Losing the Plot

plot in September

plot in September

Gardening’s all about little and often, and for too much of this summer I’ve been managing the ‘little’ part, but not been so good at the ‘often’.

baby gem squash

baby gem squash

Fortunately, some of it has just been getting on without me. It’s probably too late for this baby gem squash, but who knows, I might get lucky.

larry_the_leek salad_leaves

Larry the leek, sole survivor of the great leek massacre, is still hanging in there, and the salad leaves look almost good enough to eat

Cabbage White Caterpillar

Cabbage White Caterpillar

But it’s in the broccoli bed that the real trouble lurks

Before and after…
So far I’m picking them off by hand and ruthlessly squashing sorry, I was too squeamish for that, I’ve ruthlessly thrown them in the compost instead. With a few cabbage leaves for them to eat. It probably amounts to the same thing as far as the caterpillars are concerned, but it means I don’t have to deal with all the green blood.


Four days of diligent picking seem to have contained them a bit, although whether the plants will recover is another matter. And every time my back is turned, there’s a flutter of white as another butterfly comes around with another batch of eggs to make good the deficit.

16 Responses to Losing the Plot

  1. Not just us then. I spent most of yesterday afternoon doing the same job with the same critters. I’ll squash the little ‘uns but can’t be doing that with the big ones. I was a little less unfriendly though – I went for the drowning approach. Ended up with a small plastic container full of dead butterfly larvae. Made me nauseous looking at it!

    Hoping our Broccoli has some strength left too.

    Anyone got ideas for thoughts on prevention/cure for the cabbage whites?

  2. disgruntled says:

    yes it’s rather sick-making. I can’t do it for too long, because it’s just too horrible. It probably is better to drown them because if you don’t, and you turn your back for a minute, the caterpillars all start crawling out of the tub and make a bee line for the brassicas again

    The neighbour has nets over hers, although she’s got the same problem. Very fine net, and constant vigilance seems to be the answer

  3. From what I’ve read, the net stops the butterflies getting to the plants to lay eggs in the first place – so you have to have it on at the right time, and supported above the brassicas.

    I’ve heard about some bacteria that you can spray that makes the caterpillars sick and/or die – it’s organic and not harmful to other organisms…apparently.

    They seem to like my raspberry plants too!

    Think I’m acquiring some of your disgruntledness…

  4. disgruntled says:

    Gardening will do that to you.

    I think some of my caterpillars have that bug already – there’s plenty of dried out corpses, althoug it mostly seems to be the smaller ones that are affected. Next year, I’m netting as soon as the plants are out from under their cloches.

  5. Flighty says:

    I sympathise but I’m lucky as I’ve hardly seen any caterpillars on my plot, mind you I don’t grow brassicas! xx

  6. Our broccoli has had the same problem. Completely decimated! I planted nasturtiums in an effort to lure the butterflies away, but I think it had the opposite effect and just lured them in like a two-for-one meal deal. :o(

  7. disgruntled says:

    Mr. Goat – mmm, maybe. You go first, and tell me how you get on
    Flighty – that might be the answer, but it’s a bit drastic
    Chastity – I think that way the butterflies will come in for the nectar and stay to lay their eggs.

  8. Been there done that. I’ve a friend who did VSO in Zimbabwe and she sent me a packet – very – erm – crunchy. Your turn now.

  9. […] purple broccoli. It seems a rather meagre recompense for all the time spent planting, replanting, caterpillar picking and anxiously brushing snow off them all winter, but maybe the rest will catch up. We’ll […]

  10. Mark S says:

    September one year on, and yes the Cabbage White caterpillars are back after just a few dry, warm and settled days. Interestingly saw very little butterfly activity, but hundreeds of caterpillars voraciously attacking the Purple Sprouting. Sometimes you just have to reach for the bottle and I must say the pymethrin I used this morning wiped out all the attack in about an hour. As it will be six months until we pick the produce in February, I consider there’s plenty of time for it to work out of the plants’ system, also it’s a contact spray and since there is no flower heads appearing for months, they will be clean when they emerge. All round a much better job, and at least I’ll get my greens.

  11. disgruntled says:

    Ah, this year I netted them although you have reminded me I need to check and see how many have penetrated my defences

  12. […] a tiny bit pleased with my veg growing efforts at the moment. Certainly compared with around this time last year the plot is looking much more like a productive garden and less like a disaster zone. And […]

  13. […] haven’t really done too well with cabbages this year; after the fun and games with the caterpillars last year I did net my brassicas, but while the broccoli are looking reasonably perky, the cabbages […]

  14. […] of the last. Take my brassicas. The first time I attempted to grow them they were plagued by cabbage whites. The next year I netted them against the butterflies and they were promptly munched by slugs. The […]

  15. […] theory that one cannot really destroy purple sprouting broccoli, which over the years has survived caterpillar attack, frozen winters, and variations on the ‘user error’ theme and still managed to give us […]

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