Perennial ‘everlasting cabbage’ protected from the cabbage white butterfly by garden netting over a frame of canes, bottles and pegs alongside a pot of mixed lettuce.
Last year I thought I would save time netting my cabbages and just inspect the underside of my brassica plants for cabbage white butterfly eggs. They are easy enough to spot, I thought, being a bright yellow colour in clumps against the cabbage green leaves. Lack of inspection time and too many leaves to inspect meant enough eggs hatched out to render my cabbage a skeleton of stalks!
Over winter, however, my trusty everlasting cabbage plants and purple sprouting broccoli recovered and grew new leaves. Now they are big and bushy once more. To prevent the tragedy of caterpillars devouring the leaves again, I have taken protective action and the cabbage is now covered with netting to keep out the cabbage white butterfly. The broccoli has recently finished and has been removed to make way for beetroot and chard.
For less than 5 euro, I bought green garden netting. First I constructed a frame of bamboos with upturned plastic bottles on top of each cane. This prevents the netting from being ripped when it is draped over the structure all around the cabbage plants. Any leaves that were in contact with the edge of the netting, I harvested. If any leaf surface is accessible to the butterfly, she will lay. If even the slightest gap in the netting exists, she will get in to the cabbage plants also. The length of netting was first draped over the cabbage from north to south. When this was secured to the ground on each side, another length of netting was draped over the bush from east to west. Again, by threading the base of the netting through a bamboo cane on the ground, the base of the netting could be pegged at the bottom to prevent any gaps being created. Clothes pegs were then handy to close off any gaps at the corners. The pegs attached easily to the bamboo uprights. I hope the photograph makes all this reasonably clear.
The cabbage white butterfly lays eggs in May/June this year. In a normal year laying could start in April. During August / September, she lays again, so don’t be caught out in the autumn! More details in the book Trevor’s Kitchen Garden, pages 49, 110, 113, 212. I’ve seen the book in many good garden centres and bookshops recently including the Book Centre in Wexford. To check where the book is available, contact the publisher www.orpenpress.com.
The bad harvest reports in the news this year prove, once again, that farming is very different from organic kitchen gardening. Not everything did well in the garden, but in general, I have to admit it was my best year ever. The brassicas suffered but are recovering now. My fault entirely, I should have covered the cabbage patch with fleece to prevent the cabbage white caterpillars making flitters of the lovely healthy green leaves. Such is life, thankfully the rainbow chard leaves have kept me going as a fall back leafy vegetable. Meanwhile, everything else has come good, more or less, apples, blackcurrants, peas, beans, beetroot, basil, parsley, potatoes etc. Leeks coming along nicely for harvesting over the winter and early spring hungry gap.
The glut at present is the Black Plum Tomato crop (Lycopersicon lycopersicon). I bought seeds from www.irishseedsavers.ie and they are described as ‘productive heirloom from Russia. A cordon, ripening from mid-August. Rich red mahogany plum-shaped fruits, delicious in salads and sauces’. The south facing greenhouse, rich soil and a regular comfrey liquid feed gave these Russian plants a good chance to produce prolifically. Glad they are good for sauces, as they will all find their way into various dishes requiring bruschetta topping
Black Plum Tomatoes on one of four plants, two in the ‘phone box’ and two more in the ‘Fingal Greens Greenhouse’. South facing garden helps tomatoes ripen fully on the cordon.
, pasta sauces and for the remainder, good old chutney. Thank you people of Russia ( and the Irish Sed Savers Association in Scarriff) for the ‘black plum tomato’.
Large White Cabbage Butterfly
This is the week when I bought an 8m x 6m garden net for €8.50 from Charlie Corr’s my local hardware shop. I need it to protect my cabbage patch from the alluring but potentially devastating cabbage white butterfly. Although this little creature is very soft on the eye, unfortunately it’s offspring are very hard on the cabbage.
I have posted a video on this site showing the cabbage patch and the whole back garden at the end of June with before and after shots showing 9 bamboo sticks, topped with 9 upside down empty plastic water bottles holding aloft the netting once it is tied at the centre supported by a central taller bamboo. This ‘net tent’ is held down by 8 old tent pegs around the edge.
Two species are worth remembering here. The Large White and the Small White. The Large lays its eggs in clusters on the underside of brassica leaves which are easy to detect and destroy if you spot them in time by rubbing them away with your thumb. The Small White differs by laying its minute eggs singly on the underside of brassica leaves. Trouble is, if you do not spot it in time, each resulting caterpillar begins its eating odyssey at the heart of a cabbage and only appears on the outer leaves when extensive damage has been done to the plant.
It is for these reasons that I bought and erected the net ( with a little help from my friends, thanks Lorcan and Ciaran). I still have to lift the edges to retrieve slugs and snails at night by torchlight before bedtime. However the net is still loose enough to not impede the watering can during the almost daily early morning watering routine.