Time is right to battle butterflies
BATTLE BUTTERFLIES & SAVE YOUR BRASSICA CROPS
Whatever it is you do to protect your brassica crops from white butterflies, do it now! The fluttering devils are out in force, searching out the leaves of cauli, cabbage, kale and broccoli onto which they can glue their tiny eggs from which will shortly emerge the leafdestroying caterpillars. If you are planning to beat them by swatting, forget it – they’re far too numerous and agile to be controlled that way.
More effective methods are needed and the best of these is netting. Plastic bird netting draped over brassicas keeps the butterflies at bay, saving the leaves from looking as though they’ve been shotgunned. Nets leave no chemical residue, kill no insects and don’t harm the soil your brassica crop is growing in. They’re reusable for years and years and easy to apply.
The only other way to effectively protect your summer- crop brassicas from the ubiquitous white butterfly, is to not plant them in the first place; better to plant brassicas that grow during the cooler seasons when butterflies are absent.
It doesn’t matter what seed you collect – just do it. Taking advantage of nature’s reproductive habits is a service to the planet, your garden and gardeners you might like to gift seeds to, and getting started now is the best way to ensure you get everything that’s going.
At the moment, I’m busy collecting lovage and alexander seeds, plucking them from their umbels before the wind does the job for me. Bienniels of the apiaceae family present their seed in the most convenient way – high on the plant, free of prickles or stickiness and well dried, so they’re great ones to start with if you’ve not done any seedcollecting before. Pick them once the dew has evaporated from your garden and bring them inside for a few days to ensure they’re truly dry. Store them in lidded jars or paper bags in a space that’s cool and dark, remembering to label them to avoid confusion and selfrecrimination when the time comes to sow them.
As autumn approaches and soft fruits such as apricots, peaches and nectarines appear in shops or on trees in your or your friend’s gardens, save those too.
Cleaning the flesh from those fruits should be no hardship – all are delicious – and popping the pits and stones into the fridge for a few weeks equally simple. That’ll tune them up so that they’re ready for planting outside and overwintering in preparation for sprouting in spring.
Growing fruit trees this way is deceptively simple. Fruit that have pips are less sure, as they don’t present identical to their parents and can be vary indeed in appearance and quality. Apples, in particular, reliably fail to resemble their parent but are very easy to grow, so if you want to start with a few pips from your ‘Sturmer’ or ‘Granny Smith’, you’ll at least enjoy the first stages of the project.
Choose those that are excess to your summer-salad needs, chop them roughly or at least into chunks rather than slices, simmer them to softness, adding salt, and spoon the resulting hot, pulpy mix into oven-heated jars, lid them, then leave them to cool. With your excess tomato crop safely canned, or bottled, depending on your preference for terms, you can relax and not feel guilty about wasting a good resource, knowing that at any time throughout the year you can take a jar from the pantry and turn the contents into a lovely pasta sauce, pizza topping, soup, curry, salsa or ketchup.
In this hot weather, the aromatic herbs are producing plenty of the oils they are renowned for, thyme and lavender being the most popular, and picking and drying them now will maximise the effect you want – evocative fragrance that remind us of high summer, no matter when those lovely smells are experienced.
As with seed-collecting, volatile oil-producing herbs should be harvested when the leaves are free of dew, rain or condensation. That means picking when the sun is high.
Pick into a basket of some sort, to ensure that no dampness is trapped under leaves and against any impervious container walls. It looks better too, traipsing about the garden, basket in hand. You might also consider a straw hat and floral-print dress or something more masculine if you are blokey.
This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz
Snip off the collectable twigs and tips of the herbs you want with a pair of sharp scissors and bind together little posies of herbs if you are planning to hang them up to dry or to decorate your kitchen.
Some aromatic herbs, like balm of Gilead and wormwood, are too strong smelling to have drying in a room that’s regularly used, such as the kitchen or lounge, so hang or strew those pungent herbs on the veranda or somewhere less-frequently visited, remembering to keep them out of the direct sunlight because bright light and heat will strip your herbs of their colour and scent.