Friday, 30 March 2012

Caterpillars, broccoli and potatoes

This morning I was out watering the baby vegetables and feeding and watering the animals (goats and chickens) when I discovered tiney lacy holes in the baby broccoli leaves.  I have described this previously, probably more than once, but the cabbage moths are at it again.  As I was out there, i was thinking that pickeing caterpillars or eggs is labour intensive,  but not very hard work (I remember a tiny Charlotte helping me many years ago.)  It is easy to have vegetables without having to use any poisons.  Apparently potatoes are one of the most poisonous vegetables that one can buy.  There is even one called "Superior New Leaf Potato" that is registered as a pesticide itself!  As I picked off the caterpillars,  I was thinking how easy this was, and how anyone could pick enough caterpillars to make sure that they had plenty of, say, broccoli without having to spray anything.  It's pretty obvious that growing broccoli at a mega scale would make that impossible,  but that is all the more reason to grow your own.  Surely, years ago, people grew vegetables and checked them all every day for caterpillars or whatever, and had plenty.  Expecting the quality of food to be equal to that when so few people make any effort seems foolish.  Today, I have picked off a lot of eggs and some baby caterpillars and hopefully the brassicas are all more or less safe and the effort required is minimal... going out to earn enough money to pay someone else to do it (or to pay for their chemicals) seems counter-intuitive to me.

This morning I have also been weeding.  After the few millimetres of rain a couple of weeks ago, they are doing very nicely.  In one particular patch though, I began to dig with the fork, and found quite a few potato tubers that were just beginning to sprout.  These were potato varieties that I bought to grow during last winter and I planted them dutifully at the recommended time.... early spring.  They grew for a few weeks and died off at the first hot dry days.  Potatoes need so much water, that unless one has an unlimited supply or a leaking pipe, there is not much point in planting them here during the summer.  Every year is almost exactly the same.

However, they are sprouting beautifully now.   They will grow when it rains, and despite the shorter days,  they usually produce quite a lot of nice big potatoes.  Any frost will set them back as the leaves are quite tender,  but we don't get many frosty nights (only two last winter) and potatoes recover quickly.  I'm sure that longer daylight hours would incrrease production,  but we don't get water and long days at the same time.  I expect quite a reasonable crop this year.

It's a pity that I can't source potatoes to plant at this time of the year from any professional suppliers.

This year I kept some of the smaller tubers from last season in the fridge all summer...
 ... and these sprouted in the cupboard!

I will plant those as soon as we get some decent rain. This year I plan to keep track of just how many (by weight) I am able to grow in the winter.

Potatoes are the easiest carbohydrate to grow and I am interested to see whether I can produce enough for the whole year in this garden.  You never know until you try.

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