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Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Caterpillar to Chook Chuck

I do so want to grow a broccoli. Or a cauliflower. But I have never had much success. Mostly because I'm new to this veggie growing business (how long do you think I'll get away with that one for?) and I keep making mistakes. And also because I am a lazy gardener.

Since I started growing stuff from seed I'm realising that I'm almost always putting seedlings in the ground too late. I have managed to get in about half the brassicas I want but there are still weeny seedlings in my little greenhouse that aren't quite ready. Purple sprouting broccoli and purple cauliflower and regular brussell sprouts. The brussell sprouts is risky but I'm thinking that home-grown stuff fried up in butter might just work. Surely someone besides me will eat them without scrunching up their monkey noses?

Actually, my real problem with brassicas is the white cabbage moth and their rotten green caterpillars that munch on the plants. I am becoming a bit less squeamish. I remember last year hunting down those green caterpillars that live on the brassicas and squishing them. But only with gloves on. I couldn't bear the thought of caterpillar squish on my fingers. In fact I couldn't even bear the thought of live, unsquished caterpillar on my fingers. This year I've grown up a bit. I have managed to pick off the caterpillars ungloved and chuck them to the chooks. Who surprisingly love a bit of caterpillar for brekkie. I say I'm surprised because I have fluffy, sometimes called "ornamental" chooks who don't seem to make much of a job of garden pests. They will give a snail the sideways stare and then move on. Fortunately, little green caterpillars seem to appeal to their delicate tastes.

But I'm not efficient enough at the caterpillar to chook chuck. My brassicas again this year are shamefully full of holes. Thing is, several weeks ago I decided my do-nothing approach had to end. I went out and bought some dipel. And it has sat in my shed ever since. I'm not quite sure what has prevented me from giving the brassicas a dose of dipel - it is an organic insecticide that my conscience will permit. I can only put it down to my garden laziness. Fortunately, I am also afflicted with a condition called blogger-do. If I blog about it, I will force myself to do it. I wouldn't want to let down the blog reading community. Once my fingers have put the nagging thought into words and then the publish button is pushed I am compelled into action. Finally.

So today I am obliged to go to the garden shed and mix up a dose of dipel to save those poor plants. Thank you again dear blog world.


15 comments:

  1. Oh dear, I know your feelings! I have the same issue and I just decided to let it go (or grow if it want's to).

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  2. My silkies do the exact same thing with snails...and worms too. Hello?? I thought chooks ate any sort of bug, but no. Caterpillars they do love, although their wyandotte friends are usually quicker to grab the 'pillars when they get tossed over the fence. Yummy, lol.

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  3. I dust, I use Derris dust...I have white moths in my garden 24/7....everywhere I look....so I am dusting big time this year....and hopefully I will not have to find the cooked green things in my broccoli this year............
    and I LOVE brussel sprouts...weird, but I do.........good luck with the plants, but do try a little dust............

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  4. Here's a tip I learnt from watching Dirtgirl World with the kids (the only kids TV show I actually enjoy!)- put egg shells around your brassica seedlings when you've cracked them in half, so the white inside faces up. The cabbage moth sees the white, and thinks another moth is there, and move on to another area. It seems to be working for the plants that have the egg shells closest to them, so I'm putting them all out there now once I've cracked them open.

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    1. Never heard of this tip before but sounds great and no pesticides!!

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  5. I feel your pain! No pest is so good as the white moth! Last year I went into battle and I think I may have come out ahead. This year I am going to try my dads molasses mixture first, then plan my next foray! Goodluck!

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  6. I know what you mean about squashing them - I cant squash the big ones. One thing I do think that works a bit is to squish the eggs and very small ones on the back of leaves. i wear gloves, never look at what's happening under there but if you run your hands under each of the leaves it should squish everything and the butterflies dont want to lay their eggs near their squished relations - well thats the theory anyway. It is quite time consuming though.... In better news though I do find if i plant them later then I get less caterpillars which bodes well for your baby seedlings.

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  7. Hi VG, I usually use derris dust too, but going to try the egg shell trick......
    I think Geese love caterpillars !!

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  8. VG, I think the only sensible option is to buy some netting. I learnt this for myself, the hard way, going through the same trials and tribulations as yourself. If you get a net with a mesh fine enough to keep the butterflies off the plants, they won't be able to lay their eggs on them, and you won't get any caterpillars. NB: make sure the net doesn't touch the plants. It is no good draping a net over the plants themselves; you have to support the net on poles or something, well clear of the plants underneath.
    I know nothing about chickens, but I reckon it might be worth trying to persuade your chooks to like snails. Why not present them with a few with their shells smashed? The chooks may be put off by the need to "open the package" to see the delicacy inside. They probably think the snail shell is a stone or something! (OK, you can tell me I'm talking rubbish now....)

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  9. I think we have all been there with caterpillars and broccolli so you are not alone. I discovered two ways over time....one is once your seedlings come up, go out everyday and you will find little white eggs on the backs of the leaves, 5 mins a day is enough to stop the caterpillars from ever happening. The other way is as mentioned above, some netting ...just a simple mosquito net draped over your seedlings will do a great job. Of course the chooks will miss the caterpillars. Have also used dipel and it does work and isn't a poison for people , so that's okay.

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  10. I am with you on squishing caterpillars bare-handed. Your plants look so healthy though you really have to do something, and now that you have committed your actions to the blog world there is no turning back.

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  11. Right I did the dipel yesterday. Alicia I have tried your eggshell trick before. But it didn't seem to work. For me. And you must remember that I am not all that diligent with my methods. I think you're right about the netting trick Mark. I've been meaning to do that - in fact last year I went looking but couldn't find any. Probably didn't look hard or diligently enough. I really must get onto it because that squirting dipel was not much fun.

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  12. Add me to the list of converts to netting. I really think that the only way is to completely stop them laying the eggs in the first place. Otherwise you can squash all you see but there are always a few lurking in the newest curled up leaves at the bottom of the stem.

    As for brussel sprouts, fresh newly picked sprouts cut in half and cooked quickly in butter and a bit of garlic (and even some finely chopped bacon for a bit of extra indulgence) are nothing like the grey, boiled for way too long brussel sprouts that seemed to be the only way they could be cooked when I was a kid. I'm sure you'll convince the monkeys!

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  13. I've been out squishy caterpillars too, but for some reason I find it rather satisfying - is that very wrong? I agree with Liz about squishy the eggs and tiny caterpillars on the back of the leaves and also with Mark on the netting. I have one lot netted (though not with particularly fine netting so some butterflies do get in, but not many) and they are doing a lot better than the unnetted ones. Having said all that, last year I gave up doing anything about them and as the season progressed and there were fewer butterflies around even the most eaten broccoli picked up and were quite productive. I didn't have any luck with the cauliflowers and only got one cabbage though.

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  14. I've been too lazy (or is that too busy with other stuff?) to net a lot of my veggies this year, but I know that it works really well, as Mark says. I use the white bird netting (I buy mine at my local Home Hardware shop by the metre) and it excludes the cabbage moths, successfully. I pin it down with irrigation pins (I think that's what they are called - they are shaped like a fine tent peg and I get them at Bunnings) and I drape the netting either over conduit or garden stakes (both from HH). The bird netting still allows bees in, when and where they are needed.

    Having said that, I didn't net my brussel sprouts (love 'em) and I've paid for that by resorting to squishing, egg hunting and one application of derris dust. If only I'd netted....!

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