Monthly Archives: July 2013

Critters 2: … and the ugly!

I came across these cute (and gross) creepy crawlies last Friday. They were all over the kale in the greenhouse. At the time I thought they were caterpillars but I later learned, through a lot of Google image searching, that they are cabbage worms or cabbage loopers. They attack brassica family plants, such as the kale and collard greens that are currently in the garden.

These guys hide in plain site. I almost didn't see them, and then I saw a ton of them!

These guys hide in plain site. I almost didn’t see them, and then I saw a ton of them!

According to, the worms are the larva of the cabbage white butterfly. As soon as I read this, I remembered chasing a little white butterfly with my camera as he fluttered through the garden not long ago. At the time, of course, I thought it was so cute. Little did I know, their larva are the ultimate ugly.

What’s ugly is the amount of damage these little buggers can create. Unbelievable.

They have teeth!

They’re eating the kale right before my eyes!

I thought about picking them directly off the plants but I couldn’t bring myself to handle their soft, squishy bodies with my bare hands. Stroking their backs was as brave as I could get (they’re furry!).  Seeing their little mouths chomping on the kale was another deterrent from picking them up. I didn’t want to get bitten :).

I came across this interesting post yesterday by Urban Organic Gardener while I was searching for  information about cabbage worms. His post showed that the black spots in my picture below are actually worm poo and not aphids as I’d thought.

I thought this was aphids

That’s a lot of poo, which can only mean — a lot of worms! Nooo!

I managed to pick up a copy of Grow Great Grub and You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail from my local  Hamilton Public Library branch. I remember the books having sections on organic pest control (as most gardening books do) that I had ignored in the past but now I desperately wanted some reliable info on cabbage worms.

Here are just some of the recommendations from the books and entries from Hubpages and Better Homes and Gardens that I came across:

1. Companion planting – with items such as Aster family flowers (which if Wikipedia can be believed includes sunflowers, yarrow, and calendula), onions, and sage that either deter the worms or attract insects that will prey on them. Note that the examples I used are all growing in my garden. The sunflowers and calendula are close by but they aren’t in full bloom yet.

2. Use floating row covers to keep the butterfly from laying its eggs on your brassicas.

3. Handpick the little buggers off of your plants.

First calendula bloom of season.

First calendula bloom of season. Hopefully it will attract some predatory wasps to eat the cabbage worms.

I took home some collard and beet greens last Friday. When I got around to washing them on Sunday, I found two worms had hitched a ride and survived the fridge (well, one was moving in the water; the other wasn’t). A clear reminder to check my leaves carefully before I bag them.

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Critters 2: the good, the bad…

Love ’em or hate ’em, bugs are a fact of life in the garden. They can be good, promoting pollination or ridding the garden of those who do harm; bad, causing no end of damage; creepy, scary, slimy, stingy, and a host of other descriptors. Regardless of the reactions they produce in me, I still find them, above all, absolutely fascinating.

Here are some I’ve photographed so far:


What do you think? Moth?

Not sure if this moth is a good guy or a bad guy. Some larvae of moths eat plants while others eat pests. The red romaine it’s resting on has been in perfect shape since I took the picture so I’m tempted to think it’s a good guy or at least not a bad guy.

Stick bug likes the kale

Not sure if this is a good guy or a bad guy. If he’s the cause of that tear in the kale leaf he’s on, then he’s a bad guy in my books!

Another angle

Another angle of the insect above

Check out this tail. Scary.

I have no idea what this is but it’s scary. Check out that tail! Yikes!


Some fly hanky-panky... Get a room!

Some fly hanky panky on the garlic

Potato bug

Potato bug (woodlouse) – did you know it was a crustacean? It apparently eats decaying organic matter and recycles it back into the garden. Good guy.

Ladybugs make me happy!

Ladybugs (beetles) eat aphids. Definitely a good guy.

Another angle

From this angle, you can tell why cars of this shape are called “beetles” (beep beep!)

Fly or beetle?

A fly of some sort

Aptly named hoverfly

Aptly named hoverfly exploring the sage flowers. Their larvae eat aphids. Good guy.


I think this might also be a hoverfly. He’s checking out a zucchini leaf.

Checking out the spicy salad mix flowers

Checking out the spicy salad mix flowers

Baby grasshopper

This poor baby grasshopper couldn’t figure out how to get rid of me.

He's looking right at me

He’s looking right at me while trying to find a good hiding place on this sage plant.

I just won't leave him alone.

He could potentially be a bad guy. But still, he’s so cute!

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Eat local

Visiting farmers’ markets are always on my list of things to do, especially over the summer. Toronto has several that are well known (and have even been rated the best) – St. Lawrence, Dufferin Grove, and Wychwood Barns, for example. There are several in the east end where I live: East Lynn, Withrow Park, Leslieville, Brickworks, Riverdale… there are even a few opening up this summer:  Regent Park, which opened June 5th, and Fairmount Park, which opens July 17th. Most are organic markets.

I frequent the Hamilton Farmers’ Market , which is very close to where I work.

The market has been around since

The market is inside Jackson Square next to the Hamilton Public Library. It can be accessed through the mall or from York blvd.

It has two levels, featuring vendors of fish, cheese, baked goods, international foods, flowers and plants, coffee, and farm fresh produce. There is also Historic Birks Clock which has jousting knights whirling around its base.  One of the knights knocks another one over. It’s very cool.


Lower level

I've bought a few plants

Flowers, baked goods, international vendors, fish, and farmers down this aisle

Fish market

Some vendors on the mall (top) level

For some reason there are a few vendors that sell the same kind of produce you would find at your local grocery store, sometimes but not always at a cheaper price. Maybe this is to make the market more accessible to people who can’t afford to buy from the farmers. The market is inside the mall, right in the heart of downtown. That’s the only reason I can speculate. There was a survey done in 2011 that showed some interesting feedback. Generally people enjoyed their market experience but there were several good recommendations for improvement. Great that they asked for feedback.

Horseradish and celeriac

Horseradish and celeriac

I bought some horseradish back in May from one of the farmers on the lower level. It was one of the things I wanted to try growing this year. I asked the lady at the cash if it would grow if I planted it. She didn’t seem to know and I couldn’t remember what the growing season was like for it. I figured if roots were being harvested now, I could plant it now and it would still grow. I chose one with a few nubs that looked like they might produce sprouts, broke off a piece to plant and ate the rest with my meals. So fiery and delicious.


Apparently horseradish spreads like wildfire in the garden. I planted mine in a pot.

Farmers’ markets encourage me to cook more and to try new recipes. For the past few weeks I’ve been buying asparagus from a vendor from Waterdown (local!), 2 for $4. I’ve been making asparagus eggs every Sunday morning using herbs from the garden. Saute asparagus, add herbs, add eggs, and cook ’til done. Quick, easy and healthy. We’ve had it with home made salsa and avocado and wrapped in Ezekiel bread. De-lish!

Asparagus eggs with chives and garlic scapes

Asparagus eggs with chives and garlic scapes

I came across a rhubarb butter recipe from one of Facebook pages I follow. It was such an easy recipe that I decided I wanted to try it. That same Waterdown vendor was selling a bunch (about 8 stalks) for $4 so I bought some. The recipe doesn’t say what kind of apples to use so I just used the red delicious I had on hand. I estimated about half the amount of honey, because 1/2 cup seemed like too much, and used 1/2 tsp cinnamon. It turned out a bit too cinnamony but it had the perfect combination of sweet and tangy the consistency was good. My TO family loved it so much I decided to make it again. I got a good deal on Friday at a vendor on the top level as the Waterdown vendor wasn’t selling any. I doubled the recipe (and adjusted the seasoning to taste) so I could share some with my Hamilton family when I head back to work tomorrow. Hope they like it!

Preparing rhubarb

Preparing rhubarb

Simmer ingredients for 15 to 20 minutes

Rhubarb, apple, honey and cinnamon simmering on the stove (I ran out of vanilla)

Yummy butter.

Yummy butter cooling. Looks like I have some cleaning up to do.

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