Growing food: exercise in optimism

I have a relatively small garden for edibles, needing to fence it to keep out the trio of volunteer pruners that are daily visitors to my yard: deer, rabbits, and woodchucks.


These animals seem to love a challenge, and it's not uncommon for one or more of them to overcome my defenses and help themselves to our food -- I saw this earlier in the year when my lovely beets were devoured in one sitting by a less-lazy deer, or maybe it was a woodchuck.



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So I'm optimistic about growing food every year, but that optimism is tempered by realism and experience. There's a good chance that I may not get any food out of the veggie beds during the summer.


The early spring crops of overwintered kale and cilantro (coriander) were big successes, but the spring-planted kale I never get too excited about, for good reason...


...the Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae). These things appear so early here, and stay around all summer long.


Brassicas (kale, cabbage, broccoli, etc.) don't stand a chance.

Since I didn't see more than a couple of very small worms, the birds must be doing their part...


...but that doesn't mean that I'm left with something that I can eat.

I don't know which is worse, having your food slowly eaten by many little mouths...


...or quickly eaten by one big one:


(Woodchucks eat a lot in one sitting. This one swallowed some caterpillars I think, which makes me smile.)

The only acceptable defense is row covers, and I suppose I'll have to plant with that in mind for the fall and next year.

Are cabbage white caterpillars a problem where you garden?

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Maywyn Studio  – (June 9, 2015 at 8:56 AM)  

I love the chicken wire enclosures that Rock Rose (blogger) has in their garden. I'm thinking of try to make a small version for my container herb garden.

outlawgardener  – (June 9, 2015 at 9:22 AM)  

I've not had problems with cabbage white caterpillars here. Mostly it's the slugs which are easier to deal with. Growing food is an exercise in optimism. This year the only edible crops I'm growing are tomatoes and basil in the greenhouse as I've run out of sunny ground space for them.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (June 9, 2015 at 11:02 AM)  

Wow, that's so frustrating! All this effort for nothing.

We weren't going to start a vegetable garden this year because of the ongoing drought in California but I ended up getting a few things (tomatoes, basil, hot peppers, fennel) that get watered with gray water. So far so good, and no pests yet.

Mark and Gaz  – (June 9, 2015 at 12:49 PM)  

Your persistence may pay so who knows :) okay maybe not this time but perhaps in the near future. At least you tried, although the very act of doing edible gardening can be rewarding on its own

Emily Khan  – (June 9, 2015 at 1:15 PM)  

Have you ever read the book, The $64 Tomato--it's kinda funny. Coincidently, here is a link to the EXACT excerpt I thought you'd enjoy -- http://williamalexander.com/64dollartomato/inside.cfm?page=excerpt

Alan  – (June 9, 2015 at 2:37 PM)  

Peter: I already knew that you didn't have cabbage whites in the PNW, because everything is perfect up there, at least plant-wise. :)

Gerhard: your nemesis is rats if I remember correctly. Hope they don't appear this year!

Mark/Gaz: I love being able to pick something from the plant and eat it, but it really makes you think twice when you get a single meal from a few months of growth.

Emily: Wonderful! Fitting too, as I dreamed something similar last night -- but it was a beaver not a woodchuck, and it kept dragging my boots into the water. It even tried to take them when I was still wearing them. Crazy dream. I wish the food-eating pests were just dreams...

Rock rose  – (June 9, 2015 at 6:03 PM)  

I sometimes wonder why I bother with vegetable gardening for the amount of produce I get. This year was hard with the hail battering everything to death or almost death. Then when they came back to life the bugs got the. Spider mites etc. I shan't need to worry about leaf footed bugs this year. I have read that if you lay foil down around the plant the moths won't land because they get confused about where the sky is. I meant to try it but nature beat me to it.

Lisa  – (June 10, 2015 at 9:44 PM)  

We use diatomaceous earth to thwart the caterpillars, slugs, and other soft-bodied pests. We used it to end a nasty ant invasion in the kitchen this spring as well. It's natural and human safe (but we are careful to avoid anything with blossoms to avoid exposing the bees. They say the bees hairy bodies protect them from the DE, but they can carry it back to the hive inadvertently.) We use no chemicals in our garden so DE has been a great addition to our natural pest arsenal.

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