The Land Rover Owners Wife

Undercover Crops


Kohl Rabi, Lollo Rosso and Chicory (Radicchio)

Kohl Rabi, Lollo Rosso and Chicory (Radicchio)

A few weeks ago I planted out some of my greenhouse seedlings into one of the raised beds and covered them with two layers of netting. First there was the ‘inner’ layer which was a solitary piece of enviromesh which we had bought a few years ago but Mud didn’t like the look of the white netting against the greens and browns of the garden, so it had been consigned to storage. This netting was then covered by the usual ‘greenhouse shading’ type netting that covers the beds containing my root vegetables and is a much more aesthetically pleasing dark green.

Two layers may seem a tad over the top but these seedlings were cabbage, Kohl Rabi, Chicory (Radicchio) and Lollo Rosso, all of which, you may or not be aware, are favourite snack items of the Cabbage White caterpillars. The devastation a few caterpillars can cause to a bed of crops, in virtually no time at all, is staggering and soul destroying. Without the use of netting, gardeners have little choice than to either spray chemicals over their plants, or to spend hours checking every single leaf, squishing butterfly eggs when found or painstakingly removing every single caterpillar, in the hopes that some part of their crop survives the attack.

One of my 2 surviving cabbages

One of my 2 surviving cabbages

Mud is strongly of the opinion that in our patch, the space needed to grow the Brassica family (they can be rather large), together with the caterpillar issue, makes the growing of Brassicas impractical but we, as a family, enjoy Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts and Brocolli and I love Cabbage but these have all become incredibly pricey to buy in recent years. I also resent paying good money for half a mile of Brocolli stalk with a tiny head sat on top of it, tiny little sprouts, or sprouts which appear nice and plump but are actually almost ‘blown’ when you get the outer leaves of them.

Cauliflowers are by far the worst though. Nearly £2 for what I would call a ‘family size’ head and often, by the time you’ve removed the out leaves, the amount of actual cauliflower present wouldn’t feed a caterpillar never mind a family of four.

I got really excited earlier this week when I realised that hidden in the folds of the leaves, on one of the Cauliflowers in the school beds, a tennis ball sized curd was growing and a quick check of another plant revealed another, slightly smaller cauliflower growing. I was like a child on a treasure hunt, checking each of the plants in turn and getting more and more giddy with every fresh discovery.

Tub of Parmex and Early Nantes carrots

Tub of Parmex and Early Nantes carrots

But I digress, I would so like to grow some Brassicas and a gardening friend has suggested that I try to grow some over the winter, using a layer of thick polythene, fastened under the netting on the beds, to create a covered growing area. Either way if the plants in the double covered bed do okay this year, then next year I’d like to get some more enviromesh and grow a few more plants.

In the small greenhouse, the tub of carrots for Christmas is coming along nicely, although I have had to sprinkle some slug pellets on to it but as it is in the greenhouse and out of reach of the Hedgehogs, I don’t think this is a problem at all. I am quite pleased with how the seedlings have come through and although they will need some thinning out, on the whole the ‘sugar and seed’ scattering seems to have worked as there do not appear to be any large seedling clumps, all growing from the exact same spot.

back patio weeds before and after 20130804I finally got the last portion of the back garden paths weeded, although weeding is a lot like painting the Forth Bridge: by the time you’ve finished the whole thing it’s time to start again. I still have the front to do but Mud keeps muttering about spraying weedkiller as it really is that bad but he has been muttering about spraying for several weeks and still hasn’t actually done anything about it. Mind you, in his defence, he has been trying to get Ciggy finished, so I’ll probably still end up pulling, tugging and digging the weeds out in the next day or so.

Oh and then there is the overgrown bed of mint in the front that needs sorting out as well …… oh and the conifer bush thing that we planted as a small shrub about 7 years ago but which is now the size of a Smart car, so needs a drastic haircut or, better yet, removing ….. and let’s not forget the Bindweed and Ground Elder, not that I could forget either of them, as they both put in regular appearances and are a real pain to remove ……. I think I might need a gardener!


2 thoughts on “Undercover Crops

  1. Hi Elaine. I found a cauliflower yesterday too. I didn’t label my brassicas so didn’t know which was which, so it was nice to see one reveal itself as a cauliflower. I find growing them in the winter so much easier as the caterpillars and butterflies just aren’t there. Although that doesn’t stop me from growing them in the summer too. I just pick the little green monsters off and give them to the chickens – but it is definitely a chore I need to keep on top of. Maybe I need netting.
    Good luck with your impenetrable butterfly fortress!
    Cheers Sarah : o )

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