Tiny farming: Pests & Disease

CPBs

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[From 4-Aug-2012] Pre-squish: Brand new Colorado potato beetle, larva about the size of a match head, on eggplant. Around the leaf edge, older damage done by bigger CPBs. Recently, for whatever reason, they’ve been around but not in numbers enough to be a big problem. The crazily erratic weather of the last few fears seems to have obliterated regular pest cycles, so we just see ‘em and pick ‘em…whenever.

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Praying mantis visit

Praying mantis

It came with the greens. A praying mantis perched on the edge of a lettuce mix harvest basket and took the ride in. Kool kat, with a wraparound look. Friendly, too, if insects can be, calm at least, let it walk on my hand to transfer it to a fence post. Don’t see them often, so I looked ‘em up and…yikes! “Sexual cannibalism is common among mantises in captivity, and under some circumstances may also be observed in the field. The female may begin feeding by biting off the male’s head (as they do with regular prey), and if mating has begun, the male’s movements may become even more vigorous in its delivery of sperm.” Kinky and kinda brutal. But reading on, it seems this behavior may be induced by the distractions of being constantly observed in the lab, and not a normal practice. There we go again, messin’ with stuff. Well, this one got away. In the wild, it’s considered a beneficial insect for the veg patch, a massive hunter that eats “most pest insects, mites, eggs, or any insect in reach.” Nice. And it’s apparently the only insect to hunt moths at night, and the only one fast enough to catch flies and mosquitoes. Go, mantis!

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Drizzly days

Weeding onions in the drizzle

It’s been cloudy a lot this season, but the rain has kept pretty much to a reasonable number of rainy days and single downpours—it hasn’t been too WET. So, not that much fieldwork called for rain. Today was an exception, with a steady on-and-off drizzle from early morning that kept things watered down.

Lynn came out around 8:30 am to weed. Since it didn’t look like the sun would be showing up to dry things out, she finished a bed of onions (these are the last-planted onion seedlings, a fair bit behind the rest) and we called it a day for weeding.

In general, we try not to handle plants when they’re wet so as not to spread any sort of disease. This is a common caution for, for example, beans, and I’m not sure how it applies across the board to all garden veggies.  Still, since wet work in the field is seldom fun anyway, it seems like a good rule in general: No weeding when wet!

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Another rainbow

Evening rainbow

It’s almost “yet another rainbow,” but not quite. We’ve seen a good collection so far this season, including quite spectacular horizon-to-horizon double rainbows two nights in a row. Which means there’s been lots of rain, and all the cloudiness that goes with it. It’s nowhere near as miserably wet as last season, though—rainfall this year has actually been great, averaging around the golden inch-a-week (2.5cm-a-week)—but 4-5 mainly cloudy days out of 7 is slowing things down.

How slow? The first summer squash that should’ve popped in size in a few sunny days, has been slowly expanding for well over a week. Root crops like beets, carrots, potatoes, aren’t affected as much, and seem to love the rain. But toms, peppers, eggplant and the whole cucurbit family (squash, melons, cucumber) are in slow motion, maybe a week or two from where they’d be with lots of sun.

Still, all in all, everything is growing along well enough, and we’re bound to hit a sunny stretch. Right?

In the photo, a third planting of green and yellow snap beans, with scare ball in place to scare off birds (it seems to work). To the right, a freshly tilled section, waiting for a third planting of spinach… This weather’s great for summer spinach!

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Welcome back, my friends

Transported pigweed

An interesting surprise discovery today, my own little transplanted patch of pigweed, accidentally imported from the old farm, growing strong in the shelter of three relocated and thriving rhubarbs (top right). I suppose some pigweed seed got shaken out of the root clumps of the transplants, and eventually made their way to germination. This is the first time I’ve seen pigweed on the new farm, and it instantly brought back a flood of memories from our multi-year…relationship at the old place. Not unpleasant memories, pigweed is forever a part of this tiny farm experience, still, it’s not missed. Nice visiting, now it’s time for a quick hand-weeding!

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Tiny cultivation

Stirring up the green moss

Tending seedlings on this tiny scale is pretty much literally fieldwork in miniature, especially with the pesky GREEN MOSS. The seedlings have to be watered, of course. And with the green moss, they have to be weeded as well. I use something pointy to stir up the surface of the peat-perlite seedling mix…

It comes back quickly, in a day or two, whenever the surface is wet.

I’m not even sure it’s moss, could be algae? Mold? Lichen?! I haven’t been able to ID it for sure, but I’ve often seen it called…green moss.

Green moss before and after

Not too appetizing to look at, the green moss has been quite harmless. At the old farm, I wondered if it came from the well, but here, we’ve been using filtered water and there it still is. It could be from the peat.

In any case, no worries, just a quick scuffling once in a while to keep it from sealing off the surface while the seedlings are small, which it looks like it would eventually do. I suppose I could find some clever, NATURAL way to kill it off, but I really don’t mind it. Once the mix dries out, the green moss is gone. At least, it disappears…

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TFB & the Web

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