Vege Net Brassica Experiment Winter 2012

Savoy cabbage

Savoy cabbage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the Wine & Roses Festival put on by local winery Barley Stacks and Minlaton’s Yorkreations Nursery one of the guest speakers was Sophie Thomson. In her talk about organic controls of pests she recommended a product called Vege Net. This is a netting material that is reputed to keep out White Cabbage Butterfly which decimates our brassica crops year round.

In many gardening magazines and websites it is suggested that gardeners wait until the cooler months before planting new brassica crops. They say that by April that cabbage white butterflies find it too cool by then but not here. These pests get around right through winters and their caterpillars make a mess of young plants. This year I decided to try the vege net experiment and make a tunnel out of it. If successful I will extend the tunnels to protect brassicas all year. I expect it will have no impact on grey aphids which will need the usual careful monitoring. I purchased my vege net from Green Harvest.

I constructed the tunnels seen in the pictures below quite simply. The vege net I bought comes in pieces 6m x 20m. In order to cover beds and still be able to service the plants I cut the sheet down to 6m x 5m which will give me 3 or 4 pieces altogether. The spans are made of 25mm black poly pipe about 4m long and bent across the bed. These are anchored at their ends by 10mm reinforcing rod pegs about 60cm long and driven 30-40cm into the ground. The poly is slid over these pegs and you have a perfect anchor. So far there is no tendency to come of the pegs. The bed is 1.2m wide and the vege net is thrown over the poly frame. I have used cable ties in the middle of the span to hold the net when we lift a side in order to service the plants inside.

The whole bed is mulched with cereal straw and a mixture of brassicas including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Savoy cabbage are planted inside. The seedlings were newly purchased but already they were already carrying white cabbage butterfly eggs and even a tiny caterpillar which were despatched quickly thanks to Pamela’s eagle eye and deadly jackhammer finger!

Pamela planting brassicas in the new vege tunnel amongst the cereal straw. The net is fixed at the apex of the poly frame with a single cable tie.

The closed up vege net tunnel is 4m long so that there is enough netting material left over to draw together at the ends. I have simply tied the ends with string and anchored with a single brick. The sides are anchored with a single length of water pipe but anything heavy will do, even a length of timber.

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