Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Row Covers

I tried growing brassicas last year.  The plants grew well and produced heads, but before they reached the picking stage, a massive, rapid infestation of cabbage moth came in and destroyed the crop.  My huge, healthy plants were decimated in 3 days.  Little white moths/butterflies lay their eggs on the plants and when the eggs hatch, LOOK OUT!  I tried to salvage the cabbage by peeling back the wormy layers, but they were too far gone to save any of the heads.  In chatting with my neighbours who have gardened organically for decades across the road, they recommended using row covers to guarantee a healthy pest free bumper brassica crop without the use of chemicals.  I can attest to their success, as I saw their harvest in 2010.  Their cauliflower heads were the size of large dinner plates and the broccoli was just as big!  I listened and ordered the exact row cover that they used (110' x 5').  It's rather like a lightweight piece of sewing interfacing.  It's air and water permeable, just not bug permeable :)  It lays draped across the planted area and as long as you keep lots of slack in it and don't pull it taught, the plants grow up nicely and lift the cloth up as they grow.  You do need to periodically check the plants to assess their health, but overall, the neighbours said it works with very little effort on their behalf.  You just need to keep an eye on the cloth to make sure it stays pinned down and doesn't get blown up in any area.

Today, I finished planting the last of the brassica seedlings and I seeded another 25' with a variety of seed (all with different maturity dates) with the hope of harvesting a large crop over a sustained period of time.  I want to blanch and freeze as much as I can as we all love broccoli.  The row cover is in place, held down with lengths of rebar and untreated landscape ties (all leftover from our renovation) laying on top of the cloth edges.  Using stakes or U pins to poke holes in the cloth means that it rips and you can't use it year after year.  Apparently with this cloth you can easily use for several seasons if you take care of it.

 Here is one of MANY broccoli seedlings awaiting "tucking in" with the white row cover.

Here's what the row looks like all covered up.  Kind of unattractive, but I'd rather that than no broccoli!  I'm just in the nick of time with this task, as JUST TODAY, I saw three of these little butterflies fluttering around!  Yikes - that was close!


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