Search
Close this search box.

State of the Farm: June, 2024

We managed to get pretty much everything planted by the end of Memorial Day weekend. This is, more or less, the traditional planting time up here in New England. Of course, global warming has brought spring in two weeks early and pushed summer out two weeks later. In addition, it has changed our location in the USDA plant hardiness map.

This has some pros and cons. On the pro side, we get to start planting two weeks early and can harvest into early October. That is, if we pick the right seeds. It gets hotter now in the summer—we’re looking at a record heat wave in the coming days—which might be good or bad. The beans last year didn’t set fruit above 95F. But the melons like the heat.

On the con side, the heat is a problem for many of the plants. The extended growing season also extends the opportunity for pests and diseases. We’re having record slug and rodent problems. Slugs (“They can’t hear. They can’t speak. They can’t operate machinery.”) have never been that much of a problem. But with the warmth and the wet, they are starting to be a real issue. We’re investigating a number of solutions but haven’t implemented any as of yet.

The rodent problem comes from multiple sources. For one thing, we’ve not had an outdoor cat for a few years now. Cats don’t just kill everything that moves, rodents and similar animals are scared away by their urine. Cats are happy to oblige. For another, we lost a large hickory last year. That served as a food source for squirrels. I think the squirrels competed with the chipmunks and helped keep the population at least a little bit down. Finally, the longer season and the mild winter no longer keeps the smaller rodents in check.

We had redone the garden fence, putting in chicken wire and lining the ground with hardware cloth. This held back the mice and most of the voles. However, it didn’t stop the chipmunks one little bit.

We’ve been trapping them regularly and that makes a dent but only a dent. It’s another problem we’re working on.

So.

We have three main garden areas—the turtle garden, the main garden, and the raised beds—and several fruit trees and arbors.

There are three sections of the turtle garden: north, central, and south. We planted potatoes and sorghum in the north area. The potatoes are doing okay but the sorghum is a little stressed. If we continue with sorghum, we will likely move it. In the central section: more potatoes, pinto beans, and sugar beets. The beets and sorghum are part of my continuing experiments to be able to generate sugar. So far: failure. But I’m still trying.

The south section is fava beans and asparagus. Fava beans are another experiment. They are supposed to be a perennial up here but we will see. The asparagus bed is now close to three years old and supplies us with spears.

I overplanted the main garden last year and had too much competition. I reduced what I was planting this year and every plant has a clear area to grow. The list this year is:

  • Basil
  • Daikon radishes
  • Carrots
  • Sunflowers
  • Goldberry
  • Brussel sprouts
  • White beans
  • Brown beans
  • Bush beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons
  • Rutabagas
  • Kohlrabi
  • Celery
  • Squash

Aaaand we’re already having issues. I planted eight lovely basil sets in the southwest corner of the garden and came in two days later and they were gone. Eaten to the root. Then, we found a hole under the fence. Too big for a mouse. Too small for a squirrel. I’m betting on chipmunks. But what rodent preferentially eats basil? We’ve never had that. Planted eight more purchased sets and they’ve been picked off, one by one. We are down to four. The brown beans came up and about a quarter of them had their tops bit off. Clearly, we have to handle this.

Of the four squash beds we planted, two didn’t come up at all. The peas I planted back in April had the same issue. We did notice that during COVID there seemed to be a seed germination issue. It might still be percolating through the system.

The raised beds have now been planted:

  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Peanuts
  • Peppers
  • Basil

We’re getting strawberries. The early radishes (not listed above) didn’t really produce. The potatoes are being ravaged by potato beetles so I sprayed them with Dead Bug. For the record, we like to garden because we like to know where our food is coming from. That doesn’t mean we’re “organic” in the traditional use of the word. We’re not above using fertilizer, insecticides, or fungicides. It does mean that we’re judicious in their use and selective as to what we apply.

In the fruit department, the pears, apples, peaches, blueberries, and grapes look great. We lost all of the Manchurian pears—they either didn’t pollinate or the chipmunks got them. I think the former. A number of fruit trees produced huge amounts of blossoms but did not yield fruit at all or a lesser amount. This was the first time in several years where we didn’t put out orchard bees. That may be the problem.

The paw paws were like this. We have four trees. Three of them had blossoms. The fourth is too young. Across the three trees we only have about a dozen fruit growing. Paw paws are notoriously difficult to get pollinated. First, they cannot self-pollinate. Pollination must come from a genetically different plant. This means you can’t take a cutting and grow it next to the parent plant to get pollination. In addition, they are generally beetle pollinated and small beetles at that. Bees don’t help. There’s some evidence that a few paw paw species are pollinated by flies since the odor of the flowers resembles carrion or dung.

All of this means that if you take a paw paw out of its range, you may or may not get fruit. In Europe, for example, they all hand pollinate. We might try that next year.

Finally, we’re attempting a grand experiment.

In the picture above, in the background, two items are circled. The left circle shows the use of bird tape on the strawberries and a blueberry bush. The right circle, in the background, is what looks like a tunnel. This is the blueberry house.

We’re using bird tape on the lesser blueberry bushes. The blueberry house is covered with netting.

We don’t like to use netting. It’s a complete PITA to deploy. It catches everything—leaves, branches, dirt. It supposed to be pulled after the harvest so leaves and snow can come in. And, sometimes, it catches birds. Some birds can be released. Others are not so lucky.

We saw the bird tape being used in Vermont. We’re hoping it works here. It doesn’t seem to work so well with strawberries. It’s possible the red color is so inviting that it overcomes whatever the bird tape does. Or, it’s possible we’re not using the bird tape correctly. We will see.

This is a good time in the garden—minus the pests. Just a little weeding is sufficient to keep control. Watering isn’t much of a problem because we’re having good rain. Not a lot of work. As the summer progresses, the work load gradually increases. Weeds get more persistent. Harvests have to be managed. Right now is good.

Finally, an apology. I didn’t get this out at the right time. So, in effect, it’s a day late. I’m sorry about that.

Authors

1 thought on “State of the Farm: June, 2024”

  1. The Pacific North Wet is slug haven. A local tavern has slug races. Best method for getting rid of them:
    1) make them the official state bird, rock, insect whatever. They immediately go elsewhere and become endangered.
    2) turn them into delicacies available only in fine food emporiums. The “Made in Oregon” stores will ship tinned slugs anywhere in the world.
    3) put out saucers of beer–the cheaper the better–and they get so drunk they drown in the brew.

    Good luck.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *