March is nearly coming to a close and the summer intensity of our vegetable garden is moving into the next phase. I love our winter vegetable garden. A really productive winter garden, I have learnt, means a busy time right now. I actually start winter vegetable preparation in February by propagating seeds of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and silverbeet. This does seem ridiculous at the time but I am already admiring the strong healthy growth of these plants in such a short time that I feel encouraged to find those winter slow cooked recipes right now!
I have now done a second planting into another bed of 2 different Kale varieties (dwarf Siberian and Red Russian), more broccoli, wombok and cauliflower. I will sow seed in the next couple of days for a third and final planting of a similar mix of varieties. The monthly plantings will mature at different times and keep us rich in greens for the next six months.
Growing these winter greens on a large scale commercially has the challenge that I also face of the caterpillar of White Cabbage Moth. Controlling this very hungry caterpillar on a large scale requires regular spraying whilst the weather remains warm. Cool weather will see the moth numbers drop off quickly but getting your plants to grow and mature before the caterpillar has eaten all the leaves is a race.
I personally use bird netting over the beds as soon as the plants go in. Provided the netting isn’t touching any leaves the moth can’t land and lay eggs, thus stopping the cycle of egg to caterpillar. I also check daily for any sneaky caterpillars – they are so well camouflaged – any collected caterpillars go to the chooks. The netting will come off in a month or so when the moth numbers have lessened or gone and plants are larger and stronger.
I really appreciate that I can harvest all these winter greens from our garden without having to think about what spraying needed to happen. These super foods are easy to grow in our temperate climate of southern Australia and don’t take up as much space as some of summer’s bigger cropping plants. Time to get those next seeds in for April planting.