Terembry Farm, Weeks 12 and 13: Are we in Provence?
Hot, dry weather continues and we are about 8 inches behind on rainfall. The forecast this Labor Day Weekend called for heavy storms. They hit everywhere but here.
Our bed up by the woods, with the first planting of squash, which has done so well to date, and has produced many squash, now is suffering. We’ve kept hot pepper spray on, and have hand-picked egg casings, but a bug called the squash bug has been persistent.
In doing extensive research, we learn that tillage, ground covers (plastic) and hand picking are usually the best resource for organic practice. (We’re not certified but try to follow practices in keeping with NOP standards.) We’ve tilled and sprayed with hot pepper many times, but the beds’ proximity to the woods has made it a prime target for these bugs.
We have mature guineas, but not enough to have a colony that we can let safely loose until the new arrivals mature, which will take another 4-6 weeks.
The easy solution, and one practiced by farmers who use synthetic chemicals, would be a pesticide.
That’s not what we want to do. So we turn to alternatives, including additional plantings. We’ll burn the plants on that bed, to ensure that larvae are destroyed, and re-till the whole area, perhaps with a cover planting in buckwheat, with a focus on using the bed next year given that it was incredibly productive in the first weeks of the season.
Planting and replanting are key in any garden operation that does not want to synthetic pesticides—and all the more so when nature shows its destructive side.
So to ensure crops for the fall, we’re planting greens (spinach, winter kress, arugula, chard, lettuce) and also more turnips. In addition, we’re looking to the greenhouse to continue growing herbs. And, banking on the hot dry weather that threatens to turn Virginia into a replica of Provence, we’re planting more burgundy beans and yellow squash. Today we planted 1500 linear feet of both, and if frost holds off, we should get another solid harvest of burgundy beans and yellow squash. We also planted about 100 feet of heirloom zucchini.
On the bright side, okra and peppers and herbs are thriving. So are the wax beans. We planted Gold Rush, an heirloom, and the plants are bearing well. They have a delicate flavor: tonight for dinner, I sautéed gold rush beans in butter and white wine (a favorite technique for most any bean or squash) and then added grated swiss cheese. Delicious.
One of our members requested these wax beans and I am so glad they did. These will become a staple in future planting plans.
As a homage to Provence, which has excellent wine, and a phenomenal culinary heritage, I want to note its best herb mix, Herbs de Provence, a mix of dried basil, thyme, marjoram and savory, which is an instant improvement to any poultry or vegetable dish you can accompany with a good cold drink you can get with the best under counter ice makers you can get online. Our fall greenhouse plantings will focus primarily on these four herbs, along with cilantro.
In closing I’ll note that we started with a hot dry April—unusual for Spring—and after a wet May and June, we’re now into a hot, dry fall. A dry fall is more typical, but given the total rain fall, this weather has been tough on farming. The woolly bug caterpillars that I find out in the field are all solid black or all solid brown—no stripes at all.
Old folklore says that each stripe represents a snowfall—a solid brown or black caterpillar means we’re in for a rough winter, or a mild winter.
Only time will tell.