Monday, June 1, 2009

The Lure of Kale

I am very fond of kale, how it overwinters through almost anything, pushes out scores of dark tasty leaves in the lean frosty days of early spring, and infallibly follows with handfuls of succulent stems and flowers like undisciplined broccoli. When allowed to proceed to the next step, kale then bursts forth with hundreds and hundreds of bright yellow flowers and finally thousands of seed.

These yellow flowers are a bounty for any number of insects, lured by pollen and nectar and even tasty greens. On just a couple of plants in ten minutes of watching I have easily observed at least five different species of bee, as well as hover flies, jumping spiders, and cabbage butterflies, (these butterflies a mixed blessing I admit). A dedicated nature journalist could easily tally dozens of different species over the course of its six week bloom time.

The lesson of the story of course is NOT to replace our gardens with fields of kale, (or any other one plant). The point is how easy it is to increase diversity in even a small garden by letting small bits of the garden go. There is a wondrous array of plants which draw in and nurture insects if we let them. The mustard and carrot family are insect magnets. Herbs like thyme, mint, dill, and lavender attract multitudes. Let a garden get a bit “seedy” and likely it will reveal some delightful surprises.


photos by gb
kale in garden
weevils mating

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