13 April 2012

A Chicken Challenge

I'm not posting this photo as an example of how great Cavelo Nero can look...!  Since the seedlings in the City Garden outgrew their shade-mesh protection they have been attacked by the worst of the garden bugs - cabbage moth caterpillars.  I've had a reasonable crop over the last month or so, and can cope with a few holey leaves, but there are starting to be more holes than leaves now, so it's time for action.  
As an aside, it's interesting that when eating my own home-grown food or buying what I know is organic produce at farmers markets I'm quite accepting of less than aesthetically perfect vegies, whereas if I was ever offered slightly chewed vegetables in a shop I'd never buy them!  Clearly aesthetics are a huge part of the current problem of massive food wastage in Australia.  You hear stories of bananas being rejected by supermarkets because they are not bent to the right "banana" shape, or vegies slightly blemished or over-abundant just being plowed back into paddocks because they can't be sold.  What a crazy, wasteful society we've become.  Perhaps we need to instigate an annual "Eat a Crooked Banana Day" to re-embrace ALL the fabulous fresh food that is grown in Australia?

The other industry that obviously flourishes with this attitude so rife are the pesticide manufacturers.  I imagine that dousing my Cavelo Nero in potent chemicals probably would stop the cabbage moths in the short term.  But it would also stop me eating it, and I couldn't give the older leaves to the chickens, and the local bee and other insect population probably wouldn't be very happy either.  When you start thinking about organic vs non-organic at a micro level, I just can't imagine how anyone could even think of contemplating it.  And then multiply that at a commercial level and think about what is really going on in the pursuit of perfect crops....

Anyway, back to my cavelo nero problem and the Chicken Challenge.  The small space I have available in the City Garden is best used by crops that are quick growing and able to supply us with a reasonably large quantity of vegetables that can be plucked off the plants just before they go into the pot.  Cavelo Nero has worked before, but I think is best in the City Garden as a winter crop when the moths are less prevalent.  So therefore I've decided to pull out the crop for now and put in some peas which shouldn't be affected by the moths as badly.  The Country Garden currently has a large planting of cavelo nero and silverbeet which are growing perfectly under their protective cover, so I will just pick extra of that each week for the time being until I can re-establish some plants later in the year in the City Garden.  

From my reading on permaculture, one of the major objectives is to set up a system that works with nature, not against it. And therefore finally (sorry for the long-winded post!) to the chickens.  Before I pull out the plants, I've decided to take away the fence around the bed and give the chickens access.  Is it possible that the chickens (who I've already established absolutely LOVE caterpillars) will move into the bed and keep the bugs under control without demolishing the plants as well?  I suspect not because they are also pretty fond of cavelo nero, but I am willing to give it a try and perhaps move a step closer to setting up a complete system in the garden.  Otherwise they will do the weeding for me, get a healthy diet of lots of greens and prepare the bed for a crop of plump, juicy peas. Win-Win really!
...1 hour later - Hmmm I think I can see the
probable outcome of this Challenge...!!


  1. Do you plant marigolds with your veggies? I'm not sure if it's just an old wives tale, but I have always planted marigolds in my garden and haven't had much of an issue with bugs.

  2. Yes I have done that in the past and I agree it does seem to help. I usually also place broken egg shells around the bed which apparently the moths think are other moths so stay away. I think I just assumed the warm weather was over and it wouldn't be needed. (But I'm very happy to be proven wrong as I sit outside on a perfect, sunny 27 degree day to write this!)