Dry Farming, Weeding, and Sticky Traps – Student Post By Maria
With the 2016 season well underway, many of the tasks on the TC3 Farm revolve around giving the plants a helping hand, the backbone of being a farmer. As Todd mentioned in his CSA newsletter this week, our area has been upgraded to a “severe” drought; a big problem here because we mostly practice dry farming. But the plants need water, so I have been lucky enough to have the role affectionately titled Crop Savior. (watering picture) The past few weeks it was an arduous process that involved filling many 5-gallon buckets and trucking them to the field from the barn because the field does not have a water source yet, then using watering cans to get the water to the plants. This required a team of people as a couple people filled buckets, while a couple more did the actual watering. In the aforementioned newsletter, Todd shared the news we were gifted with a very large water tank that fills up the whole of the truck bed. (I was remiss in getting a picture of the tank like I’d hoped) It has no pump, so it uses gravity to move the water, so our field being on a slope is a good thing in this regard. While it is a slow flow from the tank out of the hose and it can be a lonely one-person job, the tank lasts for hours before needing a refill! It’s almost a meditative job, so I rather enjoyed the watering shifts.
One of the first tasks this week was weeding and cultivation, to reduce competition with the crop plants. In my last post I talked about the scuffle hoe, which is one of the tools we used this week for cultivation. An upgraded version that we used out in the field to remove bigger weeds, is a wheel scuffle hoe. The wheel allows the work to be done several times faster than the hand scuffle hoe, a benefit when working in the large area of the field. It does take some upper body strength to use these tools at the right depth to efficiently kill the weeds, but it is very satisfying to see them all dead. It is a different satisfaction to hand weeding, only because hand weeding removes all the plant material and you are left with a clean look; it is also very nice to ripe things out of the ground with your hands. Hand weeding was a requisite task very close to the crop plants where you did not want the scuffle hoe to disturb their root systems.
Weeding is one way of dealing with pest pressure. Another way for another type of pest are sticky traps for bugs. It has been discovered that Cucumber Beetles are attracted to the color yellow, so these traps are just a yellow sticky card that the bugs will stick to if they land on it. And it really works! In a very short time after we installed the traps amongst the cucurbits, there were already bugs stuck to the traps.
For the fairly young plants, which are a favorite treat for both insects and the ever infuriating groundhogs, we installed row cover which will help the plants even more by sheltering them from these pests.
The groundhogs are getting into the field by getting under or through the deer fence. To help keep them out, one of our tasks was to bolster the bottom of the fence with a layer or two of rocks, which are in never ending supply in the field.
I hope this gave a glimpse of the many tasks we undertake on the farm to help the crops grow and stay healthy, a necessity when our ultimate goal is a bountiful harvest!