Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall Gardening is the Easiest, and Remarks on Controlling Cabbage Worms

Broccoli, photo from BH+G
Bye-bye Warm Season Veggies
Pull up those tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cukes and other hot-weather vegetables that have stopped producing and gotten old and bedraggled. Remove weeds, then fork in rich compost, well-rotted manure and/or Nature’s Helper.

Cool Season Veggies Reign Supreme October to April
Plant seeds or starts of veggies that do well in the cool months. 
These are often separated into five families of plants
Cabbage Family: cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, arugula, radishes, winter cress, radishes, beets, turnips, 
Parsley Family: Parsley, carrots, cilantro
Lettuce or Daisy Family: loose-leaf lettuce, mache, corn salad, curly endive, radicchio, arugula
Onion Family: garlic, elephant garlic, shallots, scallions, possibly leeks in ATL
Violet Family: throw in a few (edible) pansies or violas to enliven the garden

Growing Cabbage at the base
of a fence
The temperatures are down, the rains come regularly and gardening is easy with Mother Nature on your side. These cool season crops continue until hard frosts in January, and pick up again at the first sign of warm weather. Or place a floating row cover over your crops to keep temperatures even and cabbage worms away. 

Checkered White Cabbage Moth
photo by Megan McCarty124
OOPS!  What to Do for Cabbage Worms? 
Those white butterflies flitting above the newly planted brassicas may look cute, but (horrors) they may be laying eggs on the cauliflowers, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and radishes in the organic home garden. These eggs hatch into Cabbage Loopers, Imported Cabbage Worms, or Diamondback Moth larvae that are hungry for your tender leaves in the fall garden.

Cabbage Looper
Wikipedia Commons
5 Ways to Foil Cabbage Worms
1. Try setting-up a bird feeding station next to those cole plants and enjoy watching the birds grab dozens of cabbage worms to supplement their seedy diet each day.

2. Handpick the green caterpillars. My grandma used to drop them into a jar of kerosene, but the 2-brick method also works well.

3. Sprinkle plain flour on the young Brassica Family plants. The worms will eat it, bloat and die. Make an effort to coat the undersides of the leaves where the eggs are laid unnoticeably and the smallest caterpillars start eating.

4. Diatomaceous Earth is naturally occurring siliceous, sedimentary rock made of the fossilized remains of diatoms (hard shelled algae). It crumbles to a fine powder with an abrasive feel, like pumice. If you are a caterpillar or a slug crawling over diatomaceous earth, the individual particles slice you up like knives with sharp, micron-sized particles.   

5. Floating Row Covers are reusable, safe, easy, and organic. They are made of a lightweight material such as spunbonded polyester placed directly over the young crops, or draped over low hoops in a row. Floating Row Covers allow sunlight and water to get to the plants, but they form a physical (organic) barrier to protect the plants from insect damage. In addition, they mitigate cold temperatures during those bitter days Atlanta gets in late January and February, and thereby prolong the growing/ harvesting season.  Floating Row Covers come in a long roll that is anchored with landscape staples or bricks to keep them on the plant rows.

Plant a Fall Garden and have home-grown veggies at Thanksgiving and Christmas, with a lull at Valentines, and then coming on strong for St. Patrick's Day and Easter/Passover.  

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