow a robust maturity if you protect them from cabbage maggots early on.


If you garden in Canada or the northern half of the United States, you probably have another spring pest of cabbage and broccoli to contend with: the cabbage maggot.

This fly lays its eggs on the soil near young transplants; when the larvae hatch, they crawl down into the soil and feed on the transplants’ roots, weakening and even killing the plants. The aboveground symptom is wilting, which may appear to be caused by lack of water.

Arthur Dear, a reader from Thorsby, Alberta, has developed an innovative technique to prevent this damage. Basically, he sets seedlings into the ground deeply, at a 45-degree angle, so that just the leaves are above ground. Then he steps on the plant with his full weight, rolling his foot from just before the roots over the buried stem and across the partially protruding leaves. Stepping on the transplants compresses the soil around the stem, making it impossible for the cabbage maggots to crawl down along the stem to the roots.

Here are the full details of Mr. Dear’s innovative technique.

Root Maggots on Cole Crops? Try This!

Here's a growing tip for cole crops you may not have tried. For the last several years I have been using soil compression as the sole method of root-maggot control. It is a combination of transplant characteristics, planting technique, and significant soil compression around the stem and root.

I grow my transplants at high density (cabbage and Brussels sprouts 96 per 11-inch by 22-inch plug flats, and broccoli, baby kale, kohlrabi and some Asian greens in 96 clumps of three or four plants per 11-inch by 22-inch flats). They are finished off hard at about 3 inches with about three to four small leaves and relatively tough elongated stems. Some practice may be required since they are close to, but definitely not at, wire stem stage. Do not over feed. Frequent watering will be required. The plants should be skirting along just above phosphorus deficiency where the leaves will start turning purple.

7/19/2016 1:52:17 AM

These maggots can be a pain for homeowners. What's worse? Sometimes they go inconspicuous until the entire vegetable is ruined. Beneficial insects, such as parasitic wasps, can be used as a combatting agent against root maggots according to a recent post I read. The link is attached for reference.

alan sowter
4/30/2009 2:22:26 PM

We have trouble with cabbage root fly (delia brassicae) in Britain. Here you can buy brassica collers or make them yourself. I cut 6 inch squares of rubber backed carpet and punch a 1/2 inch hole in the centre. Then cut a slit from one edge to the centre hole. Plant your cabbage plant firmly and place the collar round the stem with the rubber backing upmost. The root fly will not lay eggs on the hard rubber backing. The carpet can be removed at the end of the season and reused. Hope this is of interest.

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