Growing vegetables free of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and GMOs in Skull Valley, Arizona.
FIND US AT LOCAL FARMERS MARKETS:
Winter Prescott Farmers Market -- Walgreen's parking lot at the corner of Gail Gardener & Willow Creek Road -- Saturdays 10 AM - 2 PM -- November -April. Our farm will be here again starting in February 2015.
Summer Prescott Farmers Market -- Yavapai College parking lot -- Saturdays 7:30 AM - 12 Noon -- May 10th - October 25th
Flagstaff Community Market -- city hall parking lot, unde the solar panels --Sundays 8:00 AM - 12 Noon -- May 25th - October 12th
Want to stop by and pick up veggies from the farm? Please give us a call before you come!
Contact Us: Reach us by email at rabbitrunfarmAZ@gmail.com or by phone at (928) 235-2044 or find us on Facebook
Monday, April 19, 2010
If this sounds familiar in your garden....
When discovering this travesty the next morning, you can dig around in the soil in about a 1 inch radius of where your plant USED to be, and find a fat, curled up worm. How do you go about controlling these pests? We have found some success in using a variety of "natural" techniques:
Squishing -- This ancient method has been used since the beginning of agriculture, I'm sure. Time consuming but extremely satisfying. Unfortunately it mostly has to be done by headlamp, as the cutworms are active at night.
Dixie Cups -- Also somewhat time consuming, but effective. We cut out the bottom of paper dixie cups and place them around the plant for protection. Some crafty worms have been able to actually climb over the edge of the cup, swing their body out to the plant, and munch away with their body suspended. These will need to be removed when the plants get bigger.
Diatomacious Earth -- This flour-like stuff can be found at a feed or garden store. It is made of microscopic sea creatures that have razor-sharp shells. When crushed, this powder acts as a barrier for soft-bodied worms. The mini-razors desiccate the worm when it crawls through it. It takes a bit of time for the worm to die, but once you've gotten the cutworms out of an area, it helps keep them out!
BT -- An organic pesticide, Bacillus thuringiensis, causes sickness and death in worms when ingested. We mix it with a bran and molasses bait, so that the worm will eat the bait and not the plant. It's pretty darn effective, though there is research out there that raises questions about whether continual use of Bt can cause Bt resistance in insects. On our tiny scale I don't see this as a huge concern, but the use of Bt on hundreds of thousands of organic farmland acres and Bt-infused genetically modified crops is cause for alarm.
We've found a fair amount of success and a bit of hope when we combine all these methods. After staying up way too late using the squishing technique, we're finally getting some rest.
These controls are really band-aids on a larger problem of soil management. Since this is our first year of farming this land, we have not had the chance to practice healthy soil management on the scale we'd like to. Weeds left in the field are the prime place for the adult cutworm moths to lay their eggs. Eliminating these weeds during the growing season and in the fallow season help reduce cutworms. Adding lots and lots and lots of compost would also help curb cutworms, as one predator of cutworms is a beneficial nematode (a microscopic worm) that is found in humus. Another control would be building a chicken tractor (movable chicken pen) and let them scratch around on the field in rotations. We've been watching the chickens slurp up cutworms in their chicken pen, with dreams of releasing them in the fields to help us in battle.
I'll have to take a photo of a cutworm and post it. For now, I need to put up a totally unrelated but very important photo. Does this potato resemble a well-known spiritual leader?
Monday, April 5, 2010
There are five different varieties of potatoes we are trying out this year: two red-skinned, white flesh kinds; two gold-skinned, yellow/whitish flesh varieties; and a purple and pink-skinned white flesh potato. Our neighbors at Whipstone (where we worked last season) also gave us some fingerling potatoes to try out.
First, we cut up the potatoes to get the most "seed" potatoes. Though potatoes do produce actual seeds, most farmers plant seed potatoes, which are the same as your regular potatoes. (You must be careful that you don't accidentally eat them in January.) We want a couple eyes on each piece, as that is where the plant will sprout from. Matt makes sure the cuts are all facing the sun and wind so they dry out.
After drying, we're ready to plant! Byrnie has an old, horse-drawn potato planter that he refitted for a tractor. It's simple mechanical parts make planting a breeze; this hundred year-old machine works wonders! Two disks in front dig a ditch for the potatoes. Inside the box, what looks like a mini Ferris wheel drops the potatoes every foot or so. Then two other disks cover them up! Fantastic! I can even ride on the back for even more fun!
Potatoes only grow up and out from where their tuber is, not down like other root systems. When the tubers are exposed to light, they start to green. This being the case, farmers need to hill potatoes, or pile dirt, straw, or mulch on top of them as they grow, so the potatoes are continually covered. Hilling helps with drainage, so the taters don't get too saturated. It also helps keep the soil loosened to provide adequate room for growth and cultivates weeds at the same time.
Come July, we'll be digging these jewels out of the soil!