Sunday, 11 April 2010

Nettles for Caterpillars

Today I had to go in search of nettles. My painted lady butterflies have been so busy laying eggs that the plants I put in the enclosure looked more blue than green. Today I saw the first hatchlings, and they are VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLARS! They definitely need a lot more food than the poor plants could provide, so I have come up with a plan. I took large pasta jars, put an inch or so of wet compost in the bottom, and pushed in the nettle bits I had picked. I then cut off a leaf containing eggs and baby caterpillars, and put one in each jar. The tops have been covered with fleece secured by an elastic band. Butterfly farming could be my new occupation. At around £20 for 10 caterpillars (with food and home though), I could clean up. I only have 4 butterflies still alive, but they were still egg laying today, as a new batch appeared on the fresh nettle plant I put in this morning. I had wondered if the weather might be kind enough to release some of the caterpillars, but the wind is bitingly cold tonight, so I think it is still a bit early.
I finished off planting my climbing french beans and my runners today, checking back in my diary I was doing eaxctly the same thing a year ago. The courgettes, butternut squash and pumpkins are now through, and moved into the unheated propagator. I'm just waiting for the winter squash, Festival. None of those have come through yet, but hopefully they will appear.
I've been hardening off my containers of flowers the past couple of days, a white petunia is already out, and the plants all look good. I'm not risking them outside overnight for a while though. The kohl rabi is also hardening off, and I intend to get that planted in the allotment garden this week sometime., along with the broad beans, Jubilee Hysor, I think they were. They have been sown in the toilet roll middles, and now are strong plants ready to go out. I was going to put them in on Friday when I went, but forgot to take a trowel or small fork. The carrots, radish, beetroot and turnips are beginning to show, and the onions and shallots are sprouting; they all went in a couple of weeks ago. I've still got some onion sets to go in here, but I might use them more like spring onions, as I didn't really have space for 100.
I've been trying to sow salad leaves successionally, most take a week to show, but the lettuce have been more reluctant. The celeriac germinated well, and I transplanted 18 into modules for me today. I've got the other pot, but they seem a bit slower, so I'll give them a few more days befor moving them on. I caught up with Gardener's World on iplayer tonight, and fast forwarded through the bit I wasn't that interested in. However it's good to see that I'm on track with most things. I wasn't growing any potatoes this year, but some of the ones under the sink have started sprouting, so maybe I'll put those in and see if I get anything worthwhile, Maris Peer and Saxon are the varieties, an early and a second early I think.
Tomorrow we are intending a visit to Wisley. My camellia in the back garden is looking lovely, but the one I put out by the drive looks yellow and poorly, I don't think it likes it out there, so I'll have to see if I can find space to bring it back. I do love the camellias, and they have a lovely show of magnolias too, one on Andy's favourites.

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