HOW RAISING A VEGETABLE IS LIKE RAISING A BABY. Plus the winner of the proving cloth.

Anyone can plant a seed, but not everyone can grow a garden.  Why?  Because there isn’t a monster, insect with disease dripping fants trying to rip that seed out of your hand when you’re trying to plant it.  There is, however, a variety of diseases and insects doing exactly that the moment your little seed sprouts.

It’s like having a baby.  That baby is all warm and safe while it’s travelling around in its mother’s belly and the mother doesn’t have to think much about it beyond not running belly-first into a wall of nails.  But once it makes it out into the world that baby can get into all KINDS of trouble. That mother has to do everything in her power to keep her child safe, including putting up gates, treating them for lice and hiding the car keys and their favourite short shorts  when it looks like they’re going on a date with that no-good boy from down the street who incidentally also wears short shorts for some bizarre reason.


Planting a seed is easy.  Keeping that seedling safe throughout its life is hard. Today I’m going to show you a few ways you can baby proof your garden next year. Or this year if you’re in a part of the world where your’e just about to start planting!



(protects against cabbage moths, slugs)

broccoli-under-nylon cabbage-under-nylon

Cabbage moths.  Those little white, fluttery moths dancing around your garden are the bane of my existence.  They lay eggs on anything in the brassica family (kale, broccoli, cabbage, swiss chard …) and then those eggs hatch and proceed to never move from the most delicious dinner of their lives.  They eat and they eat and they eat.  They will eat an entire swiss chard plant, burp, fart, then move onto the next plant.

My gardening life revolves around protecting my plants from this horrid little green caterpillar.

The latest measure I’ve taken is to put a knee high stocking over my plant the moment it starts to form.  The knee high expands with the plant and helps to keep moths from laying eggs on them.  “Helps” being the operative word.

I don’t find it keeps the vegetable completely clean because a tiny caterpillar can make its way in if it really wants to and … it always really wants to.  But the vegetables are much cleaner than they would be without the added protection of a stocking.


It’s easy to see evidence of cabbage moths by their poop.  Their little, black, cabbage filled poop.


(protects against cabbage moths and other flying insects)


A little hoop house made out of PVC plumbing pipe and row cover is a GREAT way to protect anything you want against cabbage moths and other insects.  The only problem with it is you have to make sure whatever it is you have under the hoop house isn’t something that needs insects for pollination.  If it flowers (tomatoes, peppers, squash) chances are it needs insects for pollination.  Some self pollinate, but for that they need movement from wind and the covered hoop house can even prevent that so you’d have to tap all of your plants individually to get them to pollinate once they’re flowering.

BUT for things like protecting non pollinating plants like kale, swiss chard, cabbage and broccoli, a hoop house is a really easy, relatively inexpensive way to protect your plants.



It’s a happy little house.


The row cover also seemed to give these cold tolerant plants a tiny bit of shade and retained some moisture which helped them to thrive.



To water, weed or harvest you just raise up the cover, do what you need to do, then close it back up.



And yet I still got cabbage moth damage.  How?  The plants have got so huge that their leaves pushed out into the scary outside world, where yes … cabbage moths found them and proceeded to lay their stupid little eggs all over them.  Once on the outside leaves they chewed their way into the inside of the hoop house leaf by leaf.

But still, the damage was far less than if they hadn’t been protected at all.  Plus now I know for next year to not plant my plants so close to the edge of the hoop  house.

I could also dress myself like a giant fly swatter and hook myself up to some sort of generator so I automatically bounce and slap around the garden (I might need rollerblades or wings or something as well) but honestly, building a hoop house seems easier.


(protects against voles, moles, mice, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels)


In the last post on my garden I showed you how I used wire hardware cloth on the top of my sweet potato bed to protect the growing sweet potatoes from voles.




This was not a particularly easy set up because the hardware cloth has to be screwed into a raised bed and then you have to figure out how to plant your slips through it.  You can’t reach under the cloth because it’s screwed into place, so you have to make a hole in the soil by sticking a pencil or something similar through a hole in the hardware cloth, gently put your slip through the hardware cloth and into the hole, then using the same pencil press the soil around the slip.

I lost one slip because I just couldn’t get the soil pressed around it.  But the rest of the slips have done great. Now we just have to wait and see if it actually does stop the voles.  I usually dig up my sweet potatoes around the middle of October, so I’ll get you an update in a month or so.



(protects against raccoons)



It’s a bit hard to see here, but if you don’t like hardware cloth or chicken wire because it rusts and is sharp and generally a very angry sort of material, you can also search out plastic hardware cloth.  That’s what I’m using around my tomato plants.

The BENEFIT to using plastic netting whether it’s plastic hardware cloth or plastic bird netting (which is much easier to find and also works great) is that it’s so flimsy that raccoons can’t climb it.

If you’re fencing in tomatoes, corn or anything else you’re trying to protect from raccoons DON’T staple or tie it tight.  Keep it loose and flimsy so they can’t climb it.  If you pull everything nice and tight you’re just creating a ladder for the raccoon to climb up and into your plot.



For the base of the netting either dig it 6″ into the ground or secure the bottom with something the raccoons can’t move like heavy pipe, rocks or bricks.




These are my two remaining cantaloupe. I harvested half of the previous cantaloupes and a raccoon was nice enough to harvest the other half.

THESE two are MINE.  I was running low on materials to fence in the cantaloupe.  It happens.

If you find this happens to you, that you need to protect something temporarily then I present to you … the junkyard heap.




Metal pipe elbows, a rake, wood, netting, hoops, a bucket of rocks, a bucket of heavy compost, a garden gate.  ANYTHING to make it difficult enough to get into, that the raccoon decides it isn’t worth it.

Come to think of it, a baby gate would probably work very well in this situation.

Looking at this photo I’m not sure why I didn’t just turn a bucket over the ripening fruit for these last few days of ripening.

In fact, scratch this whole junkyard heap suggestion. Just throw a bucket over them.

This weekend I’ll be picking the first of my corn that was protected from raccoons by plastic hardware cloth, harvesting the last of my potatoes and because my mother isn’t the boss of me anymore … digging out those short shorts.


“The last time I attempted making bread, the dough fell on the floor and my dog Max got to it before me – had I had a proofing cloth, This tragedy could have been averted (although Max didn’t seem to mind). Please send me the cloth, your fellow Hip fan in Mississauga (think of the small shipping cost ?
Shameless aren’t I ?”

You’re the winner of the Rough Linen / The Art of Doing Stuff proving cloth!  Email me to claim your cloth! (winner was randomly chosen)

Didn’t win?  I’m really sorry.  You can buy one here though for just $20!


  1. ANGELA says:

    I just try to decrease their numbers by using a trap – an upside down half of squash shell. You can use melons too. The next morning it is covered in pill bugs so I just remove that. Doing it a few times might decrease their numbers enough to keep your plants from being completely eaten! I hear your frustration though! I find I have to start things in cell packs and plant out to give them a head start. But they also eat my strawberries grrrr

  2. Emmett Hughes says:

    Thanks so much for the advise.

    • Renee says:

      Do you have any crazy tricks for getting rid of pill bugs? I never had a problem until I got a compost bin, I’ve since gotten rid of the compost bin but the pillbugs are everywhere still and nothing I’ve tried has worked. Diatomaceous earth, cups with beer in the dirt, ground eggshells, neem oil, etc. Any tips please? I’ve never hated a garden insect so much!

      • ANGELA says:

        I just try to decrease their numbers by using a trap – an upside down half of squash shell. You can use melons too. The next morning it is covered in pill bugs so I just remove that. Doing it a few times might decrease their numbers enough to keep your plants from being completely eaten! I hear your frustration though! I find I have to start things in cell packs and plant out to give them a head start. But they also eat my strawberries grrrr

  3. Emmett Hughes says:

    Any advice for protecting against flea beetles? Organic suggestions only please. Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      HI Emmett. The only thing I’ve found that will work with flea beetles, and you have to be relentless about it, is to cover with floating row cover. You have to cover the crop as soon as you plant it and make sure the row cover is completely sealed. I usually use 2x4s. If the crop is something I don’t care about having chewed leaves I just leave them. Radishes for instance. This helps act as a trap crop too keeping them off of the plants that matter. ~ karen!

  4. Darcy says:

    Just had to send a pic of the “proofing” cloth I made with my oldest daughter when she was four for my Grandmother. Note the two burn holes. When I was young I made another cloth for her. It was round. She completely wore it out. She made 1000’s of loaves of bread in her lifetime. When she passed away I went through all of her linens and found this!!!!

  5. UrbanFarmKid Marti says:

    I did actually google for “fant” and came up with something very negative in a boyfriend. So… pretty similar, but I think your definition is more pleasing from an onomatopoeia standpoint.

    There’s a word I don’t get to use every day….

  6. UrbanFarmKid Marti says:

    You grow a great garden. You really do! And I’m so glad you showed us, in retrospect, how to do it. You deserve a great garden because you really do put in the work. Way to go! The cabbage looks so good that it made me glad I had the coleslaw with the barbecue at dinner. Totally jealous… until I see all the work you put in.

    Still trying to figure out what a fant is…

    • Karen says:

      Thanks. It is a LOT of work. A fant. A fant is a fart that hasn’t left the pants yet. (I made that up but I think it works) ~ karen!

  7. Erin says:

    Congrats, Jamie!

    I’ve had trouble with those cabbage moths more than usual this year. They even managed to lay eggs on my cabbages as I was planting them, right before my eyes! I had the row cover right there, ready to go on as soon as I was finished. Rotters!

    Did yo have any trouble with flea beetles, Karen? We’ve really had a rough time with them this summer – maybe due to the drought. Most of the growers I’ve talked to have lost mid-season kales, etc. to them (including me.) I hope we an get in some lettuce and spinach to fill in the greens gap! Happy Fall gardening everyone!

  8. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Nice melons…

  9. Benjamin says:

    I was kind of hoping to see a slutty Brussel sprout plant in shorty shorts flirting with a young buck Brussel sprout plant also in shorty shorts. And evil mothra suddenly swooping down and sinking fangs into the juicy fleshy parts while giving a glitter-fart and devouring the buds. Just once you could photoshop us a weird pic to go with your elaborate stories. I think you get my imagination rolling and the crazy train heads outta the station. Anyway, you always entertain me no doubt. Thanks for the helpful ideas too, kiddo. Keep up the good work. Thanks for reading, I’m done.

  10. Lynn Lagimoniere says:

    This year garden wash a bit of a wash out ( just way to busy redoing yard) to even think of putting one in :( . Next year will be a bit of a trial though as hubby surprised me with a little 6 x 8 green house as part of the yard redo. :) Tomatoes have such a hard time here in Alberta an we love Tomatoes . So they will be in the green house . Never have used a green house so we will see how it goes … Also ended up with 2 more raised beds , so we will see how it all turns out next year. I know i will need to start planing sooner thats for sure . Karen any thoughts on Tomato Varieties? Hubby likes BeefSteak, me i like the Yellow ones .

    • Karen says:

      Oh! A greenhouse! How great. As far as varieties of tomatoes go … there’s about a billion of them. :) It depends on the amount of space you have and if you want all your tomatoes to produce at once or have them more spread out over an entire season. Here’s an article I wrote for Lee Valley describing the difference between Heirloom tomatoes and Hybrids. It might help you decide. ~ karen!

  11. Jan says:

    I’ve given up on Brassicas – I’ve tried covering them, but they still get those nasty little caterpillars. Maybe not as many, but finding one floating in the broccoli that you cooked is really off-putting. Maybe I’ll get some Bt next year and give it try, though.

  12. Rebecca says:

    Next year I’m definitely trying out the string method for my tomatoes. They are out of control! And some critter has been gnawing on the ripe tomatoes so we haven’t harvested many and I’m scared of what’s living in the tomato plants to reach in and pick them. I’ve pretty much decided to leave the rest of the tomatoes for the critters and call this year’s garden a loss.

  13. Elaine says:

    I’m in a condo so this vegetable gardening isn’t up my alley, Karen, but I still find it fascinating to read and I’m really in awe at the way you research and (generously) pass this in-depth information on to your readers. Kudos to you!

  14. Julie says:

    are those what those little green buggers are? They are impossible to rinse off and exactly match the produce. If I wanted protein I would have grown a cow, thank you very much.

    I’ll try the stocking tip next time! Thanks!

  15. Shirley says:

    Forget the garden. What I really want to know is after Jamie’s dog ate the dough, did it continue to rise? That would certainly give new meaning to the term “dog-proofed.” Congratulations, Jamie, and sorry, Max, no more treats for you!

  16. Linda Wade says:

    Thank you for posting funny, sharp and extremely helpful information. I am starting late in life too learn to grow my own garden. You have helped me learn so much that I actually grew things we could eat. I have only felt that wonderful feeling of accomplishment when I read and understand an extremely difficult knitting pattern. I don’t knit anything but by golly I understand it. Thank you again. So glad I found this site, blog, email, whatever.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. It’s a blog. :) And each individual article is a “post”. It’s great that you started vegetable gardening! You can’t eat a sweater. Well you can but … ~ karen!

  17. Shannon says:

    I have had problems with cabbage worms, to, but waaay before it got to the actual vegie stage. I did some research, and I use BT, (Bacillus thuringiensis) which you can buy at Home Depot or order online. It is a bacteria that kills the cabbage worm, but is not an insecticide and is considered organic since it is a natural substance. I dilute it as directed, and it is a magical thing when sprayed on the leaves and all. Nary a worm! In florida it usually lasts about a week, but you only have to spray again if you see the lovely black poop that Karen so aptly described.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shannon! I did a post a few years ago on BT and it does work great. The problem is it you have to continue to spray all summer long. So any time it rains or if you have a sprinkler, you have to spray again. That’s why I moved to the row cover. It’s a one time setup which I LOVE. :) If you only have one or two plants and don’t get a lot of rain then BT is great though. ~ karen!

  18. Where’s the sure-fire way to keep wallabies off my garden? The trouble is that, as soon as I find a way to divert them from my garden to the neighbour’s, she finds something better and there they are, using my garden as a snacking thoroughfare to the nice green lawns further down the hill.

    • Tricia Rose says:

      My brother cunningly made his veggie garden inside an old tennis court, so the kangaroos didn’t stand a chance – he even put netting over the top to protect his fruit trees. Thats all you need: half of it is hens and fruit trees, the other half raised beds.

  19. Paula says:

    This year I made a giant cage and put bird netting all over it and gooseberry, blackberry, blueberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, cherries and raspberries *in* it. I also use the netting to protect my brassicas. I experimented with mosquito netting, too which actually worked well in the heat this summer because it is green and reduced the sun’s rays.
    I have found with all of the equipment necessary to build these items that veggie gardens can be very expensive. At least they are to set up. I am hoping for a return by the year 2030.

  20. Kathy Hartzell says:

    right now I am recovering from laughing too hard at one of the ads in your blog..not necessarily one you “sponsor” but one that appeared for, I kid you not: “butt paste”
    With a picture of a swaddled baby. Huh???? Butt paste!!!

  21. Bobbles says:

    Darn! I felt sure my grandson and I had won!

  22. Mary Edmondson says:

    This is totally not related to anything you have posted. But I think I noticed in some video footage, an Apple watch on your wrist. I sure would like to know which of the features of the watch you like and use the most. I love mine, most especially the nudges it gives me to get up and move every hour. I’m an old person and do far too much sitting nowadays.

    Garden related question. What would you plant now to gorw in upcoming cooler weather? From seed or from starts? Thanks, Karen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary! Love all the apple watch features. Don’t need the reminder to stand, lol. Not in the summer anyway. Love it in the winter when I do more sitting though. I use it for voice texting all the time and the timer and the alarm clock. Also like checking my calories burned and exercise levels. Now is a good time to plant spinach and lettuce. Even if it doesn’t get big enough for your liking the spinach will overwinter perfectly and continue growing in the early spring for a really early harvest of big, full grown spinach! ~ karen

  23. Jan in Waterdown says:

    Well, here I am again . . . #1! But if that were true, you’d have given me the damn cloth, but nooo. Jamie’s #1. Apparently. Congratulations Jamie, I’m not bitter. Sounds like you would actually use it!

  24. DLM says:

    “disease dripping fants” – those damn fants will get you every time! The vegetables are amazing though!

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