HELEN LANG: This butterfly doesn’t bring joy

Columnist laments damage done by white cabbage butterfly

Lepadopterous brassicus. I think it’s possible that’s the botanical name for a white cabbage butterfly, but then again, it’s probably not. I can think of a good name for that species, but being a lady I can’t tell you what it is.

I’ve mentioned that I have three handsome strong Brussels sprouts plants in a large pot on the balcony. Well I don’t know who spread the word, but they have been under attack for several days now and instead of those clean unsullied leaves, we now have leaves that are ugly, tattered and torn, and I know who did it. Yesterday he or she came calling, hungry as usual and headed for my sprouts. I waved it away, but it kept coming back until I finally gave it a hearty swat and it took the hint and flew away. Why me?

Three lonely sprout plants, three storeys in the air, in downtown Sidney, traffic roaring by on the street below, and there it comes, wafting erratically about as it approaches my precious plants, it’s beady eyes fixed on its next meal. Surely there are gardens filled with cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts which would be more tempting than my paltry three plants, but no. Mine seem to be special and now are a frail shadow of the sturdy plants I put in.

Will they ever live to maturity with such paltry leaves to support future growth? I guess I’ll just have to wait to see what happens next and any future cabbage butterflies better keep their distance if they value their health.

If you are growing tomatoes it’s time to sprinkle a tablespoon of lime around the base of each plant. Although tomatoes prefer an acid soil, this bit of lime will prevent the dreaded blossom-end rot, that horrible dark brown scar that sometimes appears on the blossom-end of the fruit.

If you haven’t already done it, this is probably a good time to thin your carrots, being careful to press the soil back around the remaining plants. I hope you are keeping the beans picked and stopping the upward growth of tomatoes now, encouraging the swelling of those lovely red orbs.

This reminds me that I have two large tomatoes very nearly ready to eat, but their shoulders are still pretty green. so it will be a few days yet before the ceremonial picking. I’m sorely tempted, but still have two California-grown ones in the fridge so I’d better eat them first. If I start eating the home-grown ones – ones you’ve just picked – there is no turning back to the almost tasteless store-bought ones.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.