Save the Lettuce!

As is the theme of the year, we planted the lettuce and spinach early by using row tunnels covered in agricultural fabric. What we learned is the native plants around the garden do not grow as fast as the lettuce which is making the lettuce more desirable to the pests right now. If I had to guess I’d say what was doing the most damage is slugs, caterpillars and grubs.

Something I learned after living in the Northwest is that soft bodied pests do not like sharp objects. I used to crumble egg shells around my hostas which were prone to be devoured by slugs. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try them in the vegetable garden. Unfortunately it’s not as easy to surround individual plants in a 50 foot row of lettuce! We ended up taking the time to do it right by setting up the egg shell pieces vertically resulting in a sharp edged fence around the row of plants.

While there were already some pests within the perimeter, there was a reduction in activity long enough to give the lettuce and spinach a fighting chance. And in the end the shells decay and add nutrients to soil. I’ll be planting tomatoes in that bed next year. They Love calcium.

More lessons learned!

Another Garden Pest – Squash Bugs

Just as the garden seemed to recover and started to flourish again I found some insect eggs on the back of pumpkin leaf. This one is easy to identify. Squash bugs started to take over the pumpkins and summer squash. Luckily the butternut and acorn squash had hard enough skin to resist the attack. When the bugs hatch they quickly latch on to the plant or fruit and suck the life out of it. They leave scabs on the fruit.

This leaf has a combination of the shiny copper colored eggs and black and silver, tiny baby bugs. They slowly grow, forming a harder brown shell. The biggest annoyance is these particular bugs are very intelligent. They hide when they see you coming and will run around the base of the plant where it’s hard to get at them. If you reach to the right, they round around to the left. If you reach to the left they run back the right again. It’s like chasing something around a tree and never catching it. That’s why there are no pictures of adult bugs, sorry.

How do you get rid of these little beasts when you aren’t using chemicals? Crushing every egg and bug with your fingers that you can find. Checking daily is the only way to stay ahead of it. Luckily the plants are very productive so the loss was minimal.

Fencing the Expansion

Now that our new rows are built we are finding deer and coyote tracks through walking through them. It’s time to fence the new plot. Since it is an expansion of an existing plot we need to build it prior to opening it up to the old section. It needs to happen quickly, but after completing so much fencing since we moved onto the property it’s becoming second nature.

While our first fence posts were put in using a post hole digger, we now have a tractor with an auger to dig the holes for us. We use 10 foot wooden posts at the corners and 1 or 2 in between corners depending on the overall length. They are buried 3 feet down and with the clay soil there is no need to use concrete. The soil hardens enough to keep it steady and if we need to remove a post, it’s much easier to do. T-Posts are used between the wooden posts to keep the fence flat and steady. We use 6 foot field fence with 2×4 inch openings. This leaves 1 foot at the top of the posts to string wire if needed. Luckily the deer haven’t attempted to jump the fence so we haven’t had to add the wire, but if we did we would add pieces of orange nylon marking tape as visible flags to deter them.

Next we add 3 foot tall 1/2 inch wire cloth, AKA rabbit fence, to the bottom of fence on the outside. We use a very sharp bamboo shovel to dig a thin trench right at the base of the fence to bury it a couple inches down. Zip ties are used to attach it to the field fence. This also prevents most squirrels and rodents from getting in.

The wind is a problem on our property due to the small valley going through it. A small price to pay for the extra beauty of the land. Unfortunately that means we need to create a wind break. Shrubs and trees take years to grow so we need an immediate resolution. Bamboo screens are attached to the outside of the fence at the windiest points. It works like a charm.

The fence is finally done and the total area is now 2/3 bigger than it was. We have a lot of work to do!

Watch us using a tractor for post hole digging on the farm’s YouTube channel: