Now that we are over the hump of start up and everything is planted, it is time to walk the field scouting for pests and disease. If I have learned aaaaanything from the previous years it is to start this step immediately after the plants are in the ground.
Struggling Tomatoes before fertilizing
While perusing the farm last week I did spot some concerning sights. Let’s start with the first 1/2 acre and work our way east. Tomatoes! The tomatoes were not looking very strong, robust and healthy. Their leaves were starting to yellow on the bottoms and move into a whitish sickly color one has right before they are about to throw up. Since that look causes me to take steps back in front of a human I knew this was a bad sign for my poor little tomatoes. I was hoping it was just the shock of going from their protected environment to this windy, rainy field. They were a couple days younger this year compared to last when they were planted so that may have had something to do with it was well. (Keep in mind I am only guessing.) I knew this wasn’t a pest problem and it probably wasn’t disease this early on so I decided to try and feed them to see if they would perk up. They did, slightly. I am going to get them on a hearty diet of food once a week using the fertigator and hope they get “swoll” (as the frat boys like to say) over the next couple of weeks.
Infestation of Cucumber beetles
The next 1/2 acre is where my watermelon and squash are planted. I did not grow these last year because I had such a horrible cucumber beetle problem my first year. I was just trying to avoid that headache all together. Well, no avoidance this year. When talking with the chefs on what to grow there was a lot of interest in squash, zucchini and watermelon. Because of my experience with those little nasty squash bugs and beetles the previous years I knew it was just a matter of time before they raised their ugly heads. Sure enough there they were. They were really tearing holes into the new growth in the squash and seemed to like the Dunja (yellow squash) variety the best. Luckily I caught them early and was able to hit them with one application of Sevin with our four gallon backpack sprayer. Because it is early in the season this posed no threat to pollinators and immediately took care of my cucumber beetle problem. The squash are beautiful now and starting to produce blossoms.
I spoke briefly of this last year so I am not going to talk about it too much again. Everyone has their own choices based on what they are trying to accomplish with the Organic vs NonOrganic argument. Do I care about pollinators …… yes. Do I care about being a good steward to the land …… yes. Can I sell back to this company at organic prices ….. no, I can not. These cooks can barely afford to pay $2/lb for meat let alone $3 -$4/ lb for fresh produce. I recognize this problem and am trying to do my best to be a hybrid while keeping both sides in check. For the most part I follow Organic practices. I will however, use a NonOrganic pesticide if it means losing my crop (which in business means losing $$$$$$) but I will use it in a responsible way to as not to affect pollinators and water sources as much as possible.
cut worm damage
Pepper leaf damage
We had almost 3″ of rain over the weekend so everything was nice and muddtastic this morning when Sarah and I arrived. I noticed that our peppers, on the eastern most 1/2 acre, were looking really puny. The weekend temperatures were not very warm so I am sure our little peppers are cold. Upon further inspection I noticed insect damage in the leaves and cut stems in almost 25% of our entire pepper crop. I suspected it was cut worm damage but I hunted Rick Weinzierl down to double check. I also wanted to make sure his picture was in the blog this week :). Rick is an entomology professor at the U of I and also the head of the BFRD Program. He is a genius and probably the nicest guy you will ever meet. If you ever have a question for him not only will he tell you the problem and solution but he will give you the history of the problem and what possible examples could have caused it. Wonderful. Well, as I suspected he told me it was probably cut worm. I brought him two samples of leaves, one with tiny holes which was damage from the larvae and another with giant bites taken out of the edges of the leaf, which was damage from the caterpillar itself. I was very concerned because such a high percentage was damaged so I used a small application of premethrin and I am hoping to see some results by the end of the week, barring the weather warms up a bit.
Not all news was bad!! We had our first harvest last Friday. I was able to harvest about 30# of tyee spinach which is being featured at Hendrick House for lunch today by Chef Bonnie Collins. I never seemed to have much luck with spinach in the last couple years but this year I am focusing more time on it and planting the seeds much closer together. I found that the younger spinach was more flavorful and had a better mouth feel than the adult spinach.
Bush Beans 3 days in ground!
I planted provider bush beans again this year. They are always in huge demand with the chefs and they are relatively easy to grow, despite having a cut worm problem last year. They come up fast and are ready to be harvested in 35-40 days.