Follow our progress: White Oaks Project – Part 6

Click to view previous posts: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 & Part 5

Welcome to our garden! We are Meghan & Mackenzie, a Research Associate and a Research Assistant from the Niagara College Agriculture & Environment Research and Innovation Centre. In May of 2016, we started a project in conjunction with White Oaks to turn about 4,000 square feet of scrubby, rocky, roadside turf into a lush, sustainable garden capable of supplying a small farm-to-table restaurant. Impossible? Watch and find out!

Pest Problems

Whether you are growing organically or conventionally, pest control is a major concern when it comes to maintaining the health of your plants. Pests can be anything from a minor nuisance to a major blight on your crop, and they can affect both the quality and quantity of your harvest. Knowing what pests you are likely to encounter and how to control them is vital skill to being a successful grower. With this in mind, we thought it would be best to offer a short listing of the pests we have encountered the most in our garden at White Oaks, and how we dealt with them.

Cabbage Loopers

Cabbage Loopers; Most butterflies are very beneficial to your garden as pollinators, and can be very beautiful, however there is a member of the butterfly family that is a scourge upon cabbage/kale growers throughout Ontario. Pieris rapae or the small white is a species of butterfly originally native throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa, that was accidentally introduced to North America, Australia, and New Zealand, earning it the name Imported Cabbage Looper.

Small White - Male

Photo Source

Like the name implies, it is a small creamy-white butterfly with brown or black marking on the tips of its wings. The adult butterfly is a harmless pollinator, but its larvae voraciously devour any members of the brassica family, including cabbage and kale. Appearing in late spring, females commonly lay eggs on the underside of the leaves of host plants. Eggs are small yellowish cylinders that are rounded on the top, and are ribbed along the sides. The caterpillars eat irregular holes in the membranes of the leaves between the leaf veins, and in cabbage will typically eat their way towards the heart where the plant is most tender.


 Example of caterpillar damage on kale.

Cabbage loopers can be controlled in one of two ways; either by physically removing any caterpillars and eggs you see, or by an application of BT (bacillus thuringiensis). BT is a naturally occurring bacterium found in soil that has insecticidal properties, is food-safe, and approved for organic production, and it can be found in most large hardware/home improvement stores. The best way to apply BT is to mix it with water in a spray bottle (following the instructions on the label in regards to proportions) and mix in a couple drops of unscented liquid dish soap (we used Dawn). The dish soap helps the mixture disperse more evenly across the leaves and to stick to the leaves providing better coverage. BT products are easily degraded by harsh sunlight, so early mornings are the best times for an application.


Aphids are some of the most common pests gardeners deal with, and controlling them can seem very difficult for those who don’t know how. Aphids reproduce extremely quickly, and a small infestation can very quickly turn into a massive one if left unattended, so the most important factor for controlling aphids is to realize you have aphids before they become a serious problem. Larger populations can still be dealt with, however it’s always easier to control pests when there are less of them, so try to spend at least 20 minutes each day looking through your garden throughout the early spring and into summer.


Photo Source

Aphids are what is called a soft-bodied insect, meaning they don’t have a hard exoskeleton like most insects do. This means that aphids are very susceptible to sprays like insecticidal soaps and alcohols. We had a small infestation of aphids on one of our tomato plants which with dealt with by mixing a small amount of rubbing alcohol into insecticidal soap and spraying the mixture onto the aphids. If using this method try to spray early in the morning without intense sunlight, or on an overcast day, as the alcohol will cause your plants to dry out a little, and that combined with a full day of harsh sunlight could cause damage to your crop.

Keep up to date on Meghan & Mackenzie’s progress by following and by using the hashtag #growwithniagara