Simple wicking box butterfly excluder

I’m determined to grow a good crop of brassicas this year. As well as the usual kale and broccoli, I’m going to have a go at red cabbage. I’ve been buying it recently and love it—sliced, steamed and dressed with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of raw sugar.

I always seem to put brassicas in too late and they don’t get much growth on before they’re slowed down by the cooler weather and winter. Then annoyingly, I find them running to seed in early spring.

I note that some of the other food-growing bloggers in Melbourne are sowing their brassica seeds in January, so this year, I’m doing the same.

But Cabbage White butterflies will be around well into autumn. Even though the hot weather has all but eliminated them at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a comeback when it gets cooler. So I need to keep them off the plants right from the seedling stage.

So—covers for the wicking boxes are needed.

Easy! Just poke a short stake into each corner:

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Two lengths of poly tubing over the stakes:

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And some fine netting over the top:

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That should keep the little so and so’s out! I should stress that the netting should be fine. I’m using mosquito netting, but any old lace curtains will do. I’ve seen Cabbage Whites get through wire mesh with a 1 cm opening. Bird netting is too coarse, too. I don’t know how they do it—just seem to fold their wings and they’re through. They’re very persistent where their food plants are concerned.

I’ll be potting up seedlings in the polyhouse but will want to put them out in the open eventually to grow on, so I’ll just put the tray of pots under the cover, on the surface of the box, until they’re ready to be planted out.

6 Responses to “Simple wicking box butterfly excluder”

  1. narf77 Says:

    How many brassica’s would you put in this box Bev? I, too, have a passion for cabbages and loath paying for them but loath even more having holes munched all through them! Great idea to make mini hoop houses to protect them…I would have to go with fine metal mesh as the wallabies and possums tend to bite through the softer stuff and lean on it hard so that they can reach the tender leaves. I have had to watch them eat my cavelo nero 4 times now as they just stamp on the bird netting till it gets close enough to reach through and grab the leaves. Never underestimate the strength and cunning of hungry animals!


    • foodnstuff Says:

      In my size box I usually put 6 plants of kale (Cavolo Nero, Red Russian or Curly Kale), about the same of sprouting broccoli and maybe only 4 of heading broccoli. I’ve never grown cabbage before so would probably only try a couple of those and see how they go, hoping they’ll get nice big heads!

      Once the kale starts growing I’m taking leaves off it constantly so there’s not much chance of the plants becoming stressed for water or food—they always remain fairly small.

      Depending on the size of the wire mesh, you could put the fine netting over the top of the wire. It’s only to keep the butterflies out. Once the weather cools (and I imagine it would do so early where you are), you can take off the netting and just leave the wire.


      • narf77 Says:

        Cheers for that Bev…I am going to have a go at making water wicking boxes especially for some of the veggies that I really don’t want the possums to sample. They have sampled the wazoo out of the 5 that I managed to grow (kale) in my tyre garden around the outside of my bean bed (also sampled down into a “cube” of beanery :(…) and as I adore kale and have a green smoothie every morning for my breakfast I would like a fair few kale plants. I am repeat harvesting my english spinach plants and they haven’t gone to seed even though its been pretty hot and dry here so repeat harvesting is the way to go. Looks like I am going to get a good eggplant harvest this year :). Might put some in a wicked bed next year as well 🙂


  2. Bek Says:

    I do the same thing and use net curtain fabric that I got cheap to protect my brassicas. I keep looking at your wicking beds and think I must give that a go.


  3. Liz Says:

    I’ve never tried protecting my brassicas but I do like the idea of those covers. I sowed mine a couple of weeks ago and they have been (hopefully) germinating at mum and dads while I’ve been away. Off to see them tomorrow – quite excited really which is silly. Hopefully my red cabbages do better this year than last though when they really struggled.


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