Allotment structures: the brassica cage

Now a lot of people will tell you that brassicas are more trouble than they’re worth, but don’t you believe them! It’s glorious to have fresh, tasty winter vegetables when the weather is harsh and the shops are full of overpriced, tasteless, boring veggies.

There are a few problems – getting the soil right and the long growing season to name but two, but the worst, for us, is pests. The Cabbage White butterfly is called that because it loves cabbages, although it has no objection to other brassicas as far as I can see. And it’s not the butterfly that’s the issue, but the caterpillars, which hatch from small eggs laid on the undersides of leaves and which hatch with a ravenous desire to eat your brassicas down to the stump.

You can check the leaves and pick off the eggs, but we’ve never found this effective, and this year, due to me suddenly having major surgery, I’m really glad that we put in the effort (okay, Himself put in the effort) to build a brassica cage. The cage will keep off the pigeons as well as the butterflies, so it’s an all year round device. And it means that we don't have to do the time-consuming 'inspect and remove' thing with the eggs.

And here it is, in its first phase. Himself made the panels at home and lined them with 7 millimetre netting before taking them down to the allotment and assembling it there.

Second phase is a bit like putting together a three dimensional jigsaw that weighs a lot more than we’d expected. There was some cursing and counter-cursing at this point.

Finished article: which is substantial and easy to get around in. We could have got one of those cages made of aluminium poles and netting, but it’s a windy site and over the past year we saw quite a few of those lying on their sides after some of Sussex’s more demanding gales, so we went for something a bit more castle-like! It is portable, to avoid the risks inherent in not rotating crops, but strong enough to withstand weather.

And here it is with Ragged Jack kale in it. On the other side of the plank path we've put dwarf green kale and the other winter crop we’ll put in it will be purple-sprouting broccoli, which has been prone to butterfly infestation on our site, and next year we hope to be organised enough to put cabbages and cauliflowers inside too.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Blogger Mark Hubbard said...

Previously here I have bragged about how, because my vege garden is on the sea, I don't seem to have any problem with white butterfly or pests on my brassicas.

I was wrong.

I have Brussel Sprouts planted that have been just about 100% wiped out by 'something'. Eaten to bits - in winter? I've been wafting Derris Dust around, but have only managed to infect my silver beet, rainbow beet, and spinach with the damned stuff, to the stage these plants all went white and I thought it safer to pull them rather than eat them.

Bit of a disaster really.

So, it looks like a brassica cage may become essential. I'm wondering, from the photos, though, if your's would withstand force 5 winds :)

June 16, 2009 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Well, we get force 8 in a bad winter so I hope it will! Mind you, we have shelter to the east in the form of tall garden fences and to the south by a largish pear tree that should cut onshore winds which are usually the ones that lift stuff on our allotments, because people build everything to cope with Northerlies instead. The bottom of the cage is sunk into our clay soil with metal staples that we will lift out when we move it in a year's time.

You could have washed the Derris off, but I'd probably not have taken the chance either.

June 19, 2009 at 2:44 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

Looks impressive. It reminds me that we really need to get on with our cage plans. I can just imagine your thwarted pigeons!

June 19, 2009 at 4:49 AM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mark, That's sounds like a really great solution to a problem that we all share. Would be grateful if you could share with us the name of the net supplier. I can only find 3.5m wide in small mesh which is not really wide enough. Thanks, Ronnie.

October 13, 2010 at 5:28 AM  

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