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Monday, 10 September 2012

Veg patch update - September

Some weeks ago my OH discovered a chrysalis on one of our watering cans, so of course I was straight out there with my camera. There must be tons of chrysalises about, somewhere, given the amount of butterflies we have here, but they are well hidden. His passing shot was "I bet it's a Cabbage White".

Large White (Pieris brassicae) chrysalis

I marvelled at the beauty and the two little 'feet' still sticking out, but as soon as I'd looked close up at the photos the first thing I googled was... yes you've guessed it. Sigh! It's the chrysalis of the Large White (Pieris brassicae), the one whose caterpillars look like this. Anyone who grows veg in Europe will recognise these!

Large White (Pieris brassicae) caterpillars on Nasturtium leaves

I have tons of nasturtiums self seeded that I am happy for them to eat, but I've only just planted out my winter brassicas (purple curly kale and PSB), and I've only been able to sow radishes and rocket (also brassicas) since August, due to flea beetle making it completely impossible earlier in the year. So now the battle commences - especially as the Large White lays a whole lot of eggs in a cluster like this:

Large White eggs, AND whitefly!

It's not just the Large White which is a problem, there is also the Small White (Pieris rapae), both species being known under the general term of 'Cabbage Whites', but at least they lay their eggs singly, so it is a bit easier to control and squidge single caterpillars as they hatch out.

A single very small caterpillar of the Small White (Pieris rapae).

In case those of you in Europe wonder why I'm harping on about Cabbage Whites and their eggs and caterpillars when you are all so well acquainted with them, it's because I have some readers from North America, who are 'lucky' enough to only have the Small White to deal with (thanks to us Europeans releasing them upon the unlucky North Americans somehow or other in the dim and distant past. Oh well, they got their revenge giving us the Colorado Beetle!).

So, onto other veg. The spuds were all harvested and despite having to cut back the haulms last month due to the spreading blight we got a good harvest of decent sized red Desiree maincrops. This is just a small amount of them! Still have some of the 'new' potatoes, Belle de Fontenay left as well.

My Potimarrons in the background. Unfortuntely I have precisely three fruit from two plants :-(

Fast forward several weeks and the purple curly kale and PSB have been planted out.

Normally there are tons of Potimarrons and I train them
through and up the fence wire.

The patch where my peas and beans were now has just French beans left, plus newly planted Chinese leaves/cabbage in a nice straight row at the front of the bed, but some are just collapsing and dying for no apparent reason (not through lack of watering or mulots - burrowing mice in French). I've also got radishes, rocket, coriander and yet more lettuce and beetroot in the background, but somehow the lettuce and beetroot seedlings keep being eaten by slugs. How I've no idea, as this soil is really dry and I only water where the actual plants are. So rocket salad it will be instead of lettuce (unless they get infested with caterpillars!).

Can you see the flowering Dill and Verbena bonariensis that just self seeds?
By this stage I'm happy for them to come up wherever they like.

Leeks have been transplanted into the back of this bed and the spring onions are doing
really well. I haven't bothered planting anything in the gaps as I have more space than I need,
and green manures would only mean yet more watering, which is chore enough right now!
Much of the space is being colonised by Dill, Verbena bonariensis and Nasturtiums
which just do their own colourful thing, so I'm happy with that.

Cucumbers - hmmm well we did get some, but the plants never really grew much.

Normally 3 plants would have swamped this wire support,
but even the bigger plant only had the one stem.

Now it's too late. Every year they succumb to this disease,
whatever it may be. Doesn't matter which variety I grow,
it always happens, and in fact the plants don't last very long.

Courgettes/Zucchini probably aren't a lot bigger than a month back,
but are producing slowly but steadily. Quite nice not to have a glut!

Harvest time. In fact that lettuce was
so riddled with little slugs all the way through
that the chickens ended up having it!

Tomatoes are doing well and the blight seems to have almost gone. I still pick off the occasional leaf with signs of blight but haven't had to spray with any more Bordeaux Mix, which is a pain to have to wash off the tomatoes.

Finally one of the Gardeners' Delight toms which I sowed myself
and was very tardy to do anything, actually growing like it should!

I have rude tomatoes too. I do miss growing rude carrots
but I don't miss carrot root fly.

Mixed tomato varieties after washing off the residual splashes of Bordeaux Mix.
I wanted better light so I put the bowl outside on the concrete,
only for nosy parker to get in my photo!

The tomato varieties I tried this year have been quite disappointing. The two heirloom varieties, Rose de Berne and Andine Cornue (long pointy tom at back, above) are quite dry with little in the way of seeds or juice inside, with Rose de Berne being rather small (front row, right and possibly behind my cat's face!). St Pierre toms are tiny and pathetic, tasteless and barely worth bothering to pick (front row, middle tom). The Roma plant got blight on the main stem so only a few tomatoes were left after chopping most of the plant off, which we've eaten cooked with a fry up and they were delicious. That leaves Fournaise (middle row above) which are a good size, juicy and just like a tomato should be - this is the third year I've grown them and I'm kicking myself for not having more of them but I do like to try different kinds. The cherry toms are all fabulous, of course, so for salads all is well.

Chillis are doing reasonably well, with the Cayennes
(above) doing excellently and ripening up fast.

Tomatoes, chillies and sunflowers
I'm deadheading the sunflowers because the weight of the seedheads
is causing branches to break off. Birds are enjoying the seeds.

Even the Marigolds (Mr Majestic) are liked by hoverflies
and I love their cheery colour, the fact they need little water and are just so easy!

I have to end on a butterfly note. At long last I got some decent shots of
the Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) who stopped flitting for a few minutes
and posed for me on a beetroot leaf! These are one of the tiniest butterflies that I see.
Their larvae feed on various grasses, so absolutely not a problem in the veg patch!

Oh, and the earlier beetroot that did survive being eaten by slugs has done well and I have tons already pickled for winter. I had totally forgotten, until yesterday, about Chocolate Beetroot Brownies, so will be making them next time I cook up some beets - which will be soon, and I'll share the recipe, don't worry!


  1. I have tomato envy!! All my beetroot and sunflowers were eaten whilst I was away and I only have two chard plants lol. Lovely to see how your garden's looking :)

    1. Hi Dee - sorry to hear about your veg and sunflowers getting eaten. That's the problem with going away in summer - you probably don't have a problem with things drying out, just the slugs and snails munching everything! Thanks for your comment. :-)