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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Brassicas & Preparing for the Big Caterpillar Squish

Broccoli seedlings
I've tried to grow brassicas for the past two years and have pretty much failed. It's those dreadful white cabbage moths. And as I've mentioned on a few occasions here, I'm lazy. So I didn't do too much to save them. I did scatter about some eggshells which was supposed to trick the territorial moths into thinking they had a lot of competition and lay their eggs elsewhere. Didn't work. What I mostly did was got very cross when I saw lots of those little caterpillars all over the cauliflower leaves and I squished them. But I'm a bit squeamish. So I wasn't a very diligent squisher. And I squished them with my gardening gloves on or between two leaves because I didn't want to get caterpillar squish on my soft city fingers. 

I attempted to persuade the Monkey Boys to help me squish them but they were also too squeamish. What's the point of having Monkey Boys if they won't help you do erky jobs like squishing garden creepy crawlies that are eating your potential dinner? I thought all little boys liked doing that sort of thing? When I was a little girl I distinctly remember the boy from the tennis club happily pulling wings off flies to our squeals of horror. And I remember Michael Walsh from grade 2 removing the goldfish from the tank and squishing it dry. Actually, maybe he wasn't the one who squished the goldfish but he definitely did spit on his hands before he had to hold mine in the compulsory, tummy-pain-inducing, Friday morning bush dancing class. I tried to avoid boys for much of my childhood. And some of my adulthood if truth be known! Anyway, I digress...

... I have to do something about those moths and their munching caterpillar offspring if we are to enjoy some winter veg. Because I am determined to give brassicas one last good go. It is now autumn (my second least favourite season) and I have a couple of trays of seedlings I've managed to grow inside ready to soon be planted in my new veggie patch (yep I dug up a new patch when we relocated the kids' slide for the chook house). 

I'm thinking of planting all the brassicas together and covering them with a big mosquito net that I've been storing under my bed for just such a purpose. But Jackie French reckons it's not a good idea to plant them altogether - a magnet for pests she says.  She suggests mixing them with lots of other companion plants and flowers that'll be distracting.  Hmm that starts to make my crop rotating plans even more confusing.  However she also suggest that you let a couple of the brassicas go to seed because the pests will feed and lay eggs on them because they're lazy too.  That sounds more my style. 

14 comments:

  1. I would do anything that Jackie French said, just because I think she is very cool. If you don't like squishing the caterpillars, maybe you could throw them to the chickens? I do that... I also have a lovely butterfly net that the boys very unsuccessfully chase the moths around with...

    Hmm... I'm not very helpful, am I!

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  2. Yes, Ali, the butterfly net is a winner....my children catch loads in it...I make them let them go, but that is beside the point!
    I planted nasturtiums, ( is that how you spell it?) amongst my cabbages and caulies etc and that seemed to work a treat..........

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  3. Yep I think you're right Ali, Jackie French knows everything! Now if I were to get the caterpillars to the chickens I'd have to touch them and that is making me squirm! I think I have a problem with squishy little caterpillars, I wouldn't be able to get them wearing my gloves. Maybe I could use tweezers! I don't deserve a garden do I?!
    Suzanne thanks for the nasturtium suggestion. I have some seeds of these flowers so will definitely try.

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  4. HOw many more posts will be tagged "erky things boys do" I wonder :) You could always try Dipel. It's an organic spray specifically targetted at caterpillars and it does work. Of course that means having to them which I admit I haven't done yet, so mine are full of holes.....

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  5. Veggiegobbler, I have THE solution to this one. Last year I covered my brassicas with an old mosquito net. My cabbages etc. were PERFECT. I planted some Kale outside of the net and it was well and truly gobbled up. I will be doing the same this year. Net curtain from the Op shop will do the same job.

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  6. I tried nasturtiums last year but they seemed to just provide more food for the 'pillars, so now I pick them off and give them to the chooks. Once you get over the ick factor they're kind of nice to hold, all soft and squidgy. ;)

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  7. Being a "Boy", I don't mind squishing caterpillars. It's less humiliating than decorating my plot with net curtains! :)

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  8. Looked up my Jackie French book and she lists a lot of suggestions - interplanting companions, squishing, netting and Dipel. I plant marigolds in with the corners of the beds. The smell keeps lots of bugs away.

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  9. Ha Funkbunny I'm sure I can make that tag work for me! Yep the Dipel it is time I got some.
    Thanks Hazel I'm going to attempt that mosquito net.
    Kat you're grossing me out!
    Mark, being a girl I'm thinking of how nice that mosquito net will look in my garden. Maybe I'll even tizz it up further with some bells and ribbons.
    Thanks Missy. Now I have lots of advice.

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  10. I'm with Hazel. This year I'll be covering mine with netting as well. Less work than squishing!!! I tried Nasturtiums - it reduced the number but didn't get rid of them. Bring on the ribbons and go with the netting!
    Staci

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  11. Oh I have just been reading "carrots love tomatoes" and Loise Riotte says to plant thyme amongst your cabbages or other brassicas to repel cabbage moth. You should be able to grow thmye in your area. I cant grow thynme, but then I cant grow cabbages either.....

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  12. Yuck I know! I've got eggs all over my sprouting broccoli already :( Am going to go get netting tomorrow. Darn things!!

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  13. Last year I planted my first, really serious, organic companion planting vegetable garden. My planting began in early April, which is Autumn for us in Australia of course and I put in cabbage and broccoli as well as carrots and an assortment of other winter veggies. From the onset I was fighting the caterpillars, with the cabbage moths relentless in their laying of eggs. It was not uncommon to see an angry middle aged woman chasing cabbage moths around the garden in fury! of 24 cabbages I had about 4 I considered edible, only one really perfect one. The broccoli leaves were savaged, but with daily squishings I managed to save the heads and they were lovely. This year my thumb turned brown after the summer crop though and my heart wasn't in it for a while. I prepared the soil ok and planted more broccoli, spinach, silverbeet, beetroot and carrots, but the snails this time attacked all of the spinach and all but two of the broccoli and all the sprouting carrots, killing them overnight, so that really killed my enthusiasm. I stopped looking at them, except to pluck silverbeet that seemed to have escaped mostly unscathed, but the soil was good and the rain was enough for the garden to manage on it's own and one day I noticed the only 2 broccoli that survived the snails were growing heads, but more than that... the leaves were not touched! We had the driest July in Perth history and no cabbage moths? The reason for this is a mystery? Had I somehow achieved a natural balance? I have no idea? All I know is I ran out to buy more seedlings and planted them and not even the snails have touched them so far! I hope my luck continues!

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  14. Further to my last post about my veggie garden being left alone this year by caterpillars: I've seen a couple of cabbage moths doing the rounds over the last few days. The first I watched as it examined a couple of plants and moved on out of the veggie garden, but the next one I saw was doing the rounds of my established broccoli and Kale plants as well as my young broccoli merrily depositing eggs. I saw red and swatted his pretty little head in. Hmmm, maybe that's why there's not so many around? lol. I have to admit I felt rather mean swatting such a pretty insect, but as I went around squishing all the deposited eggs I felt I was justified. Stay away from my veggies and you won't have a problem evil critters! I welcome the potters wasps, they feed caterpillars to their babies and also pollinate your flowers. They're not interested in us, so don't let them worry you.

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