Lessons Learned on June 30th
Farmers gathered in the shade along the east fence at the Farm…and shared what they’ve learned from this challenging spring season:
1. Kudzu Bugs
- Bush Beans growing near or amongst Peppermint plants were free of Kudzu Bugs while beans grown further away from the mint were infested with these bugs.
- Several Farmers used Liquid Sevin spray to combat these quick fly-away bugs. This insecticide works on over 100 types of insects, including the Kudzu. Follow directions carefully when using this chemical insecticide.
- Dish soap and water spray…used daily…slowed down the Kudzu infestation on one Farmers organic bush beans.
- See the webpage –Insects at the Farm for pictures and more information on the Kudzu.
2. Army Worms
- This slow moving caterpillar-sized worm burrows itself in tomatoes to lay its eggs. It is easily killed by squashing it.
- Several Farmers used Liquid Sevin spray to combat Army Worms in their tomatoes. This insecticide works on over 100 types of insects, including the Army Worm. Follow directions carefully when using this chemical insecticide.
- BT Spray – based on Bacillus thuringiensis…a soil-dwelling bacterium – is a natural biological pesticide. Several Farmers used this kind of spray to combat bugs of many kinds this season with better than average results.
- One Farmer used used Bayer Vegetable and Garden Insect Spray from Lowe’s on his infestation that had been building while he was on vacation and it got rid of the worms!
- See the webpage –Insects at the Farm for pictures and more information on Army Worms.
3. Harlequin Bugs
- A member of the Stink Bug family, this bug looks a lot like a very large lady bug….but it’s not a beneficial insect like the Lady Bug is. Many Farmers reported seeing it on their cabbage or broccoli.
- It can be caught and smashed to kill it. Beware: it does smell awful when you do this…it IS a stink bug!
- It flies so the best way to kill it is to find and destroy the eggs…these are attached under leaves and on plant stalks.
- See the webpage –Insects at the Farm for pictures and more information on Harlequin Bugs.
4. Fire Ants
- These are never-ending at the Farm! One Farmer has had luck driving them out of her plot by dousing them with a Garlic Tea: cut up citrus rinds such as lemon, grapefruit, limes; at least 4 whole cloves of garlic – skinned and sliced to hasten decomposition, cover with water in a capped container for about 48 hours. Uncap periodically to let the gas out so the container doesn’t burst. Filter out the debris and pour the whole thing in the area of the ants.
- Read more about Fire Ant history; the major research that is going into eradicating them in the USA; and some suggested methods to rid them from your plot on this Education page.
5. Leaf- Footed “Stink” Bugs
- These rather odd looking bugs have been seen all over the Farm this season. They are fast-flyers and are therefore hard to kill. One Farmer has had luck spraying them with a soapy spray that slows them down enough so they can be squashed. Beware: they STINK when killed!
- These bugs inject their poison into tomatoes as they drink the juice for their own purposes. Tomato “meat” with white splotches in it is evidence of the leaf-footed dirty work.
- These bugs are prolific…one Farmer was heard to say that she had so many of these bugs she was renaming her plot a “Bug Brothel”!
- See the webpage –Insects at the Farm for pictures and more information on Leaf-Footed Bugs.
6. Beneficial Wasps
- The Trichogramma Wasps are being used by at least one Farmer to combat Army Worms and other pest insects. These very tiny wasps lay their eggs in the worm which eventually kills the host.
- You can introduce these wasps in your plot by hanging strips of their eggs around your plants. These are NOT human-attacking wasps…in fact they don’t act like those wasps at all and leave our skin alone!
- You can buy strips of Trichogramma eggs at several websites including www.arbico-organics.com and also at www.planetnatural.com
- See the webpage –Insects at the Farm for pictures and more information on these wonder wasps!
7. Fusarium Wilt and Verticillium Wilt
- These soil-originating diseases work up into the plants and cause them to shut down to combat the disease spores from spreading internally. Effectively, the plant kills itself slowly to stop these very similar diseases.
- Tomatoes with this wilt will have dried up or browned leaves and branches. Fruit may still grow for a while until the entire plant succumbs to its own self-destroying effort.
- Herb Creek in Sandfly sells a good spray to help squelch these diseases: Serenade Garden Disease Control Spray. Applied often (one Farmer did it once a week) and immediately upon seeing the plant begin to wilt, this spray will help. This product is Organic Gardening Approved and won’t harm our honey bees either.
- One Farmer used Hi-Yield Vegetable, Flower, Fruit and Ornamental Fungicide on his wilted tomatoes and squash plants that were suffering from powdery mildew. He reported he was able to save his plants this way.
- The disease spores will “swim” in the water on plants left by morning irrigation so if the disease is in your plot, it may be wise to water closer to the ground and later in the morning so any water on the leaves dries more quickly.
- Black plastic can be used to cover the soil under the plants to kill all the disease spores in the soil. This will kill all the beneficials in the soil as well.
- Plants that succumb completely to the wilt should be destroyed and taken home to go out in your weekly trash pick-up.
8. Companion Planting
- Companion plants do help control the bug infestations in your plot. Like the peppermint and the Kudzu bugs. Peppermint also worked well for one Farmer in controlling cabbage moths…she had less holes chewed in the outer leaves of her cabbage when it was grown near peppermint.
- Organic doyenne, Janet Waldie, recommended Louise Riotte’s book, “Carrots Love Tomatoes” for those interested in learning about how to companion-plant.
- Read about other companion plant strategies on our website here.
- The better varieties to grow at the Farm seem to be: Celebrity; all kinds of smaller ones like Cherry, Grape or Yellow-Pear; and the larger Delicious variety.
- Heirloom varieties did not fare so well this spring and were very susceptible to Army Worms.
- Tomato skin that splits is almost always due to inconsistent watering: tomatoes thrive on an irrigation source that doesn’t vary much. Given the heavy rains this spring, the Farm was subjected to all kinds of watering inconsistencies so many Farmers reported split skins on their harvest. Once Farmer chose to pick her tomatoes while they were still hard-skinned orange and then let them ripen at home. Another farmer cut his cherry tomatoes off branch-by-branch…brought them home as he needed them and hung them up to let the little tomatoes ripen “on the vine”.
10. Suggestions for your Fall Garden
- Clean up your wilted, dead or rotten plants, leaves, vegetables and fruits as they wither…don’t wait to do it at the end of the growing season. Dead growth promotes disease and bugs besides looking very amateur!
- Plant a cover crop to regenerate your soil during the hot, humid summer months of July and August. Buckwheat worked well for many Farmers last year…it grows fast, helps to keep down the weeds and while it needs to be watered (it’s not as drought-resistant as cactus) it can withstand the hottest summer Savannah can throw at it. Besides, while it’s growing it’s replenishing the soil so that your fall plants can extract nitrogen more easily into their roots.
- Plant sunflowers – they attract our European honey bees your way AND that is a very good pro-germinating strategy for your plants.
- Use the Farm’s Planting Schedule listed here to decide what to plant and when. This schedule is based on what’s best for our horticultural zone.
- One Famer is going to try Sweet Potatoes as a fall crop. This plant is also a pretty good cover crop so it also helps to keep weeds down AND those who relish Sweet Potato Fries will be pleased with its harvest!
- Keep Feeding Your Soil:
- Add organic matter to the topsoil whenever you have it. Seed-free hay; shredded leaves; grass clippings; decomposed kitchen waste such as ground up eggshells, coffee grounds and other non-meat/seafood matter are all good for the soil.
- Add mulch around your plants. Like the organic matter listed above, it keeps the soil moist and decomposes above the plant’s roots…which is beneficial in so many ways.
- Plant cover crops after each season. Buckwheat is great for the summer heat. Hairy or Crown Vetch and Oats work well in the colder months (for us that would be Dec-Feb). You can trim Oats as they grow taller and use the trimmings for your organic matter as well!
11. Second Harvest Donations
- Denise Cunningham and her assistant, John Michael Worsham, explained the protocols for making food donations to this Savannah Charity. The Farm Post on our website homepage has all the details. All folks present were in complete support of this philanthropic endeavor by the Farmers of Skidaway.
- The hot-pink identifying flags for vacationing Farmers will be kept in the Farm Shed.
- Denise would like to have several more volunteers to help peruse the Farm for available “plots to-be-harvested”. Contact her at email@example.com
- Denise and her helpers will deliver the coolers of produce to Second Harvest until such time as there is enough to warrant Second Harvest drive their truck out to Skidaway for the weekly pickup.
12. Future Projects at the Farm
- An educational “Bug Walk-Around the Farm” to learn about what bugs are what and where do they destroy, or what do they provide, etc. This will be looked at for a Gathering in the fall.
- Volunteer, John Worsham is home from Furman University for the summer. He is majoring in Sustainability Sciences and has proposed doing an experiment with our sub-soil to see how it can be improved with additional augmentation methods. This will be pursued by the Governance Committee immediately.
- A proposal to build a consortium of college and community folks who are interested in farming, food sales, and local charity dissemination of produce was made. This warrants further analysis to see how the Farm could be of some help.
- The Committee is researching the best way to make that wonderful black compost available to the Farmers in time for their fall planting. Sales to individual of this product are how it will be handled in the future. Details will be posted ASAP.
- Shade and Frost Cloth sold in large and long dimensions is also being researched so that the Farmers can choose to purchase this useful product if they want to.
- Committee Chair, Blake Caldwell gave an update on the Farm pavilion construction project. Architectural designs are in hand and most of the labor for this project will be from Habitat for Humanity when they are not busy with their philanthropic construction work. A large fundraising effort to bring in the needed financial support for the construction supplies will begin this fall. Farmers will reap the most benefit from this beautiful and efficient pavilion so the Governance Committee expressed the hope that they will be able to look to the Farmers for the bulk of the proposed $ 15,000 needed.