Butterflies in the Garden
A couple weeks ago we noticed a mass (a flutter or kaleidoscope?) of butterflies passing through our garden. It was odd to see so many, they may have been on a migratory path. Today, another though smaller group, passed through. If you notice a few caterpillars on your cabbage patch right about now, I would not be surprised. The best possible outcome would be that those fat wrigglers become food for the numerous species of birds that are around now. It is a good idea to check your plants daily to see if the butterflies have laid eggs and quickly prevent an infestation from occurring. This is the first rule of organic pest management, inspect your plants often as it will be much more manageable at this stage before it gets out of hand.
Wash off any eggs that have been laid on the leaves or if your vegetables are already being demolished, try hand-picking the little critters and relocate them or save them for the compost pile. Another way to protect your crop is to rig fine mesh covers over your vegetable beds, but make sure to tuck in all the sides neatly as some pests are quite clever at squeezing underneath the fabric. If the damage is threatening to the life of the plants, it is time to mix up a biologically safe brew. Make sure that the ingredients you use to treat pest problems in the garden are not harmful to humans, beneficial insects and the pollinators, birds and other wildlife and safe in general for the environment.
Most of the pest management ingredients I use come from my kitchen. A good all-round recipe is a mix of 1T Baking soda, 1 t Bonner’s Castile soap (just use ordinary dishwashing liquid if you don’t have Bonners) 2 cloves garlic, ½ a scotch bonnet or chili pepper. If you have an old blender, reserve this for your garden brews. Blend the garlic and pepper in 2 cups of water and leave the mix in a jug to infuse overnight. In the morning stir in the baking soda and the soap. Add enough water to make up a gallon. Strain and pour into a spray container and spray both the top and undersides of the affected leaves. Do this in the early morning or late evening. Treat just one or two plants first to make sure there are no adverse effects before treating the whole field or bed. I will sometimes add the leftovers of my early morning tea, usually an infusion of sage, rosemary, thyme, fennel and orange peel to the concoction. Caterpillars do not like those strong scented herbs.
When planning your vegetable beds, allow space for a border of decoy plants, a pretty bed of cosmos or other flowering plants will create beauty and offer them an alternative to your veggies and hopefully encourage them to lay their eggs on those leaves instead of your edibles. Companion plant a few strong scented herbs and flowers between your main crops. Try sage, rosemary, marigold and scallion as they all repel insects. This type of garden builds biodiversity and ensures that as we grow healthy food, we consider protecting the fragile balance of nature. The recipes in my cookbook, My Goodness! Greens were inspired by my organic garden in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Garden and kitchen are so intertwined, I couldn’t resist devoting the final chapter to tips on growing your very own organic kitchen Garden. Visit our buy now page to purchase your copy.