Great night talking about protecting crops from pests and extending the growing season

Notes from our gathering on March 30th
by Wendy Smith

Row cover support options photo

Lou discussing different supports for row covers. Photo: Anna Sullivan

The row cover system can used lots of different ways: veggie netting to protect from fruit fly, cabbage moth or white butterfly, etc; builders plastic to create a mini hot house to extend the warmer season (starting tomatoes, beans and corn at the end of August!); or shade cloth to protect coriander from the heat.  As Lou mentioned, keeping your growing bed area to a standard size enables you to use the same set-up across all beds and for all sorts of protection.

I have used poly pipe hoops over small stakes in my garden, but I was super excited by the wire hoop example Lou demonstrated – cheaper and much easier to store in the shed won me over.  It consists of wire bent over a drum to give the correct shape and looped near the base so that string can be threaded through and crisscrossed over the plastic cover to hold it taught.  That was all that was needed to stop it blowing away.  Can’t wait to try it.

wire bent for use as row cover support

DIY wire supports for row covers. Photo: Anna Sullivan

Veggie netting can be used to protect summer tomatoes, chillies and fruit crops from fruit fly. [Our Seed Savers’ info sheet about it can be accessed here]. Many of us also use it in autumn to protect brassica seedlings from cabbage moth and cabbage white butterfly, with a side bonus of keeping the birds away from our carefully laid out mulch.

One gardener had great success using land cress seedlings as a pest decoy for her brassica seedlings. The moths decimated the land cress and left the other brassica seedlings alone, definitely worth a try.
[Jerry Colby-Williams from Gardening Australia has information on this here and here; Eden Seeds are among a number of seed suppliers that stock this seed; and seedlings are available from Peards in Wodonga and probably other local nurseries].

Slaters have been on the march it would seem eating lots of seedlings to the ground before they get going, a good reminder to keep the mulch back and away from the seedling stems (slaters like the mulch), use cut off bottles around the seedlings as protection and/or laying out coffee grounds around the seedlings to stop the slaters.

Budworm being another unwelcome visitor and a good reminder to make sure you rotate crops and don’t plant your tomatoes in the same place for a couple of years as the budworm lives in the soil.

Just as an aside, I use a heavier grade fruit fly netting for my fruit trees which I purchased online from “Netpro Canopies”.  I have 3 polypipe hoops that go over star pickets to form a frame, with weed matting from “weed gunnel”, also purchased online, under the fruit tree to stop weeds and protect the nets which I weigh down with leftover pavers.

Image of net and weed mat on fruit tree

One of Wendy’s fruit trees with netting and weed gunnel. Photo: Wendy Smith

I did the maths on the costing a few years ago, comparing the net costing to the Ceres fruit fly traps, and while the initial investment is more, it would only take 2-3 years to equal, and then any use I get from the nets after that is a bonus.  I have been using my initial purchase now for 4 seasons, with minimal mending needed and I am sure they will last many years yet.  If anyone has any questions about this, feel free to contact me.

So for me, given that I am running late planting my rabe, I am going to buy some builders plastic and experiment with extending the autumn season to make up for my late planting.

*** Big thanks to Wendy for sharing some of the ideas discussed at this session and her  own experiences with crop protection and season extension. ***

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