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.
Covering a beetroot layer with sand in the partially buried plastic box. The leaves have be twisted off and are ready for the compost. The patch is beside the leeks, from where the garlic crop was harvested in September last.
The beetroot patch needs to be cleared, before it can be dressed with mature compost and wood ash. This is where the garlic cloves will be planted shortly – and so the ‘roots’ patch gives way to the ‘allium’ patch in the 4 year organic vegetable rotation system.
Digging up the mature ‘Jannis’ beetroots , sown on 3rd May last, is very easy with a fork. The main priority is not to damage them. Last year I bottled most of the beetroot harvest. I still have a jar of pickled beetroot or two left from that time! So this time, I will store them in a way suggested by TV celeb gardener and writer, Alys Fowler, at the GIY Gathering in Waterford in September last.
First, a suitable plastic container is retrieved from the attic with a lid to ensure rain cannot enter. Then a bag of horticultural sand is found in the shed. Builders’ sand will do also. A hole to fit the shape is dug in a vacant piece of soil to sink the box about three quarters down. Some sand is poured in to cover just the base of the box. Then the leaves are twisted off the beetroots and the beets are laid like chocolates in a box, not touching each other! Another layer of sand covers these and another layer of beetroots is arranged carefully and so on until the box is capped off with a final layer of sand. The rain proof lid is all that is seen in the end above ground, with a rock on top to prevent the wind uncovering the beetroot bounty.
When retrieving beetroots for a meal, from month to month ahead, a cursory inspection ensures no rotting is going on. Any rotting beets need to be whipped out and assigned to the compost bin. One way to prevent rotting is to harvest the beetroots on a dry day so the soil can be more easily rubbed off the beets before they are put in storage.
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’.
Hoeing between rows of leaf beet with my trusty swan necked hoe, a quick but therapeutic daily practise. Available from http://www.fruithillfarm.com.
Atlast, the whole garden is planted and crops are growing in their final positions in each bed. I use a swan neck hand hoe bought at the Organic Centre, Co Leitrim, and sometimes a long handled oscillating hoe and another Dutch hoe on a daily basis almost. Preventing weed seedlings taking a hold is the main reason for hoeing regularly. However, even if no weeds were coming up, I would still hoe to deter slug movements. The slime trails laid down by slugs are used again and again by other slugs which generally lead all nearby slugs to your prized salads and other vulnerable crops. The hoe wrecks these slime trails which are virtually invisible to the human eye. Hence the obsession with hoeing even when there are no weeds to be seen.
This year, I had the hoe with me for measuring purposes as I planted out leeks, leaf beet and beetroot seedlings. The rows of each crop are therefore spaced just far enough apart to allow me to hoe each separating corridor of soil. So far, so good, the slugs are getting the message. I expect they are slithering far away to where they will not be disturbed by this obsessive slug-road-wrecker – c’est moi!