Pest Mitigation and Harvesting Garlic
Newsletter for Week 6 of the 2022 Summer CSA Season
Welcome back from break! We hope you had an enjoyable holiday weekend.
At the farm, we’ve been working away catching up with big projects like harvesting all the onions, garlic, and cabbage. Just today, Farmer Mike mowed down all the plants in the brassica family (kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli) in preparation for the next phase of the summer season: hot weather crops.
We mow down the brassicas to mitigate pest pressure. The Cabbage Moth is a very destructive moth – although pretty – that has been known to destroy whole fields of cabbage or other brassicas within just a matter of days. To keep these little pests away from the rest of the crops on the farm, we mow down the brassicas so the moths are not attracted to the field. Without brassicas, the moths pass over the field and will not settle down in the field and potentially feast their eyes on the other crops we have on the farm. It’s a quick, effective, and low input solution to dealing with these pests.
The brassicas that are mowed down are mowed by a tractor implement called a “flail mower.” This implement does not cut like a regular mower. Instead of the blades spinning like a helicopter, the mower has cloven prongs that hang vertically from a horizontal bar. As the bar spins, the prongs move laterally, chopping the plant matter and laying it right where it had grown. With regular mowers, like the helicopter version, the mower spits the plant matter in all different directions; it can potentially move nutrients that could be incorporated into the soil to another part of the field, like a walking path, where we don’t really need those nutrients. With a flail mower, no plant matter leaves the bed in which the plant was planted and therefore, no nutrients leave the bed. It’s kind of like how salmon return home to die; the same for this method of the plants’ nutrients where they originally started.
In addition to mowing down the brassicas, we do this unique technique of pest and weed mitigation called “flame-weeding.” This process involves walking around with a tank of propane gas snuggled into a backpack that is upon your back. The gas tank is attached to a hose and at the end of the hose is a flame-thrower. We’re prepared in case any demagorgan come this way… (Hope some of y’all get that Stranger Things reference…) With the flamethrower, we walk through the beds, burning the brassica leaves and in turn, burning all the pests upon the leaves. Another destructive pest culprit is the harlequin bug and has been referred to as the most destructive pest of cabbage in warmer climate states. As our world warms, we expect to deal with this pest more and more. The flamethrower takes care of them, at least some of them.
We’re almost done harvesting garlic, a slow and laborious task. In previous years we have struggled with a disease in the soil called “white rot.” But this year, we have seen very little sign of the disease as we’ve been pulling up the bulbs. Once harvested, we bring the garlic into the barn and tie string around clusters of garlic. Then, with the help of our tallest team member, we place the garlic up in the rafters where they will be suspended and can dry as hot air moves through the open doors of the barn. This drying process is called “curing” and helps preserve the garlic. Just a month ago we threw away a couple heads of garlic we had been storing since last July (2021)! Garlic can last a longgg time.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend!
Below, some pollinator habitat!