Sunday, 31 August 2008

straight and curly, and thin green lines

These photos were taken on August 2 (4 weeks ago) as I'd noticed a variation in the woad plants. Some plants had straight edged leaves, others were wavy. Helen (growing most of my woad) has also noticed this. I wonder if it's a genetic mutation, or a natural variation...

The plant that was bitten to the core by slugs is growing back well (leaves still small) (see bottom photo in last post), the other three have been chomped away at relentessly throughout August. There is less of them now than there was at the beginning of the month. In recent days I've been thinking caterpillars are more the cause than slugs. A Cabbage White butterfly was around and on the plants around the beginning of August, as were little yellow dots of eggs on the underside of leaves. I thought I'd got all off but no, every so often a tiny green line would show itself... a few days ago one thin green line was nearly up to full blown caterpillar size! (When very small I squeamishly have squashed them, but larger ones I take up the road to take their chances in the verge vegetation).

The August weather has been atrociously wet and cool, with a few February-like gales. Only occasionally did the sun shine but it was hardly ever summer-hot. I'm sure this won't have helped the crop either - I feel it's the cause for the (former) large outer leaves to have dried up, died in parts, or yellowed. The inner newly sprouting leaves are all good and healthy. Just right for nibbling. Undoubtedly. Hmmph.

None of the woad has had (nitrogen oriented) fertiliser in its soil, though Helen's beds had before she grew the earlier potato crops and mine had a good portion of home-compost. Perhaps fertiliser would have helped the plants gain strength. I've found an organic chicken rearer who I hope to get well-rotted chicken manure from next year. And perhaps next time butterfly netting would keep off the cabbage whites... Though most of the growth problem could be caused by their late start in life. They must be sown at the right time next year!

I am gearing up for harvesting and processing the leaves in several weeks time - acquiring equipment and organising workspace. And am working on batik drawings so I have cloth ready to dye soon after.