Sharing your vegetable garden with nature
For the most part I love butterflies and do everything I can to encourage them, along with other beneficial insects (bees, ladybirds and lacewings etc) into my garden. Not only do they help pollinate the plants but we’re helping to keep their numbers up in these desperate times (times where even the bees are disappearing faster than our pensions). The garden without nature flitting from flower to flower and singing in the trees just doesn’t seem complete and lazing in your garden (children permitting of course) on a warm and sunny day gives great pleasure, a feeling of well being and quite often a desire to drink beer. Maybe that’s just me.
But this year my enjoyment has been marred somewhat, and it took me a little by surprise.
For this is the year that I decided to grow some vegetables outside – I purchased a couple of raised beds to complement my array of potted vegetables and, using the contents of my wormery and Bokashi bins (as well as a hefty dose of compost from my three compost bins) set about creating what I hoped would be some very successful (though admittedly quite small) vegetable plots.
Planted up with cauliflower, spinach, rocket, onions and a few carrots they soon filled out and I have been astonished at how well everything has grown, as well as how much food can be produced from such a small area. The cauliflowers expanded at such a rate that from early June we were lobbing off the odd leaf for our tea and one leaf, along with some spinach, was often more than enough veg on the side of a meal for the wife and I.
The florets of the caulis soon followed, filled out nicely and, even with such a small plot, we were harvesting more than we could manage and had to give a few away.
But where were the pests everybody complains about?
There were no carrot fly on the carrots, very few slugs and no pests on the leaves. I thought (rather smugly) that I had it made – that or the Bokashi has some other magical ingredient for keeping the beasties at bay. But that was in June when it was very hot – as soon as the rains of July arrived all hell broke loose. Suddenly there were slugs everywhere (early morning and evening patrols were required and were reasonably successful I thought) and, whenever the sun came out, the butterflies appeared.
Previous years joy at seeing a pair of Cabbage White’s flitting around the garden together soon turned me into a Victor Meldrew as most of their ‘flitting’ was being done all over over my lovely cauliflowers! I couldn’t squash the eggs quick enough and there were soon lots (and I mean LOTS) of small caterpillars hatching out. Who can believe the speed these little so and so’s grow! And the more they grow the more they eat, until a mere two weeks later we are left with two small patches of doilies, I mean cauliflower leaves, that have no chance of recovery! Luckily we have finished the florets now, but I did read that new ones will grow if the plant is left intact (and it has some leaves to take up the rays of the sun of course, unlike mine).
So next year I will be extra careful, less smug and will even try some of the organic brews for deterring them from laying. There are a number of brews you can use as an organic gardener, such as soaking nettles in a bucket of water until they rot down and the water stinks. It’s very nutritious as a feed and the theory is that it smells so bad that the butterflies won’t land on the leaves to lay their eggs. Definitely worth a try next year I think.
I’ve also read that companion planting with celery will also deter the cabbage white. The trouble is that celery deters me as well as I hate it, but it’s probably worth a try.
I’m sure there are other great methods for deterring pests so why not leave a comment below or share your methods in the Wiggly Wigglers Facebook group?