Archive for March, 2010
Very Hungry Caterpillars

Very Hungry Caterpillars

Posted 24 March 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Books, Gardening, Growing Food, Vegetables | 1 Comment

very hungry caterpillars

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarleThis week marks the anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, one of my favorite books as a child. But one glance at the protagonist’s varied diet (food diary lovingly compiled by the Shrinking Sisters) reveals that it is not Pieris rapae rapae (aka cabbage white butterfly, small white butterfly or just white butterfly), Seagarden’s frequent diner.

These soft green consumers grow up and become white butterflies, who then lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. The caterpillars hatch and begin to feast on a menu of organic tatsoi, kale, bok choy, broccoli and brussels sprouts, i.e. the brassicaceae — in the case of the tatsoi (below), until it’s entirely devoured.

In the organic garden, the main options for stopping this cycle are physical (removing the caterpillars and eggs), chemical (garlic spray as a preventative), and biological (Bacillus thuringiensis aka BT, dipel and thuricide which is a bacterial stomach poison for all caterpillars).

I regularly apply garlic spray, which I suspect the caterpillars enjoy as a tasty marinade, and my strategic companion plantings of hyssop, nasturtium, calendula and cosmos have been interpreted as gifts of affectionate bouquets. A box of BT (in the form of Organic NO Caterpillars) sits on the shelf, but after buying it I found I really don’t have a strong desire to poison the little beings. I guess I value biodiversity more than a perfect crop. (See Dan Barber’s inspiring TED talk featuring systems-thinking measurements of success, such as the the health of the predators and water purified through the farming process.)

I handpick them in the mornings. And sometimes in the evenings. They rotate their fuzzy faces towards mine and channel Mary Oliver, mouthing “Don’t bother me.
I’ve just been born.”
Once I’ve gathered a handful or so, I fling them gently over the fence, into the puka (or beyond). I won’t be replanting tatsoi. How do you deal with very hungry caterpillars?

Life and Death For The Win

Life and Death For The Win

Posted 12 March 2010 | By | Categories: fungi, Gardening, Inspirations, Plants | 3 Comments

Pictures of Life and Death Garden Ellerslie Flower Show image by Ben Campbell

Delighted to read that “Pictures of Life and Death,” a garden featuring fungi, lichen and moulds by a team from the Christchurch Botanic Gardens took first place at the Ellerslie International Flower Show in Christchurch, New Zealand this week.

Pictures of Life and Death GardenJeremy Hawker, Christchurch Botanic Gardens Botanical Services Team Leader, describes it as a “dramatic, theatrical exhibit where fungi, mould and lichen will thrive. There will be a sense of being below the earth and looking out to a glimpse of blue sky, hence the name Pictures of Life and Death.” Inspired by the mold in Hawker’s coffee cup, the Botanic Gardens’ team spent months foraging for mushrooms throughout the region that they continued to grow on decomposing logs to include in the exhibit.

The Human Flower Project offers this as an example of bellephobia trending. Technically speaking, fear of beauty is “callophobia,” but only a phobophile would care about such details. I’d like to see it as an example of the dawning recognition that indeed, fungi can be exquisitely beautiful. Look at the love shown for the plant life in Avatar (another winner made in New Zealand and undoubtedly influenced by the work of Paul Stamets).

Here are some gorgeous views of the garden and an interview with Sheena Baines, the co lighting designer, who describes it as “The whole sequence is based on death and life and the cycle. We basically destroy the earth with volcanoes and earthquakes and then we rebuild it. It’s kind of death and destruction spawns new life.”