Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The Worms Crawl In
Thanks to issues with cabbage root maggots the planting of certain brassicas, mainly cabbage, broccoli, brussels, cauliflower, and kohlrabi can be quite a chore in our gardens. The adult, similar in appearance to that of small housefly, lays eggs in the soil next to the stems of cole crops. When the larvae hatch they make their way down to the roots and eat tunnels throughout the root system causing the plants to eventually fail.
"One of the solutions to this problem, and the one that works best for us, is to cut squares of perforated weed barrier and place them around the base of each and every plant" he says with an exhausted sigh. Floating row covers can also keep the flies off cole crops but wind and water issues prevent us from using them. Besides, what fun would simple row covers be when one can look forward to cutting and placing hundreds of little squares instead. :)
First we separate, in this case ruby perfection cabbage plants from the tangled web they have weaved in my flats. Yeah, I planted them a little too close together and this is why I'm planting this particular batch out now rather then waiting until they are bigger as I normally do. We used really old seed and did not expect such good germination.
We plant them as deep as possible, even covering the first little set of leaves with soil. Planting this deep enables the cabbage, with its shallow root system the ability to access more soil moisture. Also this helps to keep it from flailing about in the wind... an issue we have, especially in the early spring. We actually have to put wooden stakes on the east side of full size cole crops to keep occasional wind gusts from literally ripping them out of the ground.
Then I put a small (6x6") square of weed barrier, with a slit cut half way down the middle, around the base of the plant making sure to leave a slight bowl shaped depression so that water will more easily penetrate through to the roots of the cabbage.
Cover with dirt and I'm ready to move on to the next one. In the past we also added a little wood ash around the plant as this seems to work as a repellent as well.
I'm planting my cabbages in three different stages this year, hoping to come up with the perfect heads for winter storage. As much as I love cabbage it is certainly not one of the easiest crops for me to grow due to weather, insects, and my general lack of a green thumb. Perhaps this will be the year I finally master this most simple of all vegetables to grow.
"Cabbage: A vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head." - Ambrose Bierce, American writer (1842-1914)
This post is in no way meant to diminish the worthiness of a root maggot or any of their kind. I am aware that we all have a right to live full and productive lives to the best of our abilites. Some species tunnel through cabbage roots while other species place numerous little squares to prevent tunneling.