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Those @#$%&! Butterflies

Though curses aren’t usually the words usually associated with seeing beautiful butterflies soaring around your garden, if you are a home vegetable gardener or part of a community garden that donates produce to food pantries, there is one butterfly that you may dislike.

Large Cabbage White Butterfly on Cabbage

No, it is not the butterflies whose larval host plants are dill, parsley and fennel.  Many people who have butterfly gardens purposely grow extras of these plants as host plants for the butterfly larva. By following the rule “one for me, and one for the birds and butterflies.” you can have your share and the butterflies/caterpillars can have theirs.   However for vegetable gardeners, the sight of pretty white butterflies flitting around members of the brassica family (ex- kale, cabbage, mustard, turnips, etc) can mean only one thing:  an invasion of hungry larva caterpillars that will soon damage their crops.

Large Cabbage White Butterfly Larvae, note larvae color is green not pink as this photo shows

Cabbage white butterflies, also known by butterfly-lovers as “summer snowflakes,” are found in two sizes, the Small Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) and the Large Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae.)  The small cabbage white butterfly, though still considered an agricultural pest, is not as voracious a feeder as the Large Cabbage White Butterfly and will be the focus of this article.

The Small Cabbage White Butterfly is found throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa.  It was accidentally introduced to Quebec around 1860 and spread rapidly throughout North America.  By 1898 it had spread to Hawaii and by 1929 to New Zealand.  Often, one of the first butterflies to appear in the spring, it lays eggs on the underside of a leaf.  The eggs are laid singly and are yellow making them difficult to spot.  The eggs hatch after about five to fourteen days and then the damage to members of the mustard family begins.  Using their powerful mandibles, the larva munch holes in the leaves.  Sometimes they will even eat into the heart of a cabbage, leaving a shell in its place.  The larva then pupate, to start the whole cycle again.

Cabbage Damage Due to White Butterfly Larvae

Thankfully there are safe biological and barrier controls for this pest butterfly.  In the mid 19th century the Australian government introduced parasitic wasps to control the damage produced by both species of butterflies.  However this approach is only suitable for large commercial growers.  There are other insects however that can help.  These include ladybird beetles, lacewings, and some species of insect-eating birds.  A physical control might include covering the plants with mosquito netting or other barriers.  Be sure to secure all the edges.

Perhaps the easiest organic method of control is to use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a naturally occurring bacteria that kills a caterpillar but leaves beneficial insects unharmed.  When the caterpillar eats a treated leaf, it will get an upset stomach, stop eating, and die within four days.  Just be sure not to apply it in wet weather as the spray will wash off.

By using Bt or other methods of control, you should be able to “have your cabbage and eat it too.”

Carolyn Bush








The Frostweed, yes.


Good morning, I am sending you this article on an interesting perennial phenomenon  from a favorite blog of mine, called Portraits of Wildflowers. You can find it via this morning’s post: The Frostweed, Yes!

We also have several wonderful pictures and write ups about Frostweed on Dallas Garden Buzz. You can find them by using our search or clicking here.

Happy 2018 to all our readers!

Ann Lamb


More About Frost Protection

A few more tips from our gardeners:

I always cover our variegated pittosporum and cyclamen when it gets down to low 20’s. I use frost cloth now but old sheets have worked just fine in the past. I’ll cover the  garlic, radishes and collards in my garden  to be safe. Susan Swinson

Water  well and cover with frost cloth being sure the cloth is held down but not smashing the leaves–pick some now if it’s at that stage and hope for the best.  It’s not too late to replant after the artic blast–must think positive!! Susan Thornbury


Good night garden, stay warm!

Ann Lamb



Frost Protection For Your Garden and Happy New Year!

A Winter Garden of Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, Red Sails Lettuce, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Artichoke, Spinach and Broccoli. Frost Cover to be Applied!

Low temperatures are bringing in the new year. You can bet many of us are hoping to protect our winter gardens. Here’s a helpful article to help you prepare!

Ann Lamb








Trimming Vitex

Hopefully, you have taken a moment to watch Evelyn  explain what our Vitex tree needed. Click here for the video if you missed it.

Vitex tree in need of a trim.
Here’s the before picture.

The dormant season is the recommended time for pruning, but sometimes your work force, needs, and timing come together in other seasons.  Evelyn  and Susan, experienced gardeners, took our large, unruly bush and gave it a comely shape.

Here’s the result:

Vitex tree after pruning

Read more about Vitex trees here and in Dallas you can see these trees growing outside the Nasher Museum in downtown Dallas and at the Dallas Arboretum.

Ann Lamb

Picture and video by Starla Willis

Pruning by Susan Swinson and Evelyn Womble




Tagging Monarchs at Raincatcher’s

Monarch Butterfly Sipping Milkweed, Note the Tag

With a woosh of her net, Master Naturalist, Ellen Guiling, has captured another Monarch butterfly to be tagged and then sent on its migratory journey.

As per the Monarch Watch website: tagging information helps answer questions about the geographic origins of monarchs, the timing and pace of the migration, mortality during migration, the effects of wind and weather, and changes in geographic distribution of monarchs. Each year the information is collected and can be viewed at

You may remember Starla found a tagged Monarch from Kansas who visited our garden in 2015.

We have many butterflies visiting The Raincatcher’s Garden and the reason goes back to the careful planning and planting of host and nectar plants for many different types of butterflies. Review the butterfly plant list in our Raincatcher’s Resources on the right of our front page and enjoy the delights of your own butterfly garden.

Ann Lamb

Pictures and video by Starla Willis



Chinese Long Beans—Green Beans for Summer—Even Here

Have you ever read or been told that green beans will produce all summer?  This is advice that must be met with a kind smile.  Bless their hearts, it’s totally untrue.   Obviously cannot be blamed for this mistake, they are just not from around here.  Anyone who gardens in North Texas knows green beans will not make it in summer’s heat.

Does that mean no more fresh beans? No, not if you plant Chinese long beans.  This delicious vegetable goes by many names: snake bean, yard long bean even asparagus bean.  A red variety called red noodle is also available.  Properly they are called Vigna Unguiculata.  As its “real name” makes clear, they are actually related to cowpeas or blackeyed peas and not ordinary garden green beans.  The important point is they grow in the heat of summer, in fact they require heat to do well.  Which wouldn’t matter if they didn’t taste good, but they do with flavor much like green beans and a touch of blacked pea.

Are you convinced? Plant the seeds as directed on the package.  It is essential to provide a sturdy support as these are vines not bushes.  Large tomato cages work well. The vines would probably like something ten feet tall to grown on but vines don’t always get what they want.  Compromise is key between you and the vines.  Give the vines plenty of room so  they can grow up and over supports but keep them within bounds so you can  pick the beans. Remember the vines will try to grab any innocent plant that gets in their way; be alert.

Trellised Vines of the Chinese Long Bean

Garden soil with compost is ideal.  Apply organic fertilizer when planting. As with any rapidly growing plant, regular watering is essential.

Once the production starts, check the vines every day. The beans grow amazingly fast and will need regular picking, pick them about twelve inches long  while they are still firm and dark green.

Chinese Long Beans, Ready to Eat!

When they are picked like this they are even good raw in salad. They are delicious prepared in many ways: simmered as green beans would be or fried as they are in many traditional Chinese recipes.

Try them and you will see for yourself!!

Susan Thornbury

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