Crops that belong to the Brassica family, or cole crops can be tricky to grow. This is not because they a finicky so much as they attract a lot of pests. Cabagge loopers, and flea beetles are the most common culprits.
Some years we have flea beetles and some years we don't. They eat holes in the leaves and give them a unpleasant appearance. This year they really seem to love the kale. We have been battling this issue with garlic and hot pepper spray along with sticky traps. I make the garlic and hot pepper spray by blending garlic cloves and Thai chile peppers in the blender with a little onion and then add water. It steeps in the fridge overnight and is then strained. I add a tablespoon of mineral oil and dish soap each. I shake it up and spray the entire plant. The bugs don't like this and do go away but it wares off so it needs to be reapplied often.
This week I put sticky traps up. These are just yellow piece of plastic with a sticky substance on them. the bugs are attracted to the yellow and then get stuck in the glue. Simple and effective. Yeah for sticky traps. The only down fall is that it also traps beneficial insects. We don't like that.
Every year we battle cabbage loopers. Yuck, yuck, and more yuck. The cabbage looper moth is a prolific egg layer. The eggs hatch and out comes a tiny little caterpillar that grows very quickly as it feasts on your crop. You have got to stay on top of things or it can get way out of hand.
After years of trying floating row covers in various forms, which work until they are torn to shreds in the super strength ND winds, I think we have found the solution. This year we are using low tunnels with shade cloth. We started out the season with row covers. The temperatures are too low in the beginning of the season to use shade cloth. They were once again torn to shreds. We thought that the low tunnel system would possibly work better with the row covers. No, we were wrong. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have replaced the row covers with shade cloth and it seems to be doing great!. Small bugs like the flea beetles can get in through the shade cloth but cabbage looper moths cannot.
Yesterday I spent several hours examining every leaf of the cabbage and cauliflower and squishing any cabbage looper eggs or caterpillars that were able to get at the crops while we were waiting for the shade cloth. I also squished aphids and put up sticky traps for the flea beetles. It is really hard to squish flea beetles because they jump very quickly like fleas. We have to rely on the traps or garlic and hot pepper spray.
The cabbage and cauliflower look beautiful. I will go back through everything in the next couple of days to see if I missed any eggs or caterpillars.
Not all of our cole crops are under low tunnels with shade cloth. We have more cabbage and cauliflower that is not, as well as broccoli and kale. The shade cloth systems seems to be working so well that we are ordering more for some of the cauliflower. The others are planted in a spot that just won't allow for a low tunnel. It is very important that it is actually a supported tunnel. If we just laid the shade cloth over the crop then the cabbage looper would lay eggs on the shade cloth where it was touching any part of the plant. The caterpillars would then hatch and crawl through the wholes of the shade cloth. The tunnels support the shade cloth and keep it off the plant.
Next year we will certainly be incorporating more low tunnels with shade cloth. I'm so grateful to find something that works. May it continue to work so well for the rest of the season!
The Rest of the Crops
I'm said to say that there isn't going to be a strawberry harvest this year after all. When we first planted them they all came up and were beautiful. I don't think there was one out of the 500 that didn't come up. The flourished and began to flower and set fruit. Then we got a horrific storm. We were watering the strawberries just before the storm hit and they were all beautiful. We checked them the next day to find many with leaves that were black on the edges and curling up. Over time more and more followed. We have now lost many plants. We are working with the nursery to see if we can figure out what has happened to them and what we can do, if anything, to fix it. Pray that we figure it out.
The grapes look fabulous. every one has leafed out and they seem to be very happy. We are happy too!
Lots of things are blooming and even starting to set fruit. I believe all the tomatoes are blooming and the Nova and Bison tomatoes are starting to get fruit. Many peppers are blooming and some of them are starting to set fruit as well. The eggplants and zuchinni also have blooms. Winter squash is growing nicely along with the cardoon.
Hello, I'm Jaci. I look forward to sharing my gardening and homestead adventures to help you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!