Another splendid week ahead here at the farm. After a few drab days of cold temps and fog we had an amazing day today, getting ready for harvest and catching up with field work. The big themes we are working with right now are weeds and pests. Our melon and potato crops have been in the ground for a while look good but the past week has seen an explosion insects. Specifically for these two crops, the cucumber beetle and the colorado potato beetle (click the links for nightmare inducing photos) are thriving and their numbers that have us a bit worried. What do we do as organic farmers to save our crops? Well we have a few options at hand. First and foremost, we rely on the the diversity of the farm and of the crops in our fields. When we are planning the season each winter we look closely at the arrangement of plant families and types and try to mix them in each field. For instance we put our potatoes (solanaceous family) alongside our storage onions (allium family) along with our strawberry crop (rose family). This diversity in one field along with grassy strips and field edges filled with flowering clovers provide places for different beneficial insects and bacteria to thrive. These insect and micro-organisms help keep large populations of pests and diseases in check. To keep crops healthy we also use physical barriers like floating row cover, which are large pieces of special fabric that cover the crop and keep the pests out or we actually move through the fields and pull the pests out by hand. This week we had some help with this in the potatoes from the kids attending our farm camp. Here’s a shot of the kids picking beetles of the plants into buckets of soapy water. They got several hundred in less than an hour!
If all of these approaches don’t stop the pests from taking the crop we still have one other option, and that is spraying an organic approved control. Most people don’t think organic growers can spray anything but in fact we have a many naturally derived compounds we can use. These options are developed from non -synthetic sources and are extensively tested to be sure they are safe for both humans and wildlife. Controls derived from hot peppers and garlic are well known by home gardeners. Potato beetles have a couple of compounds that target them, one is kaolin clay, a fine clay that when added to water and sprayed gets into the joints and breathing holes in their exoskeletons, making them very uncomfortable. The other control option is using a concentrated soil bacteria called spinosad that affect a small part of the beetle family, harmless to ladybugs, and has no effect on other bugs or mammals. Hopefully the work the kids did this week will do the trick!
More kohlrabi this week!
If you didn’t use your kohlrabi last week you can make something really great with all of it this week. Check out these recipes.
Greens are great.
Master minimalist chef Mark Bittman of the New York Times has a great and simple guide to enjoying the luscious early summer greens.
What to expect in this weeks share:
Fourth of July is coming! What better way to celebrate than having lobster! Call Harpswells’ own Interstate lobster Co-op and order yours today! 833-5516