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

www.prescottfarmersmarket.org

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Flagstaff Community Market -- city hall parking lot, unde the solar panels --Sundays 8:00 AM - 12 Noon -- May 25th - October 12th

www.flagstaffmarket.com

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Want to stop by and pick up veggies from the farm? Please give us a call before you come!

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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

An insect version of Hitchcock's The Birds

Alas, it has been much longer between updates than I would have liked. Matt and I have been waging a nighttime battle with ruthless plant killers... the cutworm! These inch-long hooligans have taken up residency on the farm, and we've been finding ways to curb their destruction. Cutworms live below the soil by day, and emerge at night to feed on helpless, innocent seedlings (anything green for that matter). Before we figured out what the problem was, we lost a couple beds of lettuce and spinach seedlings, as well as over half of the kale population. Cutworms munch on the leaves and stems of the plants, and are notorious for chopping them down at their bases and dragging the leaf or plant back underground. They leave destruction and chaos in their wake.
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?



Sarah

1 comment:

  1. that there looks like the ol' Buddha? am I right? keep up the good work ya'll

    ReplyDelete