Friday, July 16, 2010

Week of July 5 2010 : Knee High

(Here is a picture of a Moon and Stars watermelon. Remember the transplant? Just six weeks later we have melons. This particular variety will grow to 18" (10 lbs). We also grow smaller single serve varieties too such as Sugar Baby and Solitaire. Corn is supposed to be knee high and this year the watermelons are knee high too)

The pace out in the fields has slowed a bit. The early season tasks such as transplanting are nearly are complete, just one tray of cucumbers to set in the field. Now the daily tasks include irrigation and scouting for disease and pests. The plastic mulch and trickle irrigation dramatically reduce labor. Currently the notable pests are Japanese beetles. These pests target edamame and eggplant. A spray solution of water and Ivory dish soap provides enough relief to keep the plants alive. The beetles will disappear by the end of July, so although they are annoying beyond comprehension, there is little impact on the harvest.

Later in the season we will face two more pests. Corn earworm and voles. Worms of any kind are an expected pest and are usually easy to control. A spray solution of water and organic BT subdues the worms and does not affect beneficial insects. But earworms are different. BT does not destroy the eggs that moths lay in the corn silks; then young worms burrow into ear tips immediately upon hatching. BT is effective only when present on the silks during the short time window between hatching and burrowing. As a bacteria, BT breaks down quickly in the summer heat so management efforts are rather significant.

Relatively few growers face vole pressure. Fencing protects some of our crops from deer and other large animals. But remember that every action has a consequence; the consequence of fencing is the voles are protected from nearly all predators. With few predators and plenty of food, the population spikes quickly. This year cucumbers are the victim. At least the hawks, at night possible owls too, capitalize on the situation.