Category Archives: Edible Garden

Collards, Kale, Small White Cabbage Butterfly – Oh My!

With regular personal gardening sessions from the ‘beyond-green-thumb-talent’ at Victory Gardens, I’ve learned the growing part of an edible garden, and am knee deep into the harvesting part. Once harvesting starts so does the regular maintenance and nurturing of the plants that are providing food. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for pests that want to gobble up your greens while you’re away doing other things.

The Small White Cabbage Butterfly (Pieris rapae) has been visiting my garden on a daily basis. I used to praise her random appearance, “Oh, look she likes to visit the collards, how sweet!”

White Cabbage Butterfly

Not quite so sweet, I have discovered. The offspring from the Small White Cabbage Butterfly is called an imported cabbageworm – meaning it’s not native to North America, and it does major damage to cabbage, kale, collards, and others from the Brassica (mustard) family.

“It was accidentally introduced to Québec, Canada around 1860 and spread rapidly throughout North America.”[1]

First, the lovely Small White Cabbage Butterfly visits the leaves and lays her eggs. This is what the egg sack looks like (see below; with size reference to a penny).

Egg from Small White Cabbage Butterfly

If you don’t pick it off, then it will mature into a green cabbage worm (below). At most stages of the life cycle it is very difficult to see the cabbageworm on the underside of the leaves. Their size and colouring is their self-defence. When you see the amount of damage one of these cabbageworm’s is capable, you would expect them to be very large (like the one pictured below). This is not always the case, so narrow your gaze and practice looking for very small.

Green Cabbageworm

The image below shows how the cabbageworm, as it begins to pupate, has spun a silk pad, attaching himself to the underside of the collard leaf. In this state it is very difficult to see the metamorphosis.

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Luckily, I get unsolicited pest control from the birds that visit my garden. Lately, I’ve noticed more birds hanging around my Kale and Swiss Chard pots. I was wondering what they were doing…? Turns out they are my best helpers. It’s nice working cooperatively.

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Two Birds: Pest Control

Though I appreciate the beauty of all beings, I can be found discouraging the Small White Cabbage Butterfly from landing on my cruciferous vegetables. However, the Small White Cabbage Butterfly does do her fair share of pollinating various flowers. There is always good with the bad. And maybe the point is to understand, like in all areas, that balance is key.

It is definitely a challenge to garden compassionately. I don’t like the idea of drowning insect pests because they all have a role to play in the balance of nature. And what to do with the eggs and cabbageworms that I remove from these leaves? I decided that I might collect them in a bucket and deliver them once a week to the chickens at a local farm, (who provide us with nourishing eggs), unless the birds from my garden get their beaks on them first.

Visit Wikipedia to read in greater detail and to see excellent photographs of the life cycle here. or here.

[1] Howe, William H.; editor, coordinating; al.], illustrator & twenty contributors—contributors, David L. Bauer … [et (1975). The Butterflies of North America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a gorgeous plant to grow. Equally delicious and nutritious.

But what happens when your beautifully tended Swiss Chard leaves start to look pale, splotchy and dried out? There could be Leaf Miners burrowing between the leafs membranes.

Below is an image showing early onset.

Swiss Chard attacked by Leaf Miner Worms

It’s easy enough to scout these Leaf Miners before they even become miners. Catch them while they’re still young and just eggs. Barely noticeable to the naked eye, they look like tiny white dot. But under the magnification of a macro lens you can see their shape. They actually look like a grain of rice or a Tic-Tac® depending on your vintage or perspective. In the photo below you should be able to count eight eggs.

Leaf Miner Eggs

Two Leaf Miner Eggs

Use your finger or a tissue to gently wipe the eggs off your Chard leaves. If you don’t they will shape-shift and burrow into the leaves. How do they even get on your leaves in the first place? Well, these eggs are laid by a fly. Remarkable isn’t it? When the eggs hatch, the larvae turn into maggots which then burrow inside the leaves, hence the name Leaf Miners.

You can read Backyard Farming’s blog post about it here.

Tall Swiss Chard Stalk

Organic Pest Deterrent

Rocky Raccoon In the fall of 2014, I started planning to grow my own food. I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, if I wanted to learn effectively in a short period of time, rather than through trial and error. I hired the expert edible gardeners at Victory Gardens in Vancouver for some one-on-one instruction. Now, it is May 2015 and I am already benefitting from their tutelage. I have been harvesting beautiful greens for eating. It is incredibly exciting to watch tiny organic seeds germinate into food producing sources of nourishment – all in my own backyard! Spinach garden The only challenge to date has been our raccoon family, who we adore and happily share our hedges. Some days the entire raccoon family can be seen sunbathing and napping on top of the hedge. Other times they pass through the garden in a cautious, delayed single file. Raccoon Family on Hedge The raccoons have not eaten any of my produce. Though they did spend the winter digging up a portion of our lawn for grubs. I thought it was wonderful; they were aerating our lawn. My husband wasn’t amused and tried to discourage them with a wire mesh ground cover (no plastic allowed) and a motion detecting sprinkler, which mostly sprayed us – forgetful that it was on. Since the hunt for grubs has been over for a few months, the raccoons have now turned their attention to the gorgeous earth worm laden soil where I’ve planted my brussels sprouts and kohlrabi seeds. For the last four days, each morning I would be disappointed to find that garden bed completely upended. Raccoon Garden 2 Raccoon Garden I put up a little wire fence to deter them. Hopeful. But it didn’t work. And the few little sprouts that were making their way to the surface were disturbed. I set everything right and planted a few more seeds. raccoon garden fence My husband, who is often in conversation with our seasoned and successful gardener-neighbour told me that he uses cayenne pepper. From my spice rack I pulled out the organic cayenne pepper and sprinkled some on the garden soil where the raccoons have been visiting.   The next morning? Everything was left untouched and the little sprouts are happily growing. Here is a link to an article describing some natural options for deterring pests in the garden. It’s a delicate balance because what deters the harmful insects and pests can also harm the beneficial.

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