Tomato Hats – now a fruit-fly-free zone.

Fruit Fly InfestationBeing rather prone to fruit fly in our area we have had most of our tomato and capsicum crops decimated by fruit fly in recent years.  Pesticides and sticky insect traps made a small impression but most fruit were still being attacked.

Its not easy to see at first, as they burrow through the fruit skin to lay their eggs which then hatch and turn the insides to mush.  So initially there is only a tiny hole to indicate that we had squatters inside our tomatoes.

Then I read that fruit fly only land on the top of the fruit – be it tomato or capsicum so we made some small cloth hats which were tied over the top of the green fruits.

Cloth Hat for Tomato

Essentially they are no more than a square of cotton, just large enough to tie over the fruit like a sunhat.

Green tomatoes

Hat raised to show how it works.

I was eager to see if it adversely affected ripening, but it soon became clear that ripening is an internal chemical reaction that doesn’t require sun rays on the fruit skin to make it happen.

Ripe tomato harvestTwo weeks later we were harvesting perfect fruit – made doubly satisfying knowing that it didn’t need washing because it had never been sprayed.  We washed it anyway to be 100% safe but now feel very happy that we have another Integrated Pest Management technique to add to the armoury.

P.S. before posting this blog I did an internet search to see if anyone else had had the same idea but only found fruit fly bags which require sewing and draw strings to attach.  I’d suggest that fruit do not need 100% enclosing – just the top only as we have proved.  But, as always, am keen to know your thoughts.

Author: Bob Saunders

Savoy – King of Cabbages

I had an old packet of Savoy Cabbage seeds that had gone a few years out of date but couldn’t bring myself to throw them out without giving them one last chance at life.    The germination rate wasn’t good but half a dozen seedlings emerged that seemed strong and healthy so they were dutifully planted out in to the veggie patch in early spring.

Savoy cabbage

Savoy cabbage – distinctive crinkly leaves

Not everything went to plan but I did end up discovering a great new recipe.

#1. These are large headed cabbages so they need to be spaced wider apart than a regular Sugarloaf Cabbage – I’d say that an extra 20 centimetres all round would be good.

#2. If you don’t give them space then the restricted airflow will encourage disease and pests.  In this case it was cabbage aphids which hide in the folds close to the stem and in the underside crinkles so are not easy to spot.  When I eventually discovered the cause of the brown leaf edges I gave the plants a good blast with a water jet which dislodged around half of the infestation then sprayed twice with Confidor – ensuring it got into all the tiny crevices.

Cabbage aphid

Cabbage aphid – Brevicoryne brassicae

They soon regained some vigour and hearted up nicely, so as this was my first time with Savoys I needed a recipe to try out and found this in an old (falling apart and faded) cookbook of my mum’s, circa. 1929

#3. Cabbage Rolls: (an cooked Eastern European version of the Chinese dish San Chow Bow)

(First of all I washed the cabbage heads thoroughly in running water and individually washed each leaf as it was broken off from the stem.  This is good practice for any harvested vegetable that has been previously sprayed with chemicals.)

Drop some cabbage leaves into boiling water for 2-3 mins to soften them up and remove the stiff stem part of the leaf.

Mix minced beef and sausage meat with a chopped onion, add salt and pepper, a dollop or two of tomato puree and one egg then mix thoroughly with your hands.  Then shape a handful into small sausage shapes and roll into the cabbage leaf which should now be soft enough to stay closed after wrapping.  If not then secure with a cocktail stick.

Cabbage rolls

Cabbage rolls – Eastern European dish full of goodness

Place into a skillet and cover with a can of tomato soup then let simmer for 30-40 mins.  (an alternative is to simmer in a little beef or chicken stock instead of the tomato soup – less oomphf, but still very tasty).

Author: Bob Saunders (

Bee – right place, right time

With the re-launch of GardensOnline recently, the team have been extremely busy creating extra content for the site, including taking hundreds of new photos of plants to illustrate the interactive Plantfinder database.

So while Annie was focussing on a patch of Arum Lillies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) she noticed a bee heading straight for the golden spadix for a feed.

With uncanny timing she managed to capture one of those rare moments, (not unlike the two fingers touching in ‘Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind’) where the bee makes the lightest first touch in exploration of nature’s larder.

Arum Lily and Bee

Arum Lily and Bee

And, yes, you can just see the flurry of wings holding the bee in a perfect hover.

Amazing nature.

You can grow Arum Lillies from climate zones 8 to 11 and they are extremely easy to raise and maintain.

Find out more in the GardensOnline Plantfinder 

Author: Bob Saunders (