Winter Preps, Mighty Broccoli And Death To Cabbage Whites

feb vegie patchAside from keeping everything alive with regular watering and feeding, our most pressing job is sowing and planting the winter food garden. No mean feat when it’s hot and dry.

Planting Tips For Hot Days

Winter Staples

A few brassicas planted out every month from now on bring a steady supply to your dinner table from Autumn on. Leeks planted this month arrive at your table in spring. Carrots and parsnips sown now provide root crops when you want them most – autumn and winter.

The Difference That Shade Makes

leafy green shade house

In the shade means either on the shady side of tall plants or inside a simple shade house of your own making. What a difference a bit of shade makes to your seedlings when the sun beats down!

It means crops can grow steadily onwards, as opposed to constantly recovering from dehydration. Simply drape shadecloth or hessian over cloche hoops, letting some breeze flow through. If you don’t have cloche hoops then bang a few short stakes in the ground up the centre of the bed and at the ends and drape the shadecloth over these. Rocks or tent pegs will secure the ends and stop the cloth escaping next door when its windy.

Grow Some Mighty Brassica!

romanesco

The trick to good heads is fertile soils – a lupin green crop prior to planting is a cracker of a beginning. Also give each plant their own pool of nutrient by getting your spacings right (the instructions on seed packets are there for a reason!) It’ll be 30 – 45cm depending on variety.

I prepare all my brassica beds with the broadfork to open the soil up so the roots can go straight down, as opposed to going sideways where they’ll compete for nutrients.

Grow your seedlings to atleast 5 leaves before planting out, this way they’ve got a fighting chance against all the molluscs. Plant them deep so the leaves are just above soil level – they’ll put new roots out from the stalk, pegging them securely and making them less floppy. Give a lovely slow generous soak at planting, mulch well and check soil moisture once a week if there has been no rain.

Brassica’s love rotten manure. Incorporate some into your initial bed preparation and side dress a few times through the growing season; or liquid feed weekly with your magic pooh brew.

Two ways to Manage Cabbage Whites

Derris dust alert! Let’s stop with the Derris Dust. I know its easy. I know Grandma used it. But it’s super toxic! Rotenone, the active ingredient in Derris dust is a neurotoxin (why would ya go there) and fatal to many of our important beneficial insects – parasitic wasps, ladybirds and dragonflies to name a few. Canada has outlawed the use of it on gardens and looks like USA is going the same way.

1. BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) is your friend in the war on cabbage whites. It’s the active ingredient in Kiwicare’s Organic Caterpillar Control, and Yates Natures Way Caterpillar Killer. For bigger gardens you’ll need more than these packs. Farmlands sell a commercial pack of Dipel. Bit spendy but maybe go splits with a mate?

Mix it up and spray it all over your brassicas (fortnightly to keep up with the egg hatchings). BT only impacts those that eat the leaves (which is what makes it safe for bees, ladybugs and all our other friends), they’ll suffer a bad tummy ache and shortly thereafter meet their maker. Keep this job on your radar until the heat subsides and the cabbage whites disappear late autumn.

2. Insect Mesh, the same fine mesh that keeps psyllids out will keep the moths (yes it is a moth, not a butterfly!) from laying eggs on your precious cabbages, there by preventing the caterpillars in the first place.

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