Cabbage butterflies and caterpillars

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing all your beautiful brassica being devoured by hoards of caterpillars.  When we lived in East Sussex, we lost everything to them, no matter what we did.  We tried making a cage … but the mesh was too wide.  We tried insecticide sprays (as a last resort, although we avoid them normally), but they didn’t work either.  We tried picking them off (the starlings loved them!), but as fast as we removed them, more took their place.

When we took over our allotment, we knew this was going to be a big problem.  Then we heard about the old-fashioned rhubarb leaf remedy!  As usual, we only got half the story, so some of our ‘rhubarb jollop’ recipe was trial and error.

We take about 6 large rhubarb leaves and break them up in a bucket.  Cover with boiling water and add 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of washing up liquid.  Cover with cling film and leave for at least a couple of weeks.  It’s a good idea to put this well out of the way of children, animals, etc.  We favour the shed, but don’t leave it anywhere it can be knocked over because the resulting brew is revolting and without mincing words … stinks to high heaven!  When it is really smelly, sieve the brew through an old pair of tights or cloth and dilute 10 to 1 with water.

When sprayed on brassica this really does deter the butterflies.  We had no problems last year using this method and so far in 2009, it’s looking good.  We spray every couple of weeks, depending on how much rain we’ve had.  And as all our veg is washed before being cooked, is no residue left on the leaves.

We tried making the brew without the washing up liquid, but with disastrous results.  The mixture just went mouldy and didn’t have the required pong … so we haven’t done that again!


One Response to “Caterpillars!”

  1. A bit of a stink at the allotments this weekend! « The Oxfordshire Copywriters' Allotment Says:

    […] A bit of a stink at the allotments this weekend! By Joy McCarthy Hands up who thought I meant trouble was brewing at the William Fowler Allotments in Chipping Norton?  Sorry to disappoint, but the ‘stink’ was of our own making.  With the cabbage white butterflies starting to appear and look longingly at our brassicas, it was time to spray with the noxious rhubarb jollop.   […]

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