Allotment whitefly

My list of hates is endless, at least when it comes to allotments: slugs, snails, tomato blight, potato blight, carrot fly, wireworms, eel worms, greenfly, blackfly and whitefly. The one at the top of the list is usually the most recent one I’ve come across. Last week it was slugs after discovering that camouflaged monster lurking on plot 103 and today it’s whitefly.

When we were on plot 201 we have problems with whitefly on our brassicas – they were almost at epidemic proportions on the kale there.

I started our brassica growing on plot 103 with high hopes and high hygiene: I decided to grow Redbor, which is a red kale with a high degree of resistance to most kinds of attack, I didn’t plant them out until they were six inches tall and therefore pretty robust (ie not tender) and I hoped that using the edible landscape technique would reduce predator attack. In that respect at least, edible landscaping hasn’t worked! Every single one of the 13 kale in the ground has got whitefly. Some just had one or two, some were infested to the point where a cloud of off-white speckles rose into the sky as soon as I touched the plant. Under the leaves, where they prefer to lurk, I found the white blotches that show were the eggs have been laid and the larvae have emerged.

A female can lay around 200 eggs on a plant, and their lifecycle is short, so they reproduce rapidly and become a massive problem. The larvae eat the sap from the plant but then leave a sticky deposit on the plant which can allow a mould, called sooty mould, to develop and that kills off the plant very quickly.

I tend to use soapy water in a spray to deal with whitefly – it’s not organically approved (but then we’re not an organic allotment) and you can’t use it if there is any hope of getting other insect life in the way as soap sprays have an ill effect on everything. So, for example, I’d never use soapy water on blackfly on my broad beans because I know that once the blackfly appear, the ladybird larvae will follow soon after and enjoy feasting on the flies. The problem with kale plants is that they don’t seem to have much appeal for ladybirds and I checked for the larvae very carefully before I sprayed.

I’ll have to spray every two or three days to keep the whitefly at bay. From now on I’ll try to encourage more insectivorous birds through the winter by putting out feeders for them but I fear that our allotments are simply going to be full of whitefly forever. So despite the lovely haul of peas, strawberries, sweet peas and the first courgette, I am a bit fed up.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, June 2, 2011


Blogger Joanna said...

Comisserations, it is so demoralising when you nearly get beaten by something like that. At the moment for us it is the weather, slightly breezy and hot - we need rain

June 2, 2011 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Claire Benson said...

I'm trying enviromesh over my cabbages. I don't know if I'll be successful using this ethos as it's the first time I am growing cabbages and using enviromesh but I'm keepingy fingers crossed I'll get to eat my own cabbages!


June 2, 2011 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger Pegg said...

I read somewhere that if you steep garlic in warm water, cool it down and then spray plants with that it reduces white fly. I've been spraying for 3 days and mine seem to be gone for now...
And the sweet peas - are they for looking at or for eating? I've not heard anything about eating them, but you seem to have good recipes for other things I hadn't thought about before?

June 2, 2011 at 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Damo said...

I've found milk to be the best for whitefly. The cream off the top of a pint of Jersey in a little sprayer - should work on any soft bodied pest.

June 4, 2011 at 12:14 AM  
Blogger Growth Spurts said...

Ah white fly is a right pain, ive got it on my peppers and I have to spray them every 2-3 days as well the little blighters!

June 4, 2011 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Joanna, it is very annoying indeed, but we're not giving up yet!

June 6, 2011 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Claire, enviromesh is great, as long as it doesn't tear and you make sure you replace it if you lift it to water etc. We've found it very useful against cabbage whites in the past, but never used it against whitefly, I must admit!

June 6, 2011 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Pegg, the garlic spray (also a spray made from paprika peppers, does work but apparently also wipes out other insect life. As for the sweet peas, no you can't eat them, they make totally indedible little pea seeds (but you can freeze the flowers in ice-cube trays to make gorgeous ice for summer drinks.)

June 6, 2011 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Damo - really? We'll give it a go!

June 6, 2011 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Growth spurts (great name by the way) - peppers do seem to be really suffering this year - the whitefly obviously get drawn to them in hot weather.

June 6, 2011 at 10:24 AM  

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