Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Family Garden Plot

I'm sharing a picture of this wonderfully textured hosta with you this morning, because there is nothing much to see in the family garden plot which my brother, my sister-in-law and her boys, I, and occasionally Handsome Son garden. While this hosta was still in the process of unfurling its limey leaves, the rest of us were planting 'Contender' beans, which red-headed nephew called a "long process" with an emphasis only a just three-year-old can add. He and his twin were alternately lining up the beans about 6-8" apart in rows rather than hills at the the bequest of their mom with Happy Baby in a carrier up front. We also planted Kidney beans, three types of sweet corn ('Country Gentleman', 'Jubilee', and 'Early Sunglow'). We planted potatoes, 'Superior', 'Red Pontiac', 'Red Norlan', and 'All Blue'. Last year our potato crop was miniscule. About the time the potatoes could start packing on some weight, our crop was top-side being decimated by Colorado potato beetles. The family garden plot is a good ten miles from actually agribusiness type 100-acre plots of commercial potatoes, so I was a bit bemused by their ready arrival the first year on our family potatoes. I'm not squeemish, I went over the crop twice picking off every beetle and larvae I could find to no avail. I recognized the larvae for what it would become early on, and got right on the problem, nothing could be done. I was out-numbered. The timing was bad. Rain kept us from properly preparing the ground which had lain fallow for many years, and it was only rototilled-- a mistake. This year, the plot has been properly plowed and tilled. Our root crops will have a much easier time of it. Over the winter, I spent time pouring over the latest information on how to organically outsmart the potato beetle. The organic people are putting great hopes on Spinosad, a new naturally derived organic similar to Neem. The more I read about it, I'm not sure how it came up with its organic certification. I have my concerns, especially when anything is labeled not to use where run-off into areas with aquatic organism. That's a red flag for me. So I consulted with my dad, a long-time past potato farmer and son of a potato farmer. Varieties make a difference. 'Superior' seems to have some resistance. Also timing might be the issue. I didn't realize that before the advent of big business farming that potatoes were generally cropped as an early and late crop. Early crop were planted as soon as the ground could be worked in the spring, here typically Good Friday weekend. These potatoes were dug around the Fourth of July, just shortly before the beetle really raised havoc in our garden. Other potatoes were planted late May or early June and harvested in the fall. Additionally each crop typically had one of our two rainy periods to pack on the water weight before harvest in times before the big computer controlled walk-around "water monsters" irrigated them. So this year, different varieties, different timing, a location as far from the other as the small plot will allow, better soil preparation. No Spinosad. We'll see.

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