Friday, February 13

Cabbage Patch Kids

In order to provide 'greens' throughout the season we plant quite a wide range of varieties of brassicas.
To some extent this strategy works well as can be seen in the chart below.
The month of May is a black spot but looking at our harvest records it does seem in general where freshly picked vegetables are concerned, that May is our hungry gap. Anyone else notice the same thing? It's the month when our frozen stores come into their own.
We have a club root problem in some parts of our plot which in the past we kept under control by dipping the roots in some sort of commercial preparation before planting but this is no longer on the market. We do try to avoid areas that we know are affected but we also try to grow club root resistant varieties. This year a club root resistant variety of calabrese - Monclano has appeared on the market which we will be trying. Another resistant variety is the autumn/winter cabbage - Kilaxy  which we will be trying for the first time. Other club root resistant varieties that we will plant again are Brussels sprouts - Crispus, and cauliflower - Clapton. In past years, crop failures had become the norm for both of these brassicas.

Two other varieties that we are trying for the first time are purple sprouting broccoli - Red Arrow and savoy - Resolution. To complete our seed list we have  autumn cabbage - Kilaton and red cabbage - Huzaro both of which have done well for us in the past.

We don't like to start seed sowing too early and so we cheat a little and let someone else take the strain of producing some early plants and have once again ordered a collection of extra early brassica plants from Marshalls. The collection is made up of cauliflower - Mayflower, cabbage - Duncan and calabrese - Marathon. As you can see from the above chart this helped shorten the hungry gap last year by providing fresh pickings in June.

I have to say when we received our plants last year we were not overly impressed but with a bit of tlc from us the plants rallied.
We have to cover the brassicas on the plot to protect from large and small white butterflies and also the ever watchful wood pigeons. We use a netting that is effective against both pests but this doesn't prevent against the plagues of whitefly that descend on our greens so we are considering the use of enviromesh. Soon we will have every single thing in the plot under some sort of covering. What do you do to discourage or get rid of whitefly?
If you are in any doubt about how devastating a caterpillar attack can be watch the video below which was put together some years ago before we started to use netting.


28 comments:

  1. I never knew caterpillars shed their skins! I learn something new every day. ~~~Deb

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    1. Invertebrates don't have stretchy skin, Deb so they all split their skin as they grow. It's why we often find empty aphids (white skins) on plants. They are munching our plants and growing out of their skins.

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  2. I stopped growing kale as it got so infested by whitefly. Will you grow some of the club root resistant varieties in the beds where you know it's present to see if it makes a difference or will you only grow it in other beds, a case of belt and braces approach?

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    1. We had the same problem with kale, Jo, The worst club root affected bed is set to become our new strawberry bed and we will try to avoid some that we know are affected but it's all a bit of guesswork really.

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  3. For me May is when I get my first harvests usually from the garden. Not much mind you - spinach, kale, Asian greens, lettuce, radishes, and strawberries. Basically anything the grows really really fast or is overwintered. And not in huge quantities. But oh so welcome. But then our climate is so much different from yours. Our "hungry gap" is all winter long which is why I preserve so much.

    Though we do have one bonus to the frozen soil. Whiteflies don't over winter here. They do get brought in on starts in the summer, but we rarely have an issue with them. Aphids are another matter.

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    1. We're not really keen on spinach and kale, Daphne. Maybe Asian greens are something to try,

      We have had a couple of mild winters which don't help in cutting down the bug population

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  4. Early sown kohl rabi, beetroots and turnips fill my late spring gap as we crop them just for the tasty leaves (the bases are a bonus if they form depending on weather). The seeds of all these (as well as little gem lettuce) are very tough - I sow in modules in a plastic cold frame at the end of Feb - start of March and plant out as soon as possible.
    The club root was really bad on our plot last season (? all that good weather) and I use lots of powdered lime in the planting hole even with club root resistant varieties.

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    1. So do you cook the beetroot tips SandD or use them for salads

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    2. Cook them gently - just like young spinach. Beetroot leaves of the cylindrical beetroot (rather than the small round ones) are especially vigorous and delicious, so make a good crop. The turnip and Kohl rabi leaves are also cooked the same way - you could of course eat them all raw if they are small and tender enough but the very early weather toughens them up a bit so they are more suitable for cooking.

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  5. My garlic spray certainly reduced the Whitefly problem, but it would probably not be practical for you, with your larger-scale plot.

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    1. Maybe I should try it on the most susceptible crops, Mark. Does it affect the taste?

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    2. No. The garlic gets washed off with rain - along with many of the Whitefly (regrettably not ALL)

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  6. I didn't know that about caterpillar skins either. I love the close-up of the caterpillar eating, they must have incredibly strong jaws to get through all that tough cabbage. His dear little face is quite sweet isn't it. Such a shame they don't eat brambles or bindweed or something instead of cabbage.

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    1. Spiders do the same thing CJ. We once had a guy bring tarantulas to school and he left some skins with us, They looked just like living spiders and scared the school cook to death as I walked through the school hall with one on my hand,

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  7. I did enjoy that video, what amazing creatures butterflies and frogs are.
    I have a terrible time with brassicas, I actually grow some just for the cabbage white and no matter what I do they get at mine, hence my new cages which I hope solve the problem this year.
    Oh...wow....what a stunning array of cabbages...in awe I am!xxx

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    1. I hope the new cages help this year, Dina.

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  8. That's quite a collection of brassicas. I am looking forward to growing my first cabbages this coming year - Early Jersey Wakefield.
    Ray

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    1. I've never heard of Early Jersey Wakefield, Ray. Living so close to Wakefield we should grow it!

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  9. There is always a battle with one pest or another isn't there! I often wish I had a little more space to grow more brassicas but the protection they need to keep them safe always brings me back down to earth. Fingers crossed & I am tempted to tap dance on the wooden floor as I type this we don't suffer from severe whitefly attacks. I will have the garlic spray on standby this year though.

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    1. No whitefly - lucky you, Jo. One less pest to worry about

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  10. Didn't realise there were so many to choose from! Our cabbages are rather pigeon-pecked so will cover them all with netting this time. So much to learn!

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    1. Buy some netting that is insect proof, L to also protect from the butterflies.

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  11. I've not grown much in the way of brassicas apart from kale and purple sprouting broccoli. I'm not quite sure why Sue because I like them and they feature regularly on the menu. Maybe it's all those hungry pests and the netting that puts me off :) You look as if you have a comprehensive year round supply with the exception as you mention of May.

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    1. Must admit that put us off broccoli in the past - the whitefly. Brassicas minus net would mean zero brassicas on out plot

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  12. Great video Sue, those little monsters must be a pain on the allotment. I don’t grow much vegetable and haven’t had any problems with what I usually have, but I know how devastating it is when nature takes over and ruins your harvest. Good luck with your cabbages :-)

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    1. I think pests are worse on an allotment site Helene. Too many food plants to call them in.

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  13. caterpillars are really annoying pest! I have them here too ....together with grasshoppers. Netting really helps!

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    1. We do occasionally see grasshoppers Malar but not enough to cause a problem

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