Month: July 2020

Growing vegetables from scraps: our guide to regrowing vegetables

Growing vegetables from scraps: our guide to regrowing vegetables

You can use your vegetable scraps to grow back whole veggies again. Celery, spring onion, lettuce, carrots and many others can be regrown back. To many this may be hard to believe but, yes, a lot of vegetables you buy every week can grow almost…

Top 10 low-maintenance plants

Top 10 low-maintenance plants

No more watering cans and garden hoses. These are the ten drought-resistant plants that you rarely ever need to water. Those who prefer to relax in summer instead of working in the garden are faced with a big problem. Especially in the hot summer months…

Top 10 climbing plants for fences & walls

Top 10 climbing plants for fences & walls

Are you looking for plants that will transform your fences or walls into lush green vertical gardens? These ten climbers are just the right choice.

If you want to enjoy your garden in peace without being disturbed by curious glances, a wall or a fence is usually the only fool proof option. Unfortunately, artificial privacy screens are often anything but aesthetically pleasing and do not really fit into the otherwise green gardens. Thankfully, nature provides a solution for this problem. Climbing plants are nature made screens that effortlessly grow up various surfaces, enhancing them with their luscious foliage and gorgeous flowers and sheltering the gardens from unwanted looks. The ten climber plants discussed below are perfectly suited to every garden.

The best climbing plants

You don’t always have to resort to ivy to add green to walls and fences. These are the 10 alternative climbing plants that will secure as well as embellish your garden.

1. Morning glory

While most perennial climbers often need years to reach their full size, the Mexican morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor) conquers their area in record time. Sowed in spring, it winds its way elegantly along fences and walls in summer and can reach an impressive height of up to three metres. The plant thrives best in sunny and sheltered places, such as by a south facing wall of a house. In summer, the morning glory should be watered and fertilised regularly, so that the plant can enchant us with the full grandeur of its flowers. The flowers have a funky funnel shape, which makes them especially eye-catching. The morning glory first blossoms pink, later the flowers turn sky blue but remain snow-white on the inside.

2. Sweet pea

If you are looking for a plant that will delight not just your eyes but also your nose, you will make a perfect choice with the sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus). The annual climbing plant is extraordinarily vigorous and can grow up to three metres tall. From June to August, the sweet pea forms numerous blossoms reminiscent of butterflies that glow in shades of violet, red, pink or white. But the plant is not just a feast for the eyes – as its name suggests, the flowers of the sweet pea also exude a honey-sweet scent. This plant prefers locations with an abundance of sun and a shelter from wind. It should be fertilised and watered regularly (waterlogging should be avoided!). What is more, the sweet pea also looks great as a romantic bouquet in a vase.

3. Black-eyed Susan vine

Vibrantly coloured flowers with a contrasting deep black spot in the middle: the flowers of the black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) are the main event in the garden. It is no wonder then that this beautiful climber is a popular tenant in the European gardens. The black-eyed Susan vine feels most at home in sunny and warm locations and can reach an impressive height of two metres. In addition to its predominantly yellow or orange flowers, the black-eyed Susan vine also impresses with her adorable heart-shaped leaves. With a sufficient supply of nutrients and regular watering without waterlogging, the vine is a beautiful and practical screening plant all in one.

4. Winter jasmine

The winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) reaches its full glory in spring already. While other plants are still in hibernation mode, the winter jasmine boasts its numerous small and bright yellow flowers. Depending on the temperature, this spectacle can take place even before Christmas, so the winter jasmine is undoubtedly one of the rare colourful plants in winter. Until April it retains its great flowering splendour and even after that the evergreen climbing plant is a true ornament. The winter jasmine prefers the semi-shade; in the sun it flowers less lavishly. In addition, the winter jasmine should be cut back regularly, otherwise it can become woody and barren.

5. Clematis

The clematis is one of the most fascinating climbing plants to have in your garden. The astonishing plant can grow to an incredible ten metres in height. In May and June, the clematis blooms with dainty flowers, which appear in colours ranging from bright white to dark violet and sometimes even exude a delicate scent. Clematis is also quite diverse in its varieties. The plant itself is not a climber so it should be given a proper climbing aid to crawl up walls and fences. Interestingly, clematis likes to keep its feet cold, so adding groundcovers to grow below it to provide a cooling carpet of leaves is a great idea.

6. Boston ivy

You are not the most skilled gardener of them all but would really like a privacy screening plant? Then the Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), also called grape or Japanese ivy, is the perfect fit for you. The extremely vigorous self-climber will cover any fence or a tall wall in no time. The Boston ivy is particularly popular as a climbing plant for house facades, as it does not need any climbing aid, yet reaches astonishing heights of up to 20 metres. At the same time, it requires very little maintenance and is extremely hardy. However, regular pruning is mandatory if the Boston ivy is not to spread unchecked. Especially in autumn, when its leaves turn scarlet red, this plant becomes especially stunning, but the green leaves in summer are also not to be overlooked. The small, yellow flowers look rather inconspicuous but are nonetheless valuable. As one of the bee-friendly plants, clematis provides ample source of food for bees and other pollinators.

7. Hydrangea

Large, radiant white inflorescences in contrast with dark green, glossy foliage – the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) is a real vision. In countless gardens in Europe, the hydrangeas with its many varieties is a popular garden plant both as a climber or an ordinary garden bed plant. The climbing hydrangea is an exceptional plant because of its tremendous flowers and its ability to grow up to 15 metres tall. Some might assume, that to achieve this flowering splendour, the hydrangea demands a lot of care. But the opposite is true: in fact, hydrangeas are robust and very easy to maintain. The one aspect of care, that should be taken into account, is the right location and soil, which should neither be too calcareous nor too compacted. However, if this is provided, the hydrangea is suited for every fence or a wall.

8. Climbing roses

When one thinks of flowering climbing plants, the climbing rose (a rose hybrid) is the first plant that comes to mind for many. The queen of flowers has always been one of the most popular plants in garden design and is also perfect for walls and fences. With their leathery dark leaves and lush blossoms, the roses offer an enchanting sight right out of a fairy tale. In addition, there are now a large number of varieties of climbing roses, so everybody will find the right fit for their gardens. With the right care, the roses can reach a height of up to 3.5 metres. But for the climbing rose to truly thrive, it needs the full attention of the gardener. The location of the climbing rose should be prepared before planting and the plant should be regularly supplied with a fertiliser. Additionally, regular pruning and winter protection are a total must to preserve the beauty of the rose for a long time.

9. Firethorn

The firethorn (Pyracantha hybrid) offers a splendour of decorations all year round: from May to June the shrub is covered with beautiful white flowers, which then transform into orange shining berries in October. In addition, the firethorn is an evergreen shrub that keeps its shiny leaves throughout all the seasons. When grown on fences or walls, the firethorn is a sight for sore eyes every month of the year. Moreover, the plant is also extremely easy to care for. A light to semi-shade location with loose, nutrient-rich soil, is the perfect place for the firethorn. It tolerates pruning very well, too. The only thing that should be kept in mind is that the firethorn is not a fan of exposure to the direct winter sunlight or ice-cold winds.

Firethorn can add a dash of colour to otherwise bare walls and fences [ Bobkeenan Photography]

10. Chinese wisteria 

When the Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) blooms in May, it turns fences and walls into a glorious waterfall of flowers. With its huge flower panicles, which come in blue, violet, pink or white, it is the unrivalled beauty of any garden. But even after flowering, the wisteria remains a stunning garden element because of its feathered foliage. If it is kept in warm and sunny locations, the magnificent exotic plant thrives even in temperate climate gardens without any problems. However, this plant requires a lot of water especially in summer and should therefore be watered regularly and thoroughly. Cutting back is also a must with the Chinese wisteria. Since the plant blooms exclusively on the lower buds of the side shoots, the wisteria should be pruned routinely in order to achieve a spectacular and bountiful flowering.

You can find the 10 best winter-hardy climbing plants here in our special article.

Here we have summarized which 7 evergreen climbing plants are ideal as privacy screens.

Hanging plants: 10 hard to kill indoor plants

Hanging plants: 10 hard to kill indoor plants

Just hanging out? No problem for these plants. We’ll show you the ten most beautiful hanging plants, which are easy to care for. Casual, stylish or elegant: plants with hanging shoots cut a fine figure in every room. With their long shoots, which drape like…

10 tips for raised garden beds

10 tips for raised garden beds

Farewell to back pain! These are our ten ways to improve you raised garden bed. Raised beds are probably one of the biggest garden trends at the moment. And there is no surprise why: they are an effective way to make your garden look neat…

Cabbage white butterfly: detection & control

Cabbage white butterfly: detection & control

Is the caterpillar of the large cabbage white poisonous? What are the ways to treat this pest? Find all the answers in this article.

The diet of the cabbage white (also large cabbage white) butterfly consists primarily of the leaves of headed cabbage, cauliflower, green cabbage, kohlrabi and various other cabbage varieties that we prefer to end up on our plates. Although the butterfly is beautiful, do not be fooled by its looks, it really is not a pleasant visitor in the vegetable garden. The insatiable caterpillars will easily decimate whole garden beds full of cabbage, so an effective remedy is frequently sought after. We have compiled all the important information on cabbage white butterflies for you, so that nothing stands in the way of effective prevention and control.

Cabbage white butterfly

First, we will get to know the butterfly a little closer, so that it is clear what this species looks like. After that, the article provides information on the development and toxicity of the cabbage white. Then, we will go into detail about effective treatment measures including using household remedies, chemical products and natural methods.

What does cabbage white butterfly look like?

The following table describes the different stages of development of the cabbage white, its appearance and the damage pattern.

TaxonomyFamily Pieridae, Genus Pieris
OriginNorth Africa to Northern Europe
Forage plantsVarious cruciferous plants (Brassicaceae), which include our cultivated cabbage varieties, rarely other plants
EggsBright yellow, on the underside of the leaves of the forage plants
CaterpillarsGreen and yellow, with patterns of black spots; body is short and hairy, not more than 4 cm long
ButterfliesWhite and light yellow in colour, wingspan maximum 6.5 cm, the tip of the fore wings has a black mark; diurnal, pollinate various wild and garden plants
Pattern of damagePlant corrosion occurs; in case of strong infestation, skeletonization of whole leaves
PupaeAttached to the stems or leaves of plants

Are the caterpillars poisonous?

When eating cabbage plants, the caterpillars of the cabbage white plant absorb various substances that are poorly tolerated by humans in large quantities, such as mustard oil glycosides. These are digested during the metabolic processes of the caterpillars and toxic substances such as isothiocyanates are produced. These irritate mucous membranes and have negative effects on the production of thyroid hormones. The caterpillars of the cabbage white butterflies contain these isothiocyanates, making them inedible for many predators. The caterpillars themselves are immune to these substances. For humans, these substances are only toxic in large amounts. Touching (and possibly even eating) the caterpillars of the cabbage white is just as harmless as eating cabbage. Because even when we eat cabbage, various slightly toxic products occur when they are degraded by our metabolic processes.

Tip: What is the difference between the large cabbage white and small cabbage white butterfly? The large cabbage white butterfly (Pieris brassicae) and the small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) are at a first glance very similar. The main differences lie in their habitat, diet and feeding behaviour. Unlike its larger relative, the small cabbage white eats through cabbages and reaches the inner core of the plants. Other than on cabbage plants, it prefers to forage on various other crucifers, leeks, capers, iberis and rocket. Due to the broader food spectrum, the small cabbage white butterfly is somewhat more widespread than the large cabbage white butterfly, whose diet is more restricted. The large white butterfly sticks more strictly to cabbage plants. However, since damage and control are largely the same with both species, no distinction is made between them in the following.

Development of the cabbage white butterfly

In temperate climate zones, two to four generations occur every year, the first butterflies fly between April and June, the last in October at the latest. After laying the eggs, it takes about 14 days for the caterpillars to hatch. The small caterpillars then make their way over to the leaves of the forage plant. The main damage usually occurs in June and July. After three to four weeks of eating, the caterpillars pupate. The last generation hibernates in this form.

Preventing a cabbage white infestation

An infestation can be prevented by taking some simple precautionary measures:

  1. Plant mixed crops instead of one variety of cabbage (which is more likely to be infested).
  2. Maintain crop rotation in your garden.
  3. Plants with a strong scent drive pests (including the cabbage white) away from the garden bed. Thyme, mugwort, aniseed, tansy, sage, peppermint, tomatoes and extracts from these plants are great pest repellents.
  4. Supporting native wildlife reduces the likelihood of a pest infestation. Many songbirds prey on the butterflies, while native ichneumon wasps parasitize on the caterpillars and eggs.
  5. Look for eggs under the leaves of the potential forage plants as soon as you spot the white butterflies in your garden. Early recognition will prevent a heavy infestation.
  6. Collecting eggs and caterpillars manually can be a simple treatment if the infestation is small.
  7. Protect the vegetables with nets before the butterflies first fly in spring. The size of the mesh should not exceed two millimetres and the nets should not have any holes.

Tip: If you missed the time of the first flight of the butterflies, you can still use the nets to partially shield the plants. But, additionally, collect any eggs or caterpillars and also use other methods of treatment.

Getting rid of cabbage white butterflies

You can combat the cabbage white butterfly with household, chemical or natural products.

large cabbage white caterpillars
The green caterpillars of the large cabbage white butterfly can cause significant damage to cabbage crops [ Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH]

Natural control of cabbage white butterflies

There are two possible ways to treat cabbage white butterflies naturally. One way of treatment is using beneficial organisms; other possibility entails the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. As a general rule, the earlier the methods of control are implemented, the less damage will be done to your plants. A possible additional obstacle is that the caterpillars of the small cabbage white also eat their way inside the cabbage heads and from a certain point are no longer accessible. Therefore, it is vital to start treatment immediately.

There are several species of beneficial insects, that can be used in the battle against cabbage butterflies. First, the white butterfly parasite Cotesia glomerate preys on the caterpillars of the large cabbage white. This predatory insect prefers the species Pieris brassicae above all else. The small cabbage white butterfly has an arch nemesis of its own: Cotesia rubecula. Both of the parasitic species are used by professionals to control cabbage white butterflies, but are unfortunately hardly available to private users. However, both of the beneficial insects are native to Europe and are attracted by the smell of cabbage. Therefore, by making your garden as insect-friendly as possible, you will promote beneficial organisms that will help you in the battle against pests.

The ichneumon wasps of the genus Trichogramma target the eggs of the both cabbage white species. Various species of the predatory wasps are commercially available. The Trichogramma species lay their own eggs close to those of the butterflies. The wasp larvae, that hatch from their eggs, then feed on the contents of butterfly eggs.

Note: Unfortunately, the use of parasitic wasps in the field is often not efficient. The small wasps migrate, are driven away by strong winds or eaten by other insects and birds. However, using them in greenhouses has proven to be significantly more effective.

Insecticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis are impressive natural agents to use in the field. The bacterium comes in a water-soluble powder, that upon mixing with water can be used as a spray. The spray is applied to the forage plants of the cabbage white. If the plants grow or it rains, the application should be repeated. And how exactly do these products work? The bacterial spores are absorbed by the caterpillars when they feed. The intestines of the butterflies contain certain enzymes, that unfold the toxic abilities of the bacterium. Importantly, the bacterium only works against cabbage white butterfly, and therefore, other non-target species are protected.

Chemical control of cabbage white butterflies

The gardening market offers various chemical products that are recommended to use against cabbage white in the home garden. Many commercially available agents use the active substance azadirachtin, which comes from the neem tree and is harmful to various insects – most of which are beneficial insects. Some products contain pyrethrin that is also detrimental to beneficial species. Other products, which are also often approved for home gardens, contain cyhalothrin which is deadly to bees. We assume that no responsible garden owner wants to pollute their garden with any of these toxins, so we will stop right here.

Household remedies against cabbage white butterflies

Unfortunately, in case of a serious infestation, household remedies are not enough to salvage your cabbage harvest. For this reason, we recommend using preventative measures at an early stage, as described above. Since butterflies and caterpillars occur during the entire growing season, you can protect your plants with the preventative and natural methods described above throughout the whole cultivation period.

Mealybugs: how to detect, prevent & get rid of them

Mealybugs: how to detect, prevent & get rid of them

Indoor plants such as orchids and cacti are often the prey of mealybugs. In this article, we explain what is the best way to combat these bugs. No one is ever happy to make the discovery of these little insects living on their beloved plants.…

June bugs: detection, treatment & prevention

June bugs: detection, treatment & prevention

June bugs are annoying and their larvae can cause massive damage to the roots of plants. Find out how to treat these pests effectively here. The June beetle, also referred to as the summer chafer (Amphimallon solstitiale), is closely related to the cockchafer (or May…

Pantry moth: detection, treatment & prevention

Pantry moth: detection, treatment & prevention

Here you can learn everything about pantry or kitchen moths. Use of beneficial organisms and household remedies (such as vinegar) is also discussed.

How to detect a pantry moth infestation?

The term pantry or kitchen moth is an umbrella term for several pests that are different species but look relatively the same. Pantry moths include the Indian-meal moth (Plodia Interpunctella), the Mediterranean flour moth (Ephestia kuehniella) and the cacao moth (Ephestia elutella). However, to prevent and successfully treat a pantry moth infestation, it is not necessary to differentiate between the individual moth species. So, why do infestations occur anyway? They are caused by food contamination in stores and the trade or by adult moths that find their way into kitchens to lay their eggs. It is important to note, that in both cases you might not even notice the adult moths. The adult individuals do not cause any damage themselves. The main culprits are the larvae of these moths.

If food such as cereals, flour, nuts, chocolate or tea is stored incorrectly, the larvae can quickly find access to it and make the food inedible. The inedibility of the food is not caused by the larvae themselves as they are non-toxic. It is the excrements and the webs, that the larvae are responsible for, that destroy the food. By the way, the best way to recognise an infestation by food moths is to look for the webs. If, for example, some cereal grains hang from the packaging as if by magic, or if lumps form in the flour or cereal, this is a sure sign of existing webs.

Unfortunately, the webs and the larvae excrement further worsen the contamination of the food. It is likely, that the contamination will attract fungi and mites. Among the fungi, mould can also be present, and in that case, the rest of the food should go straight into garbage. What is more, the larvae can be observed in the food, too. After hatching, the larvae are too small to be visible to the human eye. However, the larvae develop quickly and reach the lengths of up to 1.7 cm. The larvae of the pantry moths are rather unsightly and are reminiscent of maggots.

Pantry moths: a profile

There are several types of pantry moths and they all vary slightly, but all of them can be distinguished well from the notorious clothing moth. The clothing moths are yellow and silver in colour and have neither patterns nor stains on their backs and wings. The kitchen moths, on the other hand, always have patterns and brown stains on their wings. If there is still some uncertainty, have a look at the pictures below. The larvae of the pantry moths reach the size between 1.1 and 1.7 cm. When the larvae grow fully, they leave their source of food and move elsewhere, sometimes covering quite impressive distances.

The larvae find a dark and dry place and then pupation follows. The adult moths (0,4 – 14 cm in size) are responsible for the new generation. Depending on the type of pantry moths, between 50 and 400 eggs can be laid. Therefore, even a single moth female can wreak havoc in a kitchen. The butterflies belonging to the pyralid moths’ family (Pyralidae) need a total of 30 – 380 days for their complete development. In warm temperatures the insects develop much faster, while in cold temperatures the development can be delayed considerably. In some cases, development can be stopped completely if it is chilly enough. This is because the Indian-meal moth and the flour moth are adapted to warmer regions such as the Mediterranean.

Preventing a pantry moth infestation

The most common cause of an infestation is food that remains in its original packaging. Plastic, paper or cardboard packaging are no obstacle for the pests. The larvae simply chew a small hole to create an entrance to get to the food. Therefore, it is better to switch to airtight glass, ceramic or thick plastic containers. This is the only way to keep the voracious larvae away. Even if the food packaging seems to be tightly closed and appears to be sealed well, it does not guarantee complete protection.

kitchen moth
One of the species that are known under the umbrella term pantry moth is the mediterranean flour moth [ Jurik Peter]

But even the best storage containers won’t help if the pests are already present in the food while shopping. Fortunately, this happens very rarely. If the problems with pantry moths persist or happen frequently, setting up a trap is worthwhile, as it can help detect the infestation before it aggravates. The pheromone traps contain an irresistible pheromone that attracts the male moths. The moths then fly to the trap and stick to it. In this way, it is easy to quickly identify that an infestation is happening. However, we would like to point out, that only one infestation can be detected using the pheromone traps. The pheromone traps are not a method of control; they only help with recognising the outbreak, so that it can be treated with other methods afterwards. It is also worth storing foods that are likely to fall victim to the pantry moths as cool as possible. In cooler places the moths cannot develop well.

Treating a pantry moth infestation

If an infestation has been discovered, all food should first be checked for larvae and webs. Contaminated food should always be disposed of as soon as possible. However, the larvae can continue their development even in the domestic waste, so it is important to kill them beforehand. This is best done in a freezer. There, the food must be frozen for three days and only then it can be disposed of as household waste.

Another problem is the eggs of the moths. Since they are basically invisible to the human eye due to their size, the shelves and pantries must be thoroughly cleaned with a vinegar-water mixture after you detect the infestation. The moth eggs are destroyed by the vinegar solution. If you are dealing with a severe infestation, it might be helpful to consider beneficial insects. For example, the ichneumon wasps (Trichogramma Evanescens or Habrobracon hebetor) can be used to treat the outbreak. If it is impossible to pinpoint the exact location of the pest, the Habrobracon hebetor ichneumon wasp will detect the moths and their caterpillars with certainty even in larger spaces.

When using beneficial insects, it is important to provide the perfect conditions so that the treatment is effective. The right temperature is one thing to keep in mind, for example. In addition, it is important to remain patient and give the beneficial insects enough time to find and eliminate all of the pantry moth larvae. If all of the recommendations are followed, the tiny ichneumon wasps will get rid of all the pantry moths. Moreover, the wasps are barely noticeable and after they are done, they will disappear. Of course, insect sprays could also help, but we strongly advise against it. Using sprays closely to food and in domestic spaces is not recommended. In our opinion, the natural way of control with ichneumon wasps is definitely the better alternative.

When is the best time to treat the box tree moth?

When is the best time to treat the box tree moth?

In order to successfully treat the box tree moth, it is essential to choose the right time. Find out here when to use which methods. Even the best method to protect the widely beloved box trees (Buxus) can be useless if the timing is not…