Scouting the Fields

Written by Gordon Clark, H4H Horticultural Consultant

An experienced county agricultural agent who mentored me many years ago had a saying: “ you can’t be a good farmer if you don’t get your butt off the tractor seat to walk your fields and look at your crops.” Wise advice! On my small farm, I like to wander around the crops in the morning before any of the volunteers show up; getting down close to the plant. What did I see yesterday? The first pollinated female squash blossoms have turned into 3” squash- this means we will be picking our first crop in a week. A closer look, I see geometric rows of tiny red insect eggs on a few leaves. That is the sign of the potential invasion of squash bugs. Now I look more carefully at each squash plant and squish the eggs.

I walk to the eggplants and notice the holes on the leaves. Ugh, an infestation of Colorado potato beetles. Again, more squishing of the beetles and the larvae. 

In two other fields I see a big difference in the growth of the crops. In one field we added tractor buckets full of compost last year; the other field did not get the benefit of that treatment. The compost-added squash plants are huge and a dark green; the other field smaller and not as healthy. Time to make a mental note to treat the poor field with compost.

The PHF team regularly walk the fields to give progress reports. A couple of weeks ago, aphids appeared on the lime trees. Did you know that one aphid has the potential to produce 600 billion offspring in one season if not bothered by predators or disease? (Stephen A. Marshall Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity).  Notice, that I said ‘one’ aphid. The females can reproduce without needing a ‘gentleman suitor’, so to speak. For entomologists it’s an interesting phenomenon. For farmers it’s an alarm call.  

Another observation the team made was the difference in the tree growth between Farm 1 and Farm 7. The solution is to plant velvet bean on Farm 7 to encourage growth similar to the trees of Farm1. 

 Good job team

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