Flea Beetle Invasion

I was tying up my newly transplanted tomatoes when I noticed some flea beetle damage on the leaves. We had flea beetles last year but they didn’t attack until later in the season. What do flea beetles do to the plants and how do we fix the issue?

You can see the damage a flea beetle can do in the picture above. The black spot is a flea beetle. They eat the plant between the veins making it look like lace. They will also lay their eggs on the leaves.

When plants are small it’s easy to look at every plant and squish the beetles between your fingers. As the plants get bigger we try spraying plants with a water hose to knock them off and then crush them as they land on the fabric. We’ve also found that trimming off any leaves that almost touch the ground really helps. If the access to the leaves is more difficult, the less likely they will take hold. You have to stay on top of it though. It’s really hard to get it back under control if you don’t look through the plants every couple days. Since we will never use pesticide there is a big commitment to prevent a full on invasion. May and June is mating season so now is the best time to focus on it.

Look at flea beetles mating on the tomatoes on the farm’s YouTube channel:

Planting Transplants

It’s after Mothers Day which means we can plant everything….finally!

It takes longer than you’d think. We dig each hole within the fabric by hand, measuring as we go with the measuring marks on the trowel itself. We amend the soil if needed by sprinkling a little in the bottom of the hole, mixing it in the surrounding soil and then putting the transplant on top, carefully filling in any gaps with extra soil and thoroughly watering it in. Since we use no chemicals,compost is really the only source of nutrients. Tomatoes and peppers need additional calcium so we add dolomite lime.

This process will take a couple weekends to complete, but once it’s done we can sit back and watch everything grow. Besides weeding, every now and then we test for dryness and give extra water where needed. We also start monitoring pests right away. Good to catch early to fix it before it gets out of control.

We are really excited to have everything in ground now and are looking forward to seeing how productive a second year under the fabric will be. Stay Tuned!

Transplant Challenges

This year we decided to grow most items from seed. The only transplants we grew inside were tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and celery. The challenge last year was the celery took 12 weeks to grow so this year they were planted much earlier. Another challenge was avoiding fungus or moss that took over when the soil got too moist. There is a fine balance between too dry and too wet. I focused on keeping the top of the soil dry once the seedlings got their first set of leaves. It seemed to help.

The biggest challenge we face is hardening off the transplants before we plant them in the ground. The hardening off process is getting the transplants used to the harsh weather outside a little at a time, but the weather extremes where we live always results in transplant loss. It can be sunny 80 degrees one day and snowing the next. It’s not unusual. Professionals in our area repeatedly recommend not to plant until Mothers Day. Yet we have had storms after! Every time planting gets delayed due to weather the transplants get stressed from being potted for too long. It happened this year.

We lost a number of our transplants this year to something we never considered. One of the deer got very brave and walked right up the tomatoes against the house and bit the tops off! Note the above picture. Our neighbor’s puppy also found her way into the yard and pulled our basil out of the pots! We received a very nice letter from her a day later on top of some new basil ready to plant!

In the end we had enough transplants to fill the garden and get the job done!

From Iris to Raspberry

We had a row of Iris by the side of the fence when we moved to the farm. We assume the previous owner wanted as many flowers as possible for the bees he originally had on the property but they were taking up valuable produce space and were being overrun by grass. We decided to pull it all up and try our hand at raspberries and also threw in a couple of rhubarb plants. Using the weed block fabric would also get the grass under control.

The results were mixed due to the hot, dry summer. Raspberries didn’t handle that much heat well and insects took over the rhubarb. I wouldn’t have thought that the poisonous leaves of the Rhubarb would be that deeply invaded! We aren’t willing to give up yet because one of the varieties of Raspberries actually fruited in it’s first year.

The plan for next year is to move the raspberries to a shadier side of the plot, transplant the rhubarb into the vegetable area where insects are more controlled, and plant sunflowers in the dry, sunny spot where they have been successful in the past.

We hope to be able to start adding fruit to our list of offerings in the future as we have not had much luck in the high plains dessert.

Take a look at the raspberry bed as we began to clean it out on our YouTube Channel:

Flowering Fruit Trees and the Bees

Timing is everything. Within a week after we set up the new beehives the bees were given the treat of an abundance of large apple blossoms on 3 apple trees and a double load of pear blossoms too! the fragrance is amazing!

We finally managed to avoid the late spring snow storm that happens often here. The fruit trees that lost all their blossoms to a storm last year built up enough energy for an incredible bounty this year!

What a great way to start off the new bees! Hopefully this impressive display makes them feel there is no reason to  swarm and find another home like a couple of our previous hives. We really need the bees for pollination.

Enjoy seeing the bees pollinate apple blossoms on the farm YouTube Channel: