Time is right to bat­tle but­ter­flies

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - ROBERT GUYTON


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.

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