I have to say that I do struggle to not get hugely frustrated when problems stand in the way of me and perfect produce. For instance I started the year with 156 tamarillos on the tree, and I love tamarillos, so this was a cause for great celebration, however during a 10 day holiday all but 7 of them were removed from the tree. About 30 were lying on the ground but the rest had simply vanished. What eats that many unripe tamarillos? – my bet is on flying foxes (fruit bats) but it may well be something else. Usually though I am more aware of what exactly it is that I am dealing with. My most recent frustrations, aside from damage caused by an unruly 17 month old boy, have been: cabbage white butterflies, birds, powdery mildew, and mice and rats. All is not lost though, I have come up with some solutions.
Birds – Last year we had blackbirds nesting in our Bougainvillea and the baby birds decided the best way to test their digging skills was on fresh patches of earth – usually where I had just sown seed of some kind. Scarecrows failed, my 4 year running at them yelling RAH!!!! worked well for brief periods but she soon tired of the game so we built cages to place over seeds. These worked! The cages are simply chicken wire attached to some fairly flimsy wood.
The birds have now gone but the cages are equally effective against bum shuffling toddlers for whom a raised bed is basically a very dirty and very big sand pit. Below are some newly planted leek seedlings happily not being squashed by the aforementioned toddler or indeed dug up by baby blackbirds.
Mice & Rats
Arrrgh… I’m fairly sure we have both mice and rats which is really annoying. I thought I glimpsed a rat running up the fence under the passionfruit and next door also says she saw one run up her fence and into our shed. The other thing that makes me think we have them is the damage they do. Last year pretty much all my broccoli was eaten as soon as it formed heads. This year there have been tell tale nibble marks on pumpkins and whole baby pumpkins have simply disappeared. Unfortunately I don’t have any workable solutions….as yet…… We have set rat traps but have never caught any, despite trying over periods of months. We can’t leave poison because of the kids and so I am currently at a bit of a loss to know what to do. My current tactic is to ignore them and hope they go away – which did work with this pumpkin which has grown to a good size despite the odd nibble mark.
Because our garden is relatively warm and sheltered I have to say I think I will always be battling against powdery mildew. The peas got it, the pumpkins have it and now the cucumber’s caught it. With the peas I tried to camomile tea and noticed no difference what so ever. With the pumpkins I tried milk solutions and while this worked better than the tea did for the peas it could really only be described as lessening the symptoms slightly and delaying the spread a little. I do think the milk treatment could work if applied regularly from or before the onset of mildew developing and I will try weekly applications from day one on next year’s crops. The milk application that seemed to work best for me was:
- First thing in the morning (so the plants get a chance to dry off after the treatment) hose off as much of the mildew as possible.
- Mix a batch of 60/40 water and full cream milk.
- Apply to the both sides of the leaves with a watering can.
- Cross fingers and hope it works.
With the cucumbers I have simply taken off the worst affected leaves and left the plant to try and deal with the mildew itself. The plant looks pretty tatty but it is still producing cucumbers so I am happy with that solution in this case.
Cabbage White Butterflies
Aren’t they annoying. I found this one on the nasturtiums this morning.
The best solution I have found for getting rid of cabbage white butterflies is also the most labour intensive. Simply run your fingers under the leaves every day (or every other day) to dislodge as many of the eggs as possible. Inspect the leaves for baby caterpillars and remove any you find. They seem to like to lie along the vein of the leaf best, especially when very young.
The other thing I have noticed with cabbage whites is that plants which are planted later in the season suffer from significantly less attach as the butterflies seem to prefer the warmer weather.
Finally I always give my broccoli a quick soak in salty water before cooking as this generally causes any remaining caterpillars to fall off before its cooked.
To get rid of aphids simply blast them off with the hose. This works well in pretty much all cases I have found, except really bad infestations in broccoli heads. Ants farm aphids on our tamarillo tree and quick blast of the hose dislodges them quickly and easily. They do return but usually not that quickly and in reduced numbers.