Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Growing broccoli

Broccoli is one of my favourite winter vegetables.  It's good to start planting it in January, as soon as you get reorganised after Christmas, and depending on the weather.  This is so that you'll have plenty to eat when the weather turns cold in the middle of the year.  This year (after a very hot and difficult patch early in 2008) I decided to wait until the weather cooled down a bit.  There wasn't going to be enough water for too many small plants.  The first plants went in (with shadecloth over them) at the end of February.   The shadecloth helped a lot and I'll have more of that next summer.
I'll plant a few more as time goes on and any extra broccoli can go into the freezer for next summer, just in case we have a summer that is as hot and dry as the last two.  We will still eat well.

There are white cabbage moths that love broccoli in particular so I check the plants'  leaves daily for eggs.  
The eggs can be either white or yellow and  are left "glued" on the underneath side of the leaves.  They are easy to remove.  You wipe them off with your finger.  There are three eggs in this photo and these are fairly yellow.
As some of you know,  I was away from home for a few days last week... from Wednesday until Friday night.  By that time it was raining and so any eggs that were there had a chance to hatch.  These little caterpillars are like the very hungry caterpillar of the book.  They eat and eat and eat....  and the holes in the leaves get larger and larger...  the biggest one that I found today was about 15mm long.  They were underneath the leaves that they had hatched on.

Today is beautiful and sunny and a good day for a bit of weeding, egg wiping and caterpillar catching.  There are a few interesting things to notice however...  These next two leaves are on two different broccoli plants that are very close together.  One is quite eaten,  in fact it  is the very leaf that I found the fattest caterpillar (above) on.   The other leaf is from a plant with all of its leaves intact.  For some reason those mother moths prefer some plants over others, and this happens all the time.  It's probably a good idea to save seeds from the plants that those mothers don't like.

Interestingly, these so called cabbage moths always seem to prefer broccoli over any of the other brassicas.  Perhaps broccoli is a higher grade food.  After all of this rain, I haven't seen any more adults either, so perhaps the hunt is over for this year.

For anyone who remembers those green and purple kale leaves (photographed a few days ago) with all of the frilly bits, I should also tell you that those leaves have had very few eggs on them.  I had been apprehensive at the thought of trying to find the eggs under those complicated leaves when I saw them start to curl.  I needn't have worried.  The moths didn't take much notice of them... they definitely prefer the broccoli.

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